OUR TOWNS – Review by Martha K Baker

If Our Towns: A Panoramic Yet Intimate Look at Small Towns Throughout America were just a travelogue through America’s small and growing towns, it would be worthy. If it were an argument for rethinking what works to raise declining towns from the economic slough, it would be worth watching. If Our Towns were merely an exercise in beautiful film-making, it would be 97 minutes of loveliness.

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WATER WARS: WHEN DROUGHT, FLOOD AND GREED COLLIDE – Retroview by Jennifer Merin

By presenting an overview of recent flooding, drought, and other water-related disasters in Bangladesh, India and New Orleans, director Jim Burrough’s Water Wars: When Drought, Flood and Greed Collide presents a prescient look into the future of fresh water access and control, which many believe will be the cause for World War III.

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THEY SAY IT CAN’T BE DONE – Review by Liz Braun

They Say It Can’t Be Done is a fascinating new documentary that just might renew your faith in human ingenuity. The film features a handful of people working on brilliant solutions to such major global problems as climate change and food shortages. What’s involved are things such as lab-grown human organs for life-saving transplant, real chicken nuggets made without harming an animal and a gizmo that looks a bit like your gran’s old drying rack that sucks harmful carbon out of the air. To most laypeople it’s the stuff of science fiction, but it’s all real and happening now.

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Emily Cohen Ibanez on FRUITS OF LABOR and Agricultural Child Labor (SXSW21) – Sarah Knight Adamson Interviews

The insightful film Fruits of Labor focuses on California Central Coast’s rich soil, the beautiful nature of the area, and the laborers who work the fields. Ashley, an energetic, vibrant teen, works in those fields to help provide for the family. Filmmaker Emily Cohen Ibanez met her when she was 15 years old—two years later, she filmed her senior year of High School, documenting her struggles of balancing school and her farm work.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK March 26, 2021: GROOMED

Both heartbreaking and immensely informative, Gwen van de Pas’ documentary Groomed details the trauma inflicted on her as a child by a trusted adult who betrayed that trust in the most heinous way possible. Decades later, when the long-buried memories of the sexual abuse and rape she suffered resurface as nightmares and panic attacks, she uses filmmaking as a way to process the experience and figure out how to move on.

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UNDER THE VOLCANO (SXSW21) – Review by Rachel West

Director Gracie Otto’s documentary Under The Volcano isn’t just a deep dive into famed music producer George Martin’s legacy through his groundbreaking AIR recording studio in the West Indies, it’s a love letter to the people of Montserrat. Bookended with present-day footage of Montserrat and AIR which was devastated by the 1995 volcanic eruption, Under The Volcano ends on a high note of resilience, love, and affection for not just the past, but the island’s future.

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SUBJECTS OF DESIRE (SXSW 21) – Review by Leslie Combemale

A feature documentary debut from Canadian writer/director Jennifer Holness, Subjects of Desire examines the history of beauty for women in the Black community both culturally and aesthetically, and what kinds of impacts that perception of beauty has had on the Black women of today’s America. Fascinating, educational, and insightful, Subjects of Desire should be seen widely and considered thoughtfully by people of all colors, not least to make small inroads in reframing the weight placed on Black women to contort themselves into what is expected of them. They deserve to celebrate themselves completely free of a societal judgment which is seated in hundreds of years of racism.

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LUCHADORAS (SXSW 21) – Review by Valerie Kalfrin

The female wrestlers of the documentary Luchadoras have more to battle than just opponents in the ring. In Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, where they live and work, it’s an achievement for women to stay alive. That’s no exaggeration, as directors Paola Calvo and Patrick Jasim, make clear in the opening moments. Luchadora Lady Candy recalls harrowing tales her grandmother told of bus drivers taking women the wrong way and raping or killing them. So many women’s remains have turned up in the desert.

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THE LOST SONS (SXSW 21) – Review by Leslie Combemale

In Ursula MacFarlane’s documentary, The Lost Sons, lead subject Paul Fronczak, searching for his own identity, walks the line between curiosity and egocentricity in a way that is often off-putting. Fronczak’s personality is part of what is being examined in this convoluted true-crime story about newborn abduction, family secrets, and identity. The film will be most appreciated by diehard genealogists, but it has an extended running time that is far too padded to keep any other armchair detectives or true crime nuts engaged.

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GROOMED – Review by Jennifer Merin

Groomed is an intensely personal documentary in which the filmmaker chronicles her own journey to discover the truth about her childhood encounter with a predatory sexual abuser and to recover from the long lasting impact his abuse has had on her life as an adult. Gwen van de Pas, now living in San Francisco with a wonderfully understanding and supportive man, is beset by nightmares and panic attacks and sets out to investigate the cause of them.

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