Showing posts with label documentary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label documentary. Show all posts

Monday, October 11, 2021

Cured (2021)

Coming out has never been an easy feat. Identifying to the LGBTQ+ community can provoke ignorance as well a loss of job opportunities, marriage equality, and health rights. As much of a struggle as it is today for many, great strides have been made to ensure that pride isn’t just an annual celebration in June – but a generational one that continues to unfold and grow stronger.

In the award winning documentary Cured, directors Patrick Sammon and Bennett Singer shine a light on the campaign that lessened the stigma of being gay, lesbian, bisexual, etc. In the first edition of “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” the American Psychiatric Association listed homosexuality under mental illnesses – more specifically, sexual deviation.

Using their standard of what was ‘morally acceptable,’ it led the church to deem homosexuality a sin, a crime by the government, and as a neurotic disease by psychiatrists. With these motions in play, millions of individuals struggled with the shame of being found out, forced into inhuman cures and conversion ‘therapies’, and overall treated as second class citizens.
Nothing makes you sick like believing you are sick. - Ron Gold
Until activists and psychiatrists started to fight back. With archival photos and footage, the directors thread the line of multiple organizations rallying to remove homosexuality as a mental illness from its directive. Interviews with activists who experienced these events firsthand – Charles Silverstein, Rep Magora Kennedy, Barbara Gittings and her partner Kay Lahausen, Frank Kameny – further show the lengths of frustration, passion, and purpose to transform the ‘status quo.’ Their efforts as well as the influence of Dr. Kinsey and Evelyn Hooker's research to ratify liberation with demonstrations and shifting the public narrative of mental health with allies became a campaign to reform the APA. As more waves of freedom-forward activism for civil rights, women's rights, and against the Vietnam gained ground, and two decades of advocacy work around the United States, the APA made a landmark decision to finally remove homosexuality as a mental illness from its directive in 1973.

Cured delves into the voices who vied to be heard, as well as the surprising duality of psychiatrists using “scientific” diagnosis to provoke and solidify false claims of mental illness. The documentary takes its time to cover as much ground as possible in a chronological effort, weaving in the wide range of activists who were all charging towards the same cause. However, it can’t help at times to feel that the topic could be further explored at length in a docu-series. Still, the film curates a range of a powerful account from several leaders before they passed away and for those who are still fighting to be heard. Even though the community still faces challenges, the activists’ revolution remains an inspiring catalyst to create a more compassionate and accepting world.
If you want to call attention to an issue and you want to make a change, take it to the streets. - Rep. Magora Kennedy
In honor of National Coming Out Day on October 11th 2021, Cured will open PBS' Independent Lens series for the upcoming fall season on Monday night at 10:00 pm. This review was provided via a screener.


Monday, March 1, 2021

Kid 90 (2021)

We don’t often learn of the opportunities and difficulties juvenile actors face until headlines show it or history becomes etched in memoirs. A rare chance to star in their own show or become a heartthrob leaves so many kids who love entertain discovering the risks and the realities of the industry before they're prepared to live in front of the spotlight. Kid 90, directed by Soleil Moon Free, brings us closer to taking a look behind-the-scenes and a generation of stars who learned to navigate the pitfalls of fame.

As a teenager in the 90s, actress and director Soleil Moon Frye carried around a video camera everywhere she went and saved diaries, journals, and voice mail messages. After locking away the footage for almost 20 years, she revisits her childhood as a teenage star and presents an unprecedented time capsule of growing up in Hollywood and New York City.

From her early days of starting out as Punky Brewster to nabbing smaller roles in B-horror movies, Frye shows us life through her eyes. Though she had a normal upbringing at home with a loving mother, busy father, and supportive brother, her life in front of the camera took a turn as she became a teen with a developing body, trying drugs, and gaining more independence. As a young woman growing up in Hollywood, Frye highlights her experiences of bullying and being sexualized at 15, the painful reconciliation of losing friends to suicide, surviving sexual assault, and finding creative freedom. Her footage also captures the joys to everyday activities like getting breakfast, going to parties, and asking her friends of their philosophy about life. Joining her along for the ride are fellow stars from the 90s - Stephen Dorff - Brian Austin Green, David Arquette, Heather McComb and more – who provide their perspective – rejections from auditions, seeing their names splashed in the tabloids, enduring unwarranted backlash, and facing failure.

Frye's choice of a chronological format is easy enough to follow as she takes us from her rise of stardom until her late teens. Picking up a camera was Frye’s way to control everything – being unloved and loving others, her career fading away, relationships coming to an end, losing friends to suicide; and in some ways this is still true for Frye today. As both subject and director, she's able to explore her memories and assess what is appropriate to share and what is okay to keep close to her. At the same time, the documentary struggles with a stronger cohesive structure. As much as Frye does share, the compilation of footage and interviews often only underscore the possibility that there are layers more to discover. Insight by longtime friend and co-star Brian Austin Green recalling the first time he encountered failure when he broke out on his own to release a rap album, and the backlash he faced, is very few and far between. What you're left to grapple with as a viewer is the openness that Frye has about her life and a familiar awareness of the all-too-common reasons that many are led to suicide driven by mental health and/or substance abuse issues. The conversation between her and other Generation Xers about the impact of being a teen star transitioning into stars but it's not as comprehensive as it could've been. 

