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.
The Mexican Tapes is an acclaimed series of four videos which portray Louis Hock’s growing friendship and empathy with his Mexican neighbors in San Diego in the 1980s, his acceptance into their community, and an examination of their day-to-day struggles.
Produced at the height of Japan’s economic boom of the 1980’s, Yama documents the struggles of unionised day-labourers in the San’ya district of Tokyo, on the frontlines of a violent class war. It is a film for the workers, intended to function as a weapon in their struggle – one that cost director Sato his life. On December 22 1985, during filming, he was murdered by Yakuza gangsters whom Sato intended to expose for their criminal involvement in the restructuring of the job market. A collective of directors headed by Kyoichi Yamaoka finished the film, before Yamaoka, too, was later murdered.
Heroes of Rock ‘n’ Roll is the definitive story of the rock music phenomenon – a highly-entertaining chronicle of 25 years of music and youth in action. The basic ingredients of this special are those rarely-seen film performances that are the milestones of rock history – the greatest stars at their greatest moments. From the vaults of the major motion picture studios comes a wealth of classic footage on film and on tape. And, from a variety of independent sources, this visual history offers newsreel, cinema trailers, interviews, rehearsals and rare private footage.