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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. 

July 2016 Film Sampler


East Jerusalem / West Jerusalem
(on DVD)

In early 2013 Israeli singer-songwriter David Broza arrives in East Jerusalem for an unprecedented project. Broza has always believed in the power of music to transform political and social realities, working for almost 40 years to challenge people's perceptions and beliefs, and connect adversaries through songs and lyrics.

Following his years-old dream to record songs in the Palestinian side of Jerusalem with musicians from Palestine and Israel, Broza begins in January 2013 an eight-day session in the studio of Sabreen, the legendary Palestinian band.

Broza recruits four-time Grammy Award-winner singer-songwriter and American activist Steve Earle, renowned Israeli Palestinian singer, actor and activist Mira Awad, Palestinian cinematographer Issa Freij, Palestinian hip hop artist from the Shuaafat refugee camp Muhammad Mughrabi, Israeli musicians Jean Paul Zimbris, Alon Nadel and Gadi Seri, as well as and other American, Israeli and Palestinian participants.

During the extensive sessions they enjoy special dinners that offer them opportunities to share their life stories and learn surprising truths about each other. The ever-curious Broza is eager to explore a part of the world which is very close to his home in Tel Aviv, yet so remote. As the two members of "G-Town" describe the realities of Shuafat refugee camp, where they live, Broza decides to visit the place in the dark of night.

Broza also tours the Old City of Jerusalem with a Palestinian friend, seeing it from a different perspective. Producer Steve Earle, who wrote in the 1990s a song called "Jerusalem" (recorded by Broza especially for this project), sees the city for the first time - the eight-day stay in Jerusalem offers him unexpected insights into the political and cultural complexities of the region.

While the harmonious experience at the studio is reflected in the recordings of both cover songs and original material, including "East Jerusalem / West Jerusalem", written by Broza and Wyclef Jean, the situation in East Jerusalem is far from peaceful. The commitment of Broza and his fellow musicians to establish dialogue, however, is never doubted. The experience they share together offers an alternative story, one of seeking bridge building, living together, and finding common ground. (Distributor synopsis)

(coming soon)

You beat the weight or the weight beats you – it's the test every powerlifter faces when approaching the bar. But the weight that's been pressing down on coach and gym owner Paul Steinman is something far more challenging than sport.

Bombing out on his squats at the 2012 American Open was just one more failure for Paul. It had been a bad stretch for him both in and out of the gym – now it's time to make good. One year later, he's back in the same place and competing at the same meet, with his wife and partner Rebecca at his side. As a super heavyweight Paul will lift in the day's final flight, leaving time to sit and think about all that's happened. What do you do when the weight feels heavy? Can you get up?

A dramatic, character-driven documentary set in Brooklyn, Weight follows Paul and Rebecca over a challenging year. (Distributor synopsis)

(on DVD)

Oriented follows the lives of three gay Palestinian friends as they confront their national and sexual identities in modern Tel Aviv, Israel. There's Khader, a nightlife "darling" who lives with his Jewish boyfriend David. Fadi, an ardent Palestinian nationalist finds himself falling in love with an Israeli soldier. Naim, must find the courage to come out to his conservative family. Determined to change their reality, the three friends form a non-violent, cultural resistance group called "Qambuta" (Cauliflower) to advocate for sexual, ethnic and gender equality.  (Distributor Synopsis)

Spring & Arnaud
(on DVD)

An "artful and art-filled love story" (The Globe and Mail), this documentary about two unique characters is also an unforgettable look at art, love and mortality.

Influential photographer Arnaud Maggs, turning 85, embarks on a series of self-portraits that wryly depict his life's work. Spring Hurlbut at 60 is creating haunting works that evoke mortality while harboring the certainty that Arnaud's time is limited. Together more than 25 years, each grapples with the nature of an artist's creativity where the drive for invention and discovery resists life's finite reality. (Distributor Synopsis)

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