Feels Good Man: The Hero’s Journey of Matt Furie

meme: 1. an element of a culture or system of behavior that may be considered to be passed from one individual to another by non-genetic means, especially imitation. 2. a humorous image, video, piece of text, etc., that is copied (often with slight variations) and spread rapidly by Internet users.

zine: a small-circulation, self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images. Zines are the product of either a single person or of a very small group.

In 2005, artist and cartoonist Matt Furie created a comic called Play Time which initially featured two characters Brett and Pepe the Frog (Furie has always had an affinity for images of frogs). He added two more characters, and published them in a zine called Boy’s Club which initially appeared in My Space. Although Furie did not know what a ‘meme’ was. Images of Pepe quickly turned into one.

People started sending Furie emails with links to images of their own vision of Pepe. His friends suggested he lawyer-up to protect Pepe’s images and Furie’s rights, but the soft-spoken artist saw no need of such—until the Alt-right world claimed Pepe for their own, and our dear sweet frog became a symbol of hate and racism around the world.

Arthur Jones’ Feels Good Man tells Furie’s story of the appropriation of Pepe, and of Furie’s eventual fight to save the massively sullied image of our dear frog.

This is an incredible, instantly engaging film. Despite having next to no awareness of the cultural subjects Jones covers, I was immediately drawn into this strange new world with its all too pedestrian conflict.

Feels Good Man is Jones’ first feature film, and he has knocked the ball out of the park. This is one of the most memorable documentary film I’ve seen, and I fully recommend seeing this finely produced jaw-dropping story. You won’t forget it.

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Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World

“Bellingcat doesn’t have institutional support. They don’t have a big building at The Hague, or Brussels where they do their work. They actually publish very detailed analysis, and many of them are volunteers, living at home. They don’t have security.

“What they do is really risk a great deal to find out the truth in very complex situations that include major global players.”
Professor Claire Wardle, Executive Director, First Draft

Written, directed, and shot by veteran filmmaker Hans Pool, Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World tells the story of the creation and dramatic evolution of the international citizen-journalist collective called, of course, Bellingcat. Founded by Elliot Higgins, and based in the United Kingdom, Bellingcat has become a major player in the much-needed and dangerous work of citizen investigative journalism.

As examples of their work, Pool covers the organization’s investigation of the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, Syria’s civil war, and the poisoning of Russian spy Sergei Skripal.

Reviewed by no less than Variety, Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World is an expertly produced, must-see documentary film.

Bellingcat: Truth in a Post-Truth World is a First Run Features film that will be released on DVD, on October 13, 2020.

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Shoot to Marry: Steve Markle’s Quest

“Is it unethical? Using a documentary to meet women? When I started on this path it seemed harmless. But, now I’m not so sure.”
Steve Markle

Steve Markle’s Shoot to Marry is the world’s,—no, the universe’s—first rom-com documentary film. The three-word title can be translated to: ‘I’m going to make a documentary about my attempt to find a woman who will marry me.’

Our hero does just that, he sets up meetings with a variety of women—one at a time, that is—spends time with them in a variety of contexts, films these encounters and dates, and narrates the whole thing. Just reading this logline, let alone watching the film, the controversial yet inevitable name pops up: Woody Allen—both in style and substance.

Shoot to Marry is hilarious, touching, and a fascinating study in chutzpah. The film won a well-deserved Audience Award at Slamdance Film Festival 2020, and Best Feature at the Canadian Film Festival 2020.

I enthusiastically recommend this film.

See the film’s website to learn how to find the film. If you have Amazon Prime, you can see it there.

PS: Markle is also a well-trained pianist and airplane pilot.

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the Book Makers: The Art and Craft of Making Books

the Book Makers is prolific filmmaker James Kennard’s first feature documentary, and he has hit the ball out of the park. The film covers a world I had never head of until this film: the art of books. Although it does not speak well of yours truly’s imagination or intelligence, I never even conceived that there is an art to the physical aspect of making books. Suffice it to say, I am fully informed now.

