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.”
Beyond the scenes of handcuffed people and crying children that Mario Guevara has documented in covering the increase in immigration-related arrests around Atlanta, one series of images haunts filmmaker Jesse Moss.
These images are the vans used by day laborers that sit empty and abandoned. Their occupants have vanished into “la boca del lobo” (“the wolf’s mouth”), which is the name of the short film that Jesse Moss made about Guevera.
“La boca del lobo” is the phrase one woman used to describe the fate of her husband, who had been arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
Mr. Guevara, a reporter for Mundo Hispanico, Atlanta’s largest Spanish-language news organization, covers the immigration beat.
Operating alone, shooting his own video, he has built a large local following and a national reputation for his intrepid reporting.
Is there anything so omnipresent but as little understood as the foster care system?
Everyone knows it provides places to stay for children who don’t have safe homes, but what does that mean, and how exactly does it work?
Writer-director Mark Jonathan Harris and producer Deborah Oppenheimer, veteran documentary collaborators, do more than answer those questions; they’ve created an intimate, intensely dramatic film that holds us in its grip like a page-turning novel. Except it’s all true.
“Foster” profiles the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, the largest county child welfare agency in the country, where decisions often have to be made on the fly and the unofficial motto might be, as one sign puts it, “good morning, let the stress begin.”
Sasha Joseph Neulinger’s heroic and devastating autobiographical documentary opens with questions familiar to many people: Why are home movies always so haunting? What is it that tinges even the happiest footage with a touch of melancholy? What is it about them that makes someone’s own life feel like a ghost story?
In “Rewind,” much of which is comprised of the fuzzy tape that Neulinger’s father compulsively shot on his camcorder throughout the 1990s, all of the worst suspicions that might arise from these videos turn out to be well-founded and worse.
But the footage also speaks to a broader disquiet that rings true for those of us who haven’t been forced to survive any version of Neulinger’s horrendous misfortunes.
“Rewind,” as indelibly as any film ever made, illustrates how the very process of investigating your own past can be a trauma unto itself.
For more than three decades, Alabama public interest attorney Bryan Stevenson has advocated on behalf of the poor, the incarcerated, and the condemned, seeking to eradicate racial discrimination in the criminal justice system.
Premiering June 26 on HBO, “True Justice: Bryan Stevenson’s Fight for Equality” follows the Equal Justice Initiative founder’s struggle to create greater fairness in the system and shows how racial injustice emerged, evolved, and continues to threaten the country, challenging viewers to confront it.
The film chronicles Stevenson’s work in Alabama, birthplace of the civil rights movement and home to the Equal Justice Initiative, as well as the early influences that drove him to become an advocate for the poor and the incarcerated.
As a young lawyer in the 1980s, Stevenson witnessed firsthand how courts unfairly applied the death penalty based on race and how the Supreme Court ultimately declared that racial bias in the administration of the death penalty was “inevitable.”
The school of thought in which convicts are bad people not to be “coddled” in any way has led to a swelling U.S. prison population for whom by some estimates less than 1% of incarceration costs go toward any kinds of rehabilitation.
This decision would appear counterproductive, as the majority of prisoners do return to the streets — and it very much benefits society that they arrive there well-prepared for law-abiding civilian life.
Michael Tolajian’s “Q Ball,” a look at San Quentin State Prison’s basketball team, throws a spotlight on a seemingly frivolous program that nonetheless provides inmates with considerable positive focus, improved social skills, and other benefits that might ultimately reduce recidivism.
This highly polished and engaging documentary, which recently premiered at SFFilm and was executived produced by future NBA Hall of Famer Kevin Durant, is one that Fox Sports might conceivably allow some exposure beyond the confines of its “Magnify” broadcast series.