SIMPLE AS WATER – Review by Carol Cling

Overwhelming numbers suggest the scope of the Syrian refugee situation, but not the true human cost.
For that, we need documentaries like Simple as Water. The latest from Oscar-winner Megan Mylan (Lost Boys of Sudan), the haunting — and achingly human — Simple as Water focuses on four different Syrian families struggling to move on with their lives.

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FOUND – Review by Brandy McDonnell

Viewers of the new Netflix documentary “Found” are advised to push play with open hearts and minds — along with a full and open package of tissues. At times almost painfully intimate and emotional, the film follows three teenagers born in China, left in public places by their birth parents and then adopted and raised by American families as they go on a shared journey of self-discovery.

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SUNKEN ROADS: THREE GENERATIONS AFTER D-DAY – Review by Martha K Baker

People who remain interested in the history of D-Day, June 6, 1944, will find much to absorb in “Sunken Roads: Three Generations After D-Day.” This documentary differs from other History Channel-types due to the presence of the filmmaker, Charlotte Juergens. She concentrates on the veterans, not on the paratroopers’ generals, in an effort to connect with her great-grandfather Pat.

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CIVIL WAR – Review by Martha K Baker

How do Americans tell the history of the time our country suffered an insurrection? How do we teach about the Civil War, learn about it, perpetuate “The Lost Cause”? How do we translate the period of Reconstruction to the continuing era of White Supremacy? Filmmaker Rachel Boynton asked those questions, over and over, in class rooms and council rooms and living rooms.

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AT THE READY – Review by Sandie Angulo Chen

At the Ready is an easy sell for those who find something uniquely fascinating about the state of Texas, and in particular its border towns. The fact that there are high schools in Texas that offer law enforcement courses and criminal justice clubs in which students compete in mock raids, hostage negotiations, active-shooter situations, and other law enforcement scenarios shouldn’t come as a surprise; it’s Texas. What is surprising, is that the documentary isn’t about an all-White high school in a red swath of the State; it’s about a club at predominantly Hispanic (nearly all the students are cued as Mexican American) Horizon High School in El Paso.

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THE GIG IS UP – Review by Liz Braun

What’s it like to be “your own boss” in the global gig economy? Much like being rats in a maze, according to The Gig Is Up, an engaging documentary about the driver behind your Lyft ride, the Uber Eats kid who delivered dinner and the TaskRabbit guy doing your yard work. The people who are the invisible machinery behind all this ‘convenience’ are the focus of director Shannon Walsh’s film, a picture one hopes will shame the Ubers and Amazons of the world. But that doesn’t seem likely.

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CAT DADDIES – Review by Leslie Combemale

At a time when many documentary and narrative feature releases darkly reflect the challenges, heartache, and cynicism resulting from a worldwide pandemic, Cat Daddies is as much a balm for the soul as a purring kitten burrowing into your hip. The film is a heartwarming charmer that shows men of diverse interests and backgrounds celebrating the unconditional love they have for their furry friends.

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THE LONLIEST WHALE – Review by Martha K Baker

Watching The Loneliest Whale is a little like being on an actual whale watch. Whether in Baja, Mexico, or Bar Harbor, Maine, you hope for a sighting, patiently watching the water for the rising up of the largest mammal. Even if none arise, you enjoy the journey out to sea. The Loneliest Whale is a hybrid documentary, as much about loneliness as a human experience as it is about a whale and its weird song. As one of the scientists says, “Every story has an ending even if it’s not the one expected.”

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WITH THIS BREATH I FLY (Austin Film Fest 2021) – Review by Diane Carlson

The oppressed legal status of women in Afghanistan is well known and even more distressing with the recent Taliban takeover. Providing important insights, in particularizing the experiences of two Afghan women, directors Clementine Malpas and Sam French add alarming details to that more general understanding of exactly what this lived legal, cultural subjugation means and the ways even the European Union supports that inequitable system.

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