On the Record (2020) MIFF Review

The #metoo movement has impacted many industries, although perhaps none as publicly as the entertainment industry. However, it’s been mostly film and television which have been the focus rather that the music industry. On the Record looks at the accusations of assault which have been laid at the feet of Russell Simmons, one of the most prominent men behind Def Jam Recordings.

The film looks at the fallout from assault on the victims, which goes way beyond any phsycial or psychological harm. Drew Dixon was a producer and forging a strong career which she left behind because she could not continue to work in the field. This is a rarely talked-about aspect of assault. Countless women’s careers have halted because they need to distance themselves from the assaulter or the environment in which the assault happened.

The film also looks at the challenges that face a black woman accusing a black man in a time of extreme racial divide in the US. It can been seen by some as letting down the black community to accuse a black man – as if the needs of the many win out over the assault of an individual. This is certainly not helped by the way feminism and the #metoo movement has had a large focus on white women over BIPOC people.

It’s an important film which shows how we need to do better in many ways.

Dark City Beneath the Beat (2020) MIFF Review

TT the Artist has made a documentary about the Baltimore club scene. It’s filled with music and dance and hope in a city that is better known for it’s darker side. The music and dance is aggressive but has an uplifting quality, and the film celebrates the city’s community and love.

City So Real (2019) – MIFF Review

While the results of the Chicago mayoral election have nothing to do with me in any possible manner, I loved watching this 4-part documentary. Filmmaker Steve James takes us through many parts of Chicago, at times following the many mayoral candidates as they fulfil the bureaucratic steps to be on the ballot and through their campaigns, or going into the corners of everyday life in Chicago.

I found this utterly fascinating. A real snapshot in a time of Black Lives Matter, or governmental and police corruption, of change and history-making.

A Year Full of Drama (2019) Film Review

This Estonian documentary is based around a very unusual job opportunity – a group of film makers wanted a person who hadn’t experience much theatre to go and see every theatre production in Estonia over a year. Enter Alissija, a young woman from a small town who travels the country, watching so much theatre, being filmed and reviewing each piece.

It’s a fascinating concept, and wonderful to see so many types of theatre represented. The film itself is as much about Alissija’s journey from home as it is about her experience of theatre. It was fascinating – if a bit long. Still, a fascinating journey.

Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015) vs Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright

For so long, I’ve thought of Scientology as a joke – you know, some crazy religion made up by a sci fi writer who once said that the only way to make money was to start a religion. It just all seemed dodgy and I felt that if you got sucked in, too bad. Then I read this book and wow. It’s a pretty comprehensive history along with interviews of ex-Scientologists and it’s really a pretty horrible thing. The amount of abuse (physical, emotional), the genuinely insane things that have happened and, really, even just the horror. It’s a fascinating read, and lead to the equally fascinating documentary. For me, I read it with amazement and disgust, but also hope that perhaps it wasn’t true. Certainly, there are plenty of footnotes throughout noting that various people claimed certain things hadn’t happened, but for me this didn’t take away from it at all. It’s exhausting.

Dave Chapelle’s Block Party (2005) – Film Review

Comedian Dave Chapelle decided to throw a block party in Brooklyn, New York. This is Brooklyn pre-hipsters and he’s making it free with a whole heap of big names – Kanye West, Erykah Badu, the Fugees, the Roots, Common and so many more. He brings people from across the country including a college marching band from Ohio and they get to have a fabulous party. It’s so ace. The documentary covers the setup, Dave’s planning, meeting with the eccentric couple with the amazing house on the street, backstage, the music. It’s so fun and so ace.

Amazing Grace (2018) – MIFF Review

In 1972, Aretha Franklin recorded a live album over two nights in a church in LA. It was filmed however, due to technical difficulties, it was not released. Until now – after a series of setbacks, it has finally been cut and released. And it is wonderful. It’s fabulous to see the power and strength of Franklin singing live, and it’s fabulous to see the reactions of the choir and the audience as they witness this album being recorded. There still are some technical issues, including, it seems, perhaps a lack of good visual coverage at times, but it doesn’t detract from the wonderful film.

Mayor of the Sunset Strip (2003)– Film Review

Rodney Bingenheimer is known as the Mayor of Sunset strip. He’s a radio presenter (what appears to be both quite unsuccessful and also extremely influential, which is a mystery). He’s lived most of his life in Hollywood following celebrities. He comes across as a weirdo, but a weirdo that has spent much of his life sleeping with beautiful women and making careers. Somehow – after watching the documentary, it seems like a lot of people feel that he has a lot of power over their careers, but I can’t see how this happens. There is a lot of found footage as well as interviews with a wide range of famous people including David Bowie, Courtney Love, Gwen Stefani, Alice Cooper, the list goes on.

When I started watching it I thought “Wow, what an odd guy, but he’s found his place in the world. Shame he seems so lonely.” But as it went on, he seemed creepier, and there was an interview with one of his close friends who is clearly a sexual predator creep and it just turned yuk. Overall, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

Rize (2005) Film Review

Remember krumping? I wonder what happened to that? Rize is a documentary surrounding some of the dance culture of South Central LA around a decade after the riots that happened in response to the outcome of the trial of the police who beat Rodney King to death in 1992. Specifically, the rise of Clown groups who put on clown makeup and attended kids parties to dance which then led to krumping. Groups who would get together and dance. It was aggressive, but it was an alternative to so much of the street violence that was happening.

It’s a fabulous documentary that I remember watching when it was first released. This is a world a long way from suburban Melbourne. Watching it again now makes me wonder what happened to these guys. I’ve just had a look – Tommy the Clown, the guy who started it all, has a website, runs an academy and there was a Battle Zone event just last year. Cool.

United Skates (2018) MIFF Review

So, I know about Roller Derby. That part of skate culture has been on the rise in recent times, and it’s for strong, tough women, and it’s stylish and cool and there are great outfits and names and… but this isn’t about that. In the US, skate rinks are closing and this doco presents two key reasons. Firstly, that developers and the like are offering the owners of the land massive amounts of money to rezone for profit. The second is racism – large groups of African-American people getting together for what is known as ‘Adult Nights’ – all night skate parties that look like an insane amount of fun. That’s probably simplifying it, but it is the way it comes across. Filmmakers Tina Brown and Dyana Winkler follow the story of some of the people for whom skating is a way of life – a way to be with friends, to relieve the tension of everyday life and to have a good time.

There’s a lot in this 89-minute documentary, but I wanted more, especially more of the skating. What I’d love is if the film makers were able to release either an extended cut or perhaps just a whole heap of the footage. It’s amazing that each city has their own style and to see these styles coming together. The history of the rinks is also fascinating. It really made me want to strap on some wheels – though probs best not.