Sunday, May 29, 2016

Kitty Genovese had a life, not just a death: “She wasn’t just this murder victim”

Salon talks to her brother Bill about "The Witness," that "Girls" episode & 50 years of questions about her murder

While the media these days counts bullets fired in unjustified shootings, the journalistic landscape was vastly different a little over half a century ago, when the New York Times reported that a Queens resident by the name of Kitty Genovese had been stalked and stabbed to death in full view of 38 neighbors who chose to look away rather than call the police. Suddenly, those 38 do-nothing eyewitnesses, like shots fired, morphed into legend, shorthand for urban apathy (even after the notorious number had been debunked years later) – and continuing down in time to that “Girls” episode in April, Kitty’s killer dying in prison mere days before the show aired.

But James Solomon’s “The Witness” is not about the myth of the 38. Instead, the doc focuses on Kitty’s life, and the dogged search for the hard facts surrounding her death by her brother Bill, who was only 16 at the time she was murdered. William Genovese was kind enough to chat with Salon shortly before the film opens at NYC’s IFC Center on June 3.

To read my interview visit Salon.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Tony Robbins Is Definitely Not My Guru

Seeing Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in April marked the first time I ever walked out of a Joe Berlinger film. I’ve been a fan of the Paradise Lost trilogy co-director (along with the late Bruce Sinofsky) since discovering the team’s 1992 doc Brother’s Keeper decades ago. And in fact, my fleeing from the theater 40 minutes into the sold-out screening of Berlinger’s behind-the-scenes look at the non-guru’s yearly “Date with Destiny” mega-seminar had nothing to do with the skilled documentarian’s filmmaking.

It had to do with his subject. Tony Robbins, in case you’ve been living under a rock, is a superstar in the motivational speaking and self-help world. His Wiki page cites his naming to the Forbes “Celebrity 100” list back in 2007, the year he earned around $30 million. Though his subject did not attend the screening, Berlinger did, joking in his intro that this was not “another feel-bad Berlinger film,” and further urging us not to sit there “waiting for the other shoe to drop.” Unfortunately, I found myself praying for the other shoe to drop.

To read the rest visit Hammer to Nail.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Five Questions with Adam Irving, Director/Producer/DP, Off the Rails

If you're a tabloid-reading New Yorker, you may already be familiar with the strange and sad tale of Darius McCollum, a guy from Queens whose transportation obsession has led to 32 convictions for impersonating MTA employees and taking over their bus and subway routes (and providing first-rate service, by all accounts). The transit fanatic also suffers from Asperger's syndrome and has spent over two decades in maximum security prisons as a result of his victimless — as he's never hurt anyone, nor so much as even damaged any equipment — crime sprees.

And now Darius is getting the big-screen treatment in Adam Irving's thoroughly artistic and absolutely infuriating documentary Off the Rails, which is having its international premiere at this year's Hot Docs. I was fortunate enough to speak with Irving right before his riveting film's world premiere at Full Frame.

To read my interview visit Documentary Magazine.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Andreas Koefoed on At Home in the World

I first met Danish director Andreas Koefoed remotely when I programmed his nonfiction tale of international intrigue The Arms Drop at the 2015 Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival. Later I had the good fortune to meet him in person at last November’s CPH:DOX, where his current film At Home in the World (which subsequently took the Mid-Length Competition Award at the prestigious International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam) was having its home country premiere. And now that doc – a patient, fly-on-the-wall take on the current refugee crisis as seen through the lives of several asylum-seeking children at a Danish Red Cross School – has finally reached these shores.

I spoke with Koefoed prior to the film’s May 1st Canadian premiere at Toronto’s Hot Docs.

To read the interview visit Global Comment.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Conversation with Alden Peters (COMING OUT)

Coming Out, one of the most thought-provoking docs I caught at this year’s RiverRun International Film Festival (ironically in Winston-Salem, NC during the HB2 boycott) initially sounded like a navel-gazing gimmick. Filmmaker Alden Peters, a white guy from Seattle who passes as straight, documented his entire coming out process over several years – capturing the reactions of unsuspecting (and suspecting) loved ones on camera as he tells them that he’s gay.

Yet what starts out as personal exploration soon becomes fascinatingly universal as Peters sharply broadens his scope to show how queer millennials still internalize society’s historical oppression even in the age of same-sex marriage. Part 21st-century time capsule (the doc includes clips of young LGBTQs coming out online) and part anthropological study (talking heads like Janet Mock chime in), Coming Out reveals that cultural expectations exert more pressure than any friend or family member ever could.

HtN was fortunate enough to chat with the self-reflective director/subject post fest.

To read my interview visit Hammer to Nail.