It’s Gay Pride month, and we’re coming up to July 4th and Independence Day, so HelenHighly discusses three new documentaries whose hearts beat the drums of freedom, passion and change, and how in each film, art is the catalyst that brings those concepts to life. Helen Highly Recommends “A Night at Switch n’ Play,” “Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes,” and “Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation.”
“17 Blocks,” a documentary by Davy Rothbart, was included in my initial Tribeca Film Festival 2019 pick-list because of the compelling and devastating use of a home-video archive. The film was created due to a chance meeting, in 1999, of two kids at a Washington D.C. public basketball court and director-producer Davy Rothbart. Fifteen-year-old Smurf Sanford and his nine-year-old brother Emmanuel lived in the neighborhood, which is only 17 blocks from the White House but is a dangerous and decrepit part of the city that outsiders typically go to great lengths to avoid. When Emmanuel expressed interest in becoming a filmmaker, Rothbart lent him a video camera.
The world celebrated when Myanmar’s military government transferred power to Nobel Peace Prize recipient Aung San Suu Kyi after her landslide election in 2015. But how is political responsibility passed down in a country whose new democracy is founded on 50 years of dictatorship and entrenched ethnic discrimination? Karen Stokkendal Poulsen’s new film, On the Inside of a Military Dictatorship, shows the ways in which she has had to contend with an atmosphere of total distrust and collaborate with the same men who kept her under house arrest for a total of 15 years.
Walking on Water, directed by Andrey Paounov, is a new documentary about the latest exhibit / production by Christo, the renowned installation artist who transforms environments into experiential artwork, on an epic scale. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, was acquired by Kino Lorber and is getting a theatrical run in the U.S. this spring (beginning this weekend at Film Forum in NYC). Helen Highly Recommends you see it – in a theater, ideally, on as large a screen as possible.
Netflix surprised Quentin Tarantino fans when it announced in March that an extended version of the director’s 2015 wild-west-thriller-mystery-horror flick, The Hateful Eight would be available for streaming. The movie is now available on Netflix as planned, although with an even bigger surprise: The movie has been uploaded as a miniseries with four episodes, each running approximately 50 minutes. The film’s theatrical edition continues to stream on Netflix as a feature film, as well
Existential Horror in the Wild West: I will follow Quentin Tarantino’s lead, and like this movie, The Hateful Eight, I will allow this review to be indulgently long. And like Tarantino, I will break it into chapters, using titled headers.