ReelPolitik

The False Liberal Promise of "Elysium"

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • August 11, 2013 11:17 AM
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  • 6 Comments
Of course, Neill Blomkamp's "Elysium" is political, but news pundits, never exactly attuned to the subtleties of narrative and ideology, miss the big picture. Critics and observers have endlessly recycled the idea that the film is some kind of sci-fi epic for the Occupy movement, in which the 99% rebel against the 1%. And yes, while this may be the case on the film's dystopian surface, "Elysium" fails as the kind of liberal "political propaganda" that some conservatives have labeled it as.

A Business of Ignorance: 6 Lessons from the New Digital Distrib Universe

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • July 23, 2013 3:06 PM
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  • 2 Comments
What's the next trend in indie filmmaking thanks to the digital universe in which we live? Tween TV stars. Yes, that's right. Turns out Harmony Korine was ahead of the curve with his casting of Disney TV ingenues in "Spring Breakers." In my latest Industry Beat column for Filmmaker Magazine, I looked into the latest developments in digital distribution, including new strategic casting decisions, and I'm still not sure whether digital and VOD distribution is good or bad.

The Most Daring Film of the Year

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • July 17, 2013 10:08 AM
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  • 1 Comment
Economists and forward-thinkers are all about "creative disruption" as a means to move our lackluster global economy forward. It's the idea that innovation is the answer, the best way to revitalize our moribund industries. If Hollywood is doomed, recycling itself into career suicide, then the only way out of this mess is to focus on the new, the novel and the daring, whether that's Christopher Nolan (love him or hate him, at least he's experimenting with form) or at the other end of the spectrum, Andrew Bujalski, whose latest film "Computer Chess" goes back in time to boldly go forward where no film has gone before.

Privacy is Dead, According to New Round of Nonfiction

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • July 11, 2013 10:20 AM
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  • 0 Comments
A recent "Daily Show" report on the N.S.A. PRISM scandal was titled "Good News! You're Not Paranoid," which seems like an apt tag-line for a number of recent documentaries, from Cullen Hoback’s Terms and Conditions May Apply, which opens in New York on Friday, to Ben Lewis’ Google and the World Brain and Alex Gibney’s We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks. If everything we do is being tracked, recorded and filed for possible Pre-Crime indictments, what you going to do about it?

After PBS Controversy, "Citizen Koch" Filmmakers Turn to Kickstarter

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • July 9, 2013 10:05 AM
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  • 0 Comments
"Citizen Koch,” the documentary film about Wisconsin politics and the Citizens United decision, is turning to Kickstarter to cover the costs of music licenses, footage licenses, editing costs and other fees associated with readying the film for distribution. Problems with the film's distribution on PBS first circulated after The New Yorker published a damning story that strongly suggested that rightwing billionaire David Koch, who was a member of the Board of Directors of WNET in New York and WGBH in Boston at the time, may have had something to do with PBS pulling the plug on the film's broadcast.

Los Angeles Red Squad: The Communist Situation in California

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • June 28, 2013 9:39 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Travis Wilkerson, one of the more radical and exciting nonfiction cinema essayists working today ("An Injury to One"), has a new feature-length documentary, "Los Angeles Red Squad: The Communist Situation in California," which is having its world premiere at the International Film Festival of Marseilles. I've been a big fan of Wilkerson's ever since "An Injury to One" blew my mind in 2003, having written about the film here and here. The new film, with a running time of 70 minutes, looks to follow in the aesthetic footsteps of "Injury to One," with a idiosyncratic mix of narration, history, and digitally manipulated archival images.

The Pros and Cons of Interactive Storytelling

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • June 25, 2013 8:58 AM
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  • 1 Comment
I am not a total convert, but I do see some benefits in the revolutionary new story spaces that go by various monikers, be it transmedia or multi-platform storytelling. That's my conclusion after delving into the new media world for this two-part investigative story for Indiewire: Part 1, "Transmedia is Sexy, But Who's Watching?" focused on several questions about audiences and the industry's interest in new media documentaries, while Part 2 "9 Tips for Interactive Media Producers" examines what makes a transmedia project successful.

"The New Black" and the Global Gay Rights Fight

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • June 19, 2013 1:53 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The American media likes to suggest that the gay marriage debate is just about over, and that civil rights for the LGBT community is basically a battle that has already been won. (The latest polls suggest that a slim majority of Americans, 51%, are in favor of gay marriage.) But tell that to black folks in many parts of America, or Africans in Uganda or Cameroon, and the reality is a far different and difficult story. In my Docutopia column this week, I examine several films that chronicle the experiences of gay and lesbian black Americans and African Americans.

Lefty Filmmakers Grapple with Left-Wing Backlash

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • June 12, 2013 1:28 PM
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  • 4 Comments
The left-wing sectarian debates fuming over Alex Gibney's "We Steal Secrets: The Story of Wikileaks," well-assembled and dissected by Andrew O'Hehir at Salon.com, is also taking place around "Pandora's Promise," Robert Stone's equally controversial and reasonably argued film about the benefits of nuclear power. Jeremy Scahill has also said he's receiving more hate-mail from liberals because of his criticisms of Obama in "Dirty Wars." Why so little love?

"Dirty Wars" Attacks Obama as Foreign Policy Debate Heats Up

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • June 5, 2013 9:55 AM
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  • 0 Comments
In a perfect world, one might believe that President Obama's recent foreign policy speeches, calling for an end to "America's perpetual wartime footing" and reopening the debate on the use of drones, came in response to the imminent release of Richard Rowley's timely doc "Dirty Wars," which is opening Friday and explicitly addresses these issues. Do documentaries have that much power? Probably not, but "Dirty Wars" couldn't have arrived at a better time.

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