11/22/16 12:45pm
Sharon Jones (Kyle Dean Reinford)

Sharon Jones Photo: Kyle Dean Reinford

“The show must go on.”
–Sharon Jones, from the film documentary Miss Sharon Jones!

Earlier this year I saw Daryl Hall and John Oates in concert, which fulfilled a dream of mine. Growing up as a child of the ’80s I was a huge fan of the duo but never saw them perform live. That was until they headlined at at Madison Square Garden for the first time in over 30 years last February. As eager as I was to see them, I also wanted to check out the opening act, Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings. I love old-school R&B music from the Motown, Stax and Philadelphia International Records eras. So I wanted to see the Brooklyn-based soul group for myself and find out what everybody was talking about.


At times, the Dap-Kings set felt like a church revival, and I became one of the converted.


Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings weren’t your conventional soul band–this was a large ensemble with both rhythm and brass sections, reminiscent of something you’d see at a James Brown show or a soul revue on the Chitlin Circuit in the ’60s. The guitarist in the Dap-Kings also served as the MC-–a throwback to the old days–who in a booming voice introduced the main focal point, Sharon Jones. I never realized how petite Jones was in person, but underneath her small physical frame was a feisty high-octane performer who, along with the band, projected joy, energy, and of course soul. I knew at the time she was recovering from treatment for cancer, but you couldn’t tell as the band delivered one hot number after another. At times, the Dap-Kings set felt like a church revival, and I became one of the converted. (more…)

09/27/16 9:32am
A protestor holds a sign at a Concord, New Hampshire city council meeting. Courtesy of VANISH Films.

A protestor holds a sign at a Concord, New Hampshire city council meeting. Courtesy of VANISH Films.

If it wasn’t for the strip mall parking lots in the background, it would be easy to mistake Missouri for Mosul in the opening shots of Do Not Resist, Craig Atkinson’s, infuriating and important documentary investigating the militarization of American law enforcement.

The film opens on Friday, Sept. 30 at Film Forum, and feels incredibly timely in the wake of the deaths of Terence Crutcher and Keith Scott last week at the hands of police officers, and the police response to protests in Charlotte where Scott was killed. While Do Not Resist screened as part of the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, and at the Nitehawk in July followed by a Q&A with Atkinson, this is the first extended run for the film in New York City. (more…)

09/13/16 10:33am

cocksucker-blues

“Robert Frank isn’t that interested in satisfying your expectations as a viewer,” said Anthony DeCurtis, veteran music journalist and professional Rolling Stones fan. Frank’s 1973 documentary Cocksucker Blues features what DeCurtis calls “the strongest version” of the band, touring to promote Exile on Main Street and “playing their asses off.”

It’s also a movie few people have seen.

Under the terms of a settlement between Frank and the Stones, the film, which was never officially released, can only be shown four times a year. BAM snagged two of those spots for 2016, with screenings on September 22. (While both shows are sold out, but BAM assured us that there will be standby tickets released before each screening.)

Cocksucker Blues follows the Stones on their 1972 tour for Exile on Main Street. It was supposed to be the chronicle of a comeback, the first time the band had returned to the U.S. after the disaster that was Altamont in 1969, and they hired Frank, embedding him backstage, in hotel rooms and on their tour plane, to create a documentary along the way.

Needless to say they were not pleased with Frank’s final cut.

The finished product depicts heavy drug use and sex, including Mick Jagger snorting cocaine, a groupie shooting heroin and, yes, befitting the title, blowjobs. Still, given all we know about rock and roll culture in general and the Stones specifically, how does this documentary still possess the power to shock?

