Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

I don’t know about your world, but in my world people were, without solicitation, sharing high praise for this documentary film about Linda Ronstadt. Once in a blue moon I cover a music business celebrity. I surrendered to peer pressure and watched Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice.

I settled down with my notepad and pen, but never made a mark. The film kept me glued to the screen, and to this story of a massively talented singer whose mind and heart matches her talent.

Directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman tell Ronstadt’s family story, and cover her epic journey through seemingly unrelated styles of music. The two directors interview legendary singers, musicians, producers and executives all of whom express high praise, with some moved to tears. Peppered throughout the film are clips which, of course, feature her strong evocative voice.

But what stands out in this film is Ronstadt’s determination to buck convention, master multiple styles of music including Gilbert and Sullivan’s comic operas, Mexican, folk, country, songs from the Great American Songbook, and, of course, pop—and finding success with this cornucopia of styles. By film’s conclusion, we are stunned.

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice is a Kino Lorber release.

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To Be of Service: Veterans and Their Service Dogs

“Then I got to sit on stage, where they bring the dogs to you. None of the dogs took to me at all. I called every dog. Then I called Boothe. Boothe looked up, I looked at him, and he ran to me. And that’s when everything started to get a lot better.” Veteran Marine

Although the idea is simple, it is driven by compassion and empathy, and the film’s impact is powerful—stories of wounded veterans who have the good fortune of receiving a service dog.

Josh Aronson’s To Be of Service follows several veterans as they go through processes of receiving, bonding, living, and most significantly, healing with a service dog. Their wounds are both physical and psychological, and it is the emotional wounding that is so restrictive of living a fulfilling life. The well trained dogs play a crucial role in mitigating the painful impact of their wounds, and in bringing a loving spirit into their world.

Aronson shows the process of veterans finding the service dog that is right for them, covers the bonding process, and follows the pairs. We hear and see veterans speak about, and go about living their new-found emotional freedom. Aronson also interviews authorities who endorse the inestimable values of supporting veterans with service dogs.

Although there is mounting dramatic evidence of the value of service dogs for wounded veterans, the Veterans Administration has yet to cover the securing of service dogs for veterans. Meanwhile, 8,000 veterans a year commit suicide.

Here are a few resources:

• “A Service Dog is More Than a Vest” by Canine Companions for Independence

• “Understanding a Veteran with PTSD” from Maryville University, St. Louis, Missouri

PAWS for People

To Be of Service is a First Run Features release.

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(Pictured: Sylvia Bowersox and Timothy, on the set of ‘To Be of Service’. Photo by Josh Aronson)

Guilty Until Proven Guilty

The United States leads the world in incarceration rates. Louisiana leads the States of the United States in those rates.

Produced, written, directed, and narrated by well-lauded, veteran filmmaker Harry Moses, Guilty Until Proven Guilty shines a very dark light on the culture and politics of criminal justice—New Orleans style.

Moses covers the many laws, rules, regulations, and practices that feed abuse and injustice in the Parish’s criminal justice system, a system that is prima facie highly biased against African Americans.

The film focuses on victim/defendant Tim Conerly who has, as of production, spent half of his life in prison despite no evidence. The good guy is public defender Will Snowden whose case load has been as high as 180 defendants. The bad guy—and he looks and sounds the part—is Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, Jr. who has been in charge since 2008. Louisiana is one of two States in the United States that allows felony convictions with two of the 12 jurors to be dissenting.

Guilty Until Proven Guilty features music by Terence Blanchard, and an introduction by Usher who also provides the film’s coda.

Guilty Until Proven Guilty was to be a 53 minute PBS program, but executives did not accept it.

Here is a statement from First Run about the film:

WHY DID PBS BLACKLIST THIS DOCUMENTARY?

GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY spent two years investigating Louisiana’s racially biased criminal justice system.

Why did executives at PBS national headquarters refuse to recommend the film after giving it their “enthusiastic support?”

Why did the PBS affiliate in New Orleans conclude that the film, “does not represent PBS objectives”? Why did they call it “not a proper fit for our audience” when New Orleans is 59% black?

Why did Louisiana Public Broadcasting call it “one-sided” when the hour gave more air time to the New Orleans DA than any other expert?

We think it’s important for a reporter to find out what’s really behind these decisions. Is PBS afraid of offending its southern affiliates? Are they worried that a national release of the documentary would rub its conservative supporters and funders the wrong way?

We would like a journalist to investigate, so we hope you’ll take a look at GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN GUILTY which the LA DOC Film Festival named “Best Documentary.”

