OVID.tv’s September Streaming Brings Several Films with Historical Backdrops That Echo World Issues in the Current Moment
Highlights include the newly restored and first time available on any platform version of Chantal Akerman’s From the East, acclaimed German cinematic essay Heimat Is A Space In Time, Let the Fire Burn, which echoes clashes between citizens and the police today, and more.
Jonathan Miller, director of the streaming service OVID.tv, the curated streaming destination for documentaries and art-house films, announced September’s releases—a roster of films with a diversity of approach, form and content unlike that on any other platform. He pointed out the selections of contemporary global cinema, personal essay films, meticulous archival films, oddities and classics from film history (and about film history), and the first release on any platform of the restored version of Chantal Akerman’s From The East on Sept. 24.
The month begins with Vivian Qu’s narrative feature Angels Wear White (Sept. 4), about the assault of two teenage girls in China, for which Indiewire called “the perfect film for the #MeToo movement.” Women directors sharing the spotlight also include Julie Bertuccelli’s The Tree (Sept. 11) starring Charlotte Gainsbourg, Nancy Cooperstein Charney’s Who’s Next? (Sept. 23), which examines how the lives of Muslim-Americans have been affected in the aftermath 9/11, Anna Moot-Levin & Laura Green’s The Providers (Sept. 23), Nancy Buirski’s Afternoon of a Faun (Sept. 29) and Jo Ann Kaplan’s Invocation – Maya Deren (Sept. 29) about the legend of avant-garde cinema.
September also brings Thomas Heise’s cinematic essay through 20th-century Germany history Heimat Is A Space In Time (Sept. 8), the four-part docuseries The Hitler Chronicles (Sept. 8), the epic drama Lumumba (Sept. 11) directed by Raoul Peck (I Am Not Your Negro), Andrei Ujica’s documentary The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu (Sept. 18), which tracks the rise and fall of the infamous Romanian dictator through his own propaganda footage, and the gripping found-footage documentary Let the Fire Burn (Sept. 17), which chronicles a longtime feud between the city of Philadelphia and a controversial radical urban group, which came to a deadly climax in 1985. First-time filmmaker Jason Osder has brought to life one of the most tumultuous and largely forgotten clashes between government and citizens in modern American history.
Other highlights include Tony Manero (Sept. 15) from director Pablo Larraín (Ema, Jackie), a duo of docs that take to the waters include 90 Degrees South (Sept. 22), Herbert G. Ponting’s spellbinding chronicle of Captain Robert Scott’s heroic and ultimately tragic race for the South Pole, and Drifters (Sept. 22) by early silent filmmaker John Grierson, who creates a ‘city symphony’ out of the North Sea herring fisheries, and a contemporary classic, Camile Claudel (Sept. 24) starring Isabelle Adjani and Gérard Depardieu.
Friday, September 4th
Angels Wear White
Directed by Vivian Qu; KimStim, Narrative
In a small seaside town, two schoolgirls are assaulted by a middle-aged man in a motel. Mia, a teenager who was working on reception that night, is the only witness. For fear of losing her job, she says nothing. Meanwhile, 12-year-old Wen, one of the victims, finds that her troubles have only just begun. Trapped in a world that offers them no safety, Mia and Wen will have to find their own way out.
Tuesday, September 8th
The Hitler Chronicles
Directed by Joachim C. Fest, Christian Herrendoerfer, Michael Kloft, Jochen Bauer, Peter Cohen; Syndicado, 4-Part Documentary Series
As never seen before, and more topical today than any other Hitler biography, the Chronicles depict everyday European life between 1889 and 1945 in impressive images, many of them in color. Based on the most extensive compilation of archive material to date, with almost half of it previously unpublished sources, Hitler’s life is shown in detail against the social backdrop of the first half of the 20th century in a contemporary interpretation.
Heimat is a Space in Time
Directed by Thomas Heise; Icarus Films, Documentary
In HEIMAT IS A SPACE IN TIME, German filmmaker Thomas Heise shares the stories of three generations of his family, in their own words. It’s a personal history of Germany on an epic scale.
Heise sets the tone early, reading an anti-war essay written in 1912 by his grandfather Wilhelm, when he was a schoolboy. The director uses the same matter-of-fact, uninflected tone throughout the film – as he reads letters and notes from relatives who lived through the horrors of the First World War, Nazi Germany, and then life in Communist East Germany and the fall of the Berlin Wall.
Friday, September 11th
Directed by Volker Schlöndorff; Zeitgeist Films, Narrative
In 1945, Raoul Nordling, the Swedish consul-general in Paris, meets with Dietrich von Cholitz, the German military governor of occupied Paris, to convince him not to destroy historical landmarks across the city.
