Netflix Original Documentary review: ‘STRIP DOWN, RISE UP’ is raw and revelatory film on the power of pole dance.

STRIP DOWN, RISE UP

STRIP DOWN, RISE UP is a cinema verité film about women from different walks of life—all ages and ethnic backgrounds—who shed trauma, body image shame, sexual abuse, and other issues locked in their bodies to reclaim their sensuality and sense of self through sensual movement and pole dance. While pole has the stigmas of being a strip club activity, and more recently, an exercise fad, the film tells deeply transformative stories of women within this little-known, supportive community who embark on a journey to heal themselves.

Did I think I would be weeping while watching a documentary about pole dancing? Absolutely not. Strip Down, Rise Up is one of the most personally impactful docs I’ve ever seen. As a dancer, a competitor, a choreographer, a performer, a wife, a mother, a sexual trauma survivor, a film critic, this movie is a therapy session and motherf*cking triumphant scream into the abyss. The stigma that pole dancing carries were created by, everyone say it with me, “Patriarchal Structure!” When I say this, I don’t just mean men. When someone tells you that a particular thing “isn’t feminine” they are part of the problem. Suggesting a stripper is a whore, that’s definitely part of the problem. These are just two examples of how we’ve all been trained to toe the line in outdated gender normative behavior. Take your bullshit standards and eat them. Strip Down, Rise Up is empowerment to the nth degree.

Actress Sheila Kelley began The S Factor after doing research for a role. After falling in love with the art and sport and strength of pole she decided to start a studio. This movement is about the reclamation of our bodies. The power, both physically and emotionally it takes to do pole is beyond most of our basic understanding. The women profiled in the film come from every background, are every age and shape. One is a widow, one a victim of Dr. Larry Nassar. Another is a cancer patient, another a first-time mother. Then there’s the lawyer, pole competitor, and studio owner. And that’s just a few of the unique individuals spotlighted here Through pole exploration, these women are allowed to feel sexy, build strength, and reclaim their bodies. Too often they are sexual assault survivors. The fear and disconnection spread so much further than I ever thought, even after the #MeToo movement kicked off. The amount of trauma is both shocking and not. Which is a scary commentary unto itself. There is so much complexity built into the intimate stories of these women. Director Michèle Ohayon has given every viewer a gift. Throw your expectations out the window. Burn them to the ground. Strip Down, Rise Up will free you.

Oscar-nominated filmmaker Michèle Ohayon‘s new doc feature, STRIP DOWN, RISE UP, is now on Netflix.

Review: ‘Narratives Of Modern Genocide’ forces us to stop talking and start listening.

Narratives of Modern Genocide

After the holocaust, the world said, “never again,” yet genocide is happening in the world right now. The stories we forget to tell, of the survivors we never knew, will haunt us until we listen and act. Narratives of Modern Genocide challenges the audience to experience first-person accounts of survivors of genocide. Sichan Siv and Gilbert Tuhabonye share how they escaped the killing fields of Cambodia and the massacre of school children in Burundi. Mixing haunting animation, and expert context the film confronts our notion that the holocaust was the last genocide.

Sichan’s Siv narrative is all too familiar. He suffered unimaginable losses at the hands of the Khmer Rouge, enduring forced labor and the eventual execution of his family. But for Sichan, it becomes a tale of bravery and audacity.  After a failed attempt to escape, he tries a second time, fleeing on foot for three days with only the sun and moon to guide him to Thailand. He is the epitome of “The American Dream”. After emigrating to CT then New York City, he would eventually end up working for President George H. W. Bush as a translator. Think about the gravity of his journey. He went from being persecuted by his native government to becoming a prominent figure in the American government. That’s extraordinary.

Gilbert Tuhabonye was just a schoolboy when he witnessed atrocities that will haunt any viewer. He was the fastest runner in his Burundi community and it served him well when escaping torture and the mass murder of his classmates and teachers. Now living in Austen, he is a motivational speaker, author, retired professional long-distance runner, and a cross-country and track coach. Gilbert also the co-founder of the Gazelle Foundation which provides clean drinking water in his homeland.

We think genocide isn’t as prevalent, but we must learn from our history. The release of this doc is eerily timed with the events of insurrection at the US capitol last week. We have to pay closer attention to the calls of violence. Our democracy is on the brink and vigilance is key. Narratives of Modern Genocide will undoubtedly punch you in the gut. Sichan and Gilbert’s stories are difficult to hear but they cannot be ignored. While this may seem like the story of two men, it is the history of too many. Combined with beautifully drawn animation and starkly contrasted news clips, this doc strikes a cord. It’s important. It must be shown to as wide an audience as possible. It must serve as a warning to future generations.

ON DVD AND DIGITAL
January 12, 2021

Review: ‘The Reason I Jump’ is a megaphone for nonverbal autism.

The Reason I Jump

Based on the best-selling book by Naoki Higashida, translated into English by author David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas), The Reason I Jump is an immersive cinematic exploration of neurodiversity through the experiences of nonspeaking autistic people from around the world. The film blends Higashida’s revelatory insights into autism, written when he was just 13, with intimate portraits of five remarkable young people. It opens a window into a sensory universe that guides audiences to Naoki’s core message: not being able to speak does not mean there is nothing to say.

Based on the book of the same name by Naoki Higashida, The Reason I Jump is an emotional rollercoaster. I was already welling up listening to the opening monologue. The echolalia, the sensory overstimulation, the hand flapping, and ear covering all punched me in the gut when presented on screen. I’m a lucky Mom. At 5 years old, my child is now very verbal, he’s hyperlexic which means he’s been reading since he was two. He loves hugs, sleep, and eats well. On the autism spectrum, he would be closer to Asperger’s, if that were a diagnosis recognized nowadays. None of these facts lessen the fear, frustration, exhaustion, and pure elation in raising an exceptional human being. The Reason I Jump is tailor-made from the words of a nonverbal 13-year-old boy’s experiences from the inside out. In film form, it’s simply triumphant.

In the doc, we are introduced to 5 unique young people with autism.

Amrit (India)
Her mother realized she was using art to communicate. Her paintings are extraordinary, some visually akin to continuous line drawings. It took time for everyone to realize they are snapshots of her day.

Joss -(UK)
His anxiety is palpable. His impulses and tendency to meltdown are understandably unpredictable. Joss’s ability to show unadulterated joy is magic. His parents break down their own existence in the most relatable ways, both the highs and the lows.

Ben & Emma – US
These two have learned to spell with letterboards and keyboards to communicate. Best friends since very early childhood, what they have to say will shock you.