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(Pictured: Harry Moses)

The Foreigner’s Home

“My faith in the world of art is not irrational. And it’s not naive. Art invites us to take the journey from data, to information, to knowledge, to wisdom. Artists make language, images, sounds to bear witness, to shape beauty, and to comprehend. My faith in their work exceeds my admiration for any other discourse. Such conversation with the public and among various genre of art and scholarship, this conversation is vital to our understanding of what it means to be human.”
Toni Morrison (February 18, 1931 – August 5, 2019)

The Foreigner’s Home is about the disenfranchised, the oppressed, the estranged, and the killed—actions intrinsic to human nature, as are also art and artists who seek and share explicit acknowledgement, meaning and mediation of the lethal, tragic separations humans create.

The film’s title has multiple references, but primarily refers to the Paris 2006 Louvre multi-media exhibition entitled ‘The Foreigner’s Home’ curated by the highly lauded author Toni Morrison.

Filmmakers Rian Brown and Geoff Pingree blend a contemporary interview of Morrison with clips of her earlier presentations, the 2006 exhibition, archival footage of humans’ inhumanity to humans, animations, and a haunting soundtrack by Jay Ashby and Peter V. Swendsen.

The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault was the artistic centerpiece of the 2006 exhibition, and is featured prominently throughout the film.

By film’s end, The Foreigner’s Home evokes quiet contemplation of the nature of us human beings—and that is an invaluable grace.

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The Toni Morrison Society

(Pictured: Toni Morrison)

Inviolable: The Fight for Human Rights

“Everyone talks about the rage of despots, much worse is the indifference of the fortunate.”

Angela Andersen’s Inviolable begins with a reference to the United Nation’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was translated in every language and Braille. The declaration was proclaimed by the UN General Assembly in Paris, on December 10, 1948, “as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations.”

This expertly-produced documentary travels around the world, exploring human rights issues, failures, and achievements in Kenya, Guatemala, Greece, China, Germany, Hungary, Turkey and Canada. Kenneth Roth, Executive Director of Human Rights Watch, appears from time-to-time throughout the film.

Yours truly is also concerned about the rights of our natural world’s flora and fauna, and was relieved to see a reference to that concern in the film.

Inviolable is a crucial film that deserves the attention “of all peoples and all nations.”

I was able to view Inviolable thanks to the grace of United Nations Association Film Festival which bestowed the film with the UNAFF Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary. This award is well deserved.

I am happy to report that millions in Europe have seen Inviolable and that it has been nominated for Best Documentary in Germany.

The film has yet to be released commercially in the United States. I will post an announcement on all my outlets when it is released.

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[Note: IMDB’s current record for Inviolable brings up its first title ‘In Search of a Perfect World.’]

Time Thieves: The Commodity of Time

“The best way to make money is having people work without paying them for their time. The consumer is seen as a workforce that is plentiful, motivated, and free.”
Marie-Anne Dujarier, Sociologist, La Sorbonne, Paris

Having spotted the title ‘Time Thieves’ I was equally intrigued and skeptical. Having seen Cosima Dannoritzer’s Time Thieves, I am without skepticism.

Through interviews with experts and victims who describe in detail how our time is literally stolen, Dannoritzer makes a strong case for all us victims to take a look at our stolen time—and to reclaim that time for our pleasure, our health, our happiness, our dignity, and our society.

I especially appreciated the irony of one resource provided in the film with a winked eye—Spencer Greenberg’s attempt to address our stolen loss of time by offering customers the ‘Value of Your Time Collector.’ In case my sense of irony is not justified, here is his site.

This topic of lost time is dead serious—there have been countless suicides and early deaths of employees who feel hopeless in fulfilling their chosen work in a timely manner. Japan has a name for this tragedy: Karoshi. People who commit suicide due to mental stress are called karojisatsu.

Time Thieves is expertly produced, and definitely deserves our time—taken seriously, this film will save you a lot of time.

“What we’ve done is taken the most ambiguous, subjective, amorphous idea that one can think of—time—and we’ve translated it into the most objective, [and one of] the most tangible entities that I know, and that’s money.”
Robert Levine, Author of ‘A Geography of Time’

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A Note About “At WAR”

The vast majority of feature documentary films I receive are called ‘streamers.’ That is, instead of a DVD or Blu-ray disc, I get a link and a password, and watch the film on my computer. That annoys me, and the filmmakers do not provide much-needed Closed Captioning. But it’s the only way can view and review.

I was pleasantly surprised when I received a sealed commercial Blu-ray disc from Cinema Libre Studio called “At WAR”—about an extended labor dispute in France. As I watched the film I was amazed at the access filmmakers had to all the private meetings between the adversaries.

I watch films cold. I don’t need or want to read or hear about them. All I need is the genre. So, when I received “At WAR” I went right to it. When it came time to write my review I picked up the literature, and the first thing I noticed was that this is not a documentary, it is a narrative drama.

