ReelPolitik

"Capturing the Friedmans" Filmmakers Reveal New Evidence to Overturn Subject's Conviction

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • February 26, 2013 12:01 PM
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A decade after "Capturing the Friedmans" was nominated for an Academy Award, the fiilmmakers are now working to overturn the alleged wrongful conviction of Jesse Friedman, one of the main subjects of the controversial film, who served nearly 14 years in prison. Next Tuesday, on March 5th, the filmmakers will preview new evidence at a special screening in New York before it's made public, followed by a discussion with director Andrew Jarecki and Jesse Friedman, as well as criminal defense and civil rights attorney Ron Kuby.

How Did "Beasts" Lose the Spirit Awards? Box Office Always Wins

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • February 24, 2013 9:38 PM
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  • 1 Comment
For years, the Spirit Awards have proven to be a mere popularity contest, awarding its best feature prize to the biggest box-office earner. I would like to report that this year's awards were different, but alas, the big victory of "Silver Linings Playbook" over the weekend once again offers evidence that the Spirits' main categories have little to do with independent film. "Silver Linings" has earned more than $100 million at the U.S. box office. ("Moonrise Kingdom," another nominee, falls a far second with $45 million.)

Bulgaria Year Zero: "Sofia Last Ambulance" Careens into U.S.

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • February 15, 2013 11:54 AM
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I can't heap enough praise on "Sofia's Last Ambulance," a Cannes 2012 prize-winner that's having its U.S. premiere tonight as part of MoMA's Documentary Fortnight program. Combining a refreshing formal inventiveness with a searing sense of post-Communist malaise, the film follows three paramedics on duty in Bulgaria’s capital city--it's equal parts urgent real-life chronicle and meditative long-take art cinema. Picture Fredrick Wiseman directing The Death of Mr. Lazarescu. I wrote about the film and a couple of other Eastern European standout docs in this week's Docutopia column at SundanceNow, and I thought it was worth highlighting again here for its ingenious mix of experiential verite filmmaking with incisive political critique.

The Political Uses of Archival Material in "Argo," "Zero Dark Thirty" and Chile's "No"

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • February 7, 2013 9:23 AM
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  • 1 Comment
I'm not sure if anyone has called it out specifically, but archival news material made a comeback in the Hollywood feature film recently, with the most high-profile examples coming in this year's Oscar nominees "Argo" and "Zero Dark Thirty." (You can bet that if broadcast news journalists coverered the American Civil War, Steven Spielberg would have included a few excerpts during the end credits of "Lincoln," too.) For my most recent Docutopia column, I wrote about the various uses of news and documentary clips in those two bigger movies, compared with those in "No," Chilean director Pablo Larrain's more self-aware look at a tumultous moment in his own country's history.

Iran Attacks "Hollywoodism"; Why They're Right, and Wrong

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • February 6, 2013 10:59 AM
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  • 4 Comments
In the midst of Iran's prestigious 31st Fajr International Film Festival, which recently awarded its top prize to Iranian filmmaker Behnam Behzadi's family drama “The Rule of Accident,” an unfortunate parallel event is being conducted called "Hollywoodism and Cinema," which, by all accounts, is conservative Islamic propaganda aimed at demonizing Jews, Hollywood and Jewish Hollywood. The conference is making news on a number of fronts: the Western Media loves to highlight stories that show off Iran's more wacky ideologues; and there are also unsubstantiated reports that Malcolm Shabazz, Malcolm X's grandson, was arrested by the FBI on his way to Tehran to attend the conference. (Can some crime reporter please follow up on this?)

"The Gatekeepers" and Israeli's Leftist Docu Wave

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • February 1, 2013 10:52 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Are Israel's acclaimed documentaries -- "The Gatekeepers" (which opens today in New York and L.A.), "5 Broken Cameras" and "The Law in These Parts" -- helping to swing public opinion in Israel to the left? That's the question I explore in my Docutopia column this week at SundanceNow. With the results of last Tuesday's election surprising many with the weaker-than-expected turnout for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, there may be a shift towards the political center and a better chance for compromise with the Palestinians.

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