Colliding Dreams: Zionism and the Palestinians

thumbs_Arab-with-ChildJoseph Dorman’s and Oren Rudavsky’s documentary, Colliding Dreams is an objective exploration of the core Middle East conflict between Israel and its neighbors. The filmmakers use the ideas and history of Zionism as their springboard into this seemingly unending and hopeless conflict.

Gush-Emunim-settlersI was reminded of a shot at the end of Otto Preminger’s 1960 epic film of Leon Uris’s Exodus. At twelve years of age, I knew nothing about the conflict there—and next to nothing about Israel. I saw the film’s drama, understood that struggles and battles led to this Jewish nation state called Israel; but it was this one quick shot at story’s end that was a portent of ceaseless tragedies to come: A Jew dangling from a bar of wood, strangled, with the Star of David painted on his exposed chest.

It is an unstated fact of life that current geopolitics contribute to the discord, but the film remains tightly focused on the two primary parties: Palestinians and Israelis, as well as Israel’s creation. Virtually all of the history of Zionism presented in the film was new to me. I was fascinated to learn that 700,000 of the Jewish immigrants to Israel at the time of its creation came from the surrounding Arab nations. Were they oppressed in their homeland? I don’t know. But it was obvious that the establishment of a Jewish state would create an adversarial environment in their homes of origin.

The film’s interviewees include authorities as well as laypeople from both sides of the conflict. The intractable dilemma of virtually two nations sharing the same land is fully clarified. One of the opinion’s expressed is that the two parties are the source to a viable resolution. My immediate reaction was that although it is obviously necessary for their mutual participation, the global powers-that-be must support that resolution if it is to be fully realized.

The glimmer of hope expressed in the film comes from laypeople who want to live in peace.

Distributed by Kino Lorber, Colliding Dreams is amongst the best of the documentaries I’ve seen about Israel and the Middle East. With its 134 minute running time and abundance of information and insight, it practically demands a second viewing.

Senna: No Fear. No Limits. No Equal

11196272_868986829831261_1957665495247873697_nDirected by narrative filmmaker Asif Kapadia, Senna is a biography of Brazilian Formula One racing legend Ayrton Senna. There are different approaches to or philosophies of documentary film production. Kapadia chose the road less traveled—he used archival footage exclusively to tell the racer’s jaw-dropping story.

Senna is distributed by Universal Studios. Given the massive number of documentary films produced each year, major studio attention to a documentary film is a rarity. As I viewed the logo I wondered how this film received such mainstream attention. The answer came quickly. Senna is a graceful man, and despite—or because of—his passion for racing he is also a warm, thoughtful, and religious man who cares deeply for others.

Kapadia races his audience through the peaks and depths of Senna’s racing career. ‘Purity’ is a central theme. More than once Senna speaks of his early professional go-cart racing in Brazil as pure vis à vis the corruption of the Formula One organization he discovered and confronted.

At film’s end we are stunned by the action we have just experienced as well as the noble character we have discovered.

The commercial DVD’s special features include: Interviews, Senna Family Home Videos, and Filmmakers’ Commentary.

11903868_922765897786687_2790694408869706687_nFacebook: https://www.facebook.com/sennamovie

Website: http://www.sennamovie.com/ (This web address brought up a ‘site under maintenance’ message. Hopefully, that has been or will soon be completed.)

When Two Worlds Collide: Environmental Strife in Peru

twc238-243_amaz_repsolprotest_cahuapanas_5149_23258117285_oIt is so easy to become inured to the travails of our world—necessary, some might say, in order to maintain one’s sanity.

Our planet’s human population is rapidly approaching 9 billion. Hundreds of millions—if not more—already live in abject poverty. Economic, political, and social injustice reign supreme around the Earth. War and strife are endemic—as is the ongoing destruction of our ecosphere.

With global media and news outlets controlled by large corporations we—those who can make a difference—are protected from these harsh realities, at least for the time being.

Countless documentary filmmakers are our Obi-Wan, our only hope—for those who intend to be informed, those who choose to ingest the Matrix’s Red Pill.

The expertly produced When Two Worlds Collide is another journey to South America, to the Amazon Rainforest, to the lungs of our planet, to Lima, Peru where critical decisions are made.

