21 Highlights of 2021 |

Philly DA

A very personal hodgepodge of interviews, essays, reports and quotes that have accompanied me throughout (despite) this overloaded year of information.

Crime and Punishment

Jon Alpert’s HBO documentary Life of crime: 1984-2020 (DOC NYC curtain lifter for Nail hammer)

Thirty-six years after three street criminals in Newark, the NJ culminates in a powerful and carefully edited two-hour journey.

Stanley Nelson and Traci A. Curry’s Showtime documentary Attica (interview with Curry for Filmmaker magazine, interview with former inmate Al Victory for Documentary magazine)

A lucid review of the actual five-day event, made for television, which resulted in “the deadliest violence Americans have inflicted on themselves in a single day since the Civil War.” Half a century later, our most publicized prison uprising remains a buried story for all to see.

Alex Gibney’s HBO Docuseries The crime of the century (test for Modern day review)

Alex Gibney is emerging as America’s foremost film columnist of high-profile embezzlement, so mad they’d be hysterical if it weren’t downright deadly. And with two-part sound, nearly four hours, The crime of the century for HBO (presented in association with The Washington Post) he turns his lens on an easy, albeit long and slippery target: Big Pharma.


Ted Passon, Yoni Brook and Nicole Salazar PBS docuseries Philly DA (interview with Larry Krasner for Documentary magazine)

To say that longtime civil rights lawyer Larry Krasner was far from becoming the very head of the agency that had been his most despised enemy is an understatement. As one progressive skeptic puts it Philly DA, he had about as much chance as David Duke to take the reins of the ACLU. And yet, not only did Krasner win his election campaign in 2017, he did so in a landslide. And that’s when the real drama began.

The new queer wave

Angelo Madsen Minax’s documentary Tribeca North by current (interview for Filmmaker magazine)

Minax started shooting North by current on his return home to rural Michigan after the death of his niece, a toddler whose death has put Minax’s emotionally fragile sister and her formerly incarcerated husband in the crosshairs of the Protective Services. childhood (which led the police to investigate the CPS). The upsetting event also set the stage for a different kind of confrontation, between Minax himself and his Mormon parents who still felt grieving over the “loss” of their own child – a girl named Angela who had moved on to this. stranger with a camera filming in their living room.

Jordan Lord’s MoMA Doc Fortnight film Shared resources (Doc Fortnight cover for Filmmaker magazine)

Through a breathtaking conceptual framework – the director tells the whole process of making his film, providing a kind of transcription of transparency (up to recognizing the jump cuts, when they have removed sentences from a scene) – Lord strives to find a new formula of non-fiction. One that will allow the subjects, their parents – as they follow them through a five-year Chapter 13 bankruptcy (the ironic result of daddy’s loss from his job as a debt collector) – to act on a controversial portrayal on the screen. A sense of control that has long been absent from the couple’s real lives.

Nick Cammilleri and Zackary Drucker’s HBO docuseries The Lady and the Vale (interview for Filmmaker magazine)

This revolving saga stars a three-wheeled car called Dale (which may or may not have been viable) and its extraordinary marketer, a visionary woman entrepreneur (and longtime serial con artist) named Elizabeth Carmichael. With a promise of 70 miles per gallon at a time when the oil crisis of the 1970s left Americans linger in service stations on long Soviet lines, the Dale seemed to many a dream come true. And for others, too good to be true.

Sociopolitics and its discontents

Rachel Boynton Streaming Documentary Peacock Civil war (or, who do we think we are) (interview for Filmmaker magazine, review for Global comment)

Rachel Boynton’s latest doc (Big men, Our brand is the crisis) unfolds in a series of revelations. The project was sparked following the massacre of black parishioners at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, SC, during President Obama’s last year in office, and continued throughout the domestic terrorism of the Trump administration. Meanwhile, Boynton took a historic journey, crossing the United States from Massachusetts to Mississippi, with a singular question in mind: What is the history of the Civil War? Or more precisely, what is your history of civil war?