The film features book makers at work, speaking about and showing their art which is awe inspiring. We also take field trips to the annual Codex exhibition of book art in Richmond, California, and the Internet Archive in San Francisco—together those two experiences are also awe inspiring experiences of organizations and people who treasure words, images, books and the art associated with all three.

Although the documentary is less than an hour running time, I experienced the richness, care and love of a much longer film in this deceptively short hour. As soon as the film is available on disc, I will grab one and share this jaw-dropping experience with my near and dear ones.

Like the many books we see in the film, the Book Makers is expertly produced. I enthusiastically recommend the film to everyone, including children.

AND, the Book Makers will be easy and free to see!

The film is playing at the 19th San Francisco Documentary Film Festival through September 20th, and currently available to stream HERE. Next in the Bay Area is DocLands October 8-18—at which point in October the film can be seen on local public broadcasting stations (PBS) nationwide, presented by American Public Television. Additionally, there will be a ‘focus event’ on the WORLD channel Tuesday October 27, at 4 pm and 11pm PT, and on Wednesday October 28, at 7 am PT.

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(Pictured: Book by Artist Julie Chen)

Who Made You?: A Cinematic Meditation on AI and Robotics

What are us humans doing with the technologies of robotics and artificial intelligence? What is the impact of AI and robotics on humanity, the ethics and values of the development and applications of these technologies?

These are the questions explored in Iiris Härmä’s Who Made You?. The film goes around the world to Japan, Greece, Sweden, Spain, and Finland to address these questions.

Dr. Michael Laakasuo is the film’s de facto host, appearing and speaking at points throughout the film. In-between his statements we see other commentators, humans and robots communicating with each other, a self-made cyborg who walks around with a device buried into the back of his brain, people having chips placed in their bodies, the inevitable hyper-real sex bots, people performing AI-created music and poetry, and much more.

Two different versions of the film are available from First Hand Films: 58 minutes or 80 minutes. Yours truly went for the 80-minute version. I could easily have watched a two-hour or longer version, I was so captivated with the images and information about AI and robotics.

Who Made You? is a First Hand Films production. You may find the film by emailing your request to: stories@firsthandfilms.com

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The Condor & the Eagle

“Ancient native prophecies say: ‘When the Eagle of the North and the Condor of the South fly together, Indigenous peoples will unite the human family’”.

Sophie Guerra’s and Clément Guerra’s The Eagle & the Condor follows four Indigenous leaders in their visits to the United States and Canada (the Eagle’s North) and to Ecuador and Peru, (the Condor’s South). The four—Casey Camp-Horinek, Melina Laboucan-Massimo, Yudith Nieto, Bryan Parras—are creating bonds and connections with Indigenous peoples in efforts to end the ecocide of Earth driven by the extraction and burning of fossil fuels. The goal is to ensure social justice as our ecosphere is healed. (Information about each of the four climate justice leaders is below.)

We are disturbed, of course, as we see the human harms and environmental damages perpetrated by the global fossil fuel industry, and inspired by the noble intentions and powerful actions of these defenders of Earth’s natural world.

This is a rare environmental film that left me with a glimmer of hope in a seemingly hopeless world. I would love the filmmakers to consider a docu-series about these international movements for environmental healing and social justice.

The Condor & the Eagle has been screened by more than 50 renown film festivals, has won at least 12 festival prizes, and was nominated in at least six additional film festivals.

If you are as inspired by this film as yours truly, I heartily encourage you to explore the film’s website. Docuseries or not, there will be many positive reverberations as the film is seen by more and more people.

