Elevate Difference

Reviews tagged documentary

See What I'm Saying: The Deaf Entertainers Documentary

See What I'm Saying is an irreverent yet important introduction between Deaf performers and a mainstream hearing audience. The film, which is open captioned, follows a year in the lives of four performers who make up a cross-section of the Deaf community in terms of art form, race, gender, and sexuality.

Made in Pakistan

These days, political analysts on both sides of the aisle are calling Pakistan a failed state. While the “most dangerous place in the world” does face profound political and social turmoil, such sweeping commentary fails to capture the more personal intricacies of the lives of ordinary people living inside the country’s borders. Pakistan is more than the Taliban fighters implementing Sharia law in the Swat Valley, and it’s more than the frequent bombings of embassies and hotels from Islamabad to Karachi.

The Horse Boy

The Horse Boy is an emotionally stirring, thought-provoking examination of autism and its effects on familial life.

Afghan Star

One of my favorite bands, The Avett Brothers, have a lyric in one of their songs claiming, “May you never be embarrassed to sing.” Since viewing Havana Marking’s documentary, Afghan Star, this lyric has been on repeat in my brain, reminding me, as Afghan Star aptly illustrates, if embarrassment is all that we have to risk, the

The Woodmans

The prize-winning documentary The Woodmans chronicles the histories of a family of artists through conversations, monologues, journals, and both fine art photographs and family snapshots. The film’s narrative, from its start with the marriage of George and Betty Woodman to its finish with their lives today, is marