Combining a wealth of recently discovered home movies, video, and written documents with artfully shot contemporary interviews and vérité footage, MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART is a documentary that cracks open a Pandora’s box of unresolved family drama. Originating from filmmaker Cecilia Aldarondo’s suspicion that there was something ugly in her family’s past, the film charts her excavation of the buried family conflict around her uncle Miguel’s death, and her search for Miguel’s partner Robert a generation later. After two years of dead ends, Robert turns up: but he’s not the same man. He’s reinvented himself as Father Aquin, a Franciscan monk with twenty-five years of pent-up grief and bitterness. For the first time, a member of Miguel’s family wants to hear Aquin’s side of the story—but is it too little, too late? A story about the mistakes of the past and the second chances of the present, MEMORIES OF A PENITENT HEART is a cautionary tale about the unresolved conflicts wrought by AIDS, and a nuanced exploration of how faith is used and abused in times of crisis. Director Cecilia Aldarondo is a 2017 Women at Sundance Fellow and was named by Filmmaker Magazine as one of 2015’s ’25 New Faces of Independent Film.’ She joins us to talk about her brother Miguel, a Catholic priest, her father Jorge and the ramifications of revealing her family’s hidden history.
Coral reefs are the nursery for all life in the oceans, a remarkable ecosystem that sustains us. Yet with carbon emissions warming the seas, a phenomenon called “coral bleaching”—a sign of mass coral death—has been accelerating around the world, and the public has no idea of the scale or implication of the catastrophe silently raging underwater.Chasing Coral taps into the collective will and wisdom of an ad man, a self-proclaimed coral nerd, top-notch camera designers, and renowned marine biologists as they invent the first time-lapse camera to record bleaching events as they happen. Unfortunately, the effort is anything but simple, and the team doggedly battles technical malfunctions and the force of nature in pursuit of their golden fleece: documenting the indisputable and tragic transformation below the waves. With its breathtaking photography, nail-biting suspense, and startling emotion, Chasing Coral is a dramatic revelation that won’t have audiences sitting idle for long. Director Jeff Orlowski (Chasing Ice) joins us for a lively and hopeful discussion on what is happening to mother ocean and how we can avoid the catastrophic consequences of a world without coral reefs.
“The beauty of Chasing Coral is matched only by its urgency, as director Jeff Orlowski encapsulates the issue of global climate change by showing where it’s doing real, measurable damage in real time: The world’s coral reefs.” – Sean P. Means
“The film is a devastating success, moving in its beauty and wrenching when that beauty withers.” – Alan Scherstuhl, Village Voice
“‘Chasing Coral’ presents the evidence with beauty, intelligence and a surprising amount of emotion.” – Kenneth Turan, Los Angles Times
“The urgency of this problem requires people to become informed about the issues, starting with seeing the film either at the IFC or on Netflix.” – Louis Proyect, rec.arts.movies
SWIM TEAM is a feature documentary chronicling the rise of a competitive swim team made up of diverse teens on the autism spectrum. Based in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, the cast of SWIM TEAM is largely Latino and Asian, minorities that are underrepresented in competitive swimming and underserved in autism intervention and education. SWIM TEAM follows three of the team’s star athletes, boys on the cusp of adulthood as they face a future of exclusion and dependence. But everything changes when they come together as a team with parent coaches who train them with high expectations and zero pity. As the team vies for state and national Special Olympics championships, SWIM TEAM captures a moving quest for inclusion, independenceand a life that feels winning. Director Lara Stolman joins us for to talk about the struggles and triumphs of Mikey, Kelvin and Robbie and the people who love them.
“The breaststroking, freestyling young athletes in “Swim Team” couldn’t be more different in terms of personality, drive, appeal and, of course, developmental challenges, and it gives this film from Lara Stolman its particular character, heart and verve.” – Robert Abele, Los Angeles Times
“Swim Team is long enough to break and warm your heart in equal measure – which is about what you’d expect from a documentary about teenagers with autism who are training to compete in the Special Olympics.” – Ella Taylor, NPR
“This isn’t “just” a film about special needs. It’s about special kids – and the very special adults who advocate for them.” – Stephen Whitty, Newark Star-Ledger
“Well paced and well produced, Swim Team is engaging throughout and would be easy to enjoy as light viewing, but there’s more going on beneath the surface.” – Jennie Kermode, Eye for Film
Filmed in Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon’s signature whimsical style, LOST IN PARIS stars the filmmakers as a small-town Canadian librarian and a strangely seductive, oddly egotistical vagabond. When Fiona’s (Gordon) orderly life is disrupted by a letter of distress from her 88-year-old Aunt Martha (delightfully portrayed by Oscar nominee Emmanuelle Riva) who is living in Paris, Fiona hops on the first plane she can and arrives only to discover that Martha has disappeared. In an avalanche of spectacular disasters, she encounters Dom (Abel), the affable, but annoying tramp who just won’t leave her alone. Replete with the amazing antics and intricately choreographed slapstick that has come to define Abel and Gordon’s work, LOST IN PARIS is a wondrously fun and hectic tale of peculiar people finding love while lost in the City of Lights. Co-directors Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon join us to talk about their warmhearted, funny and embracing ode to love.