Jestina – Sierra Leone
With Jestina, we tackle stimming and perception by others. Stimming a sensory-driven repetition of behavior like rocking or flapping to self soothe. Sometimes it’s a visual stim, sometimes watching wheels turn or glitter shine. Culturally, her mother and other parents in her autistic adjacent community are told their children are possessed. It destroys the spirits of entire families.

The narrated excerpts from the book directly correlate with whichever child is being highlighted at that time. Voiced by Jordan O’Donegan, they have a poetic feel to their profundity. Naoki writes, “Making sounds with your mouth isn’t the same as communication.” That quote did me in. When you hear that, truly hear it, you will be taken aback. Jestina, Ben, Emma, Joss, and Amrit all communicate in a different way, we just had to learn how to listen. The heightened sound design immerses you into the world of an autistic person. We do not understand what it is like to be utterly overwhelmed not being able to be fully understood. The cinematography is breathtaking. Quick cuts, predominantly in close-up form combined with a gorgeous soundtrack put you in an alternate headspace. The editing takes all these elements and blends them into a viscerally stunning documentary.

As a mother of a child on the autism spectrum, I feel like I can see I want to broadcast this film to the world so that neurotypical individuals can understand my son and every other person on the spectrum. The label of autism, whether people realize it or not, creates implicit bias. We are missing out on the potential and impact of an entire faction of our society. It is our duty to meet each other in the middle. The Reason I Jump is a captivating peek behind the autism curtain. Don’t look away now. Thank you Naoki Higashida for writing this book. Thank you David Mitchell for translating it for your son. Thank you Jerry Rothwell for directing such an important film. Thank you to the families that shared their lives. Watch this film, then choose to listen and learn in a new way.

The Reason I Jump will be in theaters and virtual cinemas Friday, Jan 8th

**WINNER – Audience Award, World Cinema Documentary –
Sundance Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – AFI Docs 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – BFI London Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – Chicago International Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – Hot Docs Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – Martha’s Vineyard Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – SXSW Film Festival 2020**
**OFFICIAL SELECTION – WINNER’S CIRCLE – DOC NYC 2020**

Review: ‘Higher Love’ is in your face and important.

“That’s what happens in America.” When jobs depart, drugs arrive. That’s what happens in America. Nani and Daryl have a tumultuous relationship and drugs are to blame. Daryl is desperately trying to save both Nani and his infant son. Higher Love gets deep inside Nani’s addiction and those around her. We watch them get high while they enable one another.

They live in Camden, NJ. I remember driving home for Thanksgiving in my mid-20s. It was approaching 2 am and I was having trouble staying awake on my way to CT. I was about to turn off the highway when on the radio DJ says, “Murder capital in the U.S.? Camden, NJ.” I swerved and took the next exit. Higher Love does a fantastic job of highlighting the systemic disintegration of American cities. The police literally sit idly by as crackhouses act like revolving doors. Rehab, as we learned from American Relapse, is an economic boom. It comes down to people willing to help themselves or help each other. Daryl is an awesome father. He takes care of his children and adores them, wholeheartedly.

Nani just cannot kick her addiction. She claims she wants to be part of her son’s life, but chooses drugs over and over. Daryl is just guilty in the ways he facilitates her habits. It’s heartbreaking to watch him have so much confidence in a woman who will most likely overdose. When he snaps at her you don’t blame him one ounce. He’s doing his best and she’s doing crack. The emotional hold she has on him is stronger than almost anything, except the love of his children.

Higher Love tells the stories of the lives and deaths of so many locals. But the tragedy is everywhere. Iman, one of Nani’s associates, gets his path highlighted, as well. He explains that with a phone call, one can procure whatever they need whenever they need. His story is like so many others, he has a family that loves him and they only want his rehab stints to stick. He is the highest motivated individual we come to know. We could not be rooting for him any harder. The most engrossing aspect of the intimate conversations with these addicts is the fact that they are actually incredibly self-aware. They understand they are ultimately responsible for their behavior. It’s a cycle of sadness, confusion, trauma, and sickness. How do we, as a society, fix this? What can the government and the people do together to help this ever-growing population? I’m not sure what the answer is, but with the problems exacerbated by a pandemic, 2020 might be the worst year on record for drug deaths.

The doc could probably benefit from a trim in time, even at a tight hour and 17 minutes. One beautifully impactful moment occurs when we are treated to a slam poem presented over quick cuts of the city and it’s residents. If that does not move you, nothing will. Higher Love is honest and important. It’s not just Nani’s story, or Daryl’s story, or Iman’s story. It’s the story of the forgotten, the oppressed, the ones we find easier to gloss over. Don’t sleep on this film.

WATCH THE 7X FESTIVAL WINNER NOW ON VOD

HIGHER LOVE was directed by first-time filmmaker Hasan Oswald, executive produced by Stephen Nemeth (Rhino Records), and produced by Oswald, Alexander Spiess, & Derek Rubin. Oswald used a Robert Rodriguez-inspired zero-budget strategy to make the film, selling his blood-plasma, racking up no interest credit card bills, and learning all things films on youtube tutorials in lieu of film school.

Coming out of DOC NYC 2020, ‘THE WALRUS AND THE WHISTLEBLOWER’ will be available on VOD on November 24th, 2020

THE WALRUS AND THE WHISTLEBLOWER

will be available on VOD on November 24th, 2020.

Synopsis:                                                                                                                                                                                                   

Phil Demers is a part-time mailman who lives in a bungalow across the creek from Marineland, the iconic amusement park in Niagara Falls, where he had his dream job as an animal trainer for over a decade. He swam with killer whales and ran the show, until he quit and blew the whistle, claiming animal abuse and calling for an end to the 60-year-old practice of keeping marine mammals in pools. Known as the ‘Walrus Whisperer’ on Twitter, with over 27,000 followers, Phil has appeared four times on the Joe Rogan show and is being sued for $1.5 million for plotting to steal Smooshi, the walrus. Playing out in the swell of a paradigm shift in our relationship with animals, the film pierces the veneer of a media story and goes behind the battle lines of a stranger-than-fiction custody fight to #SaveSmooshi. At its heart are questions of compassion for others – humans and animals alike – the nuances of all our stories, and the hills we are willing to die on.

*Winner’s Circle – DOC NYC 2020*

DOC NYC 2020 review: ‘CRUTCH’

SACHI CUNNINGHAM and CHANDLER EVANS’ 

CRUTCH

AT DOC NYC

Two decades of exclusive access, plus a lifetime of archival footage depict Shannon from his early years to his rise as an award-winning dancer and cutting-edge performance artist. CRUTCH examines Shannon’s controversial street performances as he exposes a myriad of prejudices disabled people encounter in public on a daily basis.

