Screening Room: ‘Dark Money’

(PBS Distribution)

The newest movie from Kimberly Reed is a scorcher of a documentary about the corrosive effects of big outside money on elections in underpopulated states.

Dark Money is opening in limited release this week and should appear soon on a PBS affiliate near you. My review is at Film Journal International:

The Montana that Reed (Prodigal Sons) shows is one of nearly unnatural beauty. Angular cliffs carpeted with bright green pine trees and great sweeping plains unfurl under her frequently airborne camera as though for some pristinely photographed travel documentary. But there’s wrack and ruin amidst the glorious nature. Abandoned mine shafts, rusting derricks, and the oil-slicked expanse of a Superfund lake so poisonous that geese who accidently landed in it died by the hundreds all speak to the legacy of a state with a long history of corruption and resource exploitation…

Screening Room: ‘This is Congo’

One of the year’s most gorgeous, emotional, and harrowing movies, This is Congo, is opening this week in limited release. Make sure to find it.

My review is at Film Journal International:

“To grow up in Congo,” says a man at the start of Daniel McCabe’s lacerating new documentary, “is to grow up in paradise.” This comes as McCabe’s camera swoops over lush green hills and deep forests that do indeed seem paradisaical. But the turn comes soon, as we see rough roads jammed with refugees, children cowering at the unearthly roar of rocket launchers and artillery. Being raised in this place, the voice points out, is also “to grow up in misery.” Why the life of the average Congolese is that of misery and not joy is the question that this inquisitive movie asks…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘The King’

The new documentary from Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight) tries to figure out the legacy of Elvis and turns into a big, messy and overheated but fascinating metaphor for America.

The King is playing now. My review is at The Playlist:

Jarecki isn’t the first artist to turn a pop culture icon into a metaphor for America — there are whole phalanxes of culture critics who make a living doing just that. But usually, those metaphors, while complicated, are ultimately positive. By the time Jarecki is done with Elvis, the lanky, and projects-raised, rockabilly kid just one generation removed from sharecroppers has been cast as everything from an opportunist and grasping capitalist to addled addict to just plain sucker. If he ever was the King, the movie suggests, it’s long past time to retire the crown…

Screening Room: ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’

Daniel Striped Tiger and his handler, Fred Rogers (Focus Features)

The truly heartwarming new documentary from Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom) explores the unlikely phenomenon that was Fred Rogers.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? opens this week. My review is at Film Journal International:

It says something about the oddball uniqueness of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” that almost nowhere in Morgan Neville’s magnetic, soulful documentary about Fred Rogers does anyone talk about what great television he made. In fact, one of his collaborators sardonically notes that the show was almost like a compilation of every element good television was not supposed to have…

Screening Room: Tribeca Film Festival 2018

The Feeling of Being Watched

The 2018 edition of the Tribeca Film Festival just wrapped up over the weekend. I covered some of the fest’s varied documentary offerings for The Playlist, reviews here:

Screening Room: ‘The China Hustle’

My review of  the new documentary The China Hustle, playing now in limited release, is at Film Journal International:

Threaded with booming music, slashing scare-cuts, and talking heads throwing around phrases like “financial tsunami,” Jed Rothstein’s documentary The China Hustle is stylistically easy to dismiss as just another scare story for nonfiction junkies always on the lookout for the next catastrophe. It may read at times like an overcaffeinated Alex Gibney attack piece—and Gibney is in fact one of the executive producers here. But by the time Rothstein is done, many viewers will be yanking any money they might have in Chinese stocks out as fast as they can get to their phones…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘The Opera House’

 The Opera House is a curiously fascinating documentary about the Metropolitan Opera’s highly fraught move in the 1960s from their old house on Broadway to the brand-new Lincoln Center after an entire immigrant neighborhood was bulldozed to make room.

My review is at Film Journal International.

Here’s the trailer.