Thursday, April 29, 2010

“Budrus”: Capturing Minds Without Heart

“Budrus,” the title of Julia Bacha’s feature documentary in competition at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, presented in conjunction with the Doha Tribeca Film Festival, refers to the tiny Palestinian town (population 1,500) at the center of the struggle against Israel’s razing of 300 acres and 3,000 olive trees, in effect destroying the village to make way for a separation wall. Led by activist Ayed Morrar and his daughter Iltezam the townsfolk – including Hamas members – and Israeli activists come together to prove that nonviolent tactics can make a difference. Especially when cameras are rolling.

To read the rest of my review visit Global Comment.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Tribeca Film Festival 2010: The Woodmans (C. Scott Willis)

At the heart of C. Scott Willis's “The Woodmans” is a tragedy that forever changed the lives of its world-renowned subjects Betty and George, a ceramic sculptor and painter and photographer, respectively, and their video artist son Charles. In the press notes, critics are gently nudged to refrain from revealing the exact nature of what happened to the couple's even more famous photographer daughter Francesca at the age of 22 "so that the audience can see her images without that filter." Which gets to the heart of the problem with The Woodmans.

To read the rest visit The House Next Door at Slant Magazine.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Tribeca Film Festival 2010: sex & drugs & rock & roll (Mat Whitecross)

I confess that Ian Dury and the Blockheads were one of those early punk bands I never quite understood the appeal of. (But, then, as someone who grew up on the hardcore of Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys, the Ramones always seemed a bit slowpoke to my ears as well.) So perhaps Mat Whitecross, director of the Dury biopic “sex & drugs & rock & roll,” was driven by that not-unfounded fear that a rocker lacking the name recognition of Johnny or Sid or Ian Curtis would be a hard sell even to punk aficionados. (Sure, Madness for one owes its carnival sound and style to Dury, but he's still relatively unknown at least on these shores.) How else to explain a film so MTV-slick it's practically anti-punk rock? Not only does “sex & drugs & rock & roll” not have any bollocks, it's like the nerd of the class desperately trying to get the cool kids to like him.

To read the rest visit The House Next Door at Slant Magazine.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Tribeca Film Festival 2010: My Brothers (Paul Fraser)

“My Brothers,” a coming-of-age tale set over Halloween weekend 1987 that follows three young siblings as they make their way to the Irish seaside to find a replacement watch for their dying father, on its surface bears all the hallmarks of a Shane Meadows film. So it's no surprise that the movie marks the directorial debut of Paul Fraser, a frequent writing collaborator of Meadows. Unfortunately, like another Tribeca Film Festival selection, “sex & drugs & rock & roll” by Mat Whitecross, co-director of Michael Winterbottom's “The Road to Guantanamo,” it's also in dire need of the auteur half of the partnership at its helm.

To read the rest visit The House Next Door at Slant Magazine.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Tribeca Film Festival 2010: The Two Escobars (Michael Zimbalist and Jeff Zimbalist)

"It's too dangerous to get involved in soccer," offers a thug named Popeye, once a right-hand man to Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar, as a lesson he learned from the boss's murder. "Narco-soccer," as it was called back when all the Latin American cartels from Medellin to Cali each owned their own teams, left the drug lords too out in the open. Which also goes a long way to explaining how Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist, co-directors of the riveting and thoroughly researched doc “The Two Escobars,” managed to find such a treasure chest's worth of historical footage. The Escobars of the documentary's title are the infamous Pablo and Colombian soccer hero AndrĂ©s, unrelated and having little in common but a last name, a shared birthplace, a passion for soccer, and the fact that they lived and died under the constant watch of the media eye.

To read the rest visit The House Next Door at Slant Magazine.

Tribeca Film Festival 2010: Thieves by Law (Alexander Gentelev)

"Show me one person in Russia who doesn't have a criminal record," a subject rhetorically challenges in Alexander Gentelev's “Thieves by Law,” a smart and fascinating peek inside the Russian mafia via three middle-aged "businessmen" old and wise enough to have both survived, and to be able to explain without bombast, the inner workings of the post-Perestroika underworld. And in a country that allows convicted criminals to run for government office, the guy's got a point. Like Matteo Garrone's “Gomorrah,” which would make a great narrative companion piece to this doc, “Thieves by Law” forgoes broad sensationalism for the riveting details of the matter-of-fact mafioso life.

To read the rest visit The House Next Door at Slant Magazine.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bahman Ghobadi & Roxana Saberi on “No One Knows About Persian Cats”

“No One Knows About Persian Cats” is the fifth feature from Iranian-Kurdish director Bahman Ghobadi (who won the Camera d’Or at Cannes a decade ago for “A Time For Drunken Horses”) – and the first for his co-writer, Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi. (Perhaps best known for having been jailed in Tehran last year, accused of being a spy, Ms. Saberi’s memoir “Between Two Worlds: My Life and Captivity in Iran” will soon be published by HarperCollins.) With the indispensable help of Ghobadi’s translator Sheida Diani – the director speaks English but prefers to conduct interviews in his native Farsi – I spoke with the two about their unique narrative take on Iran’s underground music scene.

To read the interview visit Global Comment.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Samuel & Alasdair: A Personal History of the Robot War

"Trivia time" on Soviet Free Radio Order may be "brought to you by borscht," but "Samuel & Alasdair: A Personal History of the Robot War" comes courtesy of The Brick Theater, Inc. and The Mad Ones. Directed and co-conceived by Lila Neugebauer and co-created by the Ensemble, the show single handedly proves that conceptual theater doesn't necessitate geek comedy, hipster irony or mind numbing boredom. But it should involve a parallel universe in which the cold war came to an end when genocidal robots annihilated America, a quartet of Russian radio performers with a thing for 50s kitsch, and a terrifically talented team both onstage and behind the scenes. And "now a word from our state sponsors."

To read the rest visit Theater Online.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Swingin' At Jack's: An Aerial Circus Cabaret

"Swingin' At Jack's: An Aerial Circus Cabaret" is the latest production from the multitalented quintet known as Suspended Cirque, three women and two men who dance, sing, do acrobatics, play the sax and, oh yeah, fly through the air on ropes, hoops and trapezes with the addictive exuberance of kids at a carnival. The last time I saw an early incarnation of "Swingin' At Jack's," also at Galapagos Art Space in DUMBO, I lamented that no one had given them an artist residency. Well, now they've got every Sunday in April at this Brooklyn performance space, decked out to be a mid-century speakeasy complete with jazz band. So go, baby, go!

To read the rest visit Theater Online.

Friday, April 2, 2010

The All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret

As its bold and sprawling title implies Rapscallion Theatre Collective's "All-American Genderf*ck Cabaret" is out to push both buttons and boundaries. Directed by Krystal Banzon from a script by Mariah MacCarthy the show tackles gender stereotypes through an array of can't-judge-a-book-by-its-cover characters, from a hetero tomboy to a femme straight guy, from a feminist lesbian with a knee-jerk hatred of men, to a gay hairdresser who becomes a straight-basher. Guiding them on their journey to self-awareness and the shedding of black-and-white categories is an androgynous emcee named Taylor played by Becca Blackwell whose natural, easygoing stage presence is perfectly suited to the enlightened character.

To read the rest visit Theater Online.