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.
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.
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.
By Gaetano Kazuo Maida
Ignore the misleading title. The film opens with what appear to be two Chinese military observers speculating on the work and fate of an expedition that they have been watching from afar through telescopes. One says, “There was a pack of wolves at the summit… he went to photograph them, the wolves were following him. I thought they’d gobble him up, but he came back. I have no idea what they’re doing…” And we are truly and deeply hooked.
Ashia Lance Interviews Stanley Nelson
Co-Directors Stanley Nelson and Traci Curry brilliantly reshape race narrative in ATTICA by giving voice to the unheard minorities and disrupting the dominant historical narrative. It is a strategy that Nelson has used in his many films including THE MURDER OF EMMETT TILL, JONESTOWN: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PEOPLE’S TEMPLE and MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL.
By C.J. Hirschfield
The recent convictions in the Ahmaud Arbery case were only possible thanks to a video shot on a smartphone; the device is now ubiquitous around the world and is shining light in places where darkness used to thrive.
The power of this portable camera to obtain justice is never more apparent than in the brilliant new documentary WRITING WITH FIRE now playing in theaters. The movie follows the lives and journalistic pursuits of reporters from India’s Dalit (formerly called untouchables) caste, who write for the country’s only news platform run by women.
An Interview by Ashia Lance
SIMPLE AS WATER is an exquisitely shot and urgent film that looks at war and displacement through the lens of parenthood. The San Francisco International Film Festival’s “Doc Stories” noted “The modern world has become all too familiar with images of refugees fleeing their homes, desensitized to the onslaught of harrowing images and heartbreaking stories. Academy Award® winner Megan Mylan (LOST BOYS OF SUDAN, SMILE PINKI) trains her lens on the everyday acts of courage and determination that drive her protagonists, featuring families in Turkey, Greece, the US, and Syria. From a soft-spoken Uber driver who sacrifices everything for his teenage brother to far-flung parents urged on by parental love, this timeless film explores ties that bind and the dreams that empower humans to overcome the unthinkable.”
We invite you to discover from Mylan’s film and this interview what happens after these displaced individuals find sanctuary and slip from the headlines?