Screening as part of the Human Rights Watch Film Festival DC on 25 April at the West End Cinema and followed by a discussion with Andrea Prasow, Human Rights Watch Senior Counsel, Counterterrorism, Better This World assembles pieces of Crowley and McKay’s experiences, similar and not.
“Both of us are very proud to be Americans and when you see someone is poisoning what you love, and what you believe in, I think if you allow yourself, you become someone who wants to fight against it.” As David McKay describes his thinking, you might think you know where Better This World is headed. McKay and Brad Crowley, two friends from Midland, Texas, tell a story that seems familiar: as young activists, they were arrested at the Republican National Convention in 2008. As the film unfolds, they’re fighting their legal cases. At the time, that is, after 9/11, says FBI Assistant Special Agent Tim Gossfeld, domestic terrorism was a specific target: “That is what we need to focus all our resources on,” he asserts, “to the best of our ability.”
Céline Sciamma's wonderful Tomboy is now available on iTunes from FilmBuff.
Six-year-old Jeanne (Malonn Lévana) like pink: her bedroom is painted pink, her bedspread is pink, and she wears a pink tutu when she practices her ballet lessons. Her 10-year-old sister Laure Michaël (Zoé Héran) prefers blue. Céline Sciamma’s wonderful Tomboy—now available on iTunes from FilmBuff—presents their relationship and changing circumstances from their perspectives. The camera remains low as yhey watch their parents (Sophie Cattani and Mathieu Demy) chat in their new kitchen (the family has is moving to a new home just outside Paris as the film begins). Their mother’s belly is large, as she’s pregnant with a boy: they see mom smiling and excited, remarking the baby’s movements. Laure sees in her mother a new delight and also a distance: she wonders, without being aware that she’s wondering, how to regain her attention.
Farmageddon argues that the US government's efforts to regulate small farmers' food production are not just misbegotten, but also dangerous.
“Ninety-five percent of what Americans eat, you can’t pronounce and you can’t make it in your kitchen,” observes Joel Salatin. The owner of Polyface Farms, Salatin repeats in Farmageddon: The Unseen War on American Family Farms what he’s said elsewhere—in his books and in the movies Fresh and Food, Inc.—namely, that the US government’s efforts to regulate small farmers’ food production are not just misbegotten, but also dangerous. With Farmageddon, first time filmmaker Kristin Canty brings more evidence to bear, in the stories of farmers who have been harassed by federal and local agencies (the FBI, the USDA, and the FDA, as well as assorted sheriffs’ departments). Linked through their handling by the Farm to Consumer Legal Defense Fund’s D. Gary Cox, these cases include unannounced raids, inspections that turn into seizures, sheep killing, and, in the case of Jackie Stowers (owner of a private food co-op), the armed invasion of the farmhouse she shares with 10 kids and her husband.
As Gil Guillory sees it, his career is an extension of human history. A former fighter, he now runs USA-MMA, promoting mixed martial arts bouts in Lafayette, Louisiana. “There’s something about beating another man into submission that the world is attracted to,” he says, while you watch a few fighters bouncing on the balls of their feet, shadowboxing and kicking. A percussive beat on the soundtrack punctuates their movements. Framed by doorways and silhouetted, they’re poetic here, at the start of Fightville. They’re also products—of their own lives, of a culture committed to particular masculine and also commercial ideals. “By nature, [man’s] a warrior,” Guillory goes on, “So when you say ‘fight,’ everyone is gonna turn and look.” In his world (the one “attracted to” cage fighting), selling that entertainment is as important as providing it, the show and the look work together. Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker’s new documentary—which opens 20 April in New York and LA, as well as on iTunes and VOD—considers the effects of this apparent shift—from fighting as primal contest to spectacle for paying consumers—a shift that depends equally on that fighting’s brutality and its poetry.
“It was just impossible to explain. How do you explain God? How do you explain love?” When she left Hollywood back in 1963, Mother Prioress Dolores Hart remembers, her friends and colleagues were perplexed. And yet, she knew then, when she was a 24-year-old rising movie star, that she was doing the right thing. As recalled by the Oscar-nominated short documentary, God Is the Bigger Elvis, she had appeared in a couple of films with Elvis Presley, 1957’s Loving You and 1958’s King Creole. She had money and fame, a bright career future, and a fiancé, but still, she became a Benedictine nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in western Connecticut. The film tells the story simply: Over a series of glamour shots, the Mother Prioress recalls her unexpected opportunity to play opposite Elvis (after she appeared in 1947’s Forever Amber as a child), and then her efforts to find satisfaction in the earthly pleasures that followed. She appeared in movies with Brando and Beatty, Jeff Chandler and George Hamilton, and yet, she found herself yearning for another sort of life. The film includes as well interviews with Dolores Hart’s fellow nuns, who all describe the perfect harmony of their cloistered experience at the Abbey. They eat in silence, they laugh at jokes and toast with wine. The Mother Prioress tends to her parrot Toby and dedicates herself to contemplation and instruction, praying and hearing confessions. “My role is to help the person find hope,” she says, “If you can find hope, you might find faith.”