“PASSIONATE, ENGAGING AND EMOTIONAL… A fine return to form for the veteran German helmer… An elegant orchestrated pas de deux between formidable opponents.” —Variety
Directed by Raoul Peck; Zeitgeist Films, Narrative
Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Belgium
From the director of I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO.
Made in the tradition of such true-life political thrillers as Malcolm X and JFK, Raoul Peck’s award-winning Lumumba is a gripping epic that dramatizes for the first time the rise and fall of legendary African leader Patrice Lumumba.
Directed by Julie Bertuccelli; Zeitgeist Films, Narrative
The exquisite Charlotte Gainsbourg (Antichrist, Melancholia,I’m Not There) stars in French filmmaker Julie Bertuccelli’s achingly beautiful follow-up to her sleeper hit Since Otar Left. The Closing Night Film at Cannes in 2010, THE TREE is a mystical drama of loss and rebirth in the Australian countryside. Not since classic 1970s works Picnic at Hanging Rock and Walkabout has the harshly gorgeous outback landscape been such a lyrical yet foreboding metaphor for grief and coming of age.
Tuesday, September 15th
Cinema of Tears: A Century of Latin American Cinema (1995)
Directed by Nelson Pereira Dos Santos; BFI, Documentary
Personal view of the Latin American cinema by Brazilian director Nelson Pereira dos Santos, based on an adaptation of a novel by Silvia Oroz. In this way, using two protagonists, a 65-year-old and a 25-year-old, a wide cross-section of Latin American cinema is shown, especially those turning on the subject of different stories of love and melodrama.
Directed by Pablo Larraín; Kino Lorber, Feature
On weekends, 50-something Raul Peralta (Alfredo Castro) goes to the same bar outside his native Santiago, Chile, and, with friends, dances to the hits from his favorite film, “Saturday Night Fever.” When he gets wind of a TV contest seeking the best imitation of Tony Manero, the main character from the film, he becomes fixated on winning. But as Raul becomes involved in nefarious activities—including murder—to complete his Tony Manero transition, he puts his friends and himself at risk.
OFFICIAL SELECTION CANNES / NEW YORK / TORONTO
“An indelible portrait of a sociopath with the soul of a zombie.” —The New York Times
“Marvelously unhinged study of pop culture obsession.” —The Village Voice
The City of the Future
Directed by Maríllia Hughes and Cláudio Marques; PRAGDA, Narrative
In Serra do Ramalho, Brazil, young teacher Milla finds herself pregnant by her colleague Gilmar. Gilmar is in a relationship with Igor, but Milla asserts that the baby will belong to all three of them. Despite some initial conflict between the three, and in defiance to their community’s reaction, they form an unconventional but remarkably uncomplicated family. Billed as the ‘city of the future’, Serra do Ramalho was constructed in the 1970s in order to rehouse thousands of citizens that had been forcefully relocated. The location forms an important backdrop for this elegant, gentle film which is full of hope for a new generation building their own family of the future.
“An elegant, kind film, full of hope for a new generation that is making their own family of the future.” – MELBOURNE FILM FESTIVAL
BEST LATIN AMERICAN FILM, BUENOS AIRES INDEPENDENT FILM FESTIVAL
Thursday, September 17th
Hissein Habre, A Chadian Tragedy
Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun; Icarus Films, Documentary
In 2013, former Chadian dictator Hissein Habre’s arrest in Senegal marked the end of a long combat for the survivors of his regime. Accompanied by the Chairman of the Association of the Victims of the Hissein Habre Regime, Mahamat Saleh Haroun goes to meet those who survived this tragedy and who still bear the scars of the horror in their flesh and in their souls. Through their courage and determination, the victims accomplish an unprecedented feat in the history of Africa: that of bringing a Head of State to trial.
“Heart-stopping… Unflinching.” —The Guardian
2016 Cannes Film Festival
William and the Windmill
Directed by Ben Nabors; Passion River, Documentary
With only a library book as his guide, 14-year-old William Kamkwamba builds a windmill in his Malawian village that changes his life forever. Using junk parts and an inexhaustible imagination, he harnesses enough energy to power a generator that saves his family from famine and resuscitates his dying farming community.
An instant media sensation, the teen soon has the ability to chart a previously unimaginable future of Ivy League schools and speaking tours. But despite the support of an American entrepreneur who helps him navigate his success, some changes threaten to capsize him. He was once just a kid back home, but suddenly he’s a village leader. Away at school, the famous boy inventor struggles on a steep learning curve.
