"Kingdom of Silence" (101 min.) is a documentary about the vicious murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the Saudi government. As the movie opens, we see some of the now infamous 2018 footage of the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, where Jamal Khashoggi walks in but never exits.
According to RogetEbert.com, "Kingdom of Silence is perhaps more damning towards the U.S. than Saudi Arabia. As the history of American interest in oil comes into focus, we arrive at an appalling, yet not shocking, conclusion: Horrific crimes are permissible by an undemocratic regime as along as it’s one that’s strategic. That's the sentiment that former diplomat David Rundell expresses. To him a single human life is meaningless in comparison to the value of the alliance with the Saudis. Disturbing barely suffices as a descriptor for such take."
Totally Under Control
Playing on HULU
An exploration of the Trump’s administration handling of the coronavirus pandemic as told by insiders, medical experts, journalists and whistle-blowers. Adroitly timed to tie in with the American election, Totally Under Control is a kind of report card for the Trump administration’s handling of the coronavirus, and the grade is a big, fat F. Filmmakers Alex Gibney, Suzanne Hillinger and Ophelia Harutyunyan’s film is clearly not meant to be a definitive overview; instead the aim is to simply take the temperature of America’s response during the early days of the pandemic. The details and acronyms (CDC, AMA, FEMA) come thick and fast, bordering on exhausting, but it is a compelling snapshot of a major f**k-up, and a rallying cry to not repeat the same mistakes again.
Patagonia, the much-loved outdoor clothing brand have released Public Trust, a documentary about a decades-long agenda to sell the United States’ federal lands to private interests, namely oil, gas, and uranium mining.
Federal land ownership isn’t a topic that leaps off the page in a news article, but “Public Trust,” shows viewers the scenic beauty of those lands, doesn’t have the same problem. The film, directed by David Garrett Byars (Robert Redford is among the executive producers), follows individuals in different parts of the country who have fought to prevent the sale or leaseof public lands to private industries like oil, gas and mining. Even without the threats those interests pose to the environment and to local economies, the film argues for the democratic importance of conservation.
Screening by Salem Film Fest ($4.99)
We are days from Halloween and despite widespread cancellations, Salem over the past weekend and certainly next weekend remains a popular destination. But stay home this week and enjoy a film that created quite a stir when it was originally released.
Told from the perspective of a returning native, WITCH CITY is an uncompromising documentary about Salem, Massachusetts, a town that put the phrase "witch hunt" into the American vocabulary and a place where today a Disneyesque version of history serves the purposes of both commercial and religious interests. Filmmaker Joe Cultrera returns home to find a place where the historical facts are sensationalized for the benefit of T-shirt hawkers and wax museum owners. New Age Wiccans (witches) make the pilgrimage to Salem, and evangelical Christians use street theater to wage a fire and brimstone war against them. WITCH CITY is a cautionary tale about the consequences of manipulating historical facts for present-day gains.
Starting Tuesday, October 27 at 8PM ET / 7PM CT on PBS
Available on demand and streaming until Nov 24.
From the defeat of the first female presidential nominee to the historic inclusion of a woman of color on a major-party ticket, from the Women’s March to #MeToo and #TimesUp, from Black Lives Matter to the fight for trans lives, a new chapter in this storied movement is unfolding before our eyes. There has been tremendous progress, but we are so clearly not done.
NOT DONE: Women Remaking America, a film by Verizon Media and McGee Media, and proudly supported by P&G, chronicles the seismic eruption of women's organizing from the 2016 election through today and the intersectional fight for equality that has now gone mainstream. Like the movement it documents, this story is told collectively: through the firsthand experiences and narratives of frontline activists, writers, celebrities, artists, and politicians who are remaking culture, policy, and most radically, our notions about gender.
Premiering against the backdrop of an unprecedented pandemic and widespread social upheaval, the film looks back on recent milestones in the women’s movement, weaving together a story of major progress with the clear reality that our work is NOT DONE.
Executive producers Michelle and Barack Obama are following on from their first success - the Oscar-winning American Factory with a second effort Crip Camp which is just as good if not better. The film shines a light on the individuals who spent most of their adult lives fighting for basic human rights, with many having attended a camp for disabled tends called Camp Jened in the 1970s. Incredible archival footage from this camp opens the film, but we then follow the various people we’ve met as they spend the next few decades embroiled in activism to pass legislation to make the world accessible for those with disabilities. It’s a fight that never should have had to be fought in the first place, and it’s both inspiring and infuriating to see how tirelessly these individuals had to push and push and push to affect even the tiniest bit of change.
