In 1990 acclaimed filmmaker Frank Perry (DAVID & LISA, DIARY OF A MAD HOUSEWIFE) received the devastating diagnosis of inoperable prostate cancer. What might have been a death sentence became instead the impetus to create his most revealing and highly personal film. An intimate first-person portrait of the artist as cancer patient, ON THE BRIDGE is the inspirational story of Perry’s vigorous and seemingly victorious battle against the disease on its many fronts: physical, mental and spiritual. It is a battle which, like those of many fictional film figures, is full of suspense, comedy and heroics; yet this fight can’t be resolved in one scene. This fight is for keeps.
This inspired hybrid of documentary and fiction follows Jabir, who runs a mobile cinema from his old truck throughout the West Bank while his wife works to bring emergency medical care to Palestinians. When Jabir is invited by a spirited schoolteacher to make a screening in the old city of Jerusalem, he becomes obsessed with the idea of this pilgrimage and begins to investigate the possibilities.
A tragicomic documentary in which the film crew walks door to door with three vacuum cleaner salesmen. The dream of success meets the recession of Finland in the 1990s.
While on assignment to document poverty in Brazil for Life magazine, African American photographer Gordon Parks encountered one of the most important subjects of his career: Flávio da Silva. Parks featured the resourceful, ailing boy, who lived with his family in one of Rio’s working-class neighborhoods known as favelas, in his 1961 photo essay “Freedom’s Fearful Foe: Poverty.” His reportage resulted in donations from Life readers but also sparked controversy.
HARVEST OF DESPAIR is the first documentary to be made about “the forgotten holocaust,” the 1932-33 famine in the Ukraine. Archival film footage and the riveting testimonies of survivors now living in the U.S. and Canada point to the appalling cause of the famine – a deliberate genocide plan decreed by the Soviet central government for political and economic gain. While their wheat-fields produced abundant grain for export, 25,000 Ukrainians starved to death daily, totalling 5 to 10 million by the end of 1933. Called “one of the greatest cover-ups in history,” the grisly horrors described are still denied by the government today. The film indicts not only the Soviet Union, but a world that permits such things to exist, even today.
Popular idols of the rock music scene – The Rolling Stones, The Stampeders, Whiskey Howl, Alice Cooper, Muddy Waters – are seen and heard in this film. It is a penetrating look at the whole pop music sub-culture and what keeps it alive, filmed in Canada, on and off-stage, and behind the scenes at record companies, radio broadcasting studios, and board rooms where hucksters plan the sales campaigns. The film includes personal interviews in which some of the stars explain what it’s all about and features Alice Cooper hacking a doll to pieces on stage.
As part of a television series devoted to Europe’s major cities, Angelopoulos was commissioned to make this film about Athens. Although much of Angelopoulos’ cinema is set among the villages of the northern countryside, he was born and raised in the city, so this film finds the director musing on an Athenian past that is variously ancient, national and personal, as well as clips from the “history” films The Travelling Players, The Hunters and Alexander the Great.
The very first full-length documentary on Scorsese offers an invaluable look at how he was perceived by his colleagues, and himself, in 1977. Catching Scorsese while while he was in post-production on New York, New York and editing The Last Waltz, British filmmaker Peter Hayden gets the manically hyper Scorsese to comment on his youth, his relation to his lead characters, and most importantly, his approach to direction. The doc doesn’t quite move at the pace of Scorsese’s revved-up speed-talking, but it does offer some real insight into his productivity in the 1970s, thanks to an impressive array of talking heads. Included are Scorsese’s collaborators Jay Cocks, Mardik Martin, Brian De Palma, Steven Prince (who co-produced this doc), and his mentor John Cassavetes. Also the performers, who discuss his working methods in detail — Jodie Foster, Liza Minnelli, and, of course, Robert De Niro.