ReelPolitik

Why a 1950s Egyptian Film Is More Relevant than Ever

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • April 7, 2014 11:04 AM
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  • 1 Comment
There have been a number of penetrating docs to come out of Egypt, most recently, Jehane Noujaim's "The Square." That film effectively captures the spirit of hope, and then disillusionment and frustration that has accompanied that country's tumultuous revolution. What's remarkable is that Youssef Chahine's classic 1958 film "Cairo Station" embodies that same conflicted sense--straddling the line between liberation and destruction, new beginnings and short-circuited dreams.

Exploiting Vivian Maier: When Do Docs Invade Privacy?

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • March 27, 2014 1:14 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Don't get me wrong: I like "Finding Vivian Maier," the new documentary I wrote about in Indiewire, which is opening this week. And by raising the many issues that are inherent in the film, I don't mean to simply criticize the movie: I only mean to highlight what's already there. As I wrote today: The film raises many questions: When is it "appropriate to expose the lives and works of others who would rather be left alone? What responsibilities do filmmakers have when they speak on behalf of those who have chosen not to speak publicly for themselves?"

What Sergei Loznitsa's "My Joy" Tells Us About the Current Crisis in Ukraine

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • March 26, 2014 10:52 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Ukraine is not an occupied territory—at least not yet. Though the country’s southernmost part, Crimea, was recently annexed by Russia, Ukraine has been officially an independent nation since 1991. But judging from the recent narrative films of Belarus-born and Ukrainian-bred director Sergei Loznitsa, the experience of those living in post-Communist states is flush with occupied feelings of humiliation, oppression, dysfunction and displacement. As I write in a recent piece on Fandor, "If there was ever a film that might metaphorically express the current political situation on the ground in Ukraine, Loznitsa’s narrative feature debut My Joy might be it."

Six Warnings for Documentary Filmmakers

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • March 6, 2014 4:12 PM
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  • 9 Comments
Judging from the comments and Facebook posts in reply to Jill Godmillow's recently published editorial on "The Act of Killing," there are a lot of people--documentary filmmakers and fans--who took issue with the Oscar-nominated nonfiction director's response to the film. There has also been a strangely age-ist reaction--MovieCityNews touted "At 70, Doc-Maker Jill Godmilow Prescribes A 3,800-Word Warning For 39-Year-Old Joshua Oppenheimer"--as if the critique has something to do with Godmillow being some old fuddy-duddy filmmaker who is out of touch with formalist documentary cinema.

Documentary "Scenes of a Crime" Leads to Re-Trial of Man Coerced into Wrongful Confession

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • February 20, 2014 5:06 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Documentary filmmakers Blue Hadaegh and Grover Babcock are rejoicing with the landmark ruling today by New York's Court of Appeals, declaring that Adrian Thomas, the subject of their doc "Scenes of a Crime," underwent a "coercive" interrogation and that his confession was "involuntary." The 31-year-old man, who was convicted of killing his own child and was sentence to a lifetime in prison, will now have a re-trial.

Sundance 2014: Highs and Not so highs

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • January 22, 2014 8:46 PM
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  • 6 Comments
A funny, perhaps Freudian slip occurred while I was putting together a list of my favorite and not so favorite films from Sundance 2014. I wrote the title "Love is Violence," an accidentally amalgam of two of the most memorable (and very different) movies from the festival, Ira Sachs' lovely and intimate multi-generational drama "Love is Strange" and Goran Olsson's "Concerning Violence," a found-footage stunner that focuses on the colonization of Africa and the process of decolonization in the 1960s and 1970s. 'Love is violence'--now that's a movie I'd like to see. At last count, I saw about 20 movies from Sundance 2014.

Is "The Green Prince" this year's "Searching for Sugar Man"?

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • January 17, 2014 3:15 PM
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  • 0 Comments
"The Green Prince," which premiered at Sundance on Friday night, is poised to become this year's "Searching for Sugar Man." While the film's subject, about a Palestinian son of a Hamas leader who became a spy for Israeli's Shin Bet security service, sounds closer to another 2012 documentary hit "The Gatekeepers," the new movie is far more humanistic than its political logline suggests.

Has "20 Feet from Stardom" Already Won the Oscar for Best Documentary?

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • December 4, 2013 3:00 PM
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  • 2 Comments
"The Act of Killing" won a Gotham Award for Best Documentary on Monday night, setting up what might be a run of accolades for this disturbing and impressive nonfiction opus. Or not? I don't put too much stock in awards. Although it's nice when you get them, there is way too much back-room manipulation, politics and other outside factors to suggest that an award for the year's "best" documentary is actually that. In my Docutopia column this week, I examine the context and conditions of award voting and how they don't reflect the best of anything, but rather, the preference of disparate constituencies.

This Thanksgiving, Remember the Native American (Docs)

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • November 27, 2013 1:57 PM
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  • 1 Comment
I am embarrassed to say that before watching "Young Lakota," a new documentary directed by Rose Rosenblatt and Marion Lipschutz (The Education of Shelby Knox), I had yet to see a nonfiction film that focused on Native American life. This was probably a result of my own oversight--Independent Lens has produced plenty of them, see my Docutopia column this week--but I assume it's also due to the general lack of media attention given to America's indigenous populations. As we visit with friends and family this week to celebrate our colonialist holiday, it seems like an opportune time to highlight the struggles of Native American people--and the documentaries that chronicle them.

When do docs need to provide political/social context?

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • November 21, 2013 11:34 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Over the last couple weeks, I've been thinking a lot about the ways in which documentaries provide social/political context or choose not to? Last week, I pointed out the potential problems that Jason Osder's "Let the Fire Burn" faces because of the way it eschews context, and this week, I found myself doing the same with respect to Shaul Schwarz’s "Narco Cultura" in my Docutopia column at SundanceNow.

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