Shadows Film FestShadows off the beaten path
Indies, foreign, docs and shorts...


< <
D O C S > >

See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 24.Mar.20

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
dir-scr Alla Kovgan
prd Helge Albers, Elizabeth Delude-Dix, Kelly Gilpatrick, Ilann Girard, Alla Kovgan, Derrick Tseng
with Merce Cunningham, John Cage, Robert Rauschenberg, Andy Warhol, Jasper Johns, Carolyn Brown, Barbara Lloyd Dilley, Viola Farber, Valda Setterfield, Sandra Neels, Gus Solomons Jr, Jennifer Goggans
release US 13.Dec.19,
UK 13.Mar.20
19/Germany 1h33

london film fest

Inventively covering the career of iconic dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham, this 3D documentary uses a wealth of archival footage and clever new stagings of several beautiful pieces. The film focusses on his work between 1942 and 1972, three decades in which he developed his style and changed the perception of dance around the world. It's also a powerful exploration of the nature of creation, and how an artist should never aim for interpretation: it's the audience that interprets.
Cunningham blended classical and modern dance in ways no one ever did before, which meant that audiences often failed to get what he was trying to do. But the dancers he taught became a loyal ensemble, travelling around as a family to perform across the United States and then to Europe, working with musician John Cage, painter Robert Rauchenberg, costume designer Jasper Johns and even Andy Warhol. Over the years, this fiercely original artistic approach had an indelible influence throughout the art world.
Filmmaker Kovgan uses the 3D imagery in a variety of inventive ways. Superb archival footage is presented as if projected into the space between the screen and the viewer, using media interviews as voiceover to recount anecdotes and express opinions about Cunningham's approach both to creating new work and to collaborating with other dancers. In addition, there's striking footage (perhaps unnecessarily in 3D) of new performances of his work in dramatic locations, from woods to theatre stages to grand piazzas to New York rooftops. Echoing the vintage film clips, they reveal the timeless impact of Cunningham's choreography.

Intriguingly, this also makes the film feel a little clinical, which is another echo of Cunningham's lean, body-stretching approach. Kovgan avoids any exploration of Cunningham's personal life, aside from oblique references to his partnership with Cage. It could be argued that this does a disservice to the deeper issues surrounding Cunningham's life, neglecting to offer any insight into his work. But then, he never liked to look for meaning in dance. And the way he sculpted performances to the individual skills of his dancers might offer the most important insight into his legacy.

cert u some themes 6.Feb.20

For They Know Not What They Do
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5   MUST must see SEE
For They Know Not What They Do
dir Daniel Karslake
scr Nancy Kennedy, Daniel Karslake
prd Sheri Heitker, Barbara Simon
with Sarah McBride, Elliot Porcher, Vico Baez Febo, Linda Robertson, Rob Robertson, David McBride, Sally McBride, Coleen Porcher, Harold Porcher, Annette Febo, Victor Febo, Randy Thomas, Gene Robinson, Jacqui Lewis release US Apr.18 tff,
UK Mar.20 flare
19/US 1h32

bfi flare

ryan and rob robertson
In the wake of the Supreme Court decision recognising marriage equality, mainstream evangelicals worked with the Republican Party to initiate more than 200 discriminatory laws, stoking fear and emboldening bigotry. This open-hearted documentary follows a series of specific experiences as parents struggled to deal with children who didn't fit in with their religious leaders' teachings. And this beautifully assembled film makes their pain and hope feel universal.
With striking, moving honesty, four families share their stories, illustrated with snapshots and home movies and edited into pungent narratives. Each of them struggled to accept gay or trans family members, fearful because they were led to believe that homosexuality was a sinful choice, forbidden by God. Their journeys are powerfully personal, recounted in ways that are engaging and insightful. Some stories are hopeful, but others are heartbreaking. There won't be a dry eye in the audience, and rightfully so.

