Five new documentaries screening at the New York Film Festival wrestle with the biggest problems facing the world today.
El Mar la Mar – The U.S/Mexico border is one of the most politicized landscapes in the world, and in “El Mar la Mar,” the filmmakers let the environment speak for itself. Despite production predating then-President-elect Trump’s “build the wall” chants, the film premieres right on time, painting a poetic avant-garde portrait of an ongoing calamity.
Sea Sorrow – Shot all over Europe, actress-turned-first-time-director Vanessa Redgrave creates a cri de cœur for immigrants in a quintessential “celebrity using platform for good” movie. Employing fellow British actors Emma Thompson and Ralph Fiennes, British Labour leaders, and harrowing interviews with refugees from Guinea, Afghanistan, Syria, and more, Redgrave illustrates the immediate importance of open borders.
The Rape of Recy Taylor – This film provides a disturbing retelling of the criminally-neglected 1944 case of 24-year-old African American sharecropper Recy Taylor, who was raped on her walk back from church by a gang of six white men on a warm September night in rural Abbeville, Alabama. Her subsequent quest to seek justice in the face of a racist judicial establishment and an absentee police force was a bold demonstration of real-life courage in the face of apathy.
Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? – The title is rhetorical. We know who fired the gun. In 1946, S.E Branch, the white great-grandfather of filmmaker Travis Wilkerson, shot and killed Bill Spann, a black man, in a Dothan, Alabama, grocery store. The murder occurred two years after Recy Taylor’s assault and a mere 30-minute drive away. In this hybrid multidimensional documentary, Wilkerson posthumously charges his relative of cold-blooded murder, blending elements of true crime and horror into a confrontational Southern Gothic investigative tale.
The Venerable W. – UN Secretary-General António Guterres has stated that Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar fleeing to Bangladesh is “the world’s fastest developing refugee emergency and a humanitarian and human rights nightmare.” And in Barbet Schroeder’s completion of his Trilogy of Evil series—alongside “General Idi Amin Dada: A Self Portrait” (1974) and “The Terror’s Advocate” (2007)—we’re offered a portrait of Ashin Wirathu, the Buddhist monk who serves as the instigator of this terror and mass exodus.
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