Preview: Margaret Mead Film Festival 2018

Preview: Margaret Mead Film Festival 2018

Honoring the legendary anthropologist Margaret Mead, this year’s festival focuses on the theme “Resilience in Motion, documenting stories that celebrate individuals who are breaking new ground or breaking free despite challenging circumstances and sparking provocative conversations­—whether they’re about battling voter suppression in Cumberland County, North Carolina, or Nigerian school girls kidnapped by Boko Haram struggling to regain normalcy after their release from captivity, or transgender women in Tonga creating safe spaces for self-expression.

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PLAYER HATING: A LOVE STORY (2012) — Documentary Retroview

PLAYER HATING: A LOVE STORY (2012) — Documentary Retroview

In Player Hating: A Love Story, filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh-West follows Jasun Wardlaw, the talented hip hop recording artist known as Half-a-Mill, as he and his crew of ‘thugs’ prepare to release his first big record album. Half-a-Mill is hoping that the album will be the kind of success that will catapult him out of Brooklyn, New York’s crime-riddled Atlantic Housing Project, where he’s faced tough — no, make that dire — living conditions since his childhood. He’s deeply in need of some form of relief. And so are his family and friends. In fact, so is the whole neighborhood.

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DARK MONEY — Documentary Review

DARK MONEY — Documentary Review

Kimberly Reed’s well-researched and compelling documentary is an explosive expose about the tremendous threat the influence of concealed corporate funding of political campaigns poses to the democratic process and the legitimacy of our elections. Dark Money is a political thriller, a cautionary tale that shows how independent candidates for public office are targeted and defeated by special interest groups hiding behind nonprofit organizations that are funded by wealthy and influential individuals and/or corporations — the Koch brothers, for example — who are basically buying elections and gaining the control necessary to guide the making future laws and to determine policies of the United States regarding everything from land use to diplomacy and alliances with foreign nations.

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COLONY (2009) – Documentary Review

COLONY (2009) – Documentary Review

Beekeepers haul their wooden bee hive boxes across the US, providing an essential service to farmers who rely on honey bees to pollinate their crops. However the entire enterprise and way of life is now threatened by a mysterious phenomenon called ‘bee colony collapse disorder,’ marked by the death and disappearance of millions of bees. By following several beekeepers as they struggle to sustain their colonies and way of life, and presenting close up views of activity within the hives, Colony provides a fascinating overview of an essential yet endangered element of agricultural production.

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MORE THAN HONEY (2013) – Documentary Review

MORE THAN HONEY (2013) – Documentary Review

More Than Honey is a phenomenally well-researched and thorough study of bees and their complex influence on human civilization, and an in depth investigation of the honeybee colony collapse disorder, a current crisis that some experts say threatens the extinction of honeybees, which would have a potentially devastating impact on human civilization. Without honeybees and their effective cross pollination of plants, there would be no crops, no harvest, nothing for humans or other species to eat.

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A LEAF OF FAITH — Documentary Review

A LEAF OF FAITH — Documentary Review

Filmmaker Chris Bell, pursuing ongoing concerns about drug issues that plague athletes and the general public, focuses on the crippling and death dealing addiction to opioid painkillers. Having reached epidemic proportions, opioids — ranging from heroin addiction and overdose to abuse of synthetic opioids to withdraw from heroin addition and the use of prescription of addictive opoids to relieve chronic pain — are currently among the top causes of death in the U.S. In A Leap of Faith, Bell introduces and investigates a possible solution — the use of Kratom as an alternative.

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The Way Brothers — Chapman and Maclain — discuss WILD WILD COUNTRY and the Saga of Bhagwan’s Failed Utopia

The Way Brothers — Chapman and Maclain — discuss WILD WILD COUNTRY and the Saga of Bhagwan’s Failed Utopia

The Way Brothers’ six-part documentary chronicles the strange saga of self-proclaimed spiritual leader Baghwan, later known as Osho, and his devotees, as they created a Utopian community on a vast tract of rough terrain in rural Oregon during the 1980s.

Initially the gurus idealistic followers came from around the world to build an entire self-sustaining compound in which they lived and worked communally, often welcoming down-and-out vagrants to join them for a better life. But local government authorities, town folk and ranchers felt they were under siege from an invading army of free-thinkers who defied ‘normal’ social conventions – that they had sex in public places was a big complaint — and tried, in vain, to oust them from Wasco County. External pressures lead to internal confrontations and eventually the Utopia became a scene of chaos and crime.

The Way Brothers draw from an extraordinary cache of archival footage — much of it filmed secretly with hidden cameras placed within the compound — that reveals the daily life of devotees, as well as Baghwan/Osho’s erratic behavior, and the confrontational disposition of his right-hand secretary, Ma Anan Sheela, a woman who actually ran and monitored all aspects of the community.

