At work, Isaiah Owens splits his time between tending to the living and the dead. As tells his story in Christine Turner’s terrific documentary Homegoings, this funeral director—who knew what he wanted to be since he was a boy—brings you along, the camera close as he shares memories with survivors, helps them make arrangements, and then takes care of their loved ones, tenderly and compassionately. Bent over a corpse, his figure obscures your view. He wears blue medical gloves, as he injects “liquid tissue,” which he describes as “probably a first cousin to Botox,” one of many literal and metaphorical connections he draws between living and dead bodies. This lady is 98 years old, he observes, adding, “I’m going to need some Crazy Glue.” Later scenes of Isaiah at work show more, a face being made up, fingers being arranged, watery-red fluid swirling beneath a body toward a drain.
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It took David Kato some time to discover his calling, his identity as a gay man in Uganda and, beyond that, as a courageous fighter for gay civil rights. As he recalls in Call Me Kuchu, he came to his self-understanding when he left Uganda, briefly, in 1992. On arriving in South Africa, he remembers, he stayed at a YMCA. “I saw these men on the street,” he says, and when he asked what they were selling, wondering whether it was “gold or diamonds,” he was told they were selling themselves. He was further surprised when he learned that these men sold themselves to other men. “I said, ‘For what?’” Here David exaggerates his response, cocking his head to the side. “I said, ‘Ahh.’ And I’ve always wanted men, so I went to the street.” Returning to Uganda, he cofounded SMUG (Sexual Minorities Uganda), and took up a series of public and legal campaigns against various sorts of homophobia, particularly concerning newspapers outing and targeting individuals. The filmmakers, Katherine Fairfax Wright and Malika Zouhali-Worrall, spend a year with Kato, tracking and commending his efforts and confidence, his infectious good humor and his terrific charisma.
“Go hard or go home.” Looming against a blue sky and brick walls, Pee Wee Kirkland asserts, “We changed basketball.” Playing the game on outdoor courts in New York City, he and his fellows forged a new attitude, a new style. “It was about living up to what you said, it was street flavor basketball.” Indeed, the pick-up games he’s describing have shaped all of basketball, a point illustrated over the past couple of weeks during the Eastern Conference Finals between the Pacers and the Heat, characterized by impressively athletic, physical play and all manner of trash talk.
“You have to be willing to sacrifice everything,” says Katie Wano, “Because once you’re in the air, you have nothing to protect you.” Wano played with Abby Wambach at the University of Florida in Gainesville, and as she speaks, Abby Head On, illustrates just how thrilling and challenging the move can be. Airing as part of ESPN’s Storied series starting 15 May, the documentary celebrates Wambach’s many achievements and narrates her life story, with the sorts of images you might expect: photos of her childhood, the youngest of seven children growing up in PIttsford, New York, apparently competitive from the moment she could be, admiring talking heads, and swelling music on the soundtrack, or, during moments of seeming reflection, an earnest piano plink. Following a basic chronology, from Wambach’s high school stardom through college and then her triumphs as a professional player, the film notes the 2008 friendly game, the 32-year-old Wambach’s 200th, termed by narrator Jack Youngblood a “testament to her durability.” The film includes as well a particular test of that durability, when Wambach collided with another player in 2008 and broke her leg. While she takes it as a lesson that “You can’t get too emotional,” US women’s national team head coach Pia Sundhage remembers thinking, “Gold medal, here we go, off.” At the London games in 2012, the US women’s team does win, with Wambach making a dramatic header.