Posts Tagged documentary

film review: I Am Battle Comic

When the USO offered writer/director Jordan Brady [I Am Comic and I Am Road Comic]  an opportunity to perform stand-up comedy to the troops in the Middle East, he decided to take his camera along on the tour which included stops in Kuwait, Afghanistan and Bahrain. The result is a heartwarming, funny and honest glimpse into a USO tour. Brady intersperses tour footage with interviews with various comics including George Lopez, George Wallace, Jennifer Rawlings and Shawn Halpin [a U.S. Marines veteran].

It can get lonely in these desert countries so remote from the American experience [there is a tiny Dunkin’ Donuts in Kuwait and a Pizza Hut in Afghanistan!] and troops savor entertainment. The USO distributes care packages and letters from school children. The comedians hold meet and greets and hang out in mess halls with troops. Jennifer Rawlings explains: “It’s really about sitting down in the chow hall listening to the soldiers like a mom, like a sister, like a friend and hearing their stories.” An emotional Slade Ham recalls that Sgt. Jose Valez became a fan in 2003 and gave new people arriving on base copies of his CD. After Valez was killed in action, Ham received a package with the unit coin and the patch off Valez’s jacket. He says: “If I get to take that kid away from that situation … why not? How many chances do you get to do something that cool?”An officer sums it up quite well: “being so far away from America it takes us back to America for a few hours.”

It’s such a rewarding experience that many comedians return repeatedly to entertain the troops. I Am Battle Comic provides tremendous insight into this experience as well as showcasing entertainment’s powerful ability to connect and inspire.

Here’s the link to screenings for I Am Battle Comic. 100% of tickets sales to these screenings support military charities. On June 2 I Am Battle Comic will be available worldwide on VOD.

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STEELE PICKS: Best Documentary Films of 2016

strong documentaries expose you to subject matter in a novel and enlightening manner. it might be a subject of which you know very little or a subject with which you’re familiar. the best documentaries make you want to read and research, discuss and debate. that’s why I’ve belonged to a documentary film group for five years. I tend to favor biographical, political, social justice and music documentaries.


directed by: Ava DuVernay
written by: Spencer Averick and Ava DuVernay

–our criminal justice systems needs serious reform. this documentary painstakingly delves into our prison system. It’s a moving, upsetting and infuriating call for change.


Oasis: Supersonic
directed by: Mat Whitecross

–while I classify myself a Blur girl, I also love Oasis. I love Britpop and alternative music.  I didn’t know all that much about how Oasis formed or how brothers Liam Gallagher and Noel Gallagher grew up with an abusive father. I know music was a way out for many British bands in the 90s. The film documents the band’s meteoric rise to fame and its collapse. There’s a moment on tour when Noel quits the band in Los Angeles and takes off to a female fan’s place in San Francisco. He ultimately re-joins the band and ends up writing a song about it. Being a long-term music critic this film hit all the right notes and all the right emotive spots. I laughed. I cried. I stood in the theater lobby with four strangers discussing it all.


Amanda Knox
directed by: Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn
written by: Matthew Hamachek and Brian McGinn

–going into this one I definitely had an opinion. it’s like the OJ Simpson case, how can you not? I’d read Amanda Knox’s riveting memoir and still learned quite a bit about the Italian judicial system and being locked up abroad (don’t do it) watching this documentary. Nearly a decade ago in 2007, Amanda Knox and her boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were arrested, charged and convicted of the murder of Amanda’s roommate Meredith Kercher. Remember the supposed orgy and its aftermath as well as Knox’s nickname “Foxy Knoxy.” Because of course if someone’s sexually open she *must be a murderer. Amanda serves prison time until the conviction is overturned but then there’s another trial. While the United States criminal justice system remains a mess the Italian one seems outrageous. It’s not what one expects in a European nation. There are so many flaws in the investigation and numerous questions about the process that this documentary attempts to address.


The Beatles: Eight Days a Week– the touring years
directed by: Ron Howard
written by: Mark Monroe

–it’s always cool to learn something new about music legends. while I’m familiar with the music I don’t know as much about the band’s history and specific historic moments. There’s an excellent cross-section of fans interviewed from Whoopi Goldberg to Sigourney Weaver to Eddie Izzard. It’s a sweet love letter to a band from a genuinely sincere Ron Howard. It’s not messy or scandalous or a sexy film but wholesome family fun that one expects from Ron Howard.



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directed by: Asif Kapadia
starring: Amy Winehouse, Mitch Winehouse, Mark Ronson


He Named Me Malala
directed by: David Guggenheim
starring: Malala Yousafzai, Ziauddin Yousafzai, Toor Pekai Yousafzai


Cobain: Montage of Heck
directed by: Brett Morgen
starring: Aaron Burckhard, Chad Channing, Don Cobain, Courtney Love


Hot Girls Wanted
directed by: Jill Bauer, Ronna Gradus
written by: Brittany Huckabee
starring: Farrah Abraham, John Anthony, Rachel Bernard


The Wolfpack
directed by: Crystal Moselle
starring: Bhagavan Angulo, Govinda Angulo, Jagadisa Angulo


What Happened, Miss Simone?
directed by: Liz Garbus
starring: James Baldwin, Stokely Carmichael, Lisa Simone Kelly

miss simone

The True Cost
directed by: Andrew Morgan
written by: Andrew Morgan
starring: Vandana Shiva, Rick Ridgeway, Safia Minney


The Hunting Ground
directed by: Kirby Dick
written by: Kirby Dick
starring: Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering, Amy Herdy


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Black History Month: must-see documentaries

black power mixtape

The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 (2011)
96 min
Rating: A-

–filmed from 1967 to ’75, this is previously unreleased footage of major figures in the Black Power movement, creating hours of footage that remained unreleased for decades. Stokely Carmichael, Huey P. Newton and Angela Davis discuss the movement’s evolution. Truly moving and powerful film.

dark girls

Dark Girls (2011)
71 min
Rating: B+
Director: D. Channsin Berry, Bill Duke

–examines prejudices dark-skinned women face throughout the world, includes the roots of classism, racism and the lack of self-esteem within a segment of cultures. Thoughtful, provocative and detailed.

soundtrack for a rev

Soundtrack for a Revolution (2009)
82 min.
Rating: A-

–celebrates the intersection of a political movement and music. Featuring new performances of freedom songs by artists such as Mary J. Blige, Wyclef Jean and John Legend, the film also includes archival footage and interviews with civil rights leaders.