“Gordon and Abel incorporate elements of lighthearted musicals and silent-film comedy (a scene atop the Eiffel Tower evokes the derring-do of Harold Lloyd) and provide themselves plenty of opportunities to stretch their pliant, wiry physicality.” – Serena Donadoni, Village Voice
“An exquisite miniature puzzle-box pop-up-book of a movie. All is color and light and exhilaration here, a fantastical lark that is sheer mischievous joy.” – MaryAnn Johanson, Flick Philospher
“Cruel comic mishaps may be this movie’s raison d’être, but they are softened at every turn by the gentle humanity of the city’s inhabitants, and by the unspoken sense that everything will turn out fine in the end.” – Justin Chang, Los Angeles Times
“Rather than reinventing the wheel, Abel and Gordon keep turning it with their own intimate touch.” – Eric Kohn, IndieWire
“Always inventive and occasionally hilarious.” – Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter
After five years of war in Syria, the remaining citizens of Aleppo are getting ready for a siege. We follow the volunteers from The White Helmets as they experience the daily life of death and struggle in the streets of the city. They fight for sanity in a place where war has become the norm. Khaled, Subhi and Mahmoud are among the first to enter the destroyed buildings, scouring through the rubble in search of bodies and signs of life. They now live more or less under siege and constant bombings, together with the remaining 350.000 civilians in Aleppo. They all struggle with the same dilemma: Should they flee and bring their families to safety, or should they stay and fight for their city? Director Feras Fayyad talks about the fearless actions of the The White Helmets and his gripping, harrowing and sobering documentary.
“‘Last Men in Aleppo’ is likely to make you almost ashamed of your comforts and leave you with a feeling of impotence.” Glenn Kenny, The NYTimes
“You should — you must — see Last Men in Aleppo to witness an ongoing tragedy. But you should also see it to learn humility.” – David Edelstein, Vulture
“Feras Fayyad’s viscerally immediate, exquisitely realized portrait of the Syrian Civil Defense’s “White Helmet” volunteers.” – Guy Lodge, Variety
“Last Men In Aleppo has the upsetting urgency of breaking news: There are moments that could have come straight from a live stream, given the violence that’s still rocking Syria, months after Fayyad’s cameras stopped rolling.” – A.A. Down, AV Club
BIRTHRIGHT: A WAR STORY is a feature length documentary that examines how women are being jailed, physically violated and even put at risk of dying as a radical movement tightens its grip across America. The film tells the story of women who have become collateral damage in the aggressive campaign to take control of reproductive health care and to allow states, courts and religious doctrine to govern whether, when and how women will bear children. The documentary explores the accelerating gains of the crusade to control pregnant women and the fallout that is creating a public health crisis, turning pregnant women into criminals and challenging the constitutional protections of every woman in America. This is the real-life “Handmaid’s Tale.” Director Civia Tamarkin and Producer Luchina Fisher talk about an insidious, pernicious campaign to undermine and ultimately deny women’s control over their own body.
“Birthright is a stark look at how far the rights of half the US population have been eroded, and it should make anybody — no matter their feelings about abortion — sit up and take notice.” – Jennie Kermode, Eye for Film
“… this film is important especially for people, like one group of interviewed high schoolers, who think that Roe v. Wade was something “learned some time ago” with no application to their own lives.” Harvey Karen, Compuserve
“A necessary, if not always well-constructed, examination of the perilous state of reproductive rights in the United States.” – Maria Garcia, Film Journal International
“The case histories are stacked to support the film’s point of view, but that doesn’t make them less painful.” – Helen Verongos, New York Times
“The film’s real strength, however, is revealed a bit late, in a series of stark portraits of women who have faced prosecution as they sought to take care of themselves.” – Daphne Howland, Village Voice
MAN IN THE CAMO JACKET is the story of iconic musician Mike Peters of the Welsh rock band The Alarm. The film traces his rise to fame, battles with cancer, and inspiring climb back as he enlists some of the world’s top musicians to help save the lives of cancer patients around the globe. Ultimately though, the life he saves may be his own. Filmed over the course of eight years, the film documents Mike’s journeys to the summits of the world’s tallest mountains and to the depths of his regular chemotherapy treatments and features one-of-a-kind performances from legendary rock musicians. MAN IN THE CAMO JACKET won Best Music Documentary at the 2017 Arizona International Film Festival and the Audience Award for Best Music at the 2017 Newport Beach Film Festival. Mike Peters was honored with the Humanitarian Award at the 2017 American Documentary Film Festival. MAN IN THE CAMO JACKET features Mike Peters of The Alarm, Slim Jim Phantom of Stray Cats, Duff McKagan of Guns N’ Roses, Billy Bragg, Glenn Tilbrook of Squeeze, Billy Corgan of The Smashing Pumpkins, Richard Blade, Martha Quinn. Director Russ Kendall joins us to talk about his rousing, life-affirming new film.