Crutch is about Bill Shannon‘s extraordinary life. Shannon wants to be recognized as a performance artist, and rightfully so. As a dancer since the age of three, I can attest to how the physical and emotional energy toll performing can have. Like many dancers, my body is ravaged from the work I asked it to do when I was younger. But I wasn’t faced with the challenges that Bill Shannon faced from childhood. Bill Shannon is on another level from us all. He is a relentless artist and it’s magic.

He grew up making home movies, being a daredevil, skateboarding, and creating a new language for dance, all while having a rare degenerative hip condition. He is a provocateur. Exploring his own pain and emotional hurt by placing others into his realm. He essentially created “What Would You Do?” scenarios before it was mainstream. As a breakdancer and choreographer, he presented the world with evolutionary milestones in thinking and accepting. But this is only a sliver of what he deals with and tries to effect. This doc tackles ableism at its core. He uses his filmed setup moments to organically teach an audience about the human mind. It’s a refreshing perspective that will grab your attention. He never lets up. His innovation is astounding. That’s true artistry. Crutch pushes past cynicism to teach and entertain and delight.

www.docnyc.net

 

Review: ‘The Disrupted’ puts a face to wealth disparity across the United States.

THE DISRUPTED dives deep inside the lives of of three Americans working harder than ever, as their place in the middle class slips away.  For a farmer, a factory worker, and an Uber driver, rising income inequality betrays the American Dream.

What does the American Dream even look like anymore? When  I was a child, it was always something cliche like, “Married, with a house, a dog, and 2.5 kids.” When I graduated college in 2002, I moved back in with my parents for a few months transitioning from NYC to California. When I began to hear how many of my classmates had done the same, I was less embarrassed and more surprised. I began to notice my parents discuss money for the first time. How fellow upper middle class families were in  way over their heads with newly built McMansions and more than one kid in college at the same time. My mother checked out a scholarship book from the library the size of three phones books put together. (Did you know you can get one for being left handed?) This time, it was for my two youngest sisters that were merely in 7th and 8th grade at the time. It was very eye-opening. Over the last almost 20 years, this has become the norm. Getting a job immediately following graduation and then working at that job until retirement wasn’t a thing people were doing any longer. Now in 2020, with a global pandemic, the economic wealth gap in more front and center than ever before. Gen Xers knew things were bad. Now that we’re parents and the luckiest of us is homeowners, we’ve come to understand that there is nothing equal in this country. In Sarah Colt’s debut documentary The Disrupted, we follow three different workers struggling to keep food on their table and maintain dignity for themselves.

The harsh reality is that while the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the rich keep it that way. The dichotomy of the working place is unmissable. Attempting to get an entry level job only to be told that it requires years of experience in that position is baffling. Companies like Uber are using drivers as a temporary solution. “Employees” will become completely obsolete once self-driving cars are fully on the market. Their exploitation is rampant and growing worse as each month passes, not to mention the massive hit they’ve since taken from the pandemic with its subsequent lockdowns and travel bans (albeit necessary ones for health and safety). Farmers have been feeling a massive strain since President Obama was in power and the current administration’s “bailout” doesn’t save the most vulnerable of family farms. These hardworking people, the people who feed America should not be pawns in a trade war. The Disrupted speaks to depression, guilt, frustrations, and anger, at its tipping point. If you care about human beings at all, it will crush your soul. You cannot help but feel invested in these people’s lives. Colt and co-director Josh Gleason’s editing walks a delicate line in filming the tumultuous highs and lows of how money has weight over a family dynamic. What it can do to your health, marriage, children, self-esteem, the way we speak to others, and how we are perceived by society. At times it feels intrusive but that’s what great documentary filmmaking is all about. It is a deeply personal look into how our system is broken. We are hopeful that this upcoming election brings forth change for the better. We cross our fingers for equal justice and more realistic economic policies. The Disrupted is a reminder that we’re more alike than we are different. We’re all trying to have pride in ourselves. We’re all trying to leave a better future for the next generation. We’re all looking for a chance.

The Disrupted – Trailer from Sarah Colt Productions on Vimeo.

Directed by Emmy® Award-winning NY filmmaker SARAH COLT and co-directed by JOSH GLEASON the film will be released exclusively in over 20+ Virtual Cinemas by PASSION RIVER FILMS and 8 ABOVE starting September 25th, 2020, followed by a Digital VOD release on October 13th, 2020!

 

Review: ‘Robin’s Wish’ becomes our own in this new doc from Tylor Norwood.

SYNOPSIS:Robin’s Wishtells the powerful true story of actor/comedian Robin Williams’ final days. For the first time, Robin’s fight against a deadly neurodegenerative disorder, known as Lewy Body Dementia, is shown in stunning detail. Through a gripping journalistic lens, this incredible story sheds entirely new light on the tragedy, beauty, and power behind the mind of one of the greatest entertainers of all time.

The name Robin Williams is a household name. From his early standup days to his iconic voiceover work for Genie in Aladdin to perhaps one of his most quotable film Mrs. Doubtfire, we all desperately miss this talented man and his gentle heart. We felt like we knew him. We understood that if he was booked as a guest on a late-night show, there was no script. The host might as well put their requisite question cards down because Robin was going to take the segment so far off the rails, there was little point in preparing. He could make us belly laugh but also mesmerize us with his ability to master heavier roles like Dead Poets Society and his Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting. He was a god. He wore his heart on his sleeve, always. What we didn’t get to see in private was more than we can imagine.

“An emotional avalanche of mourning and celebration” is perhaps the best way to describe the viewing experience. Director Tylor Norwood has mixed intimate sit down interviews with neighbors, friends, and Robin’s wife Susan, with television appearances, personal photographs, and most notably to the subject at hand, Robin’s doctors. As someone who’s grandmother recently passed from the same disorder, this hurt just a bit more. To have an inside view of the pain and fear and confusion that Williams (and his loved ones) must have been feeling, it makes this all the sadder. His doctors agree that his high level of cognitive function, much higher than the average person, is most likely what made the diagnosis so elusive. The man was nothing short of brilliant. Weaved into the film is his love story with Susan. She has become an advocate for the disorder. When you think of soulmates, these two are it. It is beautiful to watch. For the cinephile, Robin’s Wish is also a fantastic insight into his work and mindset from some of his most iconic career moments. But it is the personal asides, the conversations with injured troops from his USO tour days that will solidify him as one of the most treasured human beings of our time. To see him celebrated properly and more fully understood feels like vindication from the tabloid mess that initially ensued following his death. It was not deserved. It was shameful. This film is both a tribute and an education for so many suffering in silence. Robin’s Wish can come true in this documentary.