Spike Lee’s HBO Docuseries NYC Epicenters 9/11 → 2021½ (test for Modern day review)

For me – as for my fellow New Yorker Spike Lee, whose quartet for HBO Max NYC EPICENTERS 09/11/2021½ is both epic (half past seven!) and absolutely stunning – 9/11 was not an international or even a national news item. This shit was personal. A feeling very clear from the very first episode, which does not deal with this sudden tragedy, but with the slow crisis which, almost two decades later, would bring the Big Apple back to the “ground zero” scene.

Aliaksei Paluyan’s first documentary at the Berlinale Courage (CPH: DOX coverage for Documentary magazine)

Paluyan’s jaw-dropping film follows a trio of courageous Belarusian actors whose long-standing pro-democracy activism within the staged confines of the underground free theater unexpectedly becomes an unrepeatable reality on the streets.

Avi Mograbi’s first documentary at the Berlinale The First 54 Years: A Short Handbook for the Military Profession (CPH: DOX coverage for Documentary magazine)

Resembling an Orwellian webinar on covert extermination, this terrifying documentary stars the provocative Israeli director himself, who takes us on a half-century satirical journey into the heart of the insidious occupation of Gaza and the United States. West Bank by his country.

Unique bizarre

CPH Film: DOX / Fantasia Fest by Joonas Neuvonen Lost boys (interview with co-director Sadri Cetinkaya for Filmmaker magazine)

After serving a seven-year sentence for drug trafficking, protagonists Jani and Antti flee to Thailand to celebrate with Neuvonen and his camera. As you might expect, the 24 hour bacchanal revolves around sex, drugs, alcohol, more sex and more drugs. Unpredictably, as Neuvonen returns home at the end of the revelry, the duo instead choose to fly to Cambodia – where they quickly disappear. And then Jani is found dead, her disappearance officially declared suicide, and that verdict prompts Neuvonen to once again return to Southeast Asia in a Herculean effort to separate fact from fiction.

David Shapiro’s Sundance 2020 “Best DocuSeries” winner / New York theatrical premiere Untitled Pizza Movie (interview with David Shapiro for Nail hammer)

This seven-part “pizza” is actually a surprisingly crafted and poignant love letter to a bygone NYC (and best friend), with pizza served like red herring.

Visionaries of arthouse

Firouzeh Khosrovani’s 2020 IDFA Prize for the best documentary feature X-ray of a family (Full-frame cover for Filmmaker magazine, IDFA 2020 cover for Filmmaker magazine)

Born in Tehran, Khosrovani was only seven years old when the 1979 revolution divided society – and ultimately her own home. With X-ray of a family Khosrovani attempts to examine and understand, in the analytical and artistic manner of his secular radiologist and music-loving father, the hopes and disappointed dreams of both.

Salomé Jashi’s first Sundance documentary Tame the garden (interview for Filmmaker magazine, essay for Modern day review)

This “cinematic environmental parable” set on the Georgian coast centers on a rich and powerful man who has traveled to poor villages for years to pursue the strangest of hobbies – collecting majestic trees, many of which are their part. communities for over a century. .

Sergei Loznitsa’s IDFA 2021 Prize for the best film in the international competition Mr. Landsbergis (IDFA coverage for Documentary magazine)

Stunning and addicting four hours in length, Loznitsa’s latest masterpiece is a startling glimpse into the negotiations and backstage stabbing that led to Lithuania becoming the first independent country to emerge from the USSR. in the process of disintegration; and a Gorbachev counter-narrative told through a multitude of archival footage strung through candid interviews with the 89-year-old former President himself.

Words of wisdom

“It’s good to have power instead of outrage,” says Larry Krasner in docuseries Philly DA. Although in the last episode he added, “There is a danger in wielding this power. There is a danger that you will become what you fought against.

In Roadrunner, Anthony Bourdain asks Iggy Pop what he is passionate about now. “To be loved and truly appreciate the people who give me that,” he replies.

“What is freedom for Americans? Rhetorically asks a soldier in Netflix docuseries Turning point: September 11 and the war on terrorism. We want the “freedom to pretend.” We feel entitled to our fictions.

“Live as if you die tomorrow.” Learn as if you will live forever, ”urges a smuggler to The Devil’s Pilots, referring to Gandhi.

“We can only keep what we have by giving it”, says Deliris in Life of crime: 1984-2020.



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