Posts Tagged ‘documentary film’

Dated ‘Outrage’ attempts to grapple with closeted politicians who harm gay people

May 13, 2014

By Matthew E. Milliken
May 13, 2014

I visited some friends the other day, and we ended up watching a movie. After some wrangling over what would be acceptable to the three of us, we settled on Outrage, a 2009 documentary picture of which I had never heard. The film, written and directed by Kirby Dick, examines — and frankly condemns — closeted homosexual politicians in the United States who vote against gay rights.

The movie’s rather dubious thesis is that there is a conspiracy amongst politicos and journalists to keep the public in the dark about the sexuality of gay officials. One such man, allegedly, was Ed Koch, and we are told of threats of the financial ruin that supposedly thwarted a former lover from publicly talking to reporters about his intimate relationship with the New York City bachelor-mayor. Koch, who died in 2013, was a congressman at the time of this affair, which we hear about from friends of the supposed lover. Rather infamously, Koch ignored the initial outbreak of the AIDS epidemic, which devastated gay communities in New York and across the nation.

We also see footage from a 2006 Larry King interview in which Bill Maher outed Ken Mehlman, who led the Republican National Committee as it distributed anti-gay campaign during the 2004 presidential campaign. Maher’s naming of Mehlman was omitted from repeat broadcasts of the program.

Read the rest of this entry »

The understated but touching ‘Remote Area Medical’ shows America’s unmet health-care needs

April 11, 2013

By Matthew E. Milliken
April 11, 2013

At its most basic level, the new documentary Remote Area Medical is about a free three-day clinic that the organization of that name staged at Bristol Motor Speedway over an April 2012 weekend.

But just as sometimes a cigar is not just a cigar, this documentary about a free clinic in rural, mountainous Eastern Tennessee is not just a documentary about a free clinic. When Remote Area Medical was founded in 1985, its mission was to bring health care to inaccessible parts of the Brazilian rain forest. Today, 60 percent of the Nashville, Tenn., group’s work is done in the United States.

“We have people with desperate need within our borders,” one interviewee tells filmmakers Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman. (None of the speakers are explicitly identified in the movie.) “Remote Area Medical — we don’t have to go too remote.”

Another interviewee, a patient at the Bristol clinic, says she wishes America’s decision-makers could see the consequences of their choices. Indeed, this viewer couldn’t help but wish that hundreds of U.S. Senators and members of Congress and their key staffers would be forced to watch this film and then spend a few hours discussing possible remedies. (Whether they might choose, after doing so, to repeal, change or keep intact the reform program commonly called Obamacare is outside the scope of this review.) Read the rest of this entry »

One small-town team’s aspirations for basketball adequacy fuel moving documentary tale in ‘Medora’

April 5, 2013

After I watched the new film “Medora” Friday afternoon, I mused about how easy it would be to reinvent this sports documentary as a Hollywood feature. Let’s call this invented picture “Jockstraps.” Here’s the elevator pitch: A team of scrappy, lovable small-town losers join together to overcome personal problems and end an oppressively long basketball losing streak.

Thankfully, “Medora” has some — and only some — of these narrative elements but shares none of the glibness of my imagined high-school sports romp. There are no Hollywood-handsome 20-somethings hogging the spotlight in this picture, which was co-directed by Andrew Cohn and Davy Rothbart. (The latter man created Found magazine and may be familiar to listeners of “This American Life.”)

Instead, we have a collection of frequently awkward real teenagers, their faces blemished by asymmetrical lines, acne and scraggly facial hair. At once sadly and refreshingly, these (yes) scrappy but lovable losers don’t overcome all of the challenges they face.

The Medora Hornets’ first-year coach, police officer Justin Gilbert, opens the picture berating his squad for a pathetic fourth-quarter effort in which they were held scoreless. Gilbert, a charismatic and handsome young man, has to walk a fine line — he must shatter his charges’ complacency about losing without breaking their spirit.

Read the rest of this entry »

The atom truly is our friend, Robert Stone argues in pro-nuclear power documentary ‘Pandora’s Promise’

April 4, 2013

Shortly before the screening of his new documentary Thursday morning, Robert Stone took the podium to note that his first movie had opposed nuclear power. In that regard, his personal journey has served as something of a model for those of the five individuals he features in “Pandora’s Promise,” a beautifully shot and well-paced feature-length movie that makes a powerful case for embracing nuclear power.

“Pandora’s Promise” is centered on one journalist and four committed environmental activists; all, like the director himself, opposed nuclear power for much of their adult lives. This is partly because of atomic energy’s early link to nuclear weapons, which devastated two Japanese cities and were test-fired some 2,000 times over the years, one interviewee tells us.

Three disasters involving nuclear plants — Three Mile Island in Harrisburg, Pa., in 1979; Chernobyl in the Ukraine in 1986; and Fukushima in Japan last year — also helped to reinforce public leeriness toward atomic energy. This tendency was embraced whole-heartedly by environmentalists and stoked by popular culture; Stone shows clips of “The China Syndrome,“ which was released shortly before Three Mile Island, and “The Simpsons,” in which the cartoon boob Homer Simpson examines diagrams and wails, “Who ever thought that a nuclear reactor would be so complicated?!” (Interestingly, that film, which starred Jane Fonda, Jack Lemmon and Michael Douglas, came out 12 days before the Pennsylvania plant ran into trouble.)

These mishaps were clearly frightening, and widespread ignorance and misconceptions about radiation did nothing to salve public fears about nuclear energy.

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: