Dror Moreh’s Oscar-nominated documentary, opening 1 February in New York and LA, focuses on a particular period in Israel’s history, but it’s as topical and urgent a film as you’ll see this year. Astutely structured in part as a series of interviews with former members of Shin Bet intercut with images that can’t possibly mean only one thing, it considers how Israel’s decisions (official and not) following the Six Day War established attitudes, fears, and policies that shape tensions to this day. With a couple of reenactments set in a reimagined surveillance room—tapes recording, televisions monitoring, and computers whirring—the film suggests that advancing technologies and expanding violence didn’t make anyone safer, neither the occupying Israelis nor the occupied Palestinians. The conflict is fueled in part by access to oppressive machinery and weapons. Carmi Gillon (head of Shin Bet from 1994-1996) laments that—as in most every battle zone—decisions on the ground, when soldiers are “knocking on doors” of suspects and families, are left to boys who may have just left high school. Making these decisions “changes people’s character,” Shalom says, illustrated as he and other former heads remember their own childhoods, their fears, their faiths, and often, the influences of their fathers.
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Though the past decade saw black metal enter into the mainstream, most media discussions of its roots and effects remain shallow. The present debate about a correlation between media violence and real-world violence provides a natural opportunity to examine this popular form. Having premiered at the just-wrapped 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Kat Candler’s short film Black Metal arrives right on time. In less than 10 minutes, the film provokes more serious thought on its subject than Until the Light Takes Us or other similarly uncritical/self-satisfied analyses of recent years.
Don McLeroy is a believer. He believes in God, in the Bible, and in the need to ensure that all children come to believe what he does. In The Revisionaries, airing 28 January on PBS, he makes his case again and again, in the office where he works as a dentist, in the church where he serves as a pastor, before assorted cameras, and as a member of the Texas State Board of Education. Scott Thurman’s documentary charts the inspiration SBOE Chairman McLeroy provides for other board members, like Cynthia Dunbar (who served from 2007-2011), as they insist that science classes in Texas teach intelligent design, given that evolution is just a “theory.” The “power” here has to do with Texas’ influence on textbook selections around the nation: it has to do with numbers, as textbook publishers endeavor to serve (profit from) those schools ordering the most books. Well aware of this power, the Texas School Board creationists in the 1980s made a case for teaching the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution: this language is challenged in 2008, and The Revisionaries follows the battle between McLeroy’s Republicans and a set of opponents, including Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education and Steve Schafersman, of Texas Citizens for Science.
Skye, Garrison, and Kevin live in Canyon County, California. Here they observe adults, look for distractions, and find themselves. Skaters and rebels, smart kids and members of the Ignition Skate ministry, they’re romantics, too. They have a sense of a future that has little and also everything to do with their present, life in a small town where houses are flat and horizons limited. With the filmmakers of the documentary Only the Young, the kids both share and shape their experiences. The film, screening at the Doc Yard 28 January, followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Jason Tippet, is a collaboration as much as it is a revelation, and in that, it pushes the edges of documentary and fiction, articulating both realities and fantasies, feelings and fears. Tracking the teenagers over a few months, the film is remarkably composed, full of poetic images of skate ramps and shadows framing the boys’ lithe, athletic crouches. In their bedrooms, where they build models of the ramps, they keep their boards close, balanced across their long white legs as they imagine what’s coming next.
See PopMatters’ review.
Two scenes introduce the doubled focus of Five Broken Cameras. First, the population of Bil’in’s collective efforts to resist a coming Israeli settlement, and second, the filmmaker Emad Burnat’s efforts to make sense of the resulting chaos. “I was born and lived all my life in Bil’in,” he says. He used to work alongside his father picking olives, but more and more, the land where the olive trees grow is being claimed by Israelis. As his future changes before him, Emad also thinks about his past, his father and his four sons. The youngest is born in 2005, just as Emad begins recording events in earnest). The “land of my childhood and his birth,” Emad observes, will never be the same.