“Why would you ever take in a stranger?” The question posed by FBI agent Nancy Fisher comes late in The Imposter. Bart Layton’s fascinating film, recently short-listed by the Academy Award for Best Documentary, traces the case of Frédéric Bourdin, one of the stranger strangers you might imagine. In 1997, the 23-year-old called the police in Linares, Spain, pretending to be a tourist who’d discovered a traumatized boy in a phone booth. When the police arrived, Bourdin pretended to be the boy; taken to the police station, he was left alone in an office where he found the name of a missing boy from San Antonio, Texas, Nicholas Barclay. He then pretended to be Nick, whose family, desperate to find him, took in.
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When Mildred and Richard Loving were married in 1958, they became criminals. She was black and he was white, and so their union violated Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924. On July 14 in 1958, they were arrested: “They came one night and they knocked a couple times,” remembers Mildred. “I heard ‘em, and before I could get up, you know, they just broke the door open and came on in. When we got up they were standing by the bed, with flashlights.” The sheriff asked who she was, and she answered: “I said, ‘I’m his wife, and the sheriff said, ‘Not here, you’re not.’”
William has dreams. He wants to moonwalk like Michael Jackson. He imagines playing in the NFL and also to win, “like, six Super Bowl rings, all six of ‘em on one finger.” And he means to spend as much time as he can, for now, with his older brothers, Kentrell and Bryan. At 11 years old, William is all about the future, whether picturing years ahead or quick minutes. His energy is pretty much relentless in Tchoupitoulas, open today in select theaters and expanding in coming weeks. That energy propels Bill and Turner Ross’ film, a portrait of New Orleans that is by turns poetic and poignant and rapturous. As the three brothers lead the camera crew through streets, over railroad tracks, and along the riverfront, they appear to be making their way into on long night, though the film was shot over some nine months.
“Listen to me, don’t talk,” Jonathan Caouette tells his mother, Renée. “You need to get off the Risperdal. You need to be back on Lithium.” It’s 2010, at the start of Walk Away Renée: he’s home in New York, she’s in Houston, at the group home where he hoped she might find a mix of independence and close-to-round-the-clock care. But the more Jonathan listens to her, the more he realizes she can’t be there, that their living arrangements will need to shift—again. And in this realization, the new film picks up where the old one left off. The son must sort out what to do with his mother.
The story might seem familiar. Men go to work in Bill Morrison’s The Miners’ Hymns, hard, dark work in coal mines. They also find ways to celebrate their labor, in images from the early days of the UK’s coal industry: crowds cheer union candidates, placards proclaim support for miners and also, offer to insure them “on holidays.” Shots of one throng from a distance dissolve into closer shots, the camera panning faces, revealing that they’ve dressed up, in hats and jackets and vests. Some frames show more recent crowds, women in sunglasses and a reporter with a reel-to-reel tape recorder. In others, children hold balloons and bounce a bit, so excited to be out for the event. A boy turns to look at the camera as it passes. A little girl—her short hair shockingly blond—sits on her father’s shoulder, her gaze steady and, you think, somehow self-aware.