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Every month, Utne Reader previews a selection of current and upcoming independent film and documentary releases. This sampler was curated by editor Ben Sauder. 


February 2016 Film Sampler

SELECT NEW RELEASES

Called to Walls
(in theaters)

Out of view of the high art world and the hip gallery scene comes this heartening story of unlikely partners in middle America working together to reexamine their histories, celebrate what makes their towns unique, and imagine their futures in the form of monumental community murals led by Lawrence, Kansas artist Dave Loewenstein. Called to Walls is a thoughtful and uplifting film that not only leaves viewers reassessing their notions of art, but also with an itch to go out and do it themselves. (Filmmaker synopsis)


Secundaria
First Run Features
(on DVD)

Secundaria quietly follows one high school class on its journey through Cuba's world-famous National Ballet School. The teens love to dance, but for many of them dance is also their sole escape from a life of poverty. The documentary begins as an observational portrait, but in their third year of school the main character, Mayara, takes charge of her destiny in an astonishing way. Suddenly this simple portrait takes a dramatic turn as Mayara's action surprises everyone: teachers, friends, family and, ultimately, the filmmaker herself. (Distributer synopsis)


Berlin Transgression
(in post-production)

Berlin Transgression is a story about the daily struggles of drag queens and transsexual artists in what is supposed to be one of the world's most liberal cities, Berlin, 25 years after the fall of the wall. In their search for love and recognition they fight against the violence of social norms in a witty and courageous manner. This project sheds light on the life of performers whose stage is mainly gay bars and fetish clubs. We followed five main characters not only to the back stage but also to their homes where they opened up their hearts about their deepest dreams and desires. (Filmmaker synopsis)


DamNation
Bullfrog Films
(on DVD)

DamNation opens big, on a birth, with the stirring words of Franklin D. Roosevelt at the dedication of Hoover Dam, and on a death, as the engineer at Elwha Dam powers down the turbine on its last day. DamNation stints neither the history nor the science of dams, and above all conveys experiences known so far to only a few, including the awe of watching a 30-pound salmon hurtling 20 feet into the air in a vain attempt to reach the spawning grounds that lie barricaded upriver. We witness the seismic power of a dam breaking apart and, once the river breaks free, the elation in watching wild salmon - after a century of denied access - swimming their way home. (Distributer synopsis)


Standing on Sacred Ground: Eight Cultures – One Fight
Bullfrog Films
(on DVD)

Indigenous communities around the world and in the U.S. resist threats to their sacred places--the original protected lands--in a growing movement to defend human rights and restore the environment. In this four-part documentary series from the producer of In the Light of Reverence, native people share ecological wisdom and spiritual reverence while battling a utilitarian view of land in the form of government megaprojects, consumer culture, and resource extraction as well as competing religions and climate change. (Distributer synopsis)





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