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.
Merchants of Doubt
What does a magician have to do with a climate change skeptic? They’re both masters in the art of deception, according to this slick and amusing documentary from Food, Inc. filmmaker Robert Kenner. Based on the book of the same name by Naomi Oreskes and Erik M. Conway, the film presents a persuasive and compelling argument about the ways in which industries obfuscate scientific facts. From Big Tobacco’s cover-ups of the dangers of smoking to the fossil fuel industry’s ability to stir up uncertainty about global warning, Merchants of Doubt chronicles, in detail, their methods, and some of their most infuriating consequences—ever wonder how flame retardants got into our furniture? Hint: It’s not to protect us from cigarettes, it’s to protect cigarette companies from lawsuits.—Anthony Kaufman
SELECT NEW RELEASES
First Run Features
Modern-day slavery is alive and well in the United States, as thousands of victims are trafficked throughout the country to satisfy America's $3 billion annual sex trafficking industry. Meet the pimps, the johns, the police, the parents and the victims of the thriving sex trade in Tricked, a comprehensive documentary that uncovers one of America's darkest secrets. (Distributor summary)
The Homestretch is a newly released documentary that follows three homeless Chicago teens as they fight to stay in school, graduate, and build a future. Each of these resilient teenagers will challenge audiences to rethink stereotypes of homelessness as they work to complete their education while facing the trauma of being homeless at an early age. Through haunting images, intimate scenes, and first-person narratives, these teens take us on their journeys of struggle and triumph. As their stories unfold, the film connects us deeply with larger issues of poverty, race, juvenile justice, immigration, foster care, and LGBTQ rights. (Distributor summary)
Farewell to Hollywood
When director Henry Corra met 17-year-old filmmaker Regina Nicholson at a film festival, he agreed to help her make a feature film. What developed over nearly two years is a powerful friendship and poignant relationship between Reggie and Henry. He became her collaborator, friend, and defender in her fight to find artistic and personal freedom. When Reggie turns 18 and can make decisions legally on her own, things become even more intense.
Farewell to Hollywood is a poetic fairytale about love and death, holding on and letting go, one that invites us to discuss the relationship between filmmaker, subject and family. An eclectic mix of images with the intimacy of a video diary or home movie, it is filmed both by Henry and by Reggie and supplemented by their text message exchanges, images from her favorite movies, and fairytale-like scenes with songs that together form a heartwarming, but also heartbreaking and controversial ode to Reggie’s life. (Distributor summary)
Through a Lens Darkly
First Run Features
(on DVD and Netflix
The first documentary to explore the American family photo album through the eyes of black photographers, Through a Lens Darkly probes the recesses of American history to discover images that have been suppressed, forgotten and lost. From slavery to the present, these extraordinary images unveil a world confronting the difficult edges of citizenship and what it means to be human. (Distributor summary)