“I want to help people be less afraid.”  ~ Robin Williams

 

 

Vertical Entertainment will release the documentary film ROBIN’S WISH on Demand and Digital on September 1, 2020.

OFFICIAL WEBSITEhttps://www.robinswishfilm.com/

ROBIN’S WISH features interviews with Susan Schneider WilliamsShawn LevyJohn R. Montgomery, Rick Overton, and David E. Kelly. The film is directed by Tylor Norwood (directorial feature debut) who co-wrote the film with Scott Fitzloff (The United States of Detroit).

SUSAN SCHNEIDER WILLIAMS STATEMENT:

When my husband Robin Williams died, the whole world grieved. It’s enough to grieve personally over this type of loss, and then to have the entire world grieving with you—that pushed it into a different realm altogether. Robin was one of the most beloved artists in the world, a comic genius, whose mind functioned on a mighty level. Yet in the end, it was a little known disease in his beautifully gifted brain that became his greatest and final battle.

During the last year of his life, Robin was confronted with anxiety, paranoia, insomnia, scary altered realities and a roller coaster of hope and despair. With our medical team’s care we chased a relentless parade of symptoms but with very little gain. It wasn’t until after Robin’s passing, in autopsy, that the source of his terror was revealed: he had diffuse Lewy body disease. It was one of the worst cases medical professionals had seen.

Armed with the name of a brain disease I’d never heard of, I set out on a mission to understand it, and that led me down my unchosen path of advocacy. With invaluable help from leading medical experts, I saw that what Robin and I had gone through, finally made sense — our experience matched up with the science. And what I discovered along the way was bigger than me, and bigger than Robin. The full story was revealed during the making of this film and it holds the truth that Robin and I had been searching for.

Robin’s Wish is Robin’s story, it’s our story, and in some ways it’s a universal one — as we all understand what it means to search for answers, to experience love and loss and the power of healing that keeps us going.

Finally, a note about the film title: Robin wanted to help all of us be less afraid. That was Robin’s wish. We had been discussing what we wanted our legacies to be in life; when it was our time to go, how we wanted to have made people feel. Without missing a beat, Robin said, “I want to help people be less afraid.”

 

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT: 

Robin’s Wish is the retelling of an ending to a story that was never done the justice it deserved. Robin Williams was very much an influence on my life and so when he passed with such violence and general uncertainty it affected me deeply. However, like most people, I quickly buried that uncertainty as I went about my life, too busy with my day to day affairs to treat the questions around Robin’s passing as much more than a place I’d rather not go — telling myself instead that I would remember him only as the man who made me laugh and feel so much in my life. This process of denial of Robin as a man instead of a string of characters was interrupted when his widow, Susan, reached out to me to ask if I’d have any interest in making a science documentary about a neurological disease I’d never heard of — Lewy body dementia. I told her no, and that it would take years until we’d be sitting in a theater and watching any movie I agreed to make, so I asked her what would sustain her in that. She began telling me about herself and Robin, and what they went through in the last year and a half of his life. I told her if that was the film, I was in.

What followed was years of tracking down the facts of Robin’s case from his friends, neighbors, co-workers, widow and medical professionals that gave me a clear view of a compelling story I’d never heard before about one of the greatest entertainers to ever live. In the end I think we’ve done the work of restoring a legacy that had been tainted by a fundamental misunderstanding. It was in the spirit of completing the record, and honoring Robin with giving the world the truth of what took him from us that I think this film shines, and can serve as a moment for the world to look deeper into this beautiful man’s story. It is a moment for us to understand the pain he felt as his talents and faculties rapidly slipped away, and moreover how in the face of that terrifying reality, he was more heroic, more compassionate than any character he ever played in any of his movies. So I hope this film rights a wrong that was done to him, and takes away a cloud that has unjustly hung over his legacy for far too long.

Fantasia International Film Festival 2020 review: ‘Morgana’ opens with a bang.

‘Morgana’ is an artistic character portrait of a 50-year-old housewife, who re-invents herself as a sex-positive feminist porn star.

After 20 years as a dutiful housewife stuck in a loveless, sexless marriage, Morgana has had enough of her dreary life. Desperately lonely and starved of intimacy, she books a male escort for
one last hurrah before ending it all. Contact this London escorts agency to find more information.

Her final night takes an unexpected turn when her relationship with the escort opens up a new world of personal and sexual freedom. After hearing about a competition for first time erotic filmmakers, Morgana directs and stars in a film about her own story, ‘Duty-Bound’. Unexpectedly her film wins, catapulting her into the international Feminist Porn community.

Life merges with art as Morgana uses erotic filmmaking as a tool for creative catharsis while struggling with demons from her past.

This year’s Fantasia International Film Festival brings feminist porn to audiences that may not even know it exists. Morgana Muses is not simply breaking all the gender norms, she is blowing them to pieces in the sexiest, most honest way, ever. This doc beautifully tackles depression and the lasting effects words can have on the human psyche. Touch is a human need. Lack thereof can mean the death of the body and soul. We are privileged to be witness to Morgana finding herself, in a sense giving us full permission to say, “Fuck it, this is what I like.”  Directors Josie Hess and Isabel Peppard have presented us with an in-your-face, fearless look, at a woman to be respected, loved, and held as an example of the ever-changing times. The mixture of sit down interviews, stunning still photography, exquisite miniatures,  and scenes from Morgana’s own films paint a vivid picture. In 70 minutes, Morgana will enlighten you, entice you, and turn you on.

A Feature Length Documentary Film: TRT 71 mins in English
Official Selection Fantasia Film Festival 2020
Screening Digitally August 20 – Sept 2
Directed by Isabel Peppard + Josie Hess
Produced by Karina Astrup

Review: ‘TIME WARP: VOLUME 3 COMEDY AND CAMP’ is now available for your viewing pleasure.

SYNOPSIS: The final volume of Time Warp digs deep into what makes us laugh over and over again as we reveal the greatest cult comedies and campy classics of all-time. From “Fast Time at Ridgemont High” and “Office Space” to “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” and “Showgirls.”

