By C. J . Hirschfield
The joys and memories of summer camp can last a lifetime. But one very special summer camp actually sparked a revolution by the largest minority group in the U.S., and a new Netflix documentary brilliantly reveals this previously hidden history.
by C.J. Hirschfield
The Band (left to right): Rick Danko, Levon Helm, Richard Manuel, Garth Hudson, and Robbie Robertson in ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND, a Magnolia Pictures release. Photo © by Elliott Landy.
A good documentary can take a subject we think we already know, and present it in a fuller and more complex context, leading us to a new level of understanding and appreciation. ONCE WERE BROTHERS; ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND does just that, by telling the story of an iconic and pioneering Americana band of five that Robertson describes as “a beautiful thing—so beautiful it went up in flames.” The film, directed by Daniel Roher, also greatly benefits from interviews with the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, Taj Mahal, George Harrison, and many others. Continue reading
Have you ever wondered how movies are selected for film festivals? EDF wanted to know about the process of creating an exciting line-up and we learned a lot interviewing Ruthe Stein , founder and Co-Director of the Mostly British Film Festival 2020, playing at San Francisco’s Vogue Theatre February 13-20.
EDF: You must look at scores of movies. How do you find them?
By C.J. Hirschfield
Clockwise from bottom left: ‘For Sama,’ ‘The Cave,’ ‘American Factory,’ ‘The Edge of Democracy,’ ‘Honeyland’
Many of you are no doubt rushing to catch up with your movie viewing in advance of Feb. 8’s annual Academy Awards. While “Best Picture” always draws the most attention and conjecture, this was a particularly great year for films in the documentary feature category, and they are well worth exploring. With Netflix, Amazon, HBO, PBS, and even the Obamas now in the documentary film production business, the number of quality offerings has grown dramatically, as have the ways to view them. Some show us worlds we’ve never imagined, while others offer us a deep dive into subjects that we may know only as headlines. There are also a number of excellent films that that didn’t make the final Academy cut. Here’s the list, along with my take on each. And unlike the directors considered for “Best Picture,” three out of five of the nominated documentaries were directed or co-directed by women.
By C.J. Hirschfield
In 1964, renowned and prolific choreographer Merce Cunningham and his troupe embarked on their first world tour. In Paris, angry audience members threw eggs and tomatoes at him. “I wished it was apples; I was hungry,” he recalls. But when they performed in England, the response was dramatically different: “Merce Cunningham Conquers Conservatism,” read the headlines. And although Cunningham famously refused to define his work as modern or avant garde (preferring to let his audience define him based on their experience), he, and his partnerships with celebrated artists of the day, was in the center of an influential group changing the way we characterize music, visual art—and dance.
The original Merce Cunningham Dance Company. ©Robert Rutledge. Photo courtesy of Magnolia Pictures
By C. J. Hirschfield
It’s hard to be objective when you’re watching a film about people you’ve known and cared about for nearly 40 years, but I’ll try. I guess you could say that prolific British director Michael Apted’s Up documentaries represent the original reality series, following the lives of a group of seven year-old schoolkids he first met in 1964, and then checking in on their lives via celluloid every seven years. I myself first caught up with the series watching 28. 63 Up is now in theaters, and Apted’s “kids” are even more interesting as they approach retirement. And although Apted’s numerous Academy Award nominations for 1980’s Coal Miner’s Daughter assured his place in the annals of cinema, it will be the stories of Tony, Andrew, Sue, Nick, Bruce, Jackie, Peter, Lynne, Paul, Symon, John, Suzy, and Neil for which he might best be remembered.