Ma Anan Sheela, now living in Switzerland, expresses her take on the story extensively in on camera interviews that punctuate the archival footage, along with additional interviews with other key persons in the community and with local folk who have a lot to say about what they consider to have been a daunting ordeal. The fascinating film raises a lot of questions about cults, seekers of justice, and the American way. To hear the Way Brothers’ equally fascinating answers to my questions about the story and their filmmaking process, listen to my exclusive interview

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Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady on ONE OF US, the Evolution of Documentary Filmmaking and Partnering with Netflix

Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady on ONE OF US, the Evolution of Documentary Filmmaking and Partnering with Netflix

In One of Us, filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady investigate the unique lifestyle of Brooklyn’s Hassidic community. Presented in Ewing and Grady’s signature style, the highly dramatic stories of two men and a woman who want to leave the community reveal a complex and arcane culture that exists right in our midst, but is largely unknown to outsiders. Ewing and Grady talk about making One of Us and changes in documentary filmmaking during the 15-year span of their partnership.

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JESUS CAMP (2006) — Documentary Review

JESUS CAMP (2006) — Documentary Review

Don’t mistake Jesus Camp for Godspell! Even though it’s not a thriller, Jesus Camp is a truly terrifying film. It is, in fact, a purely observational documentary, one that serves as a galvanizing cautionary revelation about Evangelical indoctrination of children in heartland America.

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THE BEACHES OF AGNES (LES PLAGES D’AGNES) – Documentary Review

THE BEACHES OF AGNES (LES PLAGES D’AGNES) – Documentary Review

In The Beaches of Agnes (Les Plages d’Agnes), the legendary French filmmaker (who directed the narrative Cleo From Nine to Five and documentary The Gleaners, among other classics) revisits her childhood, presents footage of her young womanhood and tells of the start of her career as a photographer and cinematographer, of her eventual marriage to French New Wave director Jacques Demy and motherhood, and brings us up to the present. Mme Varda is 80 years old as this film releases theatrically in the U.S. in July, 2009, and she’s still going strong. Very strong.

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GERMANS AND JEWS — Documentary Review

GERMANS AND JEWS — Documentary Review

Germans & Jews, a documentary by Janina Quint and Tal Recanati, looks at a contemporary cultural relationship between two groups of people with a devastating history. It compares current trends in personal identification, political expectations and social stereotyping to those which existed during the 1930s and 40s, as prelude and during the Nazi regime.

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500 YEARS — Documentary Review

500 YEARS — Documentary Review

500 Years is the third  and final film in Pamela Yates‘ extraordinary three-film documentary series about the Mayan people’s ongoing struggle for equality and justice in Guatemala. With her politically-charged trilogy, The Resistance Saga, Yates has actually changed the course of history. 500 Years is the culmination of 35 years of filmmaker dedication to coverage of a pressing social and political issue. Stand alone or viewed with it’s companion films, it is a masterful example of how movies can make a difference. The film and its companion documentaries are must-sees for anyone who is interested in understanding current events and the role media can play in shaping them.

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GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR (2011) — Documentary Retroview

GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR (2011) — Documentary Retroview

Part courtroom drama, part political thriller and part war movie, Granito: How to Nail A Dictator is one of the most compelling. gripping and inspiring documentaries of the year to date. Watching you film, you feel that you’re privy to an insider’s experience in furthering the fight for human rights and justice.

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Documentaries Watch List for Veteran’s Day

Documentaries Watch List for Veteran’s Day

On Veteran’s Day, as a way of showing respect for those who’ve returned home from war and their fallen comrades, take time to watch documentaries that tell true stories of combat veterans, and remind us that conflict resolution through peaceful negotiation is the better choice.
Here are my recommendations…

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Documentary Review: LIONESS

Documentary Review: LIONESS

Lioness, a documentary by filmmakers Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers, profiles a group of courageous women soldiers who were deployed to Iraq as support personnel–mechanics, cooks, and clerks–but found themselves in actual combat situations. Known as Team Lioness, they are the first generation of American women to return home as combat veterans, and their debriefing in this film is enlightening. Presented in cinema verite style, this must-see film is a gripping and heartrending look at how war effects soldiers. Read my review…

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Documentary Review: WARTORN 1861-2010

Documentary Review: WARTORN 1861-2010

Soldiers returning from combat experience severe depression, sleep disorders and other symptoms collectively known as post-traumatic stress disorder. Wartorn presents the history of the effects of war on combat veterans from the time of the U.S. Civil War — when doctors called it hysteria, melancholia and insanity — the to the present. None of the soldiers who appear in the film lack fortitude. They simply cannot cope with what they’ve experienced in war. And, they tell you exactly what that is. And, their accounts are seconded by those of their immediate families, who are also deeply effected by the condition of their beloved husbands, sons, brothers and fathers. Read my review…

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Documentary Review: THE GOOD SOLDIER

Documentary Review: THE GOOD SOLDIER

The Good Soldier is a powerful documentary in which filmmakers Lexi Lovell and Michael Uys present a cadre of highly decorated soldiers who’d fought valiantly in America’s wars — World War II, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Iraq — and, in doing so, came to the conclusion that warfare is neither a righteous nor effective way to resolve differences of opinion, ideology and/or national interests. Read my review…