Good Hair (2009)
95 min
Rating: A
Directed by: Chris Rock

–in this amusing, warm and touching documentary, Chris Rock travels the world to understand African-American women’s hair. He contemplates women’s self-esteem and their looks and the application and purpose of the weave. Rock wanted to understand what his three daughters would go through.


4 Little Girls (1997)
102 min.
Rating: A
Directed by: Spike Lee

–a member of the Klu Klux Klan bombed a Birmingham, Ala. church and killed four young girls: Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair. He put the bomb there to “send a message.” The tragedy served as a catalyst of the Civil Rights Movement. Another sad senseless act of violence in the name of white supremacy.

murder of emmett till

The Murder of Emmett Till (2003)
53 min
Rating: B+

–PBS “American Experience” documentary examines the murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till and the subsequent acquittal of his killers. While visiting the Deep South, Till whistled at a white woman, an act which led to his brutal killing. Activists organized after Till’s mother let national newspapers run pictures of her unrecognizable son. A disgusting and disturbing act of racism. Extremely upsetting and unbelievable.

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DVD: AFTER TILLER a must-see documentary

after tiller

A powerful and inspirational documentary filmed with a calm focus through beautiful and reflective moments. Directed and produced by Martha Shane and Lana Wilson.

It’s legal to perform third-term abortions in nine states and (at the time of filming), only four doctors in the United States openly performed third-term abortions.

“At times I struggle and times I don’t and I always come back to the woman and what she’s going through and what life will this baby have. What will it mean to be alive with horrific fetal abnormalities? It’s not just about being alive. It’s about life and what does it mean.”
–Dr. Shelley Sella

“There’s two reactions to being bullied. One is to pull your head in and try to get away from the bully and the other is to go ‘oh yeah.’ That’s how I feel.”
–Dr. Susan Robinson

“(The anti-abortion threats) are a traumatic experience for everybody in my family. It’s been hard for me to feel sometimes that I can continue.”
–Dr. Warren Hern

“Things have changed since Dr. Tiller’s death. And it’s a shame George had to die to get that started. I think he did get a lot of the dialogue started that’s going on today. We don’t have Dr. Tiller anymore but we still have four of us who are still practicing and I think Dr. Tiller would be proud that we’re still carrying on his work.”
–Dr. LeRoy Carhart

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Academy Award nominees for Best Documentary on DVD

four of the five Academy Award nominees for Best Documentary are available on DVD or Netflix instant. The other nominated film The Gatekeepers isn’t out on DVD yet and isn’t in any theaters in my area so I’ve not been able to see it.

searching for sugar man

Searching for Sugar Man
–heartwarming, amazing film about a talented, somewhat mysterious Detroit musician named Rodriguez who made brilliant music in the 70s. His musical career didn’t take off as expected. As Rodriguez moved on with his life as a tradesman and raised his daughters, his music became immensely popular in South Africa–his albums sold millions and he inspired many during Apartheid. What happened to him? Where is he now?

5 Broken Cameras

5 Broken Cameras
–“It takes strength to turn anger into something positive,” says Emad the filmmaker in 5 Broken Cameras. Later he remarks: “I film to heal.” Potent comments.
–Emad and his family live off the land in Bil’in in Palenstine. They pick olives. They don’t have regular jobs or fixed incomes. The IDF comes to take their land, to build a barrier. Bil’in represents nonviolent resistance. Even Israeli activists join in with the Palestinians to stop this. It’s an engrossing, powerful and inspiring documentary.

invisible war

The Invisible War
–infuriating film about the military’s dirty little secret until now– sexual assaults among active military personnel that often don’t get prosecuted within the military
–20% of female military veterans have been sexually assaulted. 33% didn’t report it because the report was a friend of the rapist. 25% didn’t report because report was the rapist.

how to survive a plague

How to Survive a Plague
–this is the story of civil disobedience. the story of how the gay community organized for change when HIV/AIDS killed people at frightening high rates because there were no treatments. drugs weren’t being distributed fast enough in the United States. It’s powerful, provocative and an important part of our cultural history.

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Entertainment Realm’s Picks for Best Documentaries for 2012


–engrossing. found out so much about Bob Marley. truly amazing.
Directed by: Kevin Macdonald


Chasing Ice
— astonishing and exhilarating documentary about climate change. important.
Directed by: Jeff Orlowski
Starring: James Balog, Svavar Jonatansson and Adam LeWinter
Written by: Mark Monroe

first position

First Position
–high stakes ballet for tweens and teens
Directed by: Bess Kargman


–upsetting. cringe-inducing. peer to peer bullying.
Directed by: Lee Hirsch

queen of versailles

The Queen of Versailles
–money, money, money. fascinating examination of a couple with billions, a 30-year age difference, eight children. while developing the world’s biggest house, the market crashes.
Directed by: Lauren Greenfield

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