 

This is the longest in the Time Warp series. Starting off with Fast Times and the insight from Amy Heckerling, it’s a cinephile’s film class from the very beginning. Focusing first on high school films, we get a great mix from Rock N Roll High School to Napoleon Dynamite. Then we dive into Clerks and how a single film made on credit cards for $30K launched Kevin Smith’s career. The late Fred Willard talks Best In Show. The Bill Murray stories from King Ping are epic. John Cleese‘s presence for Monty Python and The Holy Grail reminds us that the best comedy is smart through its silliness. The first half focuses on Comedy for an HR and 15 minutes. The last 45 is Camp cult films. Rightfully so, Showgirls is covered. Gina Gershon’s character study background for Cristal Connors is masterful. Ed Wood’s editing style and relationship with Bela Lugosi made him one of the greatest cult filmmakers of all time. He was way ahead of his time when you look at his body of work. Speaking of being ahead of its time, Hedwig and the Angry Inch still has such an impact in so many ways. It may be more relevant right now than it was in its original run for the trans community. I’ll give you three guesses, and the first two don’t count, as to which film gets the final curtain call.

With Volumes 1 & 2, as with this third installment, these docs are like the YouTube rabbit hole we all fall into. Hours of different behind the scenes clips and stories all in one glorious place. You cannot go wrong with these films. You’ve seen more of them than you’ll realize. Feel a little cooler and a whole lot more informed after viewing. Then tell a friend so they can tell a friend and so on. All three docs are now available to stream.

TITLE: TIME WARP: THE GREATEST CULT FILMS OF ALL-TIME VOLUME 3 COMEDY AND CAMP
ON DEMAND AND DIGITAL: June 23, 2020
DIRECTOR: Danny Wolf
DISTRIBUTOR: Quiver Distribution
HOSTS: Joe Dante, John Waters, Ileana Douglas and Kevin Pollak
CAST: Gina Gershon, John Cleese, Ron Livingston, Jim Gaffigan, Fred Willard, Jon Heder, David Cross, Mary Woronov, Michael McKean, Kevin Smith, Amy Heckerling, Mike Judge, Peter Farrelly, John Cameron Mitchell
RUN TIME: 128 minutes

Review: ‘You Don’t Nomi’ documentary takes a good, hard look at the phenomenon that is Showgirls.

Paul Verhoeven‘s Showgirls (1995) was met by critics and audiences with near universal derision. You Don’t Nomi traces the film’s redemptive journey from notorious flop to cult classic, and maybe even masterpiece.

Peaches Christ plays Cristal Connors in the stage production of “Showgirls! The Musical!” as featured in the documentary YOU DON’T NOMI, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.

Paul Verhoeven directed RoboCop, Total Recall, and Basic Instinct, three incredibly influential films of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Then he directed Showgirls. Oftentimes known as the rise and fall of Elizabeth Berkley‘s career, it is a film that gets s visceral reaction no matter what. You Don’t Nomi is a documentary about the ins and outs of the film’s effect on critics and audiences alike.

The film is edited to show his other films “reacting” to whatever scene we’re discussing. Which eventually becomes massively cathartic in juxtaposing sexual violence in Verhoeven’s films. Author Adam Nayman uses his book’s structure; Piece of Shit, Masterpiece, and Masterpiece of Shit. You can see how many of his films are wrapped into Showgirls. There is fascinating filmmaking happening once it’s broken down for you. You also meet April Kidwell, the star of I, Nomi, the Off-Broadway tribute to Showgirls. She discusses her parallel past and how performing a musical comedy based on the film has been her therapeutic outlet. Peaches Christ uses drag to, in a sense, improv shadow cast the film for sold-out crowds. The audience still loves this movie, no matter where that love comes from is a total phenomenon.

Audience at Showgirls at Midnight Mass in San Francisco in the documentary YOU DON’T NOMI, an RLJE Films release. Photo courtesy of RLJE Films.

The opposing opinions all make weird sense. I walked away feeling like I had just had a cinematic lobotomy. I still don’t know how I feel about Showgirls, but I know I want to gather friends and colleagues when this pandemic is all over and watch the hell out of it again. Same thing with this doc. You Don’t Nomi is brilliant in all the ways it challenges viewers and fellow critics to rethink Showgirls so many years later. It may just upend your brain, too.

YOU DON’T NOMI On Demand and Digital June 9, 2020

Free Virtual screenings of ‘Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice’ June 4th-10th from BrightFocus Foundation!

The life and career of singer Linda Ronstadt is traced from her childhood in Tucson through her decades-long career and to her retirement in 2011 due to Parkinson’s disease.

If I’m being honest, when asked to review this film, I wasn’t able to name a single Linda Ronstadt song. Growing up, The Beach Boys and Carole King were on constant rotation in Mom’s station wagon tapedeck.  How then, 40 years later, was I recognizing so many hits from a woman whom I assumed was a country singer when I heard her name? Clearly I was mistaken. This film was a reeducation, and boy am I glad for it. In watching Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice I came to realize I have always been a fan.

Linda Ronstadt’s extraordinary rise to fame is almost like a fairytale. Her incomparable voice quickly rose her from the LA club scene to a record deal. She broke genres and records along the way. Her intellect and wit were evident in the way she promoted herself and other female artists. She was fearless in calling out the toxic masculinity that was rock up until that point. Her vocal range was unmatched by almost any other artist. When a producer told her not to make a certain album, she went ahead and did it anyway… and usually won awards for it. Linda Ronstadt is someone to be respected and amazed by. You can tell, simply by the number of industry stars that participated in sit down interviews (Cameron Crowe, Bonnie Raitt, Dolly Parton, Don Henley, to name a few) what an impact she made in her long and successful career. Without even knowing it, I’ve been a Linda Ronstadt fan through Blue Bayou, Don’t Know Much, A Different Drum, Rescue Me, Desperado, When Will I Be Loved, You’re No Good, It’s So Easy To Fall In Love, and many many more. She is someone I can look up to as a performer and as a woman. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice is a stunning lesson in music history. You will find yourself singing along and living in the music just as Linda does.

Lucky for audiences, LINDA RONSTADT: THE SOUND OF MY VOICE At-Home Movie Night with BrightFocus can
be watched for free at brightfocus.org/movie, or via Facebook Live and viewed on any computer, tablet, or phone from June 4-10. BrightFocus Foundation, a nonprofit organization funding
scientific research and promoting public awareness to end diseases of mind and sight. The at-home movie night will feature an introduction from producer James Keach, and interviews with key scientists discussing their current research.

“I believe in the power and promise of science to end disease and save lives, and this is why I am glad to showcase both the transcendent beauty of Linda’s voice in this film as well as
the bold, groundbreaking research of BrightFocus,” Keach said, noting that Ronstadt’s iconic career was cut short by a neurodegenerative disease.

