Documentary

Xu Xin – Karamay (2010)

The film opens on the morning of December 8th 2007, in Karamay’s Xiaoxihu cemetery. Daybreak casts a cold grey light over faraway mountains and the Gobi sands. As the camera moves from grave to grave, it zeroes in on the photographs encased in glass on every tombstone. All are of children. Exactly 13 years ago, Karamay’s Friendship Hall was the site of a horrible tragedy: nearly 800 grade and middle-school students and their teachers, hand-picked to entertain a delegation of education officials, were in the midst of a performance when a fire broke out in the hall. Read More »

Michael Glawogger – Whores’ Glory (2011)

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As a documentary filmmaker, Austrian director Michael Glawogger isn’t interested in advocacy or journalistic exposé, and while he allows some scenes to unfold before the camera, he isn’t of the strict fly-on-the-wall vérité school, either. Following up 2005’s Workingman’s Death, his stunning tour through five of the world’s most hazardous labor sites, Whores’ Glory similarly explores a triptych of poverty-ravaged prostitution sites, spending equal time in a Bangkok brothel, the red-light district in Bangladesh, and a complex of bars and single-room barracks called “The Zone” in Reynosa, Mexico. Read More »

Gu Xue – The Choice (2019)

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It’s a video of a Chinese family discussing and arguing about what to do with a relative with some kind of severe illness or injury who is in ICU but will soon either die or be in a vegetative state. It’s one long (uninterrupted?) shot with the family bickering but mostly saying the same few things over and over. It\’s probably somewhere between ethnography and psychology, with the comparatively calm or inscrutability of the people compared to how this would play out in a western setting being the most striking aspect to me. Read More »

Raoul Peck – Lumumba: La mort du prophète AKA Lumumba, Death of a Prophet (1990)

Lumumba: la mort du Prophete offers a unique opportunity to reconsider the life and legacy of one of the legendary figures of modern African history. Like Malcolm X, Patrice Lumumba is remembered less for his lasting achievements than as an enduring symbol of the struggle for self-determination. This deeply personal reflection by acclaimed fimmaker Raoul Peck on the events of Lumumba’s brief twelve month rise and fall is a moving memorial to a man described as a giant, a prophet, a devil, “a mystic of freedom,” and “the Elvis Presley of African politics.” Read More »

Leo Regan – 100 Per Cent White (2000)

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A decade after taking a series of photographs of skinhead members of a far-right group for his book Public Enemies, Leo Regan returns to three members of the gang to see what has happened to them in the intervening years. Read More »

William E. Jones – Finished (1997)

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Finished is a detective story and a love story, a film noir bathed in sunlight. It’s a film of contradictions: pornographic yet chaste, distanced yet mesmerizing, reticent yet moving. It reminds us that life in the movies is not like life at the movies. Read More »

Anthony Hall & Christopher Laird – And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon (1992)

A fascinating documentary from Trinidad and Tobago about the domination of Caribbean television by programs from the North, primarily the US. This film ambitiously weaves together interviews, indigenous poetry and music with clips from imported French and US television programs to show how Caribbean viewers receive a distorted view of the world that alienates them from their own cultural heritage. Also included is a glimpse of how Cuba has tackled the problem and the US response in the form of Radio Marti. Read More »