Review: Made in Auschwitz: The Untold Story of Block 10

It has been 75 years since Auschwitz was liberated by allied forces, but the horrors of what took place there still haunt the lives of so many survivors. While there has been many documentaries and literature exploring the monstrous Josef Mengele (the angel of death) and his deadly experiments on prisoners, there has been very little on another monster who operated in the camp, the gynecologist Carl Clauberg. "Made in Auschwitz" is a documentary from filmmakers Sonya Winterberg and Sylvia Nagel, and focuses on a very little-known aspect of the Nazis’ ghastly experiments, and details the efforts of Clauberg to find an efficient means of sterilizing women. It was a cold, inhumane move by the Nazis, who were trying to end the Jewish race completely. Perhaps, most disturbing is the fact that Clauberg’s “research” in birth control and fertility continues to be a part of the medical canon to this day.

Review: Miss Americana

Cards on the table. I am a member of Team Swift. Even though I am probably not the target demographic for her music. To me, she's a clearly talented and interesting songwriter and performer, and whom I believe showed great promise with her early dabble in acting on an episode of C.S.I. Except... there's always been something slightly manufactured about Taylor. Is it her straight-line upward success trajectory from her early days in Country to being a Queen of Pop? Was it the constant headlines about her relationships with various men or her celebrity girl gang? And then there are the Kanye West shenanigans. She's one of a handful of superstars that have grown up in the Social Media Age (see also, Gaga, Lady and Perry, Katy), and on the whole, has seemingly managed a public persona that's.. well just darn nice. Possibly just too nice.

Review: “Hail Satan?”

This provocative yet cheeky documentary by director Penny Lane follows the Satanic Temple through an incredible rise in popularity and details their aim of challenging the dominance of conservative Christianity. I can understand why some would be put off by the title and subject matter of this film but it might help to know that the question mark is important. So please stay with me on this.

Review: The Hottest August

“The Hottest August” is a complicated and insightful examination of a few communities in New York City. While it doesn’t follow the temperament of “Humans of New York”, it still asks its subjects about things like climate change and race inequality. The film gives off an impending feeling of hopelessness or dread when it comes to the future. There are people who are gravely mistaken by what is happening with our world’s climate and also some Americans that aren’t in the know when it comes to privilege and how they benefit from it. These answers make the viewer uncomfortable and possibly even guilty based on their alignments. 

Review: Shooting the Mafia

Hollywood has a long standing love for the Mafia and mobster life. It’s often a romantic and glossy portrayal. Cigar smoke bellows around the faces of the bosses as they order the neat disposal of those who commit minor infractions. But what of the real Mafia? The wives screaming in the street over the lifeless bodies of their husbands? What of the child lying face down in his own blood, murdered for the simple and horrific act of witnessing his father being killed? “Shooting the Mafia” (2019) shows us the fear and trauma inflicted by the Mafia as well as showcasing a brave and strong woman who stood up to this tyranny. It is a call to justice while holding a mirror to our romanticised fascination with the Mafia.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 11: 13th

Documentaries present a formidable challenge. Even after meeting the significant demands of research, including excellent interview skills, the filmmaker faces a new test: how might they create a cohesive narrative that will captivate their audience? Ava DuVernay’s attention to detail and design makes “13th” sobering, enraging, and ultimately energizing documentary.

Review: Jonathan Agassi Saved My Life

“I don’t feel anything”, Jonathan (Yonatan Langer, also known as the internationally-recognized porn star Jonathan Agassi) laments at the end of the film, having ostensibly reached an all-time low. He is broken, sick, depressed, numb, and addicted to drugs. He’s also a hardcore gay pornstar who does some escorting on the side. This documentary (by Tomer Heymann) establishes early on that porn is about building a fantasy and attempting to break the fourth wall. Here, we scratch the surface of Yonatan’s psyche; we learn that despite all the supposed fun that keeps pornstars like him busy, he seems terribly dissatisfied.

ITOL TOP 50, Special Review: Faces Places

The Grand Dame of French cinema, Agnès Varda's work has ranged from the New Wave in “Cléo from 5 to 7” (1962), to feminism and friendship in “One Sings, the Other Doesn’t” (1977), to rebellion in “Vagabond” (1985), to documenting the life of the poor in “The Gleaners and I” (2000). Her recent work has a more introspective feel; a reflection on what she films, and why. This is part of what would turn out to be her penultimate film, “Faces Places” (2017). A joyous and bittersweet look at the role of art in everyday life and work, as well as the role of the artist in society, “Faces Places” is an expansion of her work in self-reflection, a study in her constant quest to challenge herself as a filmmaker, and her love and attention to French rural and working life.

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