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Back to Afghanistan: "The Kill Team" Resurrects America's War Crimes

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • July 24, 2014 11:38 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Just when you thought the war in Afghanistan was a distant memory, "The Kill Team" (opening in theaters on July 25) reminds us that America's military missteps in the country remain an open wound. I have been covering and heralding the movie since its 2013 Tribeca Film Festival premiere, where it won best documentary feature. I worry that Americans' taste for tales of Afghanistan and Iraq have long reached capacity, but "The Kill Team" is essential viewing--a potent reminder of how quickly morality becomes muddied in a war zone.

Agnieszka Holland's "Burning Bush" Raises Not-so-historical Spectre of Russian Occupation

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • June 11, 2014 10:18 AM
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  • 0 Comments
It wasn't so long ago that Russian tanks were rolling through Eastern Europe and subjugating their neighboring country's peoples. Oh, wait: that was just a couple months ago in Ukraine. But Agnieszka Holland's wonderfully engaging miniseries,"Burning Bush" (opening theatrically at New York's Film Forum today), set in Prague 1969, takes this historical moment to create a sensitive and resonant account of Russian totalitarianism that should feel all too familiar.

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.

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."

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.

"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.

Is "12 Years A Slave" Too Brutal for Oscar?

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • September 7, 2013 8:28 AM
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  • 1 Comment

The Politics of "World War Z": The "Democracy Now" of Zombiepocalypse Movies?

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • June 4, 2013 4:45 PM
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  • 1 Comment

In Defense of "Frances Ha": Why Middle-Class White Angst Is Angst, Too

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • May 17, 2013 6:51 PM
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  • 18 Comments
In some corners, Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" is getting lumped in with a certain cycle of mumblecore movies that focused on young white people with nothing to do with their lives except whining and having sex with each other. This is an oversimplification, of course. But because "Frances" stars that great mumblecore ingenue Greta Gerwig, it's getting saddled with the same criticisms, too: It's just another movie about privileged white wanderers directed by another privileged white wanderer. But I'm here to say that "Frances Ha" has more to say about class politics than most films about 20-something life.

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