When online tabloid Gawker posted a sex tape starring former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan, a high-stakes legal battle pitting privacy rights against the First Amendment ensued. Hogan won the case and the staggering settlement he received not only bankrupted Gawker, but exposed a controversial, behind-the-scenes benefactor: Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Thiel. Taking examples like Sheldon Adelson’s purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, this documentary illustrates a growing, sinister trend at odds with our country’s free press. Billionaires are tipping the balance on the public’s access to news, posing new threats to society’s relationship to the truth. Director Brian Knappenberger’s film “NOBODY SPEAK: Trials of the Free Press” premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. His previous film “The Internet’s Own Boy:The Story of Aaron Swartz” won the Writers Guild Award for Outstanding Documentary Screenplay. His other work includes “We Are Legion:The Story of the Hacktivists” and the series “Truth And Power.” Director Brian Knappenberger joins us to talk about the extraordinarily important issues raised in Nobody Speaksand the ramifications of a brave new world where a ruling class of rich and powerful interest can determine our collective access to vital information.
“What the film offers is evidence of a pattern, the shadows of a disturbing trend that add up to a warning: If we, as a society, don’t push back against the chipping away of the freedom of information, it’s only going to get worse, until it eats us alive.” – Owen Gleiberman, Variety
“A film about the vital importance of speaking truth to power needn’t be so concerned with dressing up its own frightful truths, but Nobody Speak still compels as an opening statement on journalism’s dubious future.” – Michael Nordine, IndieWire
“A troubling foreshadowing of things to come if journalists are threatened, sidelined or attacked by powerful institutions and people more concerned with their own interests than what’s best for the country or communities.” – Jeffrey Fleishman, Los Angeles Times
“This documentary is an invigorating, disturbing portrait of the arrogance and sinister self-importance of rich people, bullying politicians and their battalions of lawyers.” – Peter Bradshaw, Guardian
Executive Producer Morgan Spurlock presents directorAmanda Micheli’s provocative documentary follows several aspiring parents who desperately want to have a baby but are struggling with infertility and the high cost of treatments. They place themselves in the hands of a Las Vegas doctor and his annual contest, which offers a prize of a free round of in-vitro fertilization—with no guarantee of success. Contestants post their video entries on YouTube, counting on the votes of strangers to make their dreams of parenthood come true. Despite the fact that 1 in 6 couples worldwide are unable to naturally conceive and carry a baby to term, for fear of judgment or heartache or both, infertility stories are largely kept secret. While exposing private pain online to win a contest is a brutal proposition, IVF is rarely covered by insurance in the U.S., so many infertile couples consider this a gamble worth taking. Through this controversial contest, VEGAS BABY navigates the complexities of America’s burgeoning fertility industry and unveils the class disparity within a topic that is often clouded by judgment and stereotypes.Oscar-nominated Director Amanda Micheli joins us to talk about the universal themes of desire and loss through her intimate portrait of the diverse individuals– from a devoutly Catholic Latino couple in Texas to a lesbian Lady Gaga Impersonator in New York – determined to have a baby against all odds.
“Through a humane, emotional examination of the contest… director Amanda Micheli’s documentary highlights the complexities and despair of America’s fertility industry.” – Joe McGovern / Entertainment Weekly
“The economic and emotional costs of in vitro fertilization are powerfully evident from the first moments of VEGAS BABY… having gained remarkable access to fertility patients over a two-year period, Micheli follows them through roller-coaster waves of despair and hope.” – Sheri Linden / Hollywood Reporter
“VEGAS BABY offers a look inside an otherwise intensely private sphere, marked by economic difficulties, raw emotions, and—with luck—confetti-strewn celebrations.” – Laura Regensdorf / Vogue
“New IVF Doc Exposes Underground World of Hunger Games-Esque Baby Raffles; Amanda Micheli’s VEGAS BABY explores a digital-age concept for women failing to conceive.” – Elissa Strauss / Elle
“Micheli turns an unrelenting eye on tough stories that transcend sex and gender.” – Kate Erbland / Indiewire