Although I was no longer amazed at the filmmakers’ access to these warring parties, I am thoroughly amazed at the slice-of-life realism created by the filmmakers and their cast.

It is on that basis that I heartily suggest you see acting at its finest in support of a dramatic story of human conflict—a universal war between greed and human values.

“At WAR” is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and On Demand from several platforms.

Website: http://cinemalibrestudio.com/At-War/

Trailer: http://www.AtWarMovie.com

IMDB: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7555774/reference

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/EnGuerre.lefilm/

Intelligent Trees

Suzanne Simard, Ph.D. and German Forester Peter Wohlleben are two of the six researchers who reveal the hidden life of trees in Julia Dordel’s and Guido Tölke’s Intelligent Trees.

Earlier this century filmmaker James Cameron let the world know he was already hip to the true nature of trees when he cast Sigourney Weaver as tree researcher Dr. Grace Augustine in his first ‘Avatar’ film. The fictional scientist was arriving at the knowledge that trees communicate with each other.

These nonfictional researchers are confirming and affirming this understanding with elaborate, challenging and provocative scientific discoveries of the extent to which trees have intelligence and compassion. Summarizing my understanding of what has been demonstrated so far, trees are social, they relate to each other in numerous ways, and they have specific needs that must be met in order to be healthy and happy.

In natural circumstances trees are cooperative and supportive of each other. They have ‘families’ and ‘friends’ and ‘communities’—they also take care of their young and/or ailing neighbors.

Trees have a form of consciousness that deserves respect and care. Our world would be much healthier and happier if we were to incorporate this understanding into our care for trees. The film’s researchers provide clues of how to provide that care.

Available from Amazon and Vimeo, Intelligent Trees is another well-produced environmental feature documentary that is an absolute must see.

50 % of the film’s revenue goes towards Dr. Simard’s ongoing research on the communication between trees. Her work is housed in the Forest and Conservation Science centre at The University of British Columbia.

Please contact Brian Sweet at APL Film for additional information on the film at brian@aplfilm.com

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Hail Satan?: Satan as a Liberal Activist

“What we want to do is force people to evaluate their notions of the United States being a Christian nation. It’s not. We are a secular nation. We’re supposed to be a democratic, pluralistic nation. We are supposed to be a nation that doesn’t allow the government to dictate what is appropriate religious expression.” ‘Lucien Greaves’—Spokesperson, The Satanic Temple

Hail Satan? is an introduction to The Satanic Temple (TST), a religious organization inspired by Mr. Greaves, the central character in director Penny Lane’s bold, fascinating, provocative documentary.

The Satanic Temple has chapters around the world, and the only figure I found in my search for the number of total members was 50,000. Chapter members provide a variety of social and environmental services.

Lane interviews a large number of members, and follows several of TST’s public presentations. The issue of Arkansas’ ‘Ten Commandments Monument’ which is placed on the State’s capital grounds garners the most attention in the film’s coverage. To mock the ignoring of the fundamental Constitutional dictum of the separation of church and state, Greave’s led the creation of a statue of Baphomet, and litigated in Federal court to have that statue placed next to the Monument.

Hail Satan?—like TST itself—is a much-needed passionate call for religious freedom, for honoring the United States’ constitutional dictum.

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(Pictured: Baphomet monument in front of the state capitol building for one day during a Satanic Temple rally in Little Rock, Arkansas)

 

Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin

“I want to see science fiction step over the old walls, and head writing over to the next wall, and start to break it down, too.”

Written and directed by Arwen Curry, Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin tells the prolific writer’s life story in an amazingly short 68 minutes. The ‘Worlds’ in the film’s title refers both to the many worlds Le Guin created in her stories, and the world she created for herself and her family.

Although Le Guin (October 21, 1929 – January 22, 2018) is well-noted for her legacy of fantasy novels, the film makes it clear that her lifetime of non-stop writing expanded beyond that genre—as did her worldview. She broke down ‘the old walls’ many times, and brought countless writers along with her. Indeed, it is fair to say Le Guin is literally a legendary writer—in the year 2000, she was pronounced a ‘Living Legend’ by the U.S. Library of Congress.

Beyond her public legacy, I was astounded to learn of Le Guin’s second life as wife and mother. She raised three children, and lived 65 years of stable marriage with husband Charles Le Guin.

Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin was produced with the author’s participation over a ten-year period. It is distributed by American Masters. The film received at least seven festival awards, and was an official selection of several other festivals.

Arwen Curry has brought to vivid life an artist whose name you may not have even heard of, but who you will now know forever.

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Ursula K. Le Guin website  (see upper right-hand corner of the home page, and click on Dragons Enter Here)