From the Chicago Reader (May 7, 2004). — J.R.
*** (A must-see)
Directed by Hany Abu-Assad
Written by Abu-Assad and Bero Beyer.
Super Size Me
* (Has redeeming facet)
Directed and written by Morgan Spurlock.
What do we expect from documentaries? Do we seek to be informed by them or merely entertained? If it’s the former, do we expect some guidance about how to process the information?
The documentaries I’ve seen lately have made me ponder these questions. For example, last week at the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Film I saw a fascinating Palestinian feature called Ford Transit (showing twice this week at Facets Cinematheque) that freely mixes fiction and nonfiction as if they were alternate routes to the same goal. I also attended the world premiere of a more conventional documentary, The Take, which was made for Canadian TV and may never screen here. Finally, there’s Super Size Me (which opens at the Landmark this week), a film that has been getting considerable attention since it premiered at the Sundance festival last January.
Let’s start with The Take, which was directed by Avi Lewis and written by Naomi Klein, who’s a columnist for the Nation and the Guardian and author of the international best seller No Logo, a journalistic account of the worldwide antiglobalization movement.… Read more »
These two short articles were written for the catalogue of the fifth edition of the Buenos Aires Festival of Independent Film in 2004. Both are about neglected filmmakers who are or were also longtime friends of mine–although neither, to the best of my knowledge, has ever seen any films by the other, and they met for the first time at the festival, where complete retrospectives of both filmmakers were being presented. (I first met Eduardo in Paris in 1973, shortly after he’d finished working as a screenwriter on Jacques Rivette’s Céline et Julie vont en bateau, and I first met Sara about ten years later in New York, shortly before I saw her first major film, You Are Not I, and decided to devote a chapter to her in my book Film: The Front Line 1983.) Her complete works apart from her 2017 Boom for Real: The Late Teenage Years of Jean-Michel Basquiat are now available in a wonderful two-disc package, which can be found here.
When I was asked to write these two pieces for the BAFICI catalogue, I opted to make them each exactly the same length (942 words) and to make them rhyme with one another in various other ways.… Read more »
From the online Australian web site Senses of Cinema, November 2001. Some of this piece recycles some bits from “Make No Mistake: The Day the Towers Fell“, commissioned but not published by the Chicago Reader a couple of months earlier. — J.R.
Like many other Americans lately, I’ve been scared -– but like only some Americans, I’ve been scared both of Middle Eastern terrorists and those whom I regard as American terrorists, almost in equal measure. For what can be truly terrifying on occasion is how alike these two kinds of myopic, intolerant individuals can seem to be: not just religious fanatics, but ordinary Americans who all of a sudden start thinking of the vanished World Trade Center as their own private property and the terrorist attacks of September 11 as simply and unambiguously an “attack on America” –- thereby allowing the Middle Eastern terrorists and their assumed positions to set the terms of the discussion and automatically dismissing the many non-Americans who were destroyed in the attacks as irrelevant.
Three disparate yet characteristic examples of everyday American “terrorism”: (1) A headline recently blazoning Chicago’s only tabloid (Roger Ebert’s paper), the Sun-Times, announcing that the Taliban was poisoning U.S.… Read more »