Every month, Utne Reader previews a selection of current and upcoming independent film and documentary releases. This sampler was curated by editor Christian Williams.
July 2015 Film Sampler
SELECT NEW RELEASES
China is the first country in the world to classify Internet addiction as a clinical disorder, the cure for which is the subject of Web Junkie
, an intimate and sometimes jarring documentary having its national broadcast premiere on POV (Point of View) on July 13 at 10 p.m. on PBS.
POV is American television’s longest-running independent documentary series and the recipient of a 2013 MacArthur Foundation Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.
The film follows the treatment of Chinese teenagers, obsessive gamers whose preference for the virtual world over the real one is summed up in one jarring statement: “Reality is too fake.” Bringing them back to earth is often a very bumpy ride.
Award-winning Israeli filmmakers Shosh Shlam and Hilla Medalia were given incredibly open access to Daxing Boot Camp, a three-month military style anti-addiction program in Beijing designed for patients 13 to 18 years old. Web Junkie
portrays the rehabilitation process and the evolving diagnosis behind it. (Distributor synopsis)
With unprecedented access, Cartel Land is a riveting, on-the-ground look at the journeys of two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy—the murderous Mexican drug cartels.
In the Mexican state of Michoacán, Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician known as "El Doctor," leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Templar drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years. Meanwhile, in Arizona's Altar Valley—a narrow, 52-mile-long desert corridor known as Cocaine Alley—Tim "Nailer" Foley, an American veteran, heads a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, whose goal is to stop Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across our border.
Filmmaker Matthew Heineman embeds himself in the heart of darkness as Nailer, El Doctor, and the cartel each vie to bring their own brand of justice to a society where institutions have failed. From executive producer Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty), Cartel Land is a chilling, visceral meditation on the breakdown of order and the blurry line between good and evil.(Distributor synopsis)
I Am FEMEN
First Run Features
They are known around the world as the topless female activists who fight corrupt and patriarchal political systems. Their weapon of choice is their bodies - which they place front and center in protests around the streets of Kiev, where the group began, and all across Europe.
Oksana Shachko is FEMEN's creative backbone. As a teenager, her fascination with religious painting led her to consider entering a convent, but in the end she used her many talents to create FEMEN and devoted herself to a life of activism.
With I am FEMEN
, director Alain Margot paints a portrait of the bewitching and many-faceted Oksana, while also revealing the stories of the brave young women around her who put their bodies on the front line in the fight for justice and equality.(Distributor synopsis)
Return to Homs
Proaction Film and Ventana Films
War changes people, including 19-year-old Basset Saroot, who went from star goalkeeper for the Syrian national soccer team to peaceful advocate for Arab Spring reforms to armed insurgent. Return to Homs
, which focuses on Basset and his ragtag group’s transformation and struggles, is a heart-stopping, often wrenching study of the brutal war President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has waged against the Syrian people—a war fought mostly out of camera range that has produced epic heroism and tragedy. Winner of Sundance’s 2014 World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary and the first winner of the George Polk Documentary Film Award, this is an unprecedented view inside a conflict that many accuse the world of overlooking.
Return to Homs
has its national broadcast premiere on July 20 on the POV documentary series on PBS.(Distributor synopsis)