DeCurtis, who for a time possessed a VHS copy of the movie, though it mysteriously disappeared from his office, he told us, argues that a film like this simply wouldn’t be made today. (more…)

09/08/16 9:08am

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After playing at over 140 festivals, the award-winning documentary Landfill Harmonic is finally having a big screen debut in New York City. Co-directed by Brad Allgood and Juliana Penaranda-Lofus, the film follows the journey of one very unlikely children’s orchestra from the slums of Paraguay to arenas all across the world. Why so unlikely? Each instrument in the orchestra is made from garbage. (more…)

10/15/14 9:00am
"Stations of the Elevated" opens at BAM this Friday. Photo: BAM

“Stations of the Elevated” opens at BAM this Friday. Photo: BAM

Stations of the Elevated is a weird film, to be perfectly blunt. If you have more than a passing interest in graffiti and the evolution of street art in New York City, then you’ve probably seen the documentary Style WarsStations, which has been billed as “the earliest filmed document of graffiti,” by BAM, where it opens Friday for a one-week run, is nothing like that.

An entirely visual exploration of the graffiti that festooned New York City’s subway cars when it was filmed in 1977, Stations makes no explicit comment on graffiti or the culture surrounding it, features no footage of people painting tags on subway cars or anything else, and has zero interviews. It’s all just footage of cars, in a trainyard in the Bronx and rolling through elevated stations, intercut with footage of billboards also visible from those stations, all set to a soundtrack by Charles Mingus.  (more…)

09/18/14 4:00pm

Jimmy Bologna, a longtime employee, incredulously recounts Nathan Handwerker’s complicated, bizarre, and frequent taste testing of “naked” hot dogs.

 Famous Nathan, a recent documentary by Lloyd Handwerker explores the history of a very special restaurant: a little family-owned hot dog joint on the Coney Island boardwalk. Founded in 1916 by a hardworking Jewish immigrant named Nathan Handwerker (the director’s grandfather) Nathan’s Famous was a neighborhood hub throughout much of the twentieth century, flourishing even during the Depression.

Famous Nathan, which will screen Saturday, Sept. 20 at the Coney Island Film Festival, is essentially a very well-produced home video about an interesting Brooklyn family. But with that in mind, there are some truly wonderful and insightful interviews with former employees, friends and family. Though the interviews are, ultimately, about hot dogs, what emerges is a surprisingly intimate and charming narrative, with many scene-stealing characters and Coney Island legends. (more…)

12/04/13 8:54am
Sun December 8, 2013
2x1-google-glasses-documentary

Catch the premiere of a new documentary that uses Google Glass to get a behind the scenes look at Crown Heights’ Hasidic and Caribbean communities on Dec. 8 at Mister Rogers. Photo: Project 2×1

Getting to know your neighbors takes on an entirely different meaning in the new short documentary 2×1. The film, which was shot in part using Google Glass, captures the daily activities, rituals and routines of members of Crown Heights’ Hasidic and West Indian communities, literally through the eyes of the people who participated. The film offers an intimate look at these two very distinct cultures, highlighting both their similarities and differences–watch the trailer here to get an idea. Its filmmakers will screen the doc, which derives its title from the two mile by one mile area in Crown Heights where it was shot, for the first time this Sunday at Mister Rogers at 8pm. A Q&A with the director, Hannah Roodman, and her team, as well as some of the film’s subjects, will follow. It’s free, and the doors open at 7pm.

11/12/13 3:00pm
Sat November 16, 2013
"Brooklyn Farmer," a documentary about the building of the world's largest rooftop farm in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, premieres this Saturday at DOC NYC film festival. Photo: Brooklyn Grange

“Brooklyn Farmer,” a documentary about the building of the world’s largest rooftop farm in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, premieres this Saturday at DOC NYC film festival. Photo: Brooklyn Grange

When Brooklyn Grange decided to open a second location in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, they became the operators of the world’s largest rooftop farm. Today, we can all reap the benefits of the hard work they’ve sown at their farmer’s markets and through their CSA program, but to get the backstory of how its urban farmers found themselves the stewards of over 40,000 pounds of organic produce every year, you’ll have to watch Brooklyn Farmer, a new documentary by {group theory}, which premieres this Saturday, Nov. 16, at the DOC NYC film festival as part of its Shorts: People and Places presentation. As I learned myself this summer, there’s a lot more that goes into growing plants in urban environs than you might think. Here is the trailer for the film. You can purchase tickets to the premiere here.–JG