Part walk down memory lane, part documentary, Frye challenges the assumptions we make about our memories – if they are real or if they are stories we want to tell ourselves. From the outside, the trials and tribulations of teen stars might not seem relatable. But underneath the notoriety, Kid 90 explores there’s more beneath the fa├žade of stardom and celebrity culture. Even in our own lives, reflecting of who we once were can help us understand who we are today and how far we've come.

Rating: ★★☆

Note: I was provided with a screener for review. Kid 90 will be available on March 12th Hulu.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Ruth: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words (2021)

“I’ve seen opinion polls that more people can name the Seven Dwarves than can name justices on the United States Supreme Court. “ – Dean Erwin Chemerinsky from Berkeley Law School opens an upcoming documentary directed by Academy Award winning director Freida Lee Mock. The obvious twist here is that if there’s one definitive iconic figure that hails from the Supreme Court Justice and we know of is Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 

From the famous meme of Notorious RBG to Saturday Night Live skits portrayed by Kate McKinnon and her history of breaking the class ceiling, she’s gained special notoriety in the general public over the past several years that makes her one of the most popular and empowering figures in U.S. government. How and why we know her name is as widely recognized as it is is exactly what Mock sets out to cement.

Ruth: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words uses previously televised events and interviews with  Ginsburg to explore her careerIt begins with the line questioning she faced to be nominated as a Supreme Court Justice and the process of being sworn in by former president Bill Clinton. The centerpiece of the film leads with Ginsburg meeting with student groups inquiring about her career so far (in the mid 90s) and her outlook on the future such as the possibility of a female president. 

Using her observations the documentary taps into her achievements and the challenges she faced with "three strikes against her" as a person of the Jewish faith, a woman, and a mother who would go on to use her identity to persevere as a lawyer, working for ACLU, and eventually to earn the stature she’s recognized with today. What was used against her to keep citizens in line with outdated and prejudice laws, she used to the best of her abilities to help others attain their full rights in the face of gender, religion, and race discrimination. When original footage or photographs aren’t used, illustrations step in to elaborate on the court proceedings of cases she fought for. Ginsburg offers her unique perspective about what she was proud the wide range of cases that she was proud of and those that helped her cause as she furthered her career - one in particular includes a father working part-time and was denied social security to care for his infant son after his wife passed away.

More than merely showing how Ginsburg effected the clients she represented, Ruth: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words also shows the effect she had on people directly or were inspired by her impact. Interviews with those who worked with her such as a law clerk Goodwin Liu, former law volunteer M.E. Freeman, Cadet Jennifer Connolly who was able to attend Virginia Military Institute after the court ruled to expand its male-only enrollment to women, meme creator of Notorious R.B.G. Shana Knizhnik and author Irin Carmon, offer more insight into the woman behind the icon from her love of opera to her marriage to her husband Marty. Real life examples of the cases Ginsburg were apart of are also used. In one prominent case of United States v. Virginia, the Supreme Court Justice ruled in favor of Virginia Military Institute extending its males-only enrollment to include women. 

Ruth: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words revolves around some of the same topics as another documentary titled RBG, which was released in 2018 and focused on a chronological examination of her life from birth to (then) present-day. Most of the latter likewise unfolds in a linear fashion, but focuses more on containing the narrative to Ginsburg's career ambitions, pursuit for equal rights for all, and expanding the court to include more women. The two documentaries share the same subject matter, but Mock creates a worthwhile film to be enjoyed on its own or as a companion piece. Ruth: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words instills a needed message of inspiration to those who dare to follow in her footsteps and become the next generation of dissenters. 
Rating: ★★1/2☆

Please Note: I was provided with a screener to provide an honest review.Ruth: Justice Ginsburg In Her Own Words is available in virtual cinemas on 2/12 and TVOD on 3/9. STARZ will also air the documentary on 3/15 at 8 PM ET/PT on what would have been Justice Ginsburg’s 88th birthday.

Monday, December 7, 2020

Deep In Vogue (2019) Gives a Front Row Seat to Voguing

Inclusive spaces where LGBTQ+ and people of color can fully express themselves are an increasing rarity. Yet in pockets of club scenes and houses around the U.S. and the UK, vogue ballrooms continue to offer an exceptional underground beacon of hope and a lifeline. Taking a dive into a radical revolution of diversity and self-expression, Deep In Vogue explores the origins of voguing and peeks behind-the-scenes of the Manchester and Liverpool based houses as they prepare for their ICONS Vogue Ball.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Miss Americana (2020) Shines A Light On the Swift Narrative

Miss Americana (2020) documentary review netflix
Everyone has an opinion on Taylor Swift. Millions of fans around the world have grown up with her music and followed her through the highs and lows. Outside of her loyal Swiftie community, the world over either loathes, ignores or maintains a bitter impression about Swift. Netflix's latest documentary Miss Americana (2020) strives to challenge what both fans and haters alike believe about the beloved yet divisive celebrity.