Screening on Netflix
Clearly this one isn't for everyone but we like to mix it up now and then - High Score is a documentary series about the golden age of video games, when legends – from Pac-Man to Doom – were brought to life. Through ingenuity and sheer force of will, computer pioneers and visionary artists from around the globe spawned the iconic worlds of Space Invaders, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, Sonic the Hedgehog, John Madden Football, and beyond. Without rules or roadmaps, players and innovators alike pushed the limits of money to be made, rivals to be crushed, and hearts to be won. This is the story of the brains behind the pixels and how their unmatched innovation built a multi-billion dollar industry – almost by accident.
This is a 6 part series with episode 1 bound to bring back memories -Video games burst into the mainstream in the early 80s, with kids spending quarters faster than PacMan could eat fruit. But the nascent industry wasn’t without its share of lemons. After a few bad ideas and a lot of bad press, everyone was saying that video games were done
Rachel Hollis Presents: Made for More
As the best-selling author of the book ‘Girl, Wash Your Face’, Rachel Hollis knows how to captivate an audience while providing informative, non-condescending advice. This is an authentic showcase of one woman who hopes to help other women live the life they dream of, in simple and large-scale ways. The documentary details Hollis’ creation of the RISE conference, bringing together women from all different backgrounds and beliefs in a supportive space.
The film is one part motivation, one part kick-in-the-rear from the woman often described as “the Tony Robbins for women” as she inspires women to know that they can change the world.
Screening On HULU
This is a repeat recommendation and for obvious reason - the incredibly inspiring: Ruth Bader Ginsburg. This film serves as a compelling look into the life of one of the most remarkable women of our time. RBG dives into her life with accounts from those who know her, before and after she became such a popular icon, the Notorious RBG.
Screening on Netflix
Director Nadia Hallgren brings Michelle Obama's Becoming book tour to Netflix in this documentary. "Those months I spent traveling—meeting and connecting with people in cities across the globe—drove home the idea that what we share in common is deep and real and can't be messed with," Michelle shared in a statement. "It's hard these days to feel grounded or hopeful, but I hope that, like me, you'll find joy and a bit of respite in what Nadia has made."
The film is being billed as a “rare and up-close look” at the former first lady’s life. It hits all the notes of a megastar choosing to share her life with the public: selective biographical moments and star-studded guest appearances, plus a healthy dose of motivational messaging about the virtues of education and the holistic ownership of personal narratives.
The Speed Cubers
Screening on Netflix
OK, do you need a quick break from the election, COVID and worsening weather? This film is just 46 minutes and focuses on two young men in the world of competitive speedcubing (Rubix cube solves like you've never seen before) . The sport itself is fascinating — you’ve never seen someone really solve a Rubik’s Cube unless you’ve seen them do it so quickly that their hands just become blurs. But that’s just the tip of the filmic iceberg, the real story is in the relationship between Feliks Zemdegs, former king of the cubers, and Max Park, his usurper and unlikely friend.
For Max, who has autism, speedcubing is more than just a game. His parents originally introduced him to cubing as a way to help hone his fine motor skills, and as he began to enter competitions, it became a way of developing his social skills, too. Feliks is clearly an idol for Max — Max’s father recalls that Feliks was the first person Max ever asked for an autograph — and as they keep meeting on the cubing circuit, they become friends. The more they get to know each other, the more nuanced their bond becomes. Their rivalry somehow always remains supportive rather than overly competitive, even as they wind up facing off at the cubing World Championship again.
The Trial of the Chicago 7
Screening on Netflix
A Docu-Drama Suggestion
OK, this is not a documentary but a drama production about the Democratic convention in 1968. Looking at our demographics I suspect many of you recall the events very clearly and ironically the summer of 2020 feels remarkably like the summer of 1968.
Scores of protesters in streets across the country. A looming presidential election. Violent stand-offs between law enforcement and the citizens they had sworn to protect. And, amid the prospects of political and cultural change, a chilling and inescapable backdrop: thousands upon thousands of Americans dead.
Instead of President Trump, it was Lyndon B. Johnson, succeeded by Richard M. Nixon. The tragedy that cost American lives was not a pandemic but the war in Vietnam. Racism was central to the protests — the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated just months earlier — but so were a relentless draft and demands for peace.
In late August, tensions culminated in Chicago, in the shadow of the Democratic National Convention. The National Guard, U.S. Army troops and 12,000 Chicago police officers were mobilized against 10,000 demonstrators. (Who, yes, were called “outside agitators” then, too.) “Everything since Chicago,” the New York Times journalist Tom Wicker wrote one year later, “has had a new intensity — that of polarization, of confrontation, of antagonism and fear.”
Some of the key names involved in this film - Director Aaron Sorkin (West Wing), Eddie Redmayne (The Theory of Everything), Sacha Baron (Borat), Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies), Michael Keaton (Batman).
If you have your own recommendation for a documentary, a festival, or a local film showing, please share with the community