ONCE WERE BROTHERS: ROBBIE ROBERTSON AND THE BAND- A Review

by C.J. Hirschfield

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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

OSCAR’S YEAR OF THE WOMEN—For Documentary Features

By C.J. Hirschfield

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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.

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THE KINGMAKER: THE DARK STAR RISES

By C.J. Hirschfield

Former Philippine First Lady Imelda Marcos would love it if you just think of her as the eccentric beauty with three thousand pairs of shoes. She knows, as does any great magician, that if you focus on the shiny thing in front of you, you probably won’t pay attention to the sleight of hand that’s really going on—in the 86 year-old Marcos’ case, the brilliantly Machiavellian manipulation of her country’s political process that is quietly placing the Marcos family back in power.

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A TOUR OF THE HEART

by C.J. Hirschfield

The first public performance of San Francisco’s renowned Gay Men’s Chorus took place in 1978 at an impromptu memorial at City Hall for pioneer gay rights advocate and city supervisor Harvey Milk and mayor George Moscone, who had been assassinated earlier that same day. It’s worth noting that they performed a religious song: “Thou, Lord, Hast Been our Refuge.” The tens of thousands of mourners had marched to City Hall from Castro Street.

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Since that time, the world’s first gay chorus has performed all over the world.

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OY, HAVE I GOT A FILM FOR YOU A Preview of the 39th San Francisco Jewish Film Festival, 2019

By Gary Meyer

One of the challenges for any film festival is finding the perfect opening night movie.

A curator wants a terrific movie first but also it must be a crowd pleaser— Not too experimental or heavily political. You don’t want to alienate the opening night audience who may not be as adventurous as those attending many other movies during the event. They need to leave the theater in a good mood and hopefully want to return for more shows. But you want it to be a movie that also means something to people and leaves them thinking as well as entertained.

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Opening Night photo by Pat Mazzera

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