BAD AXE

By C.J. Hirschfield

March 30, 2022

There is a serious discussion that takes place in the superb new documentary Bad Axe about whether the film is or is not a love letter to the eponymous town—or will its coverage of some of the town’s less savory Trumpian residents cause people to hate it? Not to worry, Bad Axe. Any town that can boast having raised a family like the one featured in the film has got to have a whole lot going for it.

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THE CZAR OF NOIR MAY NOT RING TWICE BUT HE ALWAYS DELIVERS THE GOODS

By Ben Terrall

After a two-year Corona Time hiatus, the Noir City film festival will return to the Bay Area from Thursday, March 24 to Sunday, March 27 at the Grand Lake Theatre in Oakland. This year’s lineup, themed “They Tried to Warn Us!,” features twelve mid-twentieth century Hollywood movies that address social problems which are still all too present today.

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MR. BACHMANN AND HIS CLASS

By C.J. Hirschfield

March 14, 2022

Cinema junkies forgive iconic documentary filmmaker Frederick Wiseman for the length of some of his works that venture deep into American institutions; his most recent City Hall covering the government of Boston clocked in at four and a half hours. We absolve him because he is so good at taking us inside worlds that we don’t know, as his camera disappears and we learn so much by listening and observing, happy to have made the journey.

Comparisons to Wiseman’s work are inevitable as we describe the numerous joys of Maria Speth’s new documentary, Mr. Bachmann and his Class, the closing night film at Berlin & Beyond 2022, at the Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive. It is now streaming on MUBI. Continue reading

 IMPERFECT: Defying Expectations

By C.J. Hirschfield

If you’re producing a mainstage musical with a large cast, you can pretty much expect that there will be moments of anxiety, frustration, self-doubt—and even romance. In the excellent and thought-provoking new documentary IMPERFECT, all of this happens–and more. The more is because the particular production of Chicago-The Musical that the film documents features a diverse– and disabled– cast, whose physical and neurological challenges add a complex dimension to the work they so clearly love.

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FLEE Brings Secrets to Animated Life

By C.J. Hirschfield

More and more often, documentary filmmakers are turning to animation to tell stories—or parts of stories—that can’t be represented in any other way. In the case of the compelling new film FLEE, the storyteller spent much of his life since childhood in the shadows as an illegal Afghan refugee, and even now does not feel comfortable sharing his last name, or his face. It’s understood that traditional documentaries involve some degree of manipulation, and animated nonfiction films provide even more leeway to let imaginations take flight.

February 2022 Movies | Moviefone

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Try Harder!

By Risa Nye

For those whose memories of high school days are a bit clouded and sentimental, TRY HARDER!, Debbie Lum and Nico Opper’s documentary about students at San Francisco’s academic powerhouse, Lowell High, will be an eye-opener. Parents of toddlers who are already buying Ivy League sweatshirts in size 3T might do well to observe what happens when kids who try hard sometimes learn that they need to re-define what success means in the college admission process.

try harder!

While this film is about the students, it is also about the way support from caring teachers, parents, counselors, and peers has an enormous impact on the levels of stress these kids experience while trying to do all the things necessary to be competitive in a process with nearly impossible odds. As an example, the kids hear that Stanford’s acceptance rate is around 4%. They already know how hard it is, but some will try and beat the odds anyway.

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