Every month, Utne Reader previews a selection of current and upcoming independent film and documentary releases. This sampler was curated by editor Ben Sauder.
April 2016 Film Sampler
SELECT NEW RELEASES
(in theaters April 22)
Hockney is the definitive exploration of one of the most significant artists of his generation. For the first time, David Hockney has given access to his personal archive of photographs and film, resulting in an unparalleled visual diary of his life. The film chronicles Hockney’s vast career, from his early life in working-class Bradford, where his love for pictures was developed through his admiration for cinema, to his relocation to Hollywood where his life long struggle to escape labels (‘queer’, ‘working class’, 'figurative artist’) was fully realized.
David Hockney offers theories about art, the universe, and everything: “I’m interested in ways of looking and trying to think of it in simple ways. If you can communicate that, of course people will respond; after all, everybody does look.” But as Hockney reveals, it’s the hidden self-interrogation that gives his famously optimistic pictures their unexpected edge and attack. The documentary traces the artist’s journey to live the American or Californian dream, yet paradoxically reveals that he never broke ties with the childhood that formed him. Did Yorkshire awkwardness in his blood give him the willpower to survive relationship problems, and later the AIDS plague that killed the majority of his friends? Acclaimed filmmaker Randall Wright offers a unique view of this unconventional artist who is now reaching new peaks of popularity worldwide, and, at 78, is as charismatic as ever, working in the studio seven days a week. (Distributor synopsis)
SOLD is a narrative, feature film adaptation of the globally acclaimed novel by Patricia McCormick. Based on true stories, SOLD, is the story of Lakshmi who journeys from a pastoral, rural village in Nepal to a gritty brothel/prison called Happiness House in Kolkata, India.
Through one extraordinary girl’s story, SOLD illustrates the brutality of child trafficking, which affects millions of children around the globe every year. Globally the average age of a trafficked girl is thirteen, the same age as the girl in the film. SOLD is a call to action, and a testament to the power and resilience of the human spirit. (Filmmaker synopsis)
Children of the Arctic
(on TV April 5th)
Children of the Arctic is a year-in-the-life portrait of Native Alaskan teenagers coming of age in Barrow, Alaska - the northern-most community of the United States. For these teenagers growing up has become a little more complicated than it was for their ancestors who originally named this place “Ukpiagvik” (“where we hunt snowy owls”). They are the twenty-first century descendants of a culture that has endured for millennia on this isolated, but rapidly changing tundra. The harvest of the agvik (bowhead whale) remains the heart of their culture - in the fall, motor boats and modern methods are used, whereas, in the spring, whaling crews use the umiaq (a seal-skin boat made by hand) and ancient traditional methods. (Filmmaker Synopsis)
First Run Features
Every child deserves to be loved, and the opportunity to lead a happy and healthy life. Unfortunately, childhood sexual abuse is rampant in our society: one in four girls and one in six boys will be sexually abused by the age of 18. There are approximately 40 million adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) in America alone; we all know someone who has been affected. Childhood sexual abuse often leads its survivors to feel fear, shame, and anxiety – all of which promote silence – and predators rely on that silence to remain undetected. It is vital that we engage in a conversation about CSA if we want to bring about change. Without an open and honest discussion both in our communities and across the country, education – and prevention – is not possible.
Invisible Scars tells the story of Johnna Janis, who reveals the abuse she suffered as a child. Now armed with a new self-awareness, she explores the tools and resources available to help male and female survivors like her to overcome the debilitating effects of child sexual abuse. (Distributor Synopsis)
Ron Taylor: Dr. Baseball
First Run Features
Ron Taylor: Dr. Baseball is the story of an 11-year Major League pitcher, who after winning two world championships (with the 1964 St. Louis Cardinals and the 1969 Miracle Mets) embarked on a USO tour through Vietnam that would change his life. After visiting field hospitals, Ron devoted the rest of his life to medicine, enrolling in medical school at 35 and eventually becoming the team physician for the Toronto Blue Jays. Through interviews with former teammates and friends, his two sons uncover the course of their father's life.
The documentary features interviews with five Hall of Famers - Joe Torre, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock, Ferguson Jenkins, and Pat Gillick - as well as others including MLB All-Stars Joe Carter, Tim McCarver, Art Shamsky and Cito Gaston. Historical MLB footage details Ron's performances in the '64 and '69 World Series, pitching against the likes of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris. (Distributor synopsis)