Today, The 22nd Annual New Orleans Film Festival kicks off. As a member of the New Orleans Film Society, I had the privilege of screening many of the documentaries showing over the course of the next week.
Here’s a guide to what I plan on seeing and what documentaries I can recommend based on my firsthand knowledge. Tickets are available on the New Orleans Film Society website.
Fri., Oct. 14
Starring Viggo Mortensen as renowned psychologist Sigmund Freud and Michael Fassbender as Freud’s prodigy Carl Jeung, A Dangerous Method draws from the real-life events of both psychologists during World War I. Keira Knightley plays Sabina Spielrein, a trouble woman who comes between the doctors. Described as a dark tale of sexual and intellectual discovery, this film has been picked up by Sony Pictures for U.S. distribution.
Sat., Oct. 15
What happens when a too-close-to-call election takes place in Ghana, a country known for political unrest, corruption and violence? The answer: a thrill-ride examining the dangers and rewards of holding a fully democratic election.
A highly political documentary, An African Election exposes the ins and outs of political electioneering taking place in much of Africa. Capturing the intrigue of the 2008 political campaigns, the film is set within the dramatic backdrop of a violent, uneasy time for the entire nation of Ghana.
Can a third-world nation successfully hold a democratic election free of corruption? That question is made all the more significant given that the two parties featured in this film are willing to do almost anything to win and gain control of Ghana.
Gain an unprecedented inside view of the political, economic and social forces at work within Ghana while exploring the pride and humanity of larger-than-life politicians and the citizens fighting for the rights of their country.
Offering a unique way of dealing with recidivism, the Hudson Link program has produced astounding results through the transformative power of education. Prisoners at the notorious Sing Sing Correctional Facility in upstate New York are given a full college education within the confines of the prison walls.
The results will leave you amazed at the success rate of this groundbreaking educational program. The program also presents an interesting moral and societal conundrum: Do convicted criminals deserve a college degree in a world where the average family struggles to finance a non-criminal child’s education?
Zero Percent gives viewers rare access within the walls of the facility and into the lives of the prisoners participating in Hudson Link. Explore the intense prison life and challenges for the inmates hoping to earn not only their college degree, but societal redemption — and ultimately, forgiveness.
Sun., Oct. 16
This is an epic documentary that follows Budhia, a four-year-old Indian orphan, and his coach, Biranchi, as Budhia trains for long-distance running. Budhia runs a record 65-kilometer distance at his young age of four.
Soon thereafter, questions are raised as to the coaching style of Biranchi and whether he truly has Budhia’s best interests in mind. Marathon Boy follows Budhia for five years as he runs race after race.
This was one of the best documentaries I screened throughout the process so I highly recommend making time for this film
Mon., Oct. 17
LSU fans rejoice! Man in the Glass: The Dale Brown Story chronicles the legacy of fabled (and often-criticized) LSU basketball coach (1972-1997) Dale Brown. From his battles with the NCAA, his successful campaign to have a prisoner released from Angola State Penitentiary, his efforts on behalf of Native Americans and his lifelong commitment to his players, Dale Brown is a man full of passion, humanity and fire.
Featured in the documentary are well-known personalities including Matthew McConaughey, Shaquille O’Neal (one of Coach Brown’s most successful players), John Wooden, Dick Vitale and Tim Brando. Each personality offers their own unique perspective on Coach Brown’s effect on their lives, the game of college basketball and the sports world.
The story tells the tale of not a basketball coach, but a unique person whose compassion knows no boundaries. Relive Coach Brown’s thrilling highs and low points as coach of the LSU Tigers’ men’s basketball team. Geaux Tigers!
Tues., Oct. 18
ESPN-produced A Fighting Chance explores wrestler Kyle Manard’s goal of fighting in an official Mixed Martial Arts match. The twist? Kyle was born without arms or legs and seeks a match against an able-bodied fighter — an aspiration some MMA officials and fighters disagree with.
At age 23, Kyle became a top-ranked wrestler, ESPY award-winner, motivation speaker and bestselling author, but his latest goal proves highly controversial and even dangerous. He learns to man up to the greater challenge of the majority of the world seeing him as disabled.
Kyle shows how difficult (and rewarding) life can be when every day is a challenge. Aside from his goal of earning an MMA fight, Kyle’s work with recovering military veterans plays a large part in his successful “No Excuses” philosophy. Explore his emotional journey from highly-regarded wrestler to the low-man-on-the-totem-pole MMA fighter in training. Kyle’s story is an inspiration for all.
Weekend has already picked up several accolades including winning Audience Awards at SXSW and Outfest 2011.
Described as a startlingly authentic love story, Weekend focuses on the relationship of two gay men who initially start out at a one-night stand, but soon find themselves involved in a lost weekend full of sex, drugs and conversation.
Both men have unique outlooks and expectations out of life. Despite that, they develop a connection that may last a lifetime.
Wed., Oct. 19
Discover one of America’s forgotten photographs: Mike Disfarmer. From Heber Sprinks, Ark., Disfarmer captured the faces, lives and emotions of the American heartland in an influential time in our nation’s history. His portraits documenting working-class farmland families and their struggles through World War I, the Great Depression and World War II compile a true visual record — of history and art.
Though Disfarmer was actively photographing families up until his death in 1959, his black and white portraits went largely unnoticed until being “discovered” by new York photography dealers in recent years. Critics have hailed his portraits as “a work of artistic genius” and ” a classical episode in the history of American photography.”
Disfarmer: A Portrait of America illustrated Disfarmer’s influence on the world of photography, his hometown of Heber Springs, Ark. and the Mahattan art world.
In Lars von Trier’s movie about the end of the world, Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and Michael (Alexander Skaarsgard) are set to celebrate their wedding. One problem: the planet Melancholia is on a direct collision course with Earth.
This film takes a minimalist approach so don’t expect special effects dramatics. It’s more of an examination of strained relationships the fiasco known as a wedding day.
Thurs., Oct. 20
Martha Marcy May Marlene follows a young woman who is newly escaped from a cult. As she embarks on her recovery, she is haunted by painful memories and paranoia.
But, reassimilating with her family proves to be a challenge. MMMM, played by Elizabeth Olson, is an exploration of the lasting effects of psychological terror and trauma.
Martha Marcy May Marlene originally screened at Sundance.