Stacy Haller, BrightFocus Foundation President and CEO, added, “The scientists supported by BrightFocus are relentless in their drive to slow and end diseases that rob us of our memory and
our sight. We could not have found a better film to both bring back so many great memories and remind us how now, more than ever, the need for innovative science is abundantly clear.”
In addition to James Keach’s introduction prior to the presentation of the film, four BrightFocus- funded scientists will briefly introduce their work. They include: Sarah Doyle, PhD, Assistant
Professor in Immunology, Clinical Medicine, Trinity College Dublin; Makoto Ishii, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Neuroscience and Neurology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University;
Amir H. Kashani, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, the University of Southern California and Roski Eye Institute; and Yvonne Ou, MD, Associate Professor, Ophthalmology,
University of California, San Francisco. They are among over 200 scientists around the world whose ongoing research is supported by BrightFocus.

FREE VIRTUAL SCREENINGS beginning Thursday, June 4 at 7:00 PM EST to benefit the BrightFocus Foundation. More information at brightfocus.org/movie

Review: ‘TIME WARP: THE GREATEST CULT FILMS OF ALL-TIME VOLUME 1 MIDNIGHT MADNESS’ available now!

SYNOPSIS: From “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” to “The Big Lebowski” and everything in between, this fascinating deep-dive documentary begins its celebration of the greatest cult movies of all-time discussing the birth of the midnight movie.
I was 13 the first time I saw The Rocky Horror Picture Show. My life was forever changed in every way. I was a Catholic school kid who knew that a lot of what I was being taught felt wrong. I had danced since the age of two and had seen how music and showmanship affected an audience. This film was singlehandedly responsible for my college choices and the path I’ve taken ever since. There is something about a cult film that makes you feel at home. You’re in a room filled with people who get “it”, free-spirited, open-minded individuals with a sense of humor. What’s better than that? TIME WARP: THE GREATEST CULT FILMS OF ALL-TIME VOLUME 1 MIDNIGHT MADNESS is now available for everyone to experience themselves. With sitdown interviews with some of the greatest stars and directors of the most famous midnight madness films like Pink Flamingo, Reefer Madness, Freaks, The Warriors, just to name a few. This doc is a genre, cult, cinephile’s dream. It discusses the cultural shifts that occurred because of these films. How they influenced not only the audience but films that came after. There will be two more volumes; VOLUME 2 HORROR AND SCI-FI & VOLUME 3 COMEDY AND CAMP. I cannot wait to see who and what come up in the last two docs. They are undeniably fun and incredibly informative. What until you find out who was originally supposed to star in Point Break! You’ll feel like you’re in good company watching these films and maybe even add some films to your watch list (at least you should). So, set a virtual watch party with friends and catch Volume 1 now! Check out the trailer below!
TIME WARP: THE GREATEST CULT FILMS OF ALL-TIME VOLUME 1 MIDNIGHT MADNESS – April 21
RUN TIME: 105 minutes
CAST: Jeff Bridges, Pam Grier, Rob Reiner, Barry Bostwick, Michael McKean, John Turturro, Gary Busey, Jeff Goldblum, Fran Drescher, Penelope Spheeris and Peter Bogdanovich

COMING SOON:

TIME WARP: THE GREATEST CULT FILMS OF ALL-TIME VOLUME 2 HORROR AND SCI-FI – May 19
TIME WARP: THE GREATEST CULT FILMS OF ALL-TIME VOLUME 3 COMEDY AND CAMP – June 23

Review: ‘Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind’

As UFO’s suddenly grace the covers of the NY Times and Washington Post in the age of “fake news” and #conspiracy memes, how can we make sense of these revelations without losing our grip on reality? “Close Encounters of the Fifth Kind” is a feature documentary presented by Dr. Steven Greer, the global authority on extraterrestrials who created the worldwide disclosure movement and routinely briefs presidents and heads of state on the ET phenomenon.

 

His previous works, Sirius and Unacknowledged, broke crowdfunding records and ignited a grassroots movement. In this film, Dr. Greer presents the most dangerous information that the architects of secrecy don’t want you to know: how forgotten spiritual knowledge holds the key to humans initiating contact with advanced ET civilizations. The film features groundbreaking video and photographic evidence and supporting interviews from prominent figures such as Adam Curry of Princeton’s PEAR Lab; legendary civil rights attorney Daniel Sheehan, and Dr. Russell Targ, who headed the CIA’s top secret remote viewing program. Their message: For thousands of people, contact has begun. This is their story.

My little brother had that famous X-Files poster on his wall as a kid. The one that Mulder displayed in his office that read ‘I Want To Believe’. I have seen things that I cannot explain, both otherworldly and perhaps alien spacecraft related in my almost 40 years on Earth. All of that being said, Close Encounters Of The Fifth Kind would be better consumed as a series. There is a lot of information thrown at you, especially on the front end. While I was immediately suspect at the use of Fox News clips 4 times in the first 15 minutes, I was genuinely intrigued by information from Dr. Greer, founder of CSETI. As a total nerd myself, I am very familiar with this organization. My issues with the doc come in the very conspiratorial terms that get thrown at the audience. Not only that but also the complete shift in tone when Dr. Greer begins to explain how we are already communicating with beings from space. The videos of sightings and contact incidents are severely undermined by a distracting electronic soundtrack. It feels like an infomercial for one of Dr. Greer’s CE-5 workshops. I should be high on peyote in a yurt in Crestone. While you can see the passion behind what Dr. Greer is trying to communicate, the editing hurts the messaging. It takes what little we are given in way of video evidence and dumbs it down to YouTube-style nuttiness that you might run across on Reddit these days. I do encourage people to make their minds up for themselves as the new information does lead you to question life as we know it.

You can watch Close Encounters Of The Fifth Kind is available to purchase digitally on today, April 7th and available to rent on April 21st. Check out the trailer below.

On Digital today April 7th and available to rent on April 21st.

Directed & Written By: Michael Mazzola

Produced by: Phillip James, Jim Martin

Starring: Dr. Steven Greer, Jeremy Piven, Daniel Sheehan, Adam Michael Curry, Joe Martino, Jan Harzan, Dr. Russell Targ

NYFF57 review: ‘College Behind Bars’ makes the case for education for all, coming to PBS in November.