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Documentary Review: JIMMY CARTER MAN FROM PLAINS (2007)

Documentary Review: JIMMY CARTER MAN FROM PLAINS (2007)

Before director Jonathan Demme signed on to helm a documentary about Jimmy Carter, he negotiated two important points: he would have unlimited access to the former president and he would have final cut of the film. As a result, Demme has produced an unusually intimate, insightful and revealing tribute to an exceptional elder statesman who, now in his 80s, continues to work tirelessly for peace. Demme chose to make the structural spine of his Jimmy Carter tribute the former president’s nationwide tour to publicize his 21st book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, in which he lays out his controversial opinion regarding Israeli behavior towards the Palestinian people. Basically, while rebuking Palestinians for provocation and violence towards Israelis, the book effectively faults Israel for encircling Palestinian territories with walls that create ghetto-like imprisonment for the people who live in them. Read my review>>

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Documentary Review: OCTOBER COUNTRY

Documentary Review: OCTOBER COUNTRY

Taking place during the year from one Halloween and the next, October Country is the haunting tale of co-director Donal Mosher’s immediate family — at least of those who still reside in rural Mohawk Valley, New York, the Mosher clan’s ancestral turf. They are a collection of complex, emotionally compelling individuals who are trapped in an intergenerational cycle of spousal and child abuse, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, debilitating depression and other syndromes that haunt them like ghosts. Released in 2010, it’s no available on DVD. Read my review…

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Movie Review: Bill Morrison’s THE MINER’S HYMNS

Movie Review: Bill Morrison’s THE MINER’S HYMNS

As a filmmaker, Morrison’s signature is the use of archival footage to create impressionistic, rather poetic portraits of bygone eras in different places. In The Miners’ Hymns, the place is County Durham in North East England, and the time frame is roughly from the middle of the 19th century to the 1990s, when operations ceased at the area’s collieries, and coal miners turned in their drills, pickaxes and shovels for jobs in service industries.

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Casting By… – Documentary Review

Casting By… – Documentary Review

Casting Director Marion Dougherty didn’t invent Al Pacino or Bette Midler, but she certainly was very influential in the shaping of their careers. Pacino and Midler, and many other actors who’ve risen to super star status. Pacino, Midler and a long list of other movie stars and leading directors, including Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford, Woody Allen and Clint Eastwood appear in filmmaker Tom Donahue’s Casting By… to tell how Dougherty contributed to their success and to thank her for her invaluable input. Praise for Dougherty comes from a who’s who of Hollywood honchos. But, amid all of the headliners, Dougherty herself is actually cast as the central character in Casting By….

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All about IDFA, For Those Who Don’t Already Know

All about IDFA, For Those Who Don’t Already Know

IDFA, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, is the world’s largest and most influential documentaries-only festival. Founded in 1983, by festival director Ally Derks, it is unique for its international film program featuring a wide variety of documentary genres with political and socially conscious themes. The festival presents many European and world premieres each year, and is a major annual gathering place for filmmakers, producers, distributors and students to meet and network.

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Andrew Morgan on THE TRUE COST, Fast Fashion and Making Films That Matter (Exclusive, Unedited Audio Interview)

Andrew Morgan on THE TRUE COST, Fast Fashion and Making Films That Matter (Exclusive, Unedited Audio Interview)

In this exclusive and unedited audio interview, Andrew Morgan discusses his eye-opening documentary, The True Cost, about how ‘fast fashion’ – you know, those stylish little frocks that H&M and other branded purveyors sell by the millions for $9.99 each — impacts our global economy, shatters local cultures, causes political unrest and poses a serious threat to the environment. Surprise: H&M is just about on a par with Monsanto in its sacrifice of human well-being for the sake of profit. Read on and listen to the interview.

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‘Paradise Lost Trilogy, The Complete West Memphis Three Case,’ on DVD

‘Paradise Lost Trilogy, The Complete West Memphis Three Case,’ on DVD

If the ongoing, well-publicized West Memphis Three murder case eluded you, it is a harrowing example of injustice that was covered intensively by filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky in their trilogy of documentaries, “Paradise Lost,” now available on DVD. The justice defying ordeal for three West Memphis, Arkansas, teenagers began back in 1994, following the grizzly murder of three eight-year old boys in their hometown. Profiled as ‘Satan worshipers,’ the three highschoolers were picked up, arrested, tried and convicted of the gruesome crime, with what were highly questionable — and now proved wrongful — procedures and evidence.

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NORDISK PANORAMA Names New Director

NORDISK PANORAMA Names New Director

Søren Steen Poulsen has been appointed managing director of Nordisk Panorama, the premiere festival and marketplace for documentaries and shorts produced and/or co-produced in the Scandinavian countries of Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Poulsen joins the Nordisk Panorama team on May 1, replacing Katrine Kiilgaard, who leaves the organization at the end of March, after having run it successfully for 15 years.

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