REVIEW: ’63 Boycott [2018]

Because today is Freedom Day. One of Kartemquin Films founders (a Chicago-based production studio of documentary films that’s found itself in the Oscar conversation once again with the feature Minding the Gap and this short) was at the school boycott coined “Freedom Day” in 1963 filming the march as a twenty one year old, three years before joining Jerry Temaner and Stan Karter to build the company. It’s only right then that Gordon Quinn would witness the continuation of those injustices fought against by Black citizens still creating a chokehold…

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REVIEW: Komunia [Communion] [2016]

I’m not the air. While learning about what to share with the priest during his first confession, young Nikodem is told that stuffing his face with food is a sin known as gluttony. The autistic boy giggles and jokes that he believes gluttony to be a virtue instead—one to replace love since it being prone to kissing should render it the real sin. This sequence initially feels of a comedic, throwaway sort when compared to the rest of Anna Zamecka‘s harrowing documentary Komunia [Communion] and yet that thought couldn’t be…

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REVIEW: Dark Money [2018]

This is now the proving ground for the American experiment. The facts speak for themselves in director Kimberly Reed‘s Dark Money: Montana is our nation’s epicenter for corporate election donations. Her interviewees provide us a rundown of why (the copper mining industry’s interest in favorable policy-making leading them to put a corporate stooge onto the legislature) in order to lay the investigative groundwork for explaining the steps citizens have taken to combat it. What make their argument so powerful, however, aren’t the facts as much as the speakers themselves. These…

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REVIEW: Hale County This Morning, This Evening [2018]

Whose child is this? Photographer RaMell Ross‘ feature debut Hale County This Morning, This Evening presents itself as an emotively academic endeavor that looks into the lives of two Black men in Alabama, projecting them through their humanity rather than simply race. The latter plays a large role too, but on a contextual level feeding into their environment and the choices they’re given to alter it. But there are no verbal set-ups, questions to unearth, or truths to be told beyond life itself and the glorious highs and lows it…

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REVIEW: Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? [2018]

This is a white nightmare story. It’s a provocative title for a murder mystery investigation into documentarian Travis Wilkerson‘s own ancestry: Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? He’s presenting a question before we even sit down and then supplies the answer straight away. The trick, however, is that the question is an abstract and his answer one piece to the puzzle. Rather than concern the central event he’s spent four years researching—the legend of his great grandfather (S.E. Branch) murdering a black customer (Bill Spann) at his store—the title’s…

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REVIEW: Shirkers [2018]

I never imagined it would end this way. You’re nineteen and studying abroad in England when the stars and ambitions align to reunite with your best friends in Singapore and make a feature film on summer break. You all give your blood, sweat, tears, and money to the project in order to finish just in time to go back to school with one desire on your minds: delving into the footage the first chance you get. But the man entrusted with your seventy reels doesn’t like writing emails or talking…

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REVIEW: Minding the Gap [2018]

We formed a family together. It begins as a film about self-created community, three young men coming together on their skateboards to escape the private turmoil experienced at home. The sport was a cathartic outlet more than some bid to act cool, helping them become close enough friends to share details about their individual demons and discover how similar their pasts proved. Suddenly director Bing Liu—who we see cutting his cinematic chops with skating videos shot in the parks and on the streets of their Rockford, Illinois hometown—saw a chance…

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REVIEW: L’empire de la perfection [John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection] [2018]

Indeed, it seems he’s playing himself. Titled L’empire de la perfection [In the Realm of Perfection] for French audiences, it’s interesting to see the addition of the name John McEnroe for American release. That’s not to say it doesn’t belong since Julien Faraut‘s documentary is very much about the famed tennis player, but that its use as a clarifier may misrepresent how the film approaches said subject. What we’re actually watching beyond McEnroe and the sport itself as captured in the early 1980s by Gil de Kermadec (France’s first national…

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REVIEW: Trust Machine: The Story of Blockchain [2018]

The old stuff is just weird stuff you got used to. Documentarian Alex Winter is really solidifying his place within the tech world as a storyteller willing to look at modern systems stymying the old guard and exciting the new before helping to disseminate what they mean for the world at-large. He looked back at how Napster disrupted the music scene in Downloaded (something the movie and television industry faces today to the point where a sequel in the next five to ten years wouldn’t be far-fetched) and took us…

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REVIEW: Free Solo [2018]

I realize my body would just explode on impact. Free climbing a mountain wall at any height is insane to me. So watching Alex Honnold gaze upon El Capitan with the simultaneous declarations that it scares the crap out of him and that conquering it without rope would be his ultimate goal makes me shudder. I’m all for hiking mountains like Whiteface in the Adirondacks or Mount Adams in New Hampshire because its fun to strap on a backpack with friends and embark on an adventure. Hand-over-hand gymnastics up sheer…

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REVIEW: Tea with the Dames [2018]

It’s alright, you can still swear. Friends for over fifty years, Eileen Atkins, Judi Dench, Joan Plowright, and Maggie Smith join together for Nothing Like a Dame [Tea with the Dames] as they often have. This time, however, comes at the behest of director Roger Michell. And while it’s structured to appear like any other get-together this quartet has enjoyed at Plowright’s estate, there’s no effort to hide the production’s artifice under false pretenses of fly-on-the-wall intent. We see clapboards, listen to Smith good-naturedly call out a photographer off-camera, and…

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