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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 in chief Christian Williams. 

April 2015 Film Sampler


Revolutionary Films/Diatribe

In this highly anticipated follow up to the hit Sharkwater, film-maker Rob Stewart brings us on an adventure 3.5 billion years in the making—from the evolution of life to the revolution underway to save us. Filmed over four years in 15 countries, Revolution captures some of the most remarkable wildlife spectacles ever recorded, and gives audiences a firsthand look into the biggest battle ever fought.

Discovering that it’s not just sharks that are in jeopardy—but us—Stewart looks to the evolution of life and past revolutions in order to uncover the secrets necessary to save our world. Joining the activists and youth fighting to save their future, Stewart’s journey of hope is startling, beautiful and provocative, revealing this crisis as an opportunity for everyone to become a hero. (Distributor synopsis)

The Perfect Victim

The Perfect Victim follows four incarcerated women who were beaten, raped, sold, abused, and nearly killed by their husbands. Collectively, they spent over eighty-five years in Missouri State prison each serving life sentences, convicted for having killed their husbands to save their lives. Through the years, the local press vilified these women, portraying them all as savage murderers without any knowledge of the ongoing abuse they suffered. With the help of impassioned lawyers and law students from the Missouri Battered Women’s Coalition they begin a decade and a half long quest to secure their freedom. But will the judicial system and a notoriously secretive Missouri parole board give them a chance to renew their lives?  (Distributor synopsis)

Divide in Concord
Bullfrog Films
(In Theaters

Jean Hill, a fiery octogenarian, is deeply concerned about the environment. For three years, she has spearheaded a crusade to ban the sale of single-serve plastic bottled water in her hometown. In Concord, Mass., the same town that incited the American Revolution, can one senior citizen make history?  With strong opposition from local merchants and the bottled water industry, the campaign faces a tense nail-biter of a vote that will decide the issue for the town. (Distributor synopsis)

Because I Was a Painter
The Cinema Guild
(In Theaters)

In 1945, when the Allies liberated the concentration camps, they discovered thousands of secretly created artworks. These drawings, hidden from the Nazis, offer an unparalleled understanding of life in the camps. Featuring interviews with surviving artists, curators, as well as recently uncovered evidence, this fascinating documentary considers the ability of art to capture, reflect and survive under unimaginable conditions.

Because I Was a Painter explores a wide range of perspectives, from an artist who grapples with finding beauty in paintings of corpses to Treblinka survivor Samuel Willenberg who believes that the artworks can be nothing but inherently devoid of beauty. In addition to works intended as art, the film contemplates the role of alternative relics such as portraits of Romani victims killed by infamous Nazi physician Josef Mengele and paintings that were recreated years later because originals were lost or destroyed. (Distributor synopsis)

Women of '69, Unboxed
Montrose Pictures

Women of ’69, Unboxed is a moving portrait of women in the 1960s told through the eyes of classmates from an all-female college, Class of ’69. When these Boomers’ parents were asking less of themselves, many of these distinguished citizens were asking for more—their freedom. These women, now 65 years old, reflect on their heartaches and triumphs, and evaluate the “dowry” they’ll leave for future generations.

The film journeys through a highly original, unbound and unnumbered, loose-leaf “YearBox” rather than “yearbook;” displaying a collection of photos of 370 young women. Each photo exhibits the 1960s spirit of risk, rebelliousness, and creativity. (Distributor synopsis)

Population Bomb
First Run Features
(On DVD)

In Population Boom, acclaimed director Werner Boote (Plastic Planet) traverses the globe armed with a World Bank umbrella to examine the myths and facts about overpopulation. Like a contemporary Socrates with a wry sense of humor, Boote questions the conventional wisdom. From Kenya's slums to Dhaka in Bangladesh to New York City, China, Japan and elsewhere, Boote speaks with everyone from demographic researchers to environmental activists, and comes to a surprising conclusion. It isn’t overpopulation that threatens humanity’s existence. Rather, it is the developed world’s patterns of over-consumption and constant pursuit of immediate profit that looms over our future.

Is overpopulation a myth with the sole purpose of covering up larger and far more important problems, and making the world's population the scapegoat of a far more complex game? “It is not about how many of us there are, but about how we treat each other,” Boote recognizes. Population Boom starts with this as the basis for a debate, and becomes a cinematic journey with the masses between myth, facts, and politics. (Distributor synopsis)

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