Winner of the SXSW Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary, Indiewire.com describes it as a “fascinating look at the tricky balancing act of third world activism.”
Friday, September 18th
The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu
Directed by Andrei Ujica; Kino Lorber, Documentary
A monumental achievement, THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF NICOLAE CEAUSESCU tracks the rise and fall of the infamous Romanian dictator through his own propaganda footage. Writer and director Andrei Ujica, along with editor Dana Bunescu, crafted over 1,000 hours of official state broadcasts and intimate home movies into a three-hour tour-de-force that depicts how Ceausescu created the country in his own image, regardless of the cost to its citizens. His rapid ascent to power is aided by rubber stamp parliamentary meetings and celebrated in garish visits to Communist allies including North Korea. A hero in his mind, Ceausescu is combative, vain, and unquestioningly in control.
“Brilliant!” —The New York Times
Let the Fire Burn
Directed by Jason Osder; Kino Lorber, Documentary
In the astonishingly gripping Let the Fire Burn, director Jason Osder has crafted that rarest of cinematic objects: a found-footage film that unfurls with the tension of a great thriller. On May 13, 1985, a longtime feud between the city of Philadelphia and controversial radical urban group MOVE came to a deadly climax. By order of local authorities, police dropped military-grade explosives onto a MOVE-occupied rowhouse. TV cameras captured the conflagration that quickly escalated—and resulted in the tragic deaths of eleven people (including five children) and the destruction of 61 homes. It was only later discovered that authorities decided to “…let the fire burn.” Using only archival news coverage and interviews, first-time filmmaker Osder has brought to life one of the most tumultuous and largely forgotten clashes between government and citizens in modern American history.
Winner – Best Editing in a Documentary Feature – Tribeca Film Festival
Special Jury Mention – Best New Documentary Director – Tribeca Film Festival
“Electrifying!” —New York Magazine
The Animals Film (1982)
Directed by Victor Schonfeld & Myriam Alaux ; BFI, Documentary
Controversial, confrontational and riveting, this unique work received worldwide critical acclaim for its filmic power, questioning how and why modern societies exploit animals for food, fur, sport, entertainment and science. Features interview with Peter Singer.
Tuesday, September 22nd
90 Degrees South (1933)
Directed by Herbert G. Ponting; BFI, Documentary
Herbert G. Ponting’s spellbinding chronicle of Captain Robert Scott’s heroic and ultimately tragic race for the South Pole (not only did Amundsen reach the goal first but Scott and his entire team died on the return trip) was originally released in 1913. Ponting, who had been a renowned still photographer, dedicated his life to Scott’s memory. Twenty years after his friend’s death, he produced and narrated 90 Degrees South, the 1933 sound re-release of his original footage.
Directed by John Grierson; BFI, Documentary
Early silent filmmaker John Grierson creates a ‘city symphony’ out of the North Sea herring fisheries, filmed at Lerwick, in the Shetlands, Lowestoft and Yarmouth and in the North Sea. Both a celebration of modern industry and a meditation on natural elements (sea, birds, fish), Grierson creates a strikingly balanced reflection on the process of historical change and modernisation.
Various Directors; BFI; Narrative
The seven short films in this unique collection – from Britain, Italy and the USA – are created from the only known surviving materials, nitrate prints preserved by the BFI’s National Archive. They include beautiful examples of hand stencilling and tinted prints. There is a magical version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream containing some remarkable special effects, a charming five-minute film of The Tempest, and the very first Shakespeare film ever made, King John, in 1899. This unique and fascinating record shows us the exuberance, invention and conviction of these early filmmakers and demonstrates the possibility of the Shakespearean text.
The complete collection, accompanied by a specially commissioned score by award-winning young composer Laura Rossi, contains:
King John (UK, 1899)
The Tempest (UK, 1908)
A Midsummer Night’s Dream (USA, 1909)
King Lear (Italy, 1910)
Twelfth Night (USA, 1910)
The Merchant of Venice (Italy, 1910)
Richard III (UK, 1911)
Wednesday, September 23rd
Directed by Nancy Cooperstein Charney; Bullfrog Films, Documentary
WHO’S NEXT? examines how the lives of Muslim-Americans have been affected in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks. It focuses on six Muslim families—citizens and long-time legal residents—from diverse countries and widely different circumstances. In one way or another all of them have been targeted by federal agencies, hate groups, and even former friends solely on the basis of their religious beliefs.