10/31/13 8:32am

Alexis Miesen (left) and Jennie Dundas, the founders of Brooklyn's Blue Marble Ice Cream, are part of "Sweet Dreams," a new documentary about the Rwandan women they helped open the country's first and only ice cream shop. Photo: Sweet Dreams

Alexis Miesen (left) and Jennie Dundas, the founders of Brooklyn’s Blue Marble Ice Cream, are part of “Sweet Dreams,” a new documentary about the Rwandan women they helped open the country’s first and only ice cream shop. Photo: Sweet Dreams

In our shops in Brooklyn, we see the emotional impact of an ice cream cone. It turns bad days into good and makes good days even better. It also brings people together and creates an opportunity for a shared, joyful experience. The idea that this impact might not be limited to the U.S., but in fact could be universal was fascinating to me, and I wanted to see what ice cream could do for the good people of Butare.

In 2010, Alexis Miesen and Jennie Dundas, co-founders of Brooklyn’s Blue Marble Ice Cream, flew to Rwanda to help a group of women in Butare form a work cooperative and start the country’s first ice cream shop–no easy feat in central Africa. The women are survivors of the country’s 1994 genocide and members of Ingoma Nshya, an all-female drumming troupe. Most had never heard of ice cream before, let alone tasted it.

For $10, they could buy shares into the business, with Dundas and Miesen coming on as partners. Focusing on simple soft serve flavors–vanilla, chocolate, banana, passion fruit, pineapple, strawberry, coffee, black tea and sweet cream–the frozen dessert became a means to financial freedom for the women and the subject of Rob and Lisa Fruchtman’s new documentary Sweet Dreams, which opens in theaters tomorrow.

Ahead of its release, Meisen, who made three trips back and forth to Africa and spent eight weeks living in Rwanda helping get the ice cream shop up and running, filled us in over email on her experience and gave us an update on how the shop is doing today.

BB: What was it about Kiki Katese [the founder of Ingoma Nshya] and her proposal that made you want to be a part of her project?
AM: When Kiki came to us with her idea of an ice cream shop in Butare, Rwanda, I thought it was outrageous but also brilliant. What she was proposing was really quite innovative. She argued that so much of “development” work focused on the bare essentials of life. Of course, we need those! But we need more than that, and we deserve more than that, in order to not just survive but to fully live. Kiki felt that an ice cream shop would provide an opportunity for her people to rest and indulge, to reconnect with themselves and others and perhaps even to start dreaming of other possibilities. In a modest but powerful way, she argued, this experience could nourish their spirits and embolden them to make changes in their lives and communities, driving their country forward.

I was moved and inspired by her perspective. In our shops in Brooklyn, we see the emotional impact of an ice cream cone. It turns bad days into good and makes good days even better. It also brings people together and creates an opportunity for a shared, joyful experience. The idea that this impact might not be limited to the U.S., but in fact could be universal was fascinating to me, and I wanted to see what ice cream could do for the good people of Butare. (more…)

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09/19/13 3:15pm

Dr. George Tiller, a doctor in Wichita, Kan., was a faithful churchgoer and served as an usher during Sunday services. He was also one of the few doctors in the country who openly provided late-term abortions for women in their third trimesters. In 2009, he was shot and killed at church by an anti-abortion protester.

“I’d rather have a short career of meaning than a long one of mediocrity,” Dr. Tiller says in archival footage at the opening of the documentary After Tiller, an understated film about four late-term abortion providers who are still working, which opens at Film Forum and Film Society Lincoln Center tomorrow, Sept. 20. This statement looms heavily throughout the film as we meet the doctors who have endured death threats and fire bombs in order to provide a service they consider essential and which is not easily attainable.

The quietly gripping film, directed by Brooklyn filmmakers Martha Shane and Lana Wilson, focuses on the doctors and their patients, and avoids simplistic political rhetoric.
(more…)