By C.J. Hirschfield

When he passed away in 2013, independent documentary filmmaker Les Blank left us with a rich cinema legacy, consisting mainly of works that lovingly introduce us to the traditional music, food and flavor of many American regional cultures. His films have welcomed us into a Mardi Gras parade, polka dancing parties in the Midwest, and lively Cajun gatherings in the South.


Los Alegres de Terán

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By C.J. Hirschfield

Molly Ivins was an American newspaper columnist, author, political commentator and humorist who lived out loud. Real loud.

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A new documentary, RAISE HELL: THE LIFE AND TIMES OF MOLLY IVINS, does a fine job of helping us understand the Texas environment in which the three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee lived and worked, which informed so much of who she was, as well as her particularly unique voice. “Texas politics is the finest form of free entertainment ever invented,” she said.

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by C.J. Hirschfield

Coming of age in San Francisco in the seventies, I had definitely heard of Ram Dass, né Richard Alpert, an American spiritual teacher, former academic, and Harvard clinical psychologist. I knew that he hung with Timothy Leary, and that the use of psychedelics and time spent in India with his guru propelled him on a lifetime journey to become a servant in the quest for conscious being. I knew that he was quite popular on the lecture circuit. And that his simple credo—and popular book title—Be Here Now is one that resonated with me over the years. But that’s all I knew.

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THE RARE VANTAGE – Women Behind the Camera

by Frako Loden


In all my filmgoing career, spotting a female name for the cinematographer credit has been a rare and confounding experience. First, its rarity makes me take notice. (Rachel Morrison was the first woman nominated for a cinematography Oscar, for 2017’s Mudbound. The first woman invited to join the American Society of Cinematographers, in existence since 1919, was Brianne Murphy in 1980 for Anne Bancroft’s Fatso.) Second, what’s confounding is not knowing what to make of the credit. Should I look for what might be an essentialist female vision? A feminist vision? A female gaze? A gaze that transcends notions of gender? A completely rare vantage altogether, and then what would that be? As the number of women directors of photography increases in narrative and documentary films, will their gender cease to matter?

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