Logo-with-dark-gray
RSS Blog
Get this RSS feed

indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs: Halloween Edition

October 27th, 2010 by Rebecca Harper Editor

Like last week’s selections, our curated Hulu Documentaries this week are also inspired by Halloween — some more loosely, others directly related to the holiday and the dark figures it celebrates. This group of films features both more recent productions as well as some classics, and takes as their subjects fictional and real life vampires, horror movie hosts, Halloween revelers, and underground or just plain out-there filmmakers.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs” is a regular column spotlighting the iW-curated selections on Hulu’s Documentaries page, a unique collaboration between the two sites. iW selections appear in the carousel at the top of the page and under “Featured Content” in the center. Be sure to check out these great non-fiction projects each week.Basil Tsokios, indieWIRE

A fitting place to start this week’s selections is Chris Blankenship and Michelle Canning’s new documentary, Halloween on 6th Street, which focuses on one of the most entertaining cities in the US: Austin, Texas. While I’ve only been there for South by Southwest, it’s clear that there’s a lot going on on the popular 6th Street, as Halloween fanatics like the profiled Bud Hasert gather for a huge party in their creative and elaborate costumes.

Though not exclusively focused on Halloween, American Scary, by director John E. Hudgens certainly scares up an appropriate subject: the hosts of local TV stations “creature feature” programs, who would vamp or camp it up before commercial breaks during horror/monster B-movie screenings.

Elements of horror, sci-fi, and even social issues popped up in the work of the king of bad movies, Ed Wood Jr. His former production partner, Crawford John Thomas produced Brett Thompson’s Haunted World of Ed Wood, Jr. as a tribute to the creator of the infamous Plan 9 From Outer Space and Glen or Glenda.

Spiritual and kooky kin to Wood, but more self-aware and playful, George and Mike Kuchar are the subjects of Jennifer Kroot’s It Came From Kuchar. The doc reveals how the Bronx-based brothers began making lurid, no-budget, underground 8mm films in the 1950s with titles like The Naked and the Nude and Sins of the Fleshapoids.

Keeping an eye in the past, Calvin Floyd’s 1974 film In Search of Dracula, narrated by the great Christopher Lee, travels to Eastern Europe and elsewhere to investigate the historical and cultural origins of the legends of Dracula and the vampire myth.

Moving to the present day, W Tray White’s The Impaler puts the spotlight on a modern-day self-proclaimed vampire, Jonathon Sharkey, as he runs for the position of Governor of Minnesota in 2006. In addition to his relation to Dracula’s people, Sharkey is also a Satanic dark priest and a hecate witch, which, unsurprisingly draws a firestorm of media attention to his bid for political office.

About the writer: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance, consults with documentary filmmakers and festivals, and recently co-produced Cameron Yates’ feature documentary The Canal Street Madam. Follow him on Twitter @1basil1 and @CanalStMadamDoc and visit his blog.

indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs Double Bill: LGBT Youth & Iraq in Perspective

October 13th, 2010 by Rebecca Harper Editor

Editor’s Note: “indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs” is a regular column spotlighting the iW-curated selections on Hulu’s Documentaries page, a unique collaboration between the two sites. Be sure to check out these great non-fiction projects each week.

For indieWIRE’s Hulu Documentaries selection this week, we’re presenting two separate themes: LGBT Youth and Iraq in Perspective. The first is a reaction to the recent spate of LGBT youth suicides, and also ties into this week’s National Coming Out Day, October 11, while the second uses the anniversary of the declaration of war on Iraq on October 16 as an opportunity to reflect on the soldiers who risked their lives there. — Basil Tsokios, indieWIRE

LGBT Youth:
As the head of NewFest: The New York LGBT Film Festival for many years, I was often able to bring stories about LGBT youth to NYC’s gay community, which is more aware than the larger general public about the risk this population has of suffering the verbal, emotional, and physical abuse of bullies, which sometimes unfortunately leads to suicide. The recent news coverage about this issue, and its dissemination over social media, has brought much needed wider exposure. I hope this mainstream exposure can continue in some small part through the spotlight Hulu can provide in showcasing these two docs.

Out in the Silence comes from directors and life partners Dean Hamer and Joe Wilson. When Wilson decided to place an announcement in his rural hometown’s newspaper that he was marrying his partner, the result was a series of letters to the editor condemning the listing and the men’s relationship. It also resulted in a plea for help from Kathy, the mother of 16-year-old CJ, whose coming out in school led to ostracism, hazing, and threats of violence. Returning to conservative Oil City, Penn., Wilson and Hamer set out to meet his critics and to try to help CJ deal with the homophobic bullying he’d been experiencing.

After Erin Davies discovers that her rainbow-stickered VW Beetle has been vandalized with homophobic slurs, she decides to use this as an opportunity to spread awareness about hate crimes. Traveling around the US and Canada in her car, still defaced with the words “fag” and “u r gay,” she visits other LGBT individuals who have experienced more severe abuse and learns their stories during her two month trip documented in Fagbug.

