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by Cynthia Fuchs

23 Oct 2011

“She functions better under pressure.” Tended by her makeup artist, the newly elected president of Liberia, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, sits quietly. She’s functioning exceptionally well under pressure—and has done so in the years following this moment, captured in Iron ladies of Liberia in 2006. (She is currently enduring pressure again, awaiting results of this month’s presidential election.) Recently named one of three winners of 2011 Nobel Peace Prize, Sirleaf in this documentary—which premieres on Global Voices 23 October—is resolved to lead her nation out of the darkness of 14 years of civil war, and following the resignation of Charles Taylor in 2003 (he’s now awaiting a verdict in his war crimes trial in the Hague). In the film, co-directed by Siatta Scott Johnson and Daniel Junge, President Sirleaf staffs her cabinet with “iron ladies.” Showing the difficulties facing Sirleaf in impressionistic, unforgettable images—kids playing in garbage dumps, demonstrations in the streets—the documentary keeps focused on the president’s good intentions and efforts, filtered through her indomitable personality.

See PopMattersreview.

by Cynthia Fuchs

20 Oct 2011

Girls can do anything, right? Except that they’re still encouraged to see themselves as helpers, raised, represented, and expected to be wives and mothers rather than independent achievers. This is the primary argument made by Miss Representation. Jennifer Siebel Newsom’s documentary isn’t making a new or a very subtle argument, but it’s one—made emphatically—that makes the film a perfect fit for Oprah’s OWN Documentary Club. Media representations of girls and women as objects are actually increasing. The reasons are various, and include predictable fears and anxieties concerning potential shifts in power and money, and, the film submits, these representations influence how girls and boys think about the world and themselves. As Margaret Cho says plainly, “The media treats women like shit and it’s horrible and I don’t know how we survive it. I don’t know how we rise above it.”

by William Carl Ferleman

20 May 2011

Keep your government hands off my Medicare – and put on a music festival! The Freedom Jamboree will take place 28 September – 2 October in Kansas City, Kansas. The event will feature a slew of acts, from politicos to such musical artists as Chris Ross, Nathan Mann, Jon David Kahn, Najee, J-Shin, Jay Smoove, Toots Sweet, Chris Cassone, Jayquan, the Supremes, Tito Puente, Jr., Lonnie Smith, James De La Raza, Debbie K., Sherry Marquelle, Jeremy Dodge, Wes Hotchkiss, Chuck Day, Jordan Page, Lisa Mei Norton, Joyce Shaffer, and Krista Branch. One musician, Jordan Page, promises a “politically and spiritually based assault on the corruption of government and empire.”Moreover, Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann has been invited to the festival. Exactly what sort of song would she sing?

by Cynthia Fuchs

24 Mar 2011

Part political investigation and part cultural critique, Alex Gibney’s brilliant documentary is also a series of intricate performance pieces. As Eliot Spitzer and others describe the trajectory of his New York career, all do their best to shape the story, and also to make their versions seem honest and insightful. As AG and as governor, Spitzer pursued Wall Street corruption, inspiring the enmity of some very powerful usual suspects. While the movie doesn’t defend Spitzer’s deception of his wife and family, or excuse his ridiculous choice to patronize the Emperor’s Club VIP, it does situate that bad behavior in multiple broader contexts, all in flux by definition. Spitzer is not deviant or even exceptional. He is, instead, a participant in a game that is at once mundane and creepy, one that no one seems inclined to challenge, but only to play as brutally as possible, and above all, to play well.

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer is screening as part of Maysles Cinema’s “True Crime” series. The 24 March show will be followed by a Q&A with Alex Gibney.

See PopMattersreview.

by Cynthia Fuchs

23 Mar 2011

“The reason that they’re not going to jail is not that they didn’t commit crimes,” Charles Ferguson tells Nell Minow. “It’s because there’s been no effort to enforce the law, an even more disturbing phenomenon.”

This year’s Academy Award winner for Best Documentary, Inside Job traces the intertwined histories of deregulation, credit default swaps, subprime mortgages, and ideological Kool-Aid drinking. Interviewer and director Ferguson encourages his subjects to tell their stories. Some of these are convincing, others are cringeworthy, as lobbyists, bankers, and academics spin themselves into deep holes. It may be that Inside Job‘s greatest effect is that, as the interviewees reveal themselves, they become less central to the story. Increasingly, the film lays bare a culture based on greed and short-sightedness, one that produces a mindless focus on profits, whether ideological, political, or financial.

Part of Maysles Cinema’s “True Crime” series, the screening of Inside Job on 3/23 will be followed by an audience-led discussion with Gale and Ben Armstead, humanitarians, and long-time Harlem residents. On Friday, 3/25, the screening will be followed by a Q&A with Carl Dix.

See PopMattersreview.

//Mixed media

The Hills Are Alive, But Nobody Else Is in 'The Happiness of the Katakuris'

// Short Ends and Leader

"Happiness of the Katakuris is one of Takashi Miike's oddest movies, and that's saying something.

READ the article