“The best and most profound movie I’ve seen recently…As unsettling as it is important. It is an extremely well-made documentary, uncluttered, never resorting to inflated dramatics. The drama is in the stories of the families. Who’s Next? is the type of artistic expression essential to those who cherish the concept of democracy.” —David Rothenberg, host, Any Saturday, WBAI
Directed by Anna Moot-Levin & Laura Green; Bullfrog Films, Documentary
THE PROVIDERS follows three healthcare providers in northern New Mexico. They work at El Centro, a group of safety-net clinics that offer care to all who walk through the doors, regardless of ability to pay. Amidst personal struggles that reflect those of their patients, the journeys of the providers unfold as they work to reach rural Americans who would otherwise be left out of the healthcare system. With intimate access, the documentary shows the transformative power of providers’ relationships with marginalized patients.
“Beautifully-composed doc, which immerses us in the lives of three unsung heroes quietly making a difference on the margins.” —Filmmaker Magazine
Thursday, September 24th
Directed by Bruno Nuytten; Kino Lorber, Narrative
The biography of the iconic French sculptor Camille Claudel in a tale of love, betrayal and female empowerment Starring Isabelle Adjani and Gérard Depardieu. When her enthusiasm for the arts captures the attention of famed sculptor Auguste Rodin, he hires her as his assistant. Slowly, Camille develops sculpting proficiency of her own, but when her and Auguste’s relationship becomes intimate, she struggles to escape from beneath his oppressive shadow.
From the East (restored!)
Directed by Chantal Akerman; Icarus Films; Documentary
Chantal Akerman’s austere masterpiece retraces the journey from the end of summer to deepest winter, from East Germany, across Poland and the Baltics, to Moscow. It is a voyage Akerman wanted to make shortly after the collapse of the Soviet bloc “before it was too late,” reconstructing her impressions in the manner of a documentary on the border of fiction.
By filming “everything that touched me,” Akerman sifts through and fixes upon sounds and images as she follows the thread of this subjective crossing. Without dialogue or commentary, From the East is a cinematographic elegy.
Friday, September 25th
Abstract Cinema (1993)
Directed by Keith Griffiths; BFI, Documentary
Several well-known and pioneering abstract filmmakers discuss the history of non-objective cinema, the works of those that came before them and their own experiments in the field of visionary filmmaking.
Features: Stan Brakhage, Jules Engel, Malcolm Le Grice, Len Lye, William Moritz, and more.
Dreams that Money Can Buy (1946)
Directed by Hans Richter; BFI, Narrative
Joe, a young man down on his luck, discovers he has the power to create dreams, and sets up a business selling them to others. The ‘dreams’ he gives to his clients are the creations of Max Ernst, Fernand Leger, May Ray, Marcel Duchamp, Alexander Calder and Richter himself, and the result is by turns playful, hypnotic, satirical, charming and nightmarish.
Tuesday, September 29th
Afternoon of a Faun
Directed by Nancy Buirski; Kino Lorber, Documentary
Buirski (The Loving Story) brings to the screen the magnificent and tragic story of Tanaquil Le Clercq. Of the great ballerinas, Le Clercq may have been the most transcendent, mesmerizing viewers and choreographers alike. Because of her extraordinary movement and unique personality on stage, she became a muse to two of the greatest choreographers in dance, George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins. She had love, fame, adoration, and was the foremost dancer of her day until it suddenly all stopped. At the age of 27, she was struck down by polio and paralyzed. She never danced again. The ballet world has been haunted by her story ever since.
“It is almost as though you are beholding mythological deities who have alighted briefly on the earth….one of the great ballerinas of the 20th century!” —The New York Times
Invocation – Maya Deren (1998)
Directed by Jo Ann Kaplan; BFI, Documentary
Maya Deren is a legend of avant-garde cinema. This authoritative biography of the charismatic filmmaker, poet and anthropologist features excerpts from her pioneering Meshes of the Afternoon and her unfinished documentary on Haiti, interviews with Stan Brakhage and Jonas Mekas, and recordings of her lectures.
Narrated by actress Helen Mirren, this definitive documentary offers startling insights into one of the most intriguing, accomplished figures in cinema history.
“A beguiling, informative portrait of a fascinating woman.” —Time Out
The World of Gilbert and George (1981)
Directed by and starring Gilbert & George; BFI, Experimental/Documentary
Gilbert & George are renowned for presenting themselves as ‘living sculptures,’ fusing their art and identity with the external world. Their exploration of the bleak urban surrounds of 1980’s London, powerfully evoke the desires and tensions of its disillusioned youth alongside their own eccentricities. Poetic narration combines with vivid imagery that moves between the startlingly beautiful, the humorous, and the absurd.