Talal Derki is walking as he speaks in voiceover, walking through what’s left of Homs. That is to say, he’s “walking through” quite literally. Certainly, he’s crossing from one room to another, but more dauntingly, as he walks, the camera follows him from one home to another: he’s walking not through doorways but through holes in walls, holes created with hammers, so that people who have not evacuated the city, who mean to fight and document the fight, can pass under some modicum of safety and cover, unseen by snipers and men with rocket launchers, waiting to shoot at anyone they spot.
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“I remember feeling frightened,” says Hafsat Abiola. “I just didn’t feel I could trust the police or their soldiers any more.” This after her mother, Kudirat Abiola, the charismatic leader of a pro-democracy movement in Nigeria, was assassinated in 1996. As Hafsat today looks back on that fraught history, so personal as well as so frighteningly public, she also looks forward with hope. The founder of the Kudirat Initiative for Democracy tells her story in The Supreme Price, which considers the many complexities of Nigeria, ruled by a series of military regimes from 1966-1996. As current events continue to swirl—including the terrors of Boko Haram and the troubling presidency of Goodluck Jonathan—Hafsat persists.
Eric Von Haessler’s documentary Scarred But Smarter tells the tale of a band that, while under the radar by the average person’s standards, have nonetheless remained vital and influential over the course of its now 30-year tenure: the Atlanta indie rock outfit Drivin’ N’ Cryin’. Few bands last as long as this trio, comprised of singer/songwriter Kevn Kinney, guitarist Tim Nielsenand, and drummer Paul Lenz; that the group has remained headstrong is but one of many reasons why a film about its musical journey is so fascinating a document.
“My father told me, this is a dark organization, don’t go there.” Gonen Ben Itzhak sets up the moment when he decided to join Shin Bet, the Israeli secret security service, with his reaction to the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. “I was shocked like everybody else,” he says, “I felt I needed to do something for my country.” His belief that joining Shin Bet appeared to be that something initiates the unresolved, perhaps irresolvable, conundrum at the center of The Green Prince, open in theaters 12 September. That conundrum begins with definitions and expectations, of self and nation, individual and community, morality, vengeance, and survival. The Palestinians were enemies, even the idea of Palestine was an existential threat to Israel, and so Itzhak embraced his work as a handler of double agents for Shin Bet, believing that the lines were clearly drawn. They were not. As it tells the story of Itzhak’s complicated relationship with one of these, Mosab Hassan Yousef, also known as “Son of Hamas,” Nadav Schirman’s film blurs lines as well, between drama and documentary, truth and desire, intersecting stories framed by smart edits between reenactments, archival footage, and interviews.
“Of course you don’t want an abortion. Nobody wants an abortion.”
Dr. Susan Robinson provides abortions, in particular, for women in their third trimesters who, for any number of reasons, need to end their pregnancies. Robinson is one of four such providers in the US who do this work, work they once did with Dr. George Tiller and work they now continue to do, after his 2009 murder in his church in Wichita. The work, and more importantly, the people who choose to do it, form the focus of Martha Shane and Lana Wilson’s intelligent, conscientious documentary, After Tiller, premiering on PBS’ POV series on September 1.
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