Sundance Exclusive Review: Vivos

“Vivos” is a documentary that follows the families of 43 students who forcibly disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico. On the night of September 26, 2014, a bus full of students, from Ayotzinapa, was intercepted and confronted by the police. Many were killed at the scene, others were severely injured, and 43 students utterly disappeared. The government claims that these students were turned in to the local cartel, who murdered all 43 then burned them. They were supposedly burned in a big bonfire where later their “remains” would be found.

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.

Short Film Review: Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You’re a Girl)

When it comes to countries blighted by war, it’s easy to become used to thinking of that nation as simply a warzone. You read about towns being taken, bases being mortared, bridges being destroyed, thinking of the poor civilians losing their lives in a fashion to which you probably can’t relate. You might forget that in between all of this, the people of this warzone nation are going about their daily lives, however strange or bleak this normalcy might be in comparison to your own. BAFTA-winning and Oscar-nominated British documentary short “Learning to Skateboard in a Warzone (If You're a Girl)” reminds you of this routine (or strive for routine) in quick fashion.

Sundance Exclusive Review: Mucho Mucho Amor

 "Mucho Mucho Amor" is a documentary following the life of the iconic Puerto Rican astrologer, Walter Mercado. When I first heard that this documentary would be screened at Sundance, it immediately became my most anticipated film because I grew up watching him. I can recall seeing him on television Monday through Friday on Primer Impacto at approximately 5:45 pm to give the horoscope of the day.

As this documentary accurately depicts, everybody at the house had to be quiet while he was on. We will all sit quietly and pay close attention to see what our horoscope will say, but then that was it, and we will continue with our day. I never knew anything outside of the celebrity, and this documentary navigates through Walter’s life, all leading to a special 50-year commemoration.

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.

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