“Seadrift” was in the making before Donald Trump’s presidency spread xenophobia and racism throughout the U.S.
But the 2016 election made it hard for director Tim Tsai to unsee the nearly word-for-word similarities between the archival footage of the Ku Klux Klan rallying against the the Vietnamese refugee community of Seadrift and the 2017 Charlottesville “Unite The Right” rally.
In the mid 1970s, the small town of Seadrift, Texas had their crab-catching economy disturbed by change. Vietnamese refugees, escaping the ravages of the Vietnam War, settled into Seadrift to forge livelihoods in the crabbing business.
As the refugees had little guidance or understanding of the Seadrift fishing customs, the white native fishermen became wary of the competition—xenophobia mixed into their attitudes—as the Vietnamese weren’t provided translators or assistance to understand long-established customs.
Vietnamese fishermen inadvertently crossed fishing boundaries and trouble brewed between the two sides.
Disputes peaked when Vietnamese fisherman Nguyen Van Sau shot and killed local white fisherman Billy Joe Alpin. When the jury acquitted Sau on the reason of self-defense, the Ku Klux Klan banked on the discord by burning the boats and homes of the refugees.
Netflix has acquired a documentary that will chronicle Cyntoia Brown’s incarceration and fight for clemency.
Daniel H. Birman is directing the feature, after having explored Brown’s story in “Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story,” which aired in 2011 as a part of PBS’s Independent Lens series.
In the yet-to-be-titled doc, Briman will document the still-ongoing updates in Brown’s story, which began in 2004, when a then 16-year-old Brown was arrested in Nashville, Tennessee, for killing a 43-year-old man who solicited her for sex.
Brown was tried as an adult, convicted, and sentenced to life in prison.
But this year, after nearly 10 years of legal challenges, Gov. Bill Haslam granted her request for clemency.
Gov. Haslam did so following a slow shift in the state for legislative change in juvenile sentencing laws and having seen evidence of Brown’s maturity, education, and good behavior as a prisoner.
The documentary is set to premiere next month on Netflix.
Did you know that there was a ban on LGBTQ men and women working for the federal government? And that it lasted from 1953 until 1996 when Bill Clinton signed an executive order to end the ban.
“The Lavender Scare” is a new documentary that explains the genesis of that ban and profiles the man who started the movement to get the ban overturned.
Narrated by Glenn Close and based on David K. Johnson’s book “The Lavender Scare: The Cold War Persecution of Gays and Lesbians in the Federal Government,” the film reveals how Senator Joe McCarthy carried out a systematic witch hunt to root out and remove gay men and lesbians from government and security positions.
Few places are so closely identified with the birth of a movement as the Stonewall Inn and the streets that surround it in the downtown Manhattan neighborhood of Greenwich Village.
This month marks 50 years since the Stonewall riot, which galvanized a half-century of activism and agitation for LGBTQ rights and made Stonewall a recurring stage for public protest, grieving, and celebration.
Cheryl Furjanic’s new New York Times’ Op-Doc, “Stonewall: The Making of a Monument,” traces that history, exploring the process by which a chaotic street fight in protest of police brutality has been engraved into history in the form of a national monument.
Furjanic’s film, built from a chorus of voices and archival footage, is also a case study in how mainstream acceptance can, ironically, be a mixed blessing for political movements, as people struggle to control their own history.
Watch “Stonewall: The Making of a Monument” above and read the story at The New York Times.
A year ago, filmmaker Richard Rowley was shopping a polished version of his documentary, “Blue Wall,” about Laquan McDonald’s fatal shooting by Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke when he found a buyer in Showtime. But Rowley made an unlikely pitch: What if they kept shooting for a few more months?
When Rowley wrapped shooting on “Blue Wall,” there was no trial date set for Van Dyke, Lori Lightfoot was just a local lawyer holding public meetings on police reform, and Rahm Emanuel was considered a lock to run for a third term as mayor.
Now renamed “16 Shots,” Rowley’s documentary keeps a similar 90-plus-minute run time. But a major re-edit includes dramatic changes to the film’s third act to add scenes from inside the courtroom, of exultant community activists outside City Hall as Van Dyke’s guilty verdict is read, and a somber post-trial interview with Van Dyke’s lawyer.
A documentary with cinéma vérité sensibilities and no qualms whatsoever about the honest presentation of its subjects, “17 Blocks” is both heartbreaking and inspiring.
Director Davy Rothbart wisely removes himself from the effort to allow the cruel and dangerous sprawl of suburban Washington, D.C. to unfold before his audience’s eyes, providing a window into a world many are familiar with yet don’t know.
And while it’s a difficult sit sometimes, “17 Blocks” is essential viewing for anyone interested in how the confluence of race and class have codified into a sort of informal caste for an entire subsection of America’s citizenry.
A title card at the beginning of the film reads, “This film spans 20 years in the lives of the Sanford-Durant Family, beginning in 1999, when they lived in southeast Washington, D.C., 17 blocks behind the U.S. Capitol.”