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ReelPolitik

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.

Defending "Let the Fire Burn," Or How Not to Discuss a Controversial Doc

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • November 18, 2013 5:03 PM
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  • 3 Comments
"Let the Fire Burn," Jason Osder's found-footage doc about a violent standoff between Philadelphia police and a black activist group called MOVE in the 1980s, has emerged as one of the year's best documentaries. Nominated for two Cinema Eye Honors (for best editing and best debut) and the Gotham Award for best documentary, the film is a thrilling and disturbing historical document of racism, police brutality, and the catastrophic failure of local government. It's also arguably "complex"--a word, which I discovered recently at a heated Q&A for the film in which I moderated--can be drastically misunderstood.

Can the Documentary "Patrolman P" Free an Innocent Man?

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • November 14, 2013 9:57 AM
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  • 0 Comments
One of the great claims to fame of Errol Morrris's landmark documentary "The Thin Blue Line"--aside from its formalistic daring--is that it helped free an innocent man. I don't know the legal logistics it would take to reopen a more than 40-year-old double murder conviction, but Ido Mizrahy's new documentary "Patrolman P"--premiering at DOC NYC this Saturday--may have the potential to do just that.

Who is Captain America? The Real "Winter Soldier"

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • October 25, 2013 3:26 PM
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  • 2 Comments
The Marvel property "Captain America" is an easy target for ReelPolitik, one in which I took great joy in aiming at when the reboot was released (see: "Captain America" review: Old-fashioned propaganda or just old-fashioned?). Now I wouldn't have bothered to return to Cap except that I recently discovered the subtitle of the sequel: "Winter Soldier," which coincidentally or not, shares a name with one of the Vietnam era's most virulent anti-war docs.

The Bad Metrics of Box Office Reporting

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • October 25, 2013 11:24 AM
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  • 1 Comment
In my latest Industry Beat column for Filmmaker Magazine, I continue my ongoing fascination with the way that VOD and digital distribution are impacting the independent film landscape. Mainly, the article focuses on the ways that the film industry measures success--an outdated and increasingly irrelevant metric known as theatrical ticket sales.

"12 Years A Slave" Wins Gotham Awards

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • October 24, 2013 10:43 AM
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  • 3 Comments
As much as I enjoy the Gothams, New York's independent film awards ceremony and IFP fundraiser, the actual winners are rarely, if ever, a surprise. While the Gothams don't take place for another month, it's safe to say that "12 Years A Slave" will win the big prizes, increasing its momentum as it heads to the Academy Awards next year.

New York Indie Film Loses its Focus

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • October 3, 2013 9:06 AM
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  • 8 Comments
With every well-heeled film institution or corporation that abandons New York City, the once indie film center loses some of its capital. And in the capital-intensive world of the film business, that's not a good thing for adventurous filmmakers who need adventurous financiers. It's bad enough that Focus Features, the longstanding Universal subsidiary that once supported Gotham auteurs like Jim Jarmusch ("The Limits of Control"), Noah Baumbach ("Greenberg") and the Coen brothers ("A Serious Man"), lost its main art-film advocate James Schamus, who balanced a shrewd knowledge of overseas playability with bold aesthetics, but the real nail in the coffin is the company's shuttering of its New York offices.

"Manuscripts" Travels; Rasoulof Can't; Iranian Filmmaker Held in Iran

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • October 2, 2013 2:46 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Ever-evolving human rights violations in Iran against its filmmakers is often difficult to grasp. One moment, there appears to be liberalization and rejoicing; the next there are crackdowns and arrests. Is it clear to anyone what exactly Jafar Panahi's situation within Iran is at the moment, given that he has continued to make movies when he's been banned from doing so? His compatriot, Mohammad Rasoulof, who was arrested around the same time, has always appeared to be in a better position with the authorities, but recent news to the contrary suggests he is facing a pushback from the new Iranian regime.

"Informant": How Brandon Darby Went from Anarchist to F.B.I. Stool-pigeon

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • September 12, 2013 10:43 AM
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  • 1 Comment
One of the best political documentaries last year, "Better This World" examines the government's crackdowns on civil disobedience, the ubiquity of surveillance and the injustice of our justice system. One of the most compelling characters in that taut, tense story of two boyhood friends who go from political neophytes to would-be domestic terrorists, accused of planning violent acts at the 2008 G.O.P. Convention, was Brandon Darby, the anarchist activist turned F.B.I. informant who may have helped instigate the very crimes the young men were convicted of. In a worthy quasi-sequel to "Better this World," Jamie Meltzer's "Informant"--which opens in NYC this week--presents the story from Darby's perspective, offering his own personal, paranoid justifications for his actions.

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