A recap of this years progressive cinema

Movie Reviews

Catch festival gems on DVD

It was last year’s Toronto International Film Festival that screened such important documentaries as “Fog of War” and “The Corporation,” which played such a vital role in today’s cultural activism. The tragedy is that many of these great films from last year still have not picked up a North American distributor and will not have a theatrical release. Some cable networks (Sundance, IFC) and video rental houses (Facets, Netflix, Home Video) have made a few of the titles available.

As a reminder of great films to see, here’s an update on the chances of seeing some of the highlights from last year.

The Agronomist (USA) – Jonathon Demme’s (“Silence of the Lambs,” “Philadelphia”) loving tribute to the martyred Haitian radio activist, Jean Dominique, is distributed by ThinkFilm and has yet to be released.

The Corporation (Canada) – This absorbing anaylsis of the world’s most deadly institution has received wide theatrical distribution in the U.S. and will soon be available on DVD and video. Check the web site: thecorporation.com.

The Fog Of War (USA) – This interview with former Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara won critical acclaim thanks to the skillful work of director Erroll Morris. It received theatrical distribution and is now available on DVD and video.

Baadasssss! (USA) – Mario Van Peebles’ tribute to his father’s production of “Sweet Sweetback’s Baadaaass Song” is important African American film history and is available on DVD and video.

Aileen: Life And Death of a Serial Killer (UK) – The real story about serial killer Aileen Wuornos by British documentarist Nick Broomfield was overshadowed by the Hollywood reenactment, “Monster.” But this documentary deserves to be seen and is now available on DVD and video.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (Ireland) – This nail-biting suspense story of history in the making intimately covers all details of the failed military coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s government. Amazing realism, about as close as any of us will get to a revolution. No distributor, no video and few public screenings. But the web site is informative: www.chavezthefilm.com.

Yes Men (USA) (“changing the world one prank at a time”) – Just now receiving national release in theaters across the country, this hilarious comedy ridiculing the World Trade Organization is not yet available on DVD or video. Check out United Artists website: www.mgm.com/ua/yesmen/.

Bus 174 Brazil) – A harrowing real-life bus hijacking in Brazil that was broadcast while unfolding on TV. Sympathetic exploration of how the hijacker got to this point in his life. Highly recommended. Now available on DVD and video.

Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine (Canada) – Intriguing study of the former Soviet chess champion and his loss to the notorious IBM Blue computer. Serious political overtones and fascinating character study of the world greatest chess player. Available on DVD and video in England and from the National Film Board of Canada.

The Story Of The Weeping Camel (Germany) – Uniquely realistic tale of Mongolian life and charming lead by a camel. The film has made the rounds in the theaters, but still not available on video. On many Top 10 lists.

In This World (UK) – Michael Winterbottom’s escape story of young Afghanis smuggled across the world searching for freedom. Available on DVD and video.

Goodbye, Lenin (Germany) – This nostalgic tribute to former East Germany is amazingly entertaining and was a big hit in Germany. Available on DVD and video

Osama (Iran) – The first film made in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban is now available on DVD and video. An amazing exploration of the role of women in the new society.

Go Further (USA) – Woody Harrelson’s enjoyable bus trip promoting the benefits of hemp along the way offers much political insight. While the video is not available yet, the web site is very informative (www.sphinxproductions.com). Click on “Emile DeAntonio” and learn about one of America’s most progressive documentarists.

The author can be reached at bmeyer@macgroup.org.