In 2016, after the massive success of her fifth studio album 1989, Swift reached a new height of media overexposure and a public feud with Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian. When #TaylorSwiftIsOverParty trended worldwide for 24 hours, Swift was effectively canceled. The musician thought the world wanted her to disappear, and so she did – for a year. The question on so many fans’ minds will center on where Swift went during that time she disappeared, and this is where the documentary steps in.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Maiden (2018) Shows Courage Against All The Odds

Maiden documentary review
Sony Pictures Classics
Rarely does history feel like its shifting when the status quo remains the same. Yet when we look on the past as a kaleidoscope of groundbreaking events in politics, entertainment, and sports, culture is transformed because a few ordinary people were called to forge their own path. A small moment creates a ripple effect that lasts for generations. Maiden tells the inspiring true story of Tracey Edwards and her bid to race the 1989–1990 Whitbread Round the World Race with an all-female crew for the first time.

Much more than a documentary, Maiden captures Edwards’s journey before she changed the competitive nature of sailing forever. As the crew’s cook Jo Gooding says, “If you believe in everything people tell you, you can't do, what would humankind have achieved?”. With captivating footage exploring the chapters of Edwards's life from childhood to adulthood, Maiden dives deep into the courage of the women who dared to do something different: not only be a woman stepping into a man’s world but compete the best that they could.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Geek, And You Shall Find (2019) Celebrates the Power of Superheroes Within

Geek, And You Shall Find (2019)
Superhero Faces Productions / Geek, And You Shall Find
Superman. Spider-Man. Captain America. Wonder Woman. These are just a few super-heroic characters who have become beloved icons for children and adults alike. From the famous Hall H at San Diego Comic Con to breaking box office records, it’s almost impossible to believe the arduous and inspiring evolution of geekdom. And yet, fandom not only started with the humble origins of comic books, but has also catapulted the way in which we navigate our everyday lives and the world around us.

Geek, and You Shall Find explores the fascinating past and future of comic books. Its creators and their stories have made a lasting impression on generations of readers, but where did it all start? How do the stories we love reflect society and vice versa? What can we truly gain from admiring characters that wear masks, don capes, and try to save their fellow man? Superhero Faces Productions journeys into the depths of Marvel, Westeros, Star Wars, and more to understand the life-changing impact behind our galaxy's biggest fandoms.

Starting with The Great Depression and the initial creation of Superman, Geek, and You Shall Find uncovers the rich history of beloved larger-than-life characters becoming an antidote and answer to society's greatest ordeals: war, racism, class disparity, immigration, and gender inequality. In speaking with the late Stan Lee, George R.R. Martin, Roy Thomas, and Kevin Eastman, the documentary examines the rise and challenges the comic book revolution has overcome and still faces. From censorship to international conflicts, comic books have not only withstood the test of time but also influenced reality far more than we could ever consider. Beyond the breaking down the timeline of how comic book creators imagined the fictional heroes we revere today, the film also implements Joseph Campbell’s heroes journey and how it mirrors our lives in mythological terms.

Drawing strength from comic books is no different than seeing ourselves in religious, historical, or public figures. Despite the fantastical or science-fiction approach to reflect the best and worst traits humans possess, comic books aren't often recognized as 'real' entertainment. When examining political issues, expanding inclusion, and challenging the status quo, the genre's critics are often the first to protest that 'serious' issues don't belong in their fandom. Outside of connecting with the genre's 'godfathers', the documentary also features creators standing up for what they believe in, psychologists  using comic books to help patients deal with trauma, and fans reaching out to each other for support and camaraderie. The worlds escape with on-screen and on the page prove to inspire real activism, practice compassion, and break barriers with their personal views.

As a self-proclaimed geek, it’s difficult to not find one area of my life that isn’t influenced by movies, books, or shows. When we connect with superheroes, Jedis, hobbits or wizards on their adventures, we become a part of their story and vice versa. Their ability to face against greedy corporations, evil masterminds, and stand up after being knocked down gives us strength to handle our own setbacks and victories. By participating in fandom over the years, I've grown out of my introverted cave to express my love of pop culture to write, cosplay, and try to inspire others to be the best that they can be. Comic books re-affirm what I love about fandom is as true and meaningful as I think it is for myself and fellow geeks as well.

Geek, and You Shall Find celebrates the rich history of storytelling in general and profound lessons and transformation comic books has on humanity. Superhero Faces Productions creates a positive affirmation about our unique passion for storytelling, and also invites those who don’t believe in the power of geek culture to reconsider. Their work maintains a wonderful balance of personalizing fandom from its roots to its present day success. We might not literally have spiderwebs shooting out of our wrists or take it to the streets against caped villains. But when we geek out, we are embracing a part of our identities in a whole new way and reminds us to embrace the superhero within.
Rating for the film: ★★★
Have you seen Geek, and You Shall Find? What do you think?

Please Note: I was provided with a screener in exchange for an honest review. Geek, and You Shall Find is available to watch on Amazon, Vudu, YouTube, and Google Play.