Iraq in Perspective:
While combat operations did not begin until March 2003, the Congress’ resolution to authorize military force against Iraq was signed on October 16, 2002. While President Obama declared an end to combat operations this past August 31, the legacy of the conflict remains. Regardless of their filmmakers’ politics, the four selections below share a concern with the soldiers and the impact that the war has had on them.

On May 1, 2003 President Bush gave his infamous speech that major combat operations in Iraq would cease. Seven months later, in Mission Accomplished, a celebrated BBC journalist travels to Iraq for a first-hand look at the new Iraq. Sean Langan speaks with civilians, representatives of the growing insurgent movement, and US soldiers, gaining fascinating insight into the varied perspectives of life post liberation/occupation, and how the soldiers made sense of it on the ground.

Patriot Act: A Jeffrey Ross Home Movie takes as its inspiration legendary USO frontman Bob Hope as comedian Jeffrey Ross participates in Drew Carey’s USO comedy show to entertain the troops in 2003’s newly liberated Iraq. Focusing more on the behind-the-scenes of the comedians’ experiences of the aftermath of the invasion of Baghdad than the performances, the film gives their impressions of being in a war zone, meeting soldiers, and hearing their stories.

Civia Tamarkin’s Jerabek focuses on the story of the titular family who lose their 18-year-old son Ryan to Iraq’s battlefield in 2004 and must face their other son Nick’s decision to enlist. The family finds strange comfort in honoring Ryan’s sacrifice by decking their house in Marine Corp regalia, perhaps unconsciously influencing Nick’s decision. Fellow Marines who served with Ryan give their own impressions of their fallen brother-at-arms, and about the challenges faced during their tours of duty.

In When I Came Home, director Dan Lohaus turns his camera on Iraq War veteran Herold Noel, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, but denied veteran’s benefits and forced to live in his car. As the film shows, Noel’s story is not a unique case, with the shameful history of homeless veterans going back from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan, fighting against bureaucracy to claim their rights. While Noel tries to get attention for the issue in the media, he faces a frustrating uphill struggle to make a difference and affect real change.

About the writer: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance, consults with documentary filmmakers and festivals, and recently co-produced Cameron Yates’ feature documentary The Canal Street Madam. Follow him on Twitter @1basil1 and @CanalStMadamDoc and visit his blog.

Last comment: Sep 10th 2014 1 Comment

indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs: Non-Fiction NYC

October 4th, 2010 by Basil Tsiokos indieWIRE Contributor

The 48th edition of the venerable New York Film Festival kicked off September 24, loosely inspiring this week’s theme for indieWIRE‘s curation of Hulu’s Documentaries page — no, not a selection of lyrical foreign language docs, but instead a series of films about or featuring New York City and its famous (or infamous) residents.

Editor’s note: “indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs” is a regular column spotlighting the iW-curated selections on Hulu’s Documentaries page, a unique collaboration between the two sites. Be sure to check out these great non-fiction projects each week.

Though the anniversary was last month, the events of September 11, 2001, left an indelible mark on NYC. Less than a year after the events, Steve Rosenbaum assembled the footage of twenty-seven filmmakers, recorded on 9/11 and the days that follow, and released the feature documentary 7 Days in September. This powerful and moving film speaks to the need to bear witness, recording the chaos and confusion in the immediate aftermath of the attacks, as well as those moments when New Yorkers banded together in whatever way they could to support relief efforts and one another in the wake of tragedy.

Glenn Holsten’s The Saint of 9/11, which premiered at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival, similarly takes stock of the tragedy, and also finds hope. A photo of the lifeless body of Father Mychal Judge, a Chaplain of the Fire Department of New York, being carried out of the World Trade Center became a symbol for many of the losses suffered that day, and of the sacrifices of those who tried to help. Holsten’s inspiring film tells the story of Irish-American iconoclastic priest, who battled his own inner struggles as he tried to minister to the needs of others.

Another documentary portrait shaped by these events is Matthew Carnahan and Jon Philp’s Rudyland, a look at the city’s controversial former Mayor. Though not focused exclusively on 9/11, Giuliani’s leadership in the wake of the tragedy, at the end of his term, did a great deal to restore much of his tarnished reputation — detailed in the earlier parts of this film — and elevated his national profile. The film, dedicated to NYC, unmistakably changed during the course of Rudy’s tenure.

Another controversial figure, radio talkshow host Joe Pace, is the subject of Jed Weintrob’s narrative/doc hybrid The F Word. Faced with the end of his irreverent show due to FCC fines for indecency, he chose to spend this last broadcast reporting at the 2004 Republican National Convention in Manhattan. Blending fiction and reality, this political film addresses free speech and the efforts of those who would suppress it, as well as the impact of the contentious decision to welcome the RNC to a city that traditionally votes for the other side.