Along the way, the film traces how the devastation of suicide has nothing to do with sexuality: children lose hope after being rejected as an abomination. And one family's story turns even more horrific, as son Vico was in the Pulse nightclub when a homophobic terrorist went on that 2016 murder spree. Events like this are clearly a result of what both the church and culture are saying, and director Karslake weaves in footage of preachers and politicians spouting hatred with a smile. But they're encouraging violence and murder.

Pastors feel justified in preaching hatred and violence. Trans bills aren't about bathrooms, they're about justifying discrimination. Anti-gay therapy group Exodus' executive Thomas expresses the view that homosexuality is brokenness, and that celibacy is better than living in sin. All of this this leads only to thoughts of suicide, exacerbated by rampant bullying. Thomas later admits that Exodus' approach was causing harm, and he struggles to forgive himself for what he did.

The truth is that the Bible never condemns homosexuality: biblical passages preachers quote all refer to rape, abuse and exploitation. This film notes this, but doesn't belabour the point, centring instead on the power of positivity, love and acceptance. It also makes it clear that faith is not always a problem and can often lead to healing. In other words, Karslake maintains a remarkably complex approach, exploring the topic in an honest, grounded way that will help people who struggle with the issue. And letting each story show how love makes everyone's life bigger.

cert 12 themes, language 24.Mar.20

Scream, Queen! My Nightmare on Elm Street  
Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  

Scream, Queen!
dir-scr Roman Chimienti, Tyler Jensen
prd Roman Chimienti, Mark Patton
with Mark Patton, Robert Englund, David Chaskin, Jack Sholder, Robert Rusler, Kim Myers, Bill Nugent, Peaches Christ, Jeffrey Marcus, Hector Morales, Andrew Scahill, William Nazareth
narr Cecil Baldwin
release US 28.Feb.20
19/US 1h39

Quick-paced and engaging, this doc tells the story of Mark Patton, star of the 1985 sequel A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge. His story is complex and fascinating, layered with resonant themes and larger issues about American culture. It's also provocatively moving, and he recounts events with an earthy honesty that can help others learn to be more truthful with themselves and others.
The horror genre is known for putting women in jeopardy, but for the Elm Street sequel, filmmakers centred on the sensitive Jesse, played by Patton. Hollywood wasn't ready for this, or for the movie's gay overtones, and Patton's career fell apart even as the franchise took off. Hiding from harsh fan reactions ("Jesse screams like a girl!"), he moved to Mexico. Then decades later historians began analysing the film for what it had to say about the 1980s in terms of both homophobia and sexism.

Throughout his life, Patton felt like an outsider, knowing from a young age that he was gay. To survive, he moved to New York at 17. "And nobody came looking for me," he says. As a budding actor, he landed a key role in the original Broadway production of Robert Altman's Come Back to the Five and Dime opposite Cher, who took him under her wing. The film adaptation was his first movie, so he was a rising star when he won the lead in Elm Street 2. But after that, in the 1980s Aids-panic, no one would hire someone with even a hint of homosexuality around him.

Interviews with filmmakers and actors note the parallel between cinematic bogeyman Freddy Kruger and real-world killer Aids. So this doc becomes a vivid depiction of the shame and fear that flooded society, fuelled by an invasive media. So it's no wonder that Patton dropped out of the limelight. And 30 years later he finally embraced his identity as Jesse and began meeting appreciative fans at horror conventions.

There's a fascinating reunion where the cast members express some long-held opinions. The movie's director Sholder notes that Patton needs to find peace with screenwriter Chaskin over how he casually left Patton to bear the brunt of the abuse. And Patton's subsequent conversation with Chaskin is powerful. So even though this doc contains some great making-of material and the compelling story of a where-is-he-now actor, there's a lot more to it than that. It also gives this horror sequel an unexpected, important legacy.

cert 15 language, language, violence 23.Feb.20

Send Shadows your reviews!

< < D O C S > >

© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall