Call for Feature Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

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Saturday, Oct 20, 2012
It's helpful that Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller) is so articulate when she describes her relationship with Alfred Hitchcock (Toby Jones). But it's also acutely disconcerting.

“He wants to get inside me, in awful ways, to squeeze me out until there’s nothing left inside.” I suppose it’s helpful that Tippi Hedren (Sienna Miller) is so articulate—so poetic and so precise—when she describes her relationship with her director, Alfred Hitchcock (Toby Jones). But it’s also acutely disconcerting, that she is so able to maintain her self-awareness amid a series of abuses and threats during the two films she makes with him, The Birds and Marnie. You always knew there was something dreadful about these two movies—the aggressions against her, by all manner of fowl and Sean Connery—and HBO’s The Girl offers some detail (based on Donald Spoto’s Hitchock books, including Spellbound By Beauty: Hitchcock and His Leading Ladies (2008). In this version of Hitch (as he invites his new mentee to call him), he is calculating and also unnervingly out-of-control, admired and cruel. He torments Hedren on the set in front of everyone, has her endure attacks by real birds for five days in order to obtain the genuine terror on her face in the notorious Birds attic scene. He also leans in too close, pesters her with stories about cocks, invites her to touch his, paws her and bullies her, all, he says, to make her a great movie star. “There’s only so much I can teach you through kindness,” he explains.


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Friday, Oct 19, 2012
Laura Brownson and Beth Levison’s documentary explores how the collisions of poverty and celebrity produce stereotypes, myths, and also forms of truth.

“Right now, I’m creating an opportunity for me and my family,” announces Lemon Andersen. Newly released from prison back to the projects, he means to make changes, to look ahead, to survive. The hope and the promise sound familiar enough, at the start of Lemon. But Laura Brownson and Beth Levison’s documentary, premiering 19 October on Voces and available on DVD and VOD, goes on to complicate this story, exploring how the collisions of poverty and celebrity produce stereotypes, myths, and also forms of truth.


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Friday, Oct 12, 2012
But the ghosts and spirits in the wonderful documentary Unfinished Spaces aren't so much dead as they are waiting.

“To Fidel, everything had to be the greatest in the world,” says Selma Diaz. “To him, they were the best in the world, not just the best in Latin America. They had to be the best schools of art in the world.” Under her narration, the camera in Unfinished Spaces makes its way along brick corridors and up stone stairways. As the structure appears both old and empty, in some disrepair, you might guess this journey is coming to an end even as she remembers its origins.


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Thursday, Oct 4, 2012
"I was not given a fair fight," says Paco Larrañaga, imprisoned in the Philippines. "I was not given a chance to defend myself."

“I’m not scared to face my creator,” says Paco Larrañaga. “I have a big space there, I’m sure.” Here on earth, though, he’s less certain. Interviewed in the New Bilibid Prison in the Philippines, Larrañaga wears an orange jumpsuit and peers awkwardly into the video camera’s wide lens. “It’s just so unfair, getting that lethal injection without me giving a fight,” he says. “I was not given a fair fight. I was not given a chance to defend myself.” Give Up Tomorrow begins partway through Larrañaga’s ordeal, then cuts back in time, as the filmmakers interview not only him and his family members, but also police officers and other officials who brought the case. When plainclothes policemen came to his door at school, he was afraid they were criminals come to kidnap him, his sister Mimi remembers: the scene is illustrated by a set of ominous animated silhouettes, setting up the surreal events to follow.


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Thursday, Oct 4, 2012
The film underscores importance of Civil Rights workers' memories today, as US citizens contend with increasing efforts to restrict basic rights -- to vote, to work, to have access to education and health care.

“I wondered for many years, I don’t know how long, why was I there at that crucial moment.” The Reverend Samuel Kyles, best known as Billy, pauses. “I knew it was more than coincidence. I just didn’t know what.” Forty years later, Kyles says, he still doesn’t have the words for what he experienced on 4 April 1968. Standing on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, he watched as his friend and fellow preacher, Dr. Martin Luther King, was shot and killed. Contemplating that event, as well as those that led to it and followed, Kyles appears serene, though hardly complacent. His recollections form the basis of The Witness: From The Balcony of Room 306, airing 4 October on the Documentary Channel.


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