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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. 

March 2015 Film Sampler


Concerning Violence
Final Cut for Real
(on DVD/VOD)

A stunning and stimulating documentary, Concerning Violence is composed entirely of archival footage from the 1960s and ‘70s, depicting colonizing military forces and the oppressed African people living under their guns. Overlaid with the fighting words of philosopher Franz Fanon, both as text on screen and an effectively indignant voiceover by singer Lauryn Hill, the film’s argument is provocative: Violence is an acceptable and inevitable rejoinder to colonization. Swedish assembler Goran Hugo Olsson (The Black Power Mixtape) echoes the occasional bluntness of Fanon’s language (“this is when the niggers beat each other up”) with the inclusion of harrowing clips (consider the image of a young African woman with a bloody stump for an arm and a baby suckling her breast.) The result is a clarion call from the past that powerfully resonates with our racially divisive present. — Anthony Kaufman


Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here
First Run Features
(on DVD)

Ilya and Emilia Kabakov: Enter Here portrays two of Russia's most celebrated international artists, now American citizens, as they come to terms with the new Russia. Two decades after he fled the Soviet Union, Ilya Kabakov overcomes his fears to create six art installations in venues throughout Moscow, where he was once forbidden to exhibit his art. Amidst the cacophony of a city and a country in dizzying transition, he comes face to face with the memories that have made him who he is.

Through the eyes of artists who experienced Stalin's tyranny, through the rich underground art scene that arose during the Soviet Union's later stagnation, Enter Here explores the ways in which art can outwit oppression, illuminate what comes next, and transcend time - offering a beacon of light for repressed societies today. (Distributor summary)

Code Black
Bullfrog Films
(on DVD)

In his vivid and thought-provoking filmmaking debut, physician Ryan McGarry gives us unprecedented access to America's busiest Emergency Department at the Los Angeles County Hospital. Amidst real life-and-death situations, McGarry follows a dedicated team of charismatic, young doctors-in-training as they wrestle openly with both their ideals and with the realities of saving lives in a complex and overburdened system. Their training ground and source of inspiration is "C-Booth," Los Angeles County Hospital's legendary trauma bay, the birthplace of Emergency Medicine, where "more people have died and more people have been saved than in any other square footage in the United States." Code Black offers a tense, doctor's-eye view, right into the heart of the healthcare debate—bringing us face to face with America's only 24/7 safety net. (Distributor summary)

Clean Spirit
First Run Features
(on DVD)

Too many doping scandals have damaged the sport of cycling. But Clean Spirit introduces us to one pro cycling team that strives to compete the "right way" - and in the process has launched the careers of two of the most talented riders of this generation, Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb. The two young sprinters, along with their teammates, are determined to show that winning is possible without doping. As we follow the team during the 100th edition of the Tour de France, the excitement builds as stage wins and the yellow jersey are on the line.

Like the classic A Sunday in Hell, Clean Spirit shows much more than just the race. We see the team in their hotel rooms, on the team bus, on training rides, at meals and massage, in team meetings, and celebrating (or commiserating) after victories, defeats and crashes. Most of all, we see a team dedicating to competing cleanly, and putting their heart and soul into success on the road. (Distributor summary)

A Dangerous Game
Montrose Pictures
(available June 23 on iTunes and VOD)

Director Anthony Baxter’s A Dangerous Game examines the environmental impact of building golf courses where they wouldn't ordinarily be located and asserts that Donald Trump’s golf courses for the super rich—in Scotland and America—are environmental calamities.

Baxter’s previous film,You’ve Been Trumped, was shown on the side of Trump tower by activists from Occupy Wall Street, and attracted legal threats from Trump when the BBC showed the film in prime time. Baxter was also jailed by local police for filming near the Trump International Golf Links near Aberdeen, Scotland (though subsequent charges were thrown out). This time Baxter tracks the billionaire to Trump Tower and their filmed interview makes for a riveting climax to the film. (Distributor summary)

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