The filmmaking team of Heidi Brandenburg, Mathew Orzel, and Taira Akbar cover a confrontation between indigenous peoples of Peru—whose land has already been defiled by oil extraction—and the nation’s decision makers fighting for seemingly unlimited resource extraction. It is business as usual in South America, and around the world.

This confrontation could have, should have been covered by our mainstream media both because it is intrinsically important news, and because it is emblematic of environmental strife and conflicts throughout the world.

wtwc_twc238-243_amaz_repsolprotest_cahuapanas_52922_22630139003_oThis is your opportunity to learn and see this story—another noble attempt to preserve both environmental health as well as the dignity of indigenous peoples.

When Two Worlds Collide is a First Run Features release.

If you’ve taken the Red Pill, you can take more action via the film’s website. Click on Take Action at the top of the homepage.

Pelican Dreams: The Life and Times of Gigi the Pelican

Pelican-Dreams-GigiJudy Irving, the producer/director/cinematographer/editor of the wildly successful The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill has given us another delightful avian-based documentary, Pelican Dreams.

The story’s inciting incident occurs on the Golden Gate Bridge. Traffic is backed up—well, that’s business as usual. But the unusual cause of the blaring horns is one young, lost pelican walking the bridge, unable to fly.

Pelican-Dreams-In-the-AviaryThis event is the springboard to an exploration of the worlds of pelicans—their beauty, grace, intelligence, and the environmental challenges they face. Irving follows Gigi’s recovery through release into the wild. Along the way we meet Morro, another rescue too wounded to be released, but who finds a loving retirement home.

Judy Irving is a talented filmmaker who covers my favorite subject, nature. I hope to see more of her story-based films, and that the world will provide the support she deserves and needs to produce her films.

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Strange and Familiar: Architecture on Fogo Island

Fogo Island is a small island, off a larger island, off the coast of Canada’s Newfoundland.

item0.rendition.slideshowHorizontal.-1-Todd Saunders grew up there, as did Zita Cobb.

Saunders is an architect who now lives in Norway. Cobb found success in her professional life, and wanted to benefit the people, community, and Island of Fogo.

The island’s economy was based upon fish. Like many seas around our Earth, the sea around Fogo Island lost its fish. The community was disappearing.

In just 54 minutes, Strange & Familiar tells the story of the saving of Fogo Island. Cobb came up with a plan, shared it with the people. She contracted Saunders to design artist’s homes as well as the Fogo Island Inn. Saunders’ work was lauded internationally—and Fogo Island became an internationally-renown destination.

Filmmakers Marcia Connolly and Katherine Knight have created a thoroughly delightful, visually thrilling film. I was particularly delighted at story’s end to discover these are the same two filmmakers who produced the equally-delightful Spring and Arnaud.

Strange & Familiar is a First Run Features release.

Catching The Sun: One Fix for Two Global Maladies

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Director Shalini Kantayya’s Catching the Sun addresses global warming and economic inequities by focusing on the use of solar power to reduce and eventually eliminate fossil fuels—more jobs, less pollution.

Liberal icon Van Jones embodies the film’s thesis with the concept of ‘green jobs’—providing much needed solar energy-based jobs for us humans, and greening the planet’s ecosphere. His thoughts and personal journey are peppered throughout the film.

From the other side of the world we have cocky “Wally” Jiang who takes great joy in his success as an entrepreneur. Jiang is exploiting his Chinese government’s policies to support solar energy. He intends to do business ‘in every country of the world.’ The film’s last shot is of Jiang sporting a classic cowboy’s hat, standing in the middle of a giant flat field in the heart of Texas. He is kvelling over the location of his ‘Solar City’ development. The man has a good sense for satire.

Strange Bedfellows: We hear from Van Jones’ political opposite, Tea Party co-founder Debbie Dooley speaking with clarity and passion about the intrinsic values of solar energy. She founded the Green Tea Party to organize political initiatives in support of environmental health. One of the Party’s sayings is: Make America Green Again.

I encourage everyone to see Kantayya’s well-produced inspiring film. It is easy to find: Netflix, Vimeo, and iTunes.

I repeat my plea for a well-funded documentary film about the human over-population of planet Earth. All the deployed environmental initiatives in the world will be of limited impact without a concomitant reduction of our human population. For more information, go to Population Connection.

Spring and Arnaud: Art and Love

SA-Storeyteller-portrait-for-filmsmSpring Hurlbut is a successful artist, as is Arnaud Maggs. The two share the love of a lifetime.

Produced by Marcia Connolly, David Craig, and Katherine Knight, Spring and Arnaud explores their professional biographies, their work, and their love story. Being a card-carrying philistine, I do not fully understand their work; but as a hopeless romantic I love their love story of 25 years, and will be viewing the film several times just for those brief yet deeply endearing scenes.

A First Run Features release, Spring and Arnaud was produced with standard-bearing quality, and is thoroughly engaging—even for us philistines.

Music Note: Another powerful element is the film’s soundtrack by composers Ohad Benchetrit and Justin Small. Their music is as beautiful and delicate as the two artists and their love. I contacted the composers. I begged and pleaded to purchase the soundtrack, but was unsuccessful in my attempt. It is now my life’s quest to secure their soundtrack. (I hope the producers read this review.)

DRONE

“The United States has become a national security state whose raisin d’etre is war. We’ve created a terrorist-industrial complex that is self-perpetuating, and now—searching for the reason for this constant state of war—terrorism is the perfect case for us. We can do this forever.”

Col. Lawrence Wilkerson

Chief of Staff to Secretary of State Colin Powell, 2002-2005

static1.squarespace.comWritten and directed by Tonje Hessen Schei, DRONE tells and shows us what many have learned or surmised—that countless innocent civilians have been and are being killed by United States military actions. In addition to the tragic loss of life, Schei expands the film’s scope with interviews of authorities and experts on the military use of drones—including a projected vision of warfare by autonomous devices.

Former drone operator Brandon Bryant (pictured) opens the film speaking of the painful emotions he has experienced subsequent to his service. He is haunted by the cognizance that he participated in the killing of innocent human beings. Bryant’s interview is peppered throughout the film concluding with his testimony at the United Nations.

Schei includes a brief outline of the history of drone deployment for military purposes, but the film’s central focus is the killing of civilians in Pakistan. We see and hear from victims, as well as both domestic and international efforts to hold the United States accountable for its actions, and stop the killings.

Seeing and hearing the ceaseless stream of news about terrorist activities and efforts to stop them has left yours truly with the feeling of the little boy in ‘The Emperor’s New Clothes.’ The mainstream reports focus on Islamic leaders and organizations, and not on the political and economic support of the destruction and killings. By generating more political support for the perpetrators, the ‘whack-a-mole’ strategy exacerbates terroristic activities rather than diminishes them. The Emperor may not have any clothes, but he sure has a lot of weapons.

In an attempt to understand this conflict I have come to the conclusion Col. Wilkerson states at film’s end. We have created the perfect enemy—the perfect justification for non-stop war.

A Ballerina’s Tale: The Saga of Misty Copeland

BayadereVeteran filmmaker Nelson George’s A Ballerina’s Tale tells the dramatic story of African American ballerina Misty Copeland who broke multiple barriers in the rarefied world of professional ballet—and found pop stardom along the way. In addition to the racial barrier, she broke morphological barriers with her curvy muscular physique.

In 2013, in the midst of her exciting ascent, Copeland performed the lead role in Stravinsky’s Firebird at New York’s Metropolitan Opera House. Although her performance was a triumph, she confessed to dancing in pain from previous injuries. Copeland spent many months overcoming a debilitating injury to become the first African American prima ballerina for a major ballet company.

George tells Copeland’s story with aplomb—Copeland relates much of the tale, and we are treated to several performances throughout the film. The effect is simple—exciting, thrilling, and heart-warming.

The world of ballet will never be the same.

Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages

Superman_Fan PhotoFirst time feature director Michael Valentine’s Comix: Beyond the Comic Book Pages is a thoroughly engaging documentary about the worlds of comic books. Valentine interviews fans, writers, line drawers, colorists, a movie celebrity or two, and industry icons—including the icon of icons, Stan Lee—all talking about the fun, the power, and the history of this uniquely American art form which has conquered the world.

Being that this is a visual art in consideration, viewers are treated to a non-stop exhibition of comic book art along with the amateurishly- and professionally-wardrobed fans and presenters at their Mecca, Comic-Con International: San Diego.

Michael Crane’s soundtrack perfectly captures the sense of drama and adventure associated with the books—their stories, and their fans.

The Kino Lorber DVD contains two discs: The feature along with plenty of bonuses; the second disc includes more interviews. The box also contains a mini-booklet of comic book art.