Robert Liano and Thomas Coppola’s A Broad Way, like 7 Days in September, combines the efforts of nearly 400 filmmakers to create a comprehensive portrait. In this case, the subject is not a specific incident, but one city in one hour, from hundreds of simultaneous perspectives. The result is a unique collaborative documentary, exposing and appreciating every block of Broadway from top to bottom, showcasing a series of New York minutes that can be appreciated by everyone who loves this city.

Finally, in Pluck (Courage, Determination, Spirit), directors Richard Atkinson and Dore Hammond take a look back to mid-century NYC and the influential changes to the cultural and political life of the city. Tastemakers and creative forces representing a wide range of disciplines reflect on their roles in shaping the city in revealing interviews and through archival materials.

About the writer: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance, consults with documentary filmmakers and festivals, and recently co-produced Cameron Yates’ feature documentary The Canal Street Madam. Follow him on Twitter @1basil1 and @CanalStMadamDoc and visit his blog.

indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs: Reel Jews & IFP Alums

September 21st, 2010 by Basil Tsiokos indieWIRE Contributor

“indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs” is a regular column spotlighting the indieWIRE-curated selections on Hulu’s Documentaries page, a unique collaboration between the two sites. Be sure to check out their great non-fiction selection each week.

For the second round of indieWIRE‘s curation of Hulu’s Documentaries page, I’ve selected two separate themes: Jewish subjects, in recognition of the Jewish High Holy Days this month, and former IFP projects, since it’s Independent Film Week in NYC this week.

Reel Jews
Sandi DuBowski’s Trembling Before G-d is a truly landmark documentary that has stimulated discussion and debate since its debuts in Sundance and the Berlin International Film Festival in 2001. DuBowski tirelessly travelled with the film to countless festivals, engaging in post-screening Q&As and panels, attempting to begin and keep a dialogue going about the role of homosexuality in Orthodox Judaism. Far from preaching to the converted, the doc is able to bridge a divide between LGBT and non-LGBT audiences, powerfully showing the deep-seated internal conflict that DuBowski’s protagonists face, and the need for re-examination and acceptance.

Orthodox Stance, directed by Jason Hutt, premiered at around the US and beyond. The film profiles 24-year-old Russian immigrant Dmitriy Salita, a professional boxer who also happens to be a devoutly religious Orthodox Jew. While jokes have been made about the absence of Jewish professional athletes, ignoring significant figures across the spectrum of different sports going back decades, competitors like Salita serve as a very visible corrective. Hutt follows the fighter over multiple years, as he prepares for his first professional title and balances training with Torah study, and weigh-ins with keeping kosher.

Wrapping up the Jewish-themed selections is Richard Trank’s I Have Never Forgotten You: The Life & Legacy of Simon Wiesenthal, which had its premiere at the 2007 Berlinale. The film is a portrait of the Holocaust survivor who became a legendary Nazi hunter post-WWII, who died in 2005 at the age of 96. Interviews with his family members, friends, and supporters and archival footage explore his life and mission, and the impact of his lifelong efforts to bring war criminals to justice.

IFP Alums
Since 1979, IFP has served independent filmmakers and the film industry, supporting the production of 7000 films, including the following three curated selections, which took part in previous editions of the organization’s signature event, Independent Film Week.

Rob Epstein’s Academy Award-winning The Times of Harvey Milk premiered in 1984, profiling the life and death of the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, only to be assassinated within a year. One of the most significant non-fiction works dealing with LGBT issues and subjects, the story is known by a new generation through the Academy-Award winning 2008 narrative Milk, directed by Gus Van Sant. Epstein’s film is a must-see for fans of Van Sant’s film, or for anyone interested in modern American political history or the story of the struggle for LGBT equality.

The IFP supported a portrait of another controversial gay man, German singer Klaus Nomi, in Andrew Horn’s The Nomi Song. The critically acclaimed music documentary premiered in Berlin, and charts the life of the bizarrely theatrical Nomi, whose stage appearance resembled that of an otherworldly being, complete with outlandish oversized costumes, accenting his unusual vocal range and eclectic music. Early performances and other archival footage chart his rise into international acclaim until he succumbed to AIDS-related illness in 1983.

Focusing on a very different near-otherworldly figure of its own, Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio’s Cropsey, which first surprised audiences at Tribeca in 2009, delves into the story behind the Staten Island urban legend of their youth, an escaped mental patient who was said to kidnap and kill children at night. While the filmmakers had originally viewed the story as a cautionary tale used by parents to keep their kids safe, the stories of actual kidnappings inspired them to uncover the surprising and genuinely creepy truth.

Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance, consults with documentary filmmakers and festivals, and recently co-produced Cameron Yates’ feature documentary The Canal Street Madam. Follow him on Twitter @1basil1 and @CanalStMadamDoc and visit his blog.