COLLEGE BEHIND BARS

  • Lynn Novick
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 222 minutes

World Premiere 

 COLLEGE BEHIND BARS, a four-part documentary series directed by Emmy and Peabody Award winning filmmaker Lynn Novick (co-director of THE VIETNAM WAR), which world premieres at New York Film Festival later this month. This film, premiering on PBS in November, marks Novick’s solo directorial debut and is executive produced by her longtime collaborator Ken Burns. Distilled from nearly 400 hours of cinéma-vérité footage, the documentary explores the lives of a dozen incarcerated men and women as they struggle to earn degrees in the Bard Prison Initiative (BPI), one of the most rigorous and effective prison education programs in the country.

This 4 part doc series explores New York State’s college degree program, BPI: Bard Prison Initiative. We follow a group of students as they make their way toward graduation. I say students and not inmates because when they are in class, they are students. While we as an audience are eventually privy to the subjects’ backstories, BPI as a program does not focus on why each individual is imprisoned. BPI focuses on their education. At Seb Academy you will get the best chemistry tuition in the Singapore.

This series is about humanity and ambition. These men and women are striving to better themselves and escape the environment they have, in most cases, created for themselves. The series also addresses the very real statistic that socioeconomic circumstances oftentimes lead to a life of crime. Inmates are not afforded the rights and freedoms of the average American. They must contend with the chaos of prison while engaging in a vigorous Bachelor’s degree program. College is difficult enough without being constantly interrupted by lockdowns, race wars, or the ultimate chaos of being surrounded by mental illness and other inmates in general.

The admissions process is cutthroat. It is based on an essay and an interview. It begins with an AA and then an even luckier few continue on to the BA program. Students are studying things like Plato, Mandarin, Debate, and Calculus. They are earning their degrees in the same way any other student would outside prison walls. Professors do not give pass/fail grades. They are legitimately working with each individual just as they would at a stand-alone university. This is a college that just happens to be on prison grounds. Before they graduate, they must submit a senior project. The paper must be between 80-100 pages. It is the equivalent of a Master’s thesis. Here is a best option for part time engineering diploma in Singapore.

The series makes an interesting case for free college for all throughout the country. It’s an intriguing commentary on the misconceptions about who deserves an education. Shouldn’t it be a right? It should not belong solely to the lucky few, the wealthy, or the white population. Losing your liberty should not mean losing your right to an education. If anything, education has been proven to lift people out of poverty and violence. The political hockey puck that this type of program has become since it’s inception in the 90’s has seen taxpayer dollars bounce in and out of the system. Resentment permeates the perception of the system by politicians to everyone from the prison staff to voters. Even though it actually monetarily benefits the taxpayer in the long run. Would you rather pay for an inmate to learn or sit inside a cell? Guess which one actually costs less.

College Behind Bars puts faces and voices to those benefiting from but genuinely fighting to improve their lives and thus, the world all we live in. We, the viewers, are forced to come to terms with the prison industrial complex, systemic racism, and our own moral compass. And the students are forced to come to terms with their pasts and their futures. College Behind Bars is both informative and eye-opening. It breathes life into the stories of a population oftentimes swept under the rug. You will cheer on the college students, no matter what your views on how they got their opportunity to learn and earn their degrees.

Premieres: Monday, November 25, 2019 & Tuesday, November 26, 2019, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET

COLLEGE BEHIND BARS

The four-part documentary film series, directed by award-winning filmmaker Lynn Novick, produced by Sarah Botstein, and executive produced by Ken Burns, explores the transformative power of education through the eyes of incarcerated men and women trying to earn college degrees. Shot over four years in maximum and medium security prisons in New York State, the series examines America’s failure to provide meaningful rehabilitation for the over two million men and women living behind bars.

Premieres: Monday, November 25, 2019 & Tuesday, November 26, 2019, 9:00-11:00 p.m. ET

NYFF57 review: ’45 Seconds of Laughter’ Tim Robbins’ doc brings levity to the lives of those who need it most.

45 SECONDS OF LAUGHTER

  • Tim Robbins
  • 2019
  • USA
  • 95 minutes

North American Premiere

In his contemplative, pared-down, and wildly engaging documentary, Tim Robbins captures a series of extraordinary sessions in which a group of inmates at the Calipatria State maximum-security facility take part in acting exercises that enhance bonding and emotional connection.

Zip. Zap. Zop. This is one of the most familiar improv games for theater nerds all over the country. In the first 20 minutes of Tim Robbins‘ new doc we watch a group of maximum security prisoners experience their very first acting class with The Actor’s Gang Prison Project. Ordinarily divided by race and gang affliction out in the yard, these men from all different backgrounds allow themselves to be free. They allow happiness, vulnerability, doubt, fear, and reflection into their normally regimented day and existence. The human connections and breakthroughs made in an acting class can change the very way you think and process information. It is an outlet that is unique and to see the effect it has on this particular group of people is profound. As the classes progress, they are challenged to emote, not just feign happy or sad, but truly feel anguish, rage, glee. To see men who are oftentimes not allowed to express themselves because of toxic masculinity and their specific surrounding, finally, feel safe enough to do so is truly breathtaking. Robbins and his teaching team, which includes an ex-prisoner, give us a masterclass in this documentary. 45 Seconds of Laughter (which is also how they end each class) is more than a film, it is a brilliant human experience. You will see transformations right in front of your eyes. Destroying boundaries through art, building friendships through mask play, and repairing relationships with loved ones by taking a chance on something completely outside of their comfort zone is nothing short of extraordinary. 45 Seconds of Laughter is a joyous film. Bravo to all.

 

Review: ‘Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements’ is an ode to sound and silence.

MOONLIGHT SONATA

DEAFNESS IN THREE MOVEMENTS

A Film by Irene Taylor Brodsky

 

Moonlight Sonata is a deeply personal memoir about a deaf boy growing up, his deaf grandfather growing old, and Ludwig van Beethoven the year he was blindsided by deafness and wrote his iconic sonata.
Their lives weave a story about what we discover when we push beyond loss.

Jonas inherited his deafness from his maternal grandmother and grandfather. We learn so much from watching him communicate with and without his cochlear implants. We learn by watching the interaction between him and his grandparents. Genetics determined that Jonas and his grandparents had a tiny “typo” in a specific gene causing them to be deaf. Music became another way to communicate and bridge the generational gap. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata was Jonas’ personal challenge he set for himself. His goal was to study for 7 months in order to perform it in a recital. The history of Beethoven’s own deafness weaved into this doc is stunning on every level. While rehearsing, Jonas’ music teacher explains the emotional impact of the piece not only to him but the audience. Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements is an ode to sound and silence.

