MOVIE OF THE WEEK August 6, 2021: BRING YOUR OWN BRIGADE

Wildfires aren’t a new phenomenon in California, but it’s only in the last few years that the idea of “fire season” has become an inescapable fact of life. Lucy Walker’s viscerally powerful documentary Bring Your Own Brigade expertly explores the complex factors that have led to that devastating reality (hint: It’s more than climate change), not just in the Golden State but around the world, and offers the hopeful possibility that it’s not too late to turn things around.

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BRING YOUR OWN BRIGADE – Review by Jennifer Merin

Bring Your Own Brigade is filmmaker Lucy Walker’s courageous and compelling documentary about an extremely hot topic: the ongoing inferno of wildfires in Southern California and elsewhere on the West Coast and, by extension, across the nation. Walker’s eye witness camera captures close up images of the uncontrolled fires cutting through affluent communities in wide paths of devastating destruction. She follows local residents who are fleeing their homes on car-congested bands of blacktop cutting through raging flames and she records up close and personal accounts of survivors whose property was miraculously spared and others who lost all of their worldly goods to the to the rampaging blaze.

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AILEY – Review by Diane Carson

The documentary simply titled Ailey presents brilliant, choreographer Alvin Ailey through well-researched black-and-white archival video, audio excerpts from Ailey, and informative contemporary interviews with inspired devotees. With this, director Jamila Wignot interweaves the essentials of Ailey’s life story while foregrounding landmark performances, notably Blues Suite (1958), Revelations (1960), and Cry (1971), dedicated to his mother and motherhood at large.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 30, 2021: AILEY

Jamila Wignot’s captivating documentary Ailey is a welcome burst of celebration. This thoughtful chronicle of the life and work of groundbreaking, enormously talented dancer/choreographer Alvin Ailey centers Black pride, creativity, self-identity, empowerment, and achievement. And, of course, it captures the unforgettable performances that made Ailey and his company famous around the world.

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AILEY – Review by Marilyn Ferdinand

Filmmaker Jamila Wignot has such command of her art that she’s been able to make a documentary in such sympathy with its subject, Alvin Ailey, that we feel as though we understand him from the inside out. This quasi-experimental film that pieces together historical footage, archival footage of Ailey’s works and press interviews, reminiscences of people in his life, and a present-day dance in the making presents a biography unlike any I have ever seen.

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AILEY – Review by Loren King

Director Jamila Wignot blends performance, poetry and social consciousness in her documentary Ailey, about modern dance legend Alvin Ailey. Wignot crafts an impressionistic portrait of the artist and his time that’s reminiscent of the revelatory I Am Not Your Negro, the 2016 film about iconic writer James Baldwin.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 23, 2021: PLAYING WITH SHARKS: THE VALERIE TAYLOR STORY

Valerie Taylor started diving with sharks back when, as archival footage reveals, it was considered droll to refer to her as a “mermaid” who was there to support and presumably fawn over the male divers. But based on what we learn of her in Sally Aitken’s entertaining documentary Playing with Sharks, it seems likely that if Taylor ever heard that description, she probably rolled her eyes and left the guys eating her bubbles.

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PLAYING WITH SHARKS: THE VALERIE TAYLOR STORY – Review by Loren King

If underwater photographer, filmmaker and conservationist Valerie May Taylor didn’t exist, the movies would have to invent her. Lucky for us she does, and Sally Aitken’s revelatory and fascinating documentary Playing With Sharks: The Valerie Taylor Story gives Taylor, now a spry 85, her well-deserved due.

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PLAYING WITH SHARKS: THE VALERIE TAYLOR STORY – Review by Susan Wloszczyna

If you are in need of inspiration of the fierce, feisty and fearless female kind, you can’t do better than this semi-deep dive into the life of Valerie May Taylor as revealed in the documentary Playing With Sharks. This world-renowned marine conservationist and deep-sea diver is basically in the same league as gorilla protector Dian Fossey and chimp savior Jane Goodall. Only her realm is truly many leagues below the Earth’s surface where her fishy playmates lurk in the form of sharks.

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MOVIE OF THE WEEK July 16, 2021: MAMA WEED

If necessity is the mother of invention, as the saying goes, then being short on cash must be the godfather — or, in this case, godmother — of trying your hand at a life of crime. Such is the situation in Jean-Paul Salomé’s Mama Weed, which stars Isabelle Huppert as Patience Portefeux, a police translator whose lack of funds leads her to seize a golden, albeit illegal, opportunity.

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