The Four Stars

Casey Camp-Horinek: Hereditary Drumkeeper of the Womens’ Scalp Dance Society of the Ponca Nation of Oklahoma is a longtime activist, environmentalist, actress, and published author. Because of Casey’s work the Ponca Nation is the first Tribe in the State of Oklahoma to adopt the Rights of Nature Statute, and to pass a moratorium on Fracking on Tribal Lands. Casey was also instrumental in the drafting, and adoption of the first ever International Indigenous Women’s Treaty protecting the Rights of Nature. Casey often collaborates with I.E.N, Movement Rights and W.E.C.A.N.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo: Melina is Lubicon Cree from Northern Alberta. She has worked on social, environmental and climate justice issues for the past 15 years. Currently a Fellow at the David Suzuki Foundation, Melina’s research is focused on Climate Change, Indigenous Knowledge and Renewable Energy. Melina holds a Masters degree in Indigenous Governance at the University of Victoria with a focus on Renewable Energy in First Nation communities. As a part of her Masters thesis Melina completed a 20.8 kW solar installation in her home community of Little Buffalo in the heart of the tar sands which powers the health centre. Melina is often collaborating with NDN, Indigenous Climate Action, Seeding Sovereignty and the Indigenous Clean Energy Network.

Yudith Nieto: Yudith is a queer Mexican-American artist, interpreter, and organizer, enjoying spending time in the bayous of Louisiana working on projects like CRY YOU ONE, Amor y Solidaridad, a solidarity house in support of undocumented Transwomen, and recently BanchaLenguas, a Language Justice interpreters collective. Currently, she is part of the core leadership circle for Another Gulf Is Possible, and a youth organizer with Los Jardines Institute. For over five years, Yudith has been fighting for the rights of her fenceline community in Manchester, Houston in collaboration with T.E.J.A.S, and last year was named one of Grist.org 50 Fixers of 2018.

Bryan Parras: Bryan is a co-founder of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Services (t.e.j.a.s.) and the Sierra Club of Texas ‘Beyond Dirty Fuels’ campaign. A longtime environmental justice advocate based in Houston, Texas, Bryan co-founded the Librotraficante movement, serves as an Advisor to the Gulf Coast Fund, and sits on the board of the Environmental Support Center. Bryan was recently awarded a Gulf Coast Fellowship, and has been working to help organizations use media for education, organizing and advocacy.

Click HERE to find the film—scroll down to see all the options

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Sisters Rising: Ending Violence Against Native American Women

Sisters Rising features six Native American women who are fighting back against systemic violence against their sisters.

Four out of five Native American women have experienced violence. One out of three will be raped. Native American women are 2.5 times more likely to experience sexual assault than all other American women. Most of the perpetrators are non-Native men. A federal statute disallows Native Americans from prosecuting acts of violence against Native Americans that occur on tribal land—a dirty little trick non-Native men know about.

This story is set in the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, North Dakota, which includes three affiliated tribes: Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations.

The six inspiring sisters are:

Dawn White

Sarah Deer

Loreline Lacroix

Lisa Brunner

Chalsey Snyder

Patty Stonefish

The documentary is produced, directed and shot by Willow O’Feral and Brad Heck. The soundtrack is by Allison Leialoha Milham. (I’m a big fan of music composed for movies of many ilks.)

Sisters Rising is a disturbing, powerful film that shines a light on systemic violence against Native American women—and seeds hope via the empowerment of sisters by sisters.

You can support efforts to end the violence by contributing to:

Stronghearts Native Hotline

White Buffalo Calf Women’s Society

Alliance of Tribal Coalitions to End Violence

You can support the vitally important dissemination of Sisters Rising by a tax-deductible donation to fiscal sponsor Women Make Movies.

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(Photo of Executive Producer Tantoo Cardinal courtesy of ‘Sisters Rising’)

The Biggest Little Farm

John and Molly Chester decided to follow in the footsteps of Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor who as Green Acres’ Oliver Wendell and Lisa Douglas left the Big City to a farm in ‘Hooterville.’ Unlike this fictional, six-season 1960s sitcom, the Chester’s left their real-life Los Angeles jobs for a 200+ acres plot of land 40 miles north of the Big City.

An accomplished and prolific documentarian, John covers the couple’s eight-year, potentially Quixotic quest in the delightful, harrowing, and truly inspiring The Biggest Little Farm. But, theirs is not just any kind of farm. The couple intended for their farm to be certified USDA Organic, a certification that comes with significant compromises. So, they also obtained Demeter Certified Biodynamic® certification, a much stricter approach to nature-based farming. The land they chose was virtually barren, the soil incapable of growing healthy trees and plants.

