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The Top 12 Political Films of 2012

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • December 13, 2012 2:02 PM
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  • 4 Comments
As an election year, 2012 was particularly rife with political filmmaking. Capitalizing on the highly energized, contentious race for the White House—and a body politic particularly attuned to issues of economic inequality and foreign instability—Hollywood definitely got into the act: Even "The Dark Knight Rises" presented muddled perspectives on the super-rich and the less fortunate, hero-izing and condemning both elite and revolutionaries, alike. I don't think the film is one of the best political movies of the year—can anyone clearly identify its political stance, after all?—nor will I take this space to herald "Argo"—which I've written about elsewhere, and find to be deeply problematic in its depiction of Iran's Islamic Revolution—or "Zero Dark Thirty," which, likewise, confirms my suspicions about any movie that has CIA agents or American men with guns vanquishing an enemy.

What's More Inane than "2016: Obama's America" Filmmakers Whining About Oscar?

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • December 6, 2012 12:58 PM
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  • 2 Comments
What's more inane? That Gerald Molen, the Oscar-winning producer of "Schindler’s List "and "2016: Obama's America" and the doc's director Dinesh D’Souza believe they should have been on the Oscar shortlist for best documentary? Or that The Hollywood Reporter published a story about their ridiculously unfounded complaints? According to the trade/gossip rag, the filmmakers state that their film's lack of recognition by the Academy proves that the industry is biased against conservatives. What they don't account for, of course, is that the film's lack of recognition by the Academy may be, in fact, because the movie is bad.

"Gasland's" Josh Fox Unleashes "Occupy Sandy: A Human Response to the New Realities of Climate Change"

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • November 27, 2012 9:35 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Is Josh Fox the new Michael Moore? Or perhaps Brave New Films' Robert Greenwald is the better analogy. From fracking to climate change, the "Gasland" filmmaker is turning into a one-man agit-prop movie machine, unleashing short films to activate his nearly 10,000 Twitter followers and effect the debate on energy issues. This Wednesday, Fox will join Occupy Sandy Relief organizers, 350.0rg, The Other 98%, and The Illuminator for a secret premiere of his new short film “Occupy Sandy: A Human Response to the New Realities of Climate Change." According to its Facebook page, the film "viscerally shows the damage left behind by the storm, highlights the heroic grassroots efforts of Occupy activists, and draws the connections between the storm, climate change, and the reckless greed of the fossil fuel industry."

Israeli Occupation Doc "The Law In These Parts" Opens as Violence Escalates in Israel

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • November 15, 2012 2:48 PM
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  • 0 Comments
While I'm sure no one is happy that war is about to break out in the Middle East after Israel's targeted assassination of Hamas leader Ahmed al-Jabari on Wednesday, the timing couldn't be more perfect for this week's Film Forum release of "The Law In These Parts," Ra'anan Alexandrowicz's sound attack on the Israeli legal system that has sanctioned the illegal occupation and oppression of the Palestinian peoples. As the UN Security Council meets in an emergency session and rockets fire from the Gaza Strip, killing Israelis in retaliation, Alexandrowicz's compelling documentary explores how we got into this mess in the first place.

The Next "Inconvenient Truth"? Jeremy Irons Talks New Cannes Doc "Trashed"

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • April 30, 2012 9:47 AM
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  • 0 Comments
The Cannes Film Festival isn't best known for its nonfiction, but ever since Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" won the top prize in 2004, there has been a steady increase in the number of important docs at the fest, many of them with a heavily activist bent, from Moore's own "Sicko" in 2007 to "Inside Job" to last year's BP oil spill doc "The Big Fix." This year, my money is on the newly announced documentary "Trashed" to be this year's event doc, complete with a star, Jeremy Irons, and a significant global issue: the dangers of pollution and the world’s overflowing problem of waste.

Homeland Security Interrogates and Harasses Oscar-Nominee Laura Poitras During Making of New Doc

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • April 9, 2012 10:00 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Laura Poitras, the Oscar-nominated director of "My Country, My Country" and "The Oath," has suffered extreme harrassment at the hands of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Customs and Border Control (CBC) while making a new film on America's "War on Terror," according to a must-read report in Salon.com.

Robert Redford's Political Action Cinema; Revisits Watergate and Weather Underground

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • April 3, 2012 9:34 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Robert Redford is revving up his activist pursuits with a spate of political-minded projects, from "The Company You Keep," his political thriller starring Shia LaBeouf, which could premiere at this year's Toronto International Film Festival, to a new slate of TV projects, including "All the President's Men Revisited," a 2-hour documentary for the Discovery Channel about the Watergate scandal to be directed by Peter Schnall.

Activist Filmmaker Robert Greenwald Attacks Koch Bros, "Worst of 1%"

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • March 30, 2012 9:37 AM
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  • 0 Comments
Robert Greenwald's documentary resume now offers a near complete litany of right-wing scourges: He's gone after, most famously, Fox News ("Outfoxed"), the Iraq War ("Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers"), and Wal-Mart ("The High Cost of Low Price"), and he's just released his latest liberal piece of agit-prop: "Koch Brothers Exposed," which according to Alternet.org, weaves together a series of short films that examines the principals of Koch Industries, one of the nation's top polluters and infamous for their funding of think-tanks that aim to deregulate business and scale back government programs such as Social Security, Medicare and the new healthcare reform law. (The DVD is available here).

"Scenes of a Crime": Unjust Verdict Upheld as Doc Winner Hits Theaters

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • March 26, 2012 2:23 PM
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  • 3 Comments
Adrian Thomas, the man at the center of the award-winning documentary "Scenes of a Crime" (Filmmaker Magazine's Best Film Not Playing at a Theater Near You, Grand Jury Prize Winner at Full Frame and DOC NYC), has not been granted an appeal, a state court has ruled, according to reports. The compelling documentary, which opens in New York on Friday, offers a strong case for Thomas' innocence and striking scientific evidence that suggests Thomas was wrongly convicted and a confession was coerced by police.

An Injury to One is An Injury to All... Filmmakers

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • March 15, 2012 10:11 AM
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  • 2 Comments
Last October, I blogged about the belated--and much welcomed--DVD release of Travis Wilkerson's celebrated agit doc "An Injury to One," a stirring, compelling and formally innovative documentary about the lynching of a famous union agitator named Frank Little in Montana nearly a century ago. The film had garnered added relevance with the growing Occupy Wall Street movement, and was singled out by Dennis Lim in an L.A. Times story as "one of American independent cinema's great achievements of the past decade": The film seemed to have found an ideal moment to enter the mediasphere. But not so, according to Wilkerson.

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