Alaskan Nets (2022, dir. Jeff Harasimowicz) 117 minutes. Indivisible Productions. DVD. Available from Good Deeds Project. CC. A remote Alaskan town serves as the backdrop for a story about high school boys who live, fish, and play basketball. The community rallies around the team as players and their coach vie for an elusive state championship title. The film touches on both the cultural and commercial way of life for Alaska’s Indigenous Tsimshian people that leads to certain tragedies.
The Automat (2022, dir. Lisa Hurwitz) 79 minutes. Kino Lorber. DVD. Available from Kino Lorber. CC. Though the guest appearance of Mel Brooks is not to be missed, this documentary on The Automat, once the largest restaurant chain in the United States, has far more to recommend it than a simple celebrity appearance. Focused on the story of business partners Joseph Horn and Frank Hardart and their famous Automats, where people from all walks of life gathered to dine and drink coffee until the automated restaurants were no longer profitable.
Calendar Girls (2022, dir. Maria Loohufvud and Love Martinsen) 84 minutes. Pink Dolphin. DVD. Available from Kino Lorber. CC. Highlighting a Floridian troupe of retired women dancers, this documentary tackles the struggles of aging, family, and need for connection near the end of life. The journey to find oneself and the importance of friendship run throughout. The narrative is told through various member experiences and is punctuated by surrealist performances of the members, which elevates the film stylistically.
Crutch (2021, dir. Sachi Cunningham and Vayabobo) 96 mins. Rhino Films. DVD. Available from Bullfrog Films. CC. SDH. Crutch focuses on the astonishing life of Bill Shannon. Shannon, born with a degenerative hip condition, expresses himself through skateboarding and breakdancing. Shannon teaches others through his performance to open their eyes to the capabilities of those with disabilities.
Fanny: The Right to Rock (2021, dir. Bobbi Jo Hart) 92 minutes. Adobe Productions International. DVD. Available from various distributors. CC. A glimpse into the history of the first all girl band that played their own instruments and didn’t have tops off. Unapologetically themselves, the women of Fanny fought for their right to rock without compromising themselves. Through archival footage and photographs we see the band’s history and travel to today where they struggle with the realities of aging to reunite and rock.
Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen (2022, dir. Daniel Raim) 88 minutes. Zeitgeist Films. DVD and Blu-Ray. Available from Kino Lorber. CC. SDH. Cast interviews, archival film and behind the scenes footage bring to life the journey of director Norman Jewison's efforts to make the Jewish epic on the big screen.
Hello, Bookstore! (2022, dir. A.B. Zax) 86 minutes. Greenwich Entertainment. DVD. Available from various distributors. CC. One bookstore’s plight to navigate a global pandemic and continue to connect to their community in uncertain times. Romantics for ephemera and those that understand the power of selecting a book will enjoy this film. “You don’t just try and make money” …at a macro level this documentary speaks to the national struggle of small businesses and their owners. On the micro level it depicts the simple beauty of human interaction.
No Ordinary Man: The Billy Tipton (2021, dir. Chase Joynt and Aisling Chin-Yee) 84 minutes. Parabola Films. Blu-Ray and DVD. Available from Oscilloscope Laboratories. CC. The filmmakers take a unique approach to presenting a reinterpretation of the life of Billy Tipton, presenting perspectives from historians, actors, and even Billy Tipton’s own family. A deep and moving look at not only the life of Billy Tipton, but the lives of trans men and transmasculine people throughout history and in the present day.
A Reckoning In Boston (2022, dir. James Rutenbeck) 84 minutes. Bullfrog Films. DVD. Available from Bullfrog Films. In a tuition-free night course in a Boston neighborhood, Kafi Dixon and Carl Chandler are inspired by the lessons of history and philosophy. The film follows these students and others as they navigate systemic racism that affect housing stability, education, economic opportunity, and overall health.
To Which We Belong (2021, dir. Pamela Tanner Boll, Lindsay Richardson) 90 minutes. Passion River Films. DVD. Available from various distributors. CC. Farmers and ranchers forgo conventional practices, opting for regenerative agriculture and ocean farming. Healthy soil for animals, harvesting grass, etc. leads to profitable and sustainable outcomes. From cities in the U.S. and Mexico to Kenya, the filmmakers showcase how change to save the planet is possible.
Unmarked (2021, dir. Brad J. Bennett, Christopher Haley) 40 minutes. First Run Features. DVD. Available from First Run Features. Loss is a universal experience, but people are forgotten over time, and it takes the living to keep their stories and history alive. In Unmarked, stories are shared by descendants of enslaved persons and coupled with discussions by historians and volunteers. They create a greater understanding of the need to preserve African American grave sites and burial grounds for enslaved persons that have been disappearing over the years. Unmarked explores these untold stories of America’s past but also the personal efforts underway to preserve them. When you know where you come from, you know who you are.