Yet, in addition to their own undaunted perseverance, the couple had two real-life angels supporting the realization of their farm which they named Apricot Lane Farms—‘Allen’ who was their Yoda, and ‘Todd,’ their magical dog. The film follows the gradual building of the farm through many accomplishments and a few demoralizing disasters, with lessons learned along the way.

Thanks to the Chesters, Apricot Lane Farms is much more than a farm. It is one of many beacons around the world calling human beings to eat and live with grace and health. In addition to visiting the farm, we can online order the farm’s products.

The film also features gorgeous music by the legendary Jeff Beal.

The Biggest Little Farm is a not-to-be missed wonderful film.

You can secure the film on Blu-ray, DVD, or Digital directly from this Page from film’s website. Or, you may purchase a public screening license to organize and host your own screening of The Biggest Little Farm at the venue of your choice (25+ guests). This includes schools, libraries, community centers, workplaces and—of course—farms!

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Denise Ho: Becoming the Song

Written and directed by veteran filmmaker Sue Williams, Denise Ho: Becoming the Song is one of those documentary films that could easily be lost in the shuffle of this genre that has finally found its way in the worlds of filmed entertainment. Thanks to Kino Lorber, this film has been found and made available to the world.

Williams tells the epic story of Cantopop singer Denise Ho who found a few moments of musical superstardom fame in Hong Kong and China, and who became passionately involved with China’s takeover of Hong Kong, fighting for freedom and civil rights for the people of Hong Kong. In doing so, she lost her superstar status, and became a much more powerful and empathetic human being.

Ho tells her own story, and Williams provides clips of increasingly more violent protests as the people of Hong Kong struggle for democratic values, and are met with escalating force by police. Ho participated in these protests, and was banned from China.

The film follows Ho from her huge stadium shows in China and Hong Kong, through the loss of these shows, to the emergence of her political activism on behalf of Hong Kong, and the birth of her authentic self. Williams includes clips of Ho’s singing performances in huge stadiums, to smaller, intimate venues.

Ho came out as ‘gay’ at the age of 35, and is a champion of civil rights for the LGBTQ community. She is a speaker for international human rights, and has been working as a film, TV, and voice actor since 1998. I am out of breath just typing these words about the many accomplishments of Denise Ho, as well as what her future promises for herself and our world.

I whole-heartedly recommend the joy and inspiration of Denise Ho: Becoming The Song

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Healing from Hate: Battle for the Soul of a Nation

“I was involved with the skinheads scene from the late-eighties, all the way to the mid-nineties. It was the birth of my daughter, seeing that little girl in the delivery room. My son, he was born 15 months later. They saw the magnificence in me when I couldn’t see it. They gave me the gift that allowed me to re-humanize.”
Former Skinhead

Healing from Hate introduces the inevitable counter response to the tragic emergence of American neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, and Skinhead groups who are fostering epidemics of hate and violence across the nation. The film covers former members of these groups who have found their way out, and those who are supporting the men and women who are contemplating exiting these groups, or have already done so, but are in need of continued support in creating new lives.

With input from sociologist and author Michael Kimmel—(GuyvilleAngry White Men and Healing From Hate)—and interviews from members of Life After Hate we hear and see tragic, harrowing, and inspiring stories of men internally trapped in hate mindsets; former hate group members who are reaching out to the trapped; and those who have found liberation from the hateful mindset and hate groups they have peopled for years.

Directed by the multi-talented and well-lauded Peter Hutchison, Healing from Hate is one of a triad of films the director is producing in his coverage of hate. The other two documentaries are ‘Angry White Men: American Masculinity in the Age of Trump’ and ‘Auschwitz: Journey into Reconciliation’.

Healing from Hate is a very well-produced, much-needed film addressing the emergence of a devastating subculture searing the people of the United States of America. It deserves to be, it needs to be seen by a very large audience.

The film opens in Los Angeles on September 4 at the Laemmle Virtual Cinema and will expand out nationwide from there.

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