Utilizing home movies, truly immersive sound editing, sit-down interviews, and lush animation to express how deafness affects the world, Moonlight Sonata moves an audience. Jonas’ grandfather puts it’s so frankly, “You can’t understand the world through your ears.” The challenges are unfathomable for those of us who can hear in a typical fashion. Determination, pride, frustration, discipline, acceptance, and evolution all guide this film towards an emotionally high close. You feel the music and the joy. Be sure to watch through the credits to experience the full effect. Filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky has given us a true gift.

Opening in NY on September 13 at Landmark 57 and in Los Angeles on September 20 at Laemmle Royal

Directed by: Irene Taylor Brodsky
(Academy Award-nominee®, Peabody Award-winner®, Hear and Now, Beware the Slenderman)
Produced by: Irene Taylor Brodsky & Tahria Sheather

Review: ‘Leaving Neverland’ exposes the man in the mirror. The two part doc airs this Sunday and Monday.

PRESENTS

LEAVING NEVERLAND

Debuts on HBO March 3rd and 4th

This two-part documentary explores the separate but parallel experiences of two young boys, James Safechuck, at age ten, and Wade Robson, at age seven, both of whom were befriended by Michael Jackson. Through gut-wrenching interviews with Safechuck, now 37, and Robson, now 41, as well as their mothers, wives and siblings, the film crafts a portrait of sustained abuse, exploring the complicated feelings that led both men to confront their experiences after both had a young son of their own.

I’ve started this review many times in the past seven days. It’s been difficult to put into words how Leaving Neverland has made me feel. For my sixth birthday, I can only recall receiving one particular gift. It was Micheal Jackson’s Thriller on cassette. This was my very first album that was all mine, outside of Sesame Street or Disney songs. I had already been dancing for three years and MJ would influence my musical and performance taste going forward. In 2009, my husband and I were in the car and the radio came on with the breaking news on Michael’s death. We were stunned, devastated, conflicted. We’d lived through the accusations at the same time his accusers and fellow defenders had. Macaulay Culkin was my childhood crush and one of Jackson’s close friends. Culkin has categorically denied anything inappropriate ever happened. He and Wade Robson‘s testimony had a huge effect when Jackson went to trial. I was relieved when Michael was acquitted of all charges in the early 2000s. I wanted to believe that his hands were clean. Now, I think my idolization of this once in a lifetime artist is destroyed.

The personal risks for Wade Robson and Jimmy Safechuck coming forward now are immense. Hardcore fans are up in arms. Threatening to protest in droves at the film’s premiere at Sundance. But in the doc, we see and hear more evidence than ever before. Family photos, home video, faxes, and to top it off, voicemails, all from Michael. There is new video from inside Neverland. The sheer number of bedrooms hidden onsight should have been alarm enough. The pattern is laid out for us to see. The grooming is there. The gifts, the promises, and all the personal attention. But obviously most upsetting is the sexual abuse itself. Each act described in illicit detail. I want so badly for these stories to be lies. I do not think they are. In a time when victims’ voices are more important than ever, we have to respect Robson and Safechuck for finally feeling healthy enough, physically and emotionally, to share their stories. They are not being paid for the film. They have confronted the abuse that they were groomed to believe was love. Now, as father’s of little boys themselves, they have to come to terms with not only their hurt but the onus of their mothers who failed to protect them. There are no winners here. No amount of money can bring back the childhoods that were stolen. What emotion comes after denial? I think it’s anger. Now, after Leaving Neverland, I’m just really angry.

RT: Part 1: approx. 2 hours
Part 2 approx. 2 hours

Directed and Produced by Dan Reed
Edited by Jules Cornell
Featuring Wade Robson and James Safechuck

Review: ‘WHAT IS DEMOCRACY?’ is poignant and timely and terrifying.

WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? could not be coming at a more tumultuous time in history. How did we get here? Director Astra Taylor poses the question to people from every corner of the globe in this poignant documentary. The film explores the past, present, and theorizes what will become of our future if we do not pause to learn from our previous mistakes. The world is in what feels like total upheaval but it is not the first time we as a civilization have been on the precipice of either disaster or triumph. We march, we vote, we are inundated with fake news, and yet the people continue to strive for peace and equality against all odds. But democracy goes both ways. That’s the very essence of the word itself. Can good prevail without its counterpart? What we gather, on the whole, is that the naive promise of democracy is beginning to feel like an unfulfilled promise. That no matter the world’s location, race, socio-economics, and money rule. Let us not become numb to the negative but continue to seek compromise and understanding. Truly, WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? should be required viewing in every high school civics class. Hell, it should be required viewing by every human being.

Acclaimed director Astra Taylor‘s WHAT IS DEMOCRACY? (TIFF 2018) opens Jan. 16, 2019 at IFC Center in New York via Zeitgeist Films in association with Kino Lorber, followed by theatrical engagements nationwide.

Synopsis: Coming at a moment of profound political and social crisis, What Is Democracy? reflects on a word we too often take for granted. Director Astra Taylor’s (Zizek! and Examined Life) idiosyncratic, philosophical journey spans millennia and continents: from ancient Athens’ groundbreaking experiment in self-government to capitalism’s roots in medieval Italy; from modern-day Greece grappling with financial collapse and a mounting refugee crisis to the United States reckoning with its racist past and the growing gap between rich and poor. The film features Cornel West, Angela Davis, theorists, activists, asylum seekers and a diverse cast of people from around the world.

DOC NYC review: ‘FAMILY IN TRANSITION’ is more complicated than it appears.

This doc explores the boundaries we push for love and acceptance. Amit is a husband, a father, and business owner. She is also transgender. This story is about her transition and how it affects the family and friends that surround her. It’s a timely film here in the US as the government is attempting to legally discredit transgender identity by legally defining gender as a biological, immutable condition determined by genitalia at birth. Amit has four children with her wife Galit. Daughter Agam is beyond wise for her years and the most vocal about their unique family dynamics. She understands that people’s ignorance is not her problem. She chooses to surround herself with open-minded peers. The emotional toll of transitioning seems endless. It has the highest highs and lowest lows. How does a marriage survive when circumstance completely changes? What happens after she goes to Thailand for gender reassignment surgery for a month? It’s not a glamorous film. It’s real, it’s honest. It’s exactly what people need to see. Family in Transition is a story of unconditional love and the ultimate sacrifices we make to become whole from the inside out.

DOC NYC International Premiere on November 11 / Opening Nov 16 in LA and Nov 23 in NY

Amit, a husband, and father of four, living in Nahariya, Israel, reveals to his family that he’s a transgender woman. Amit’s wife, Galit, decides to stick with Amit through this journey. Despite personal difficulties and social stigmas, the family insists on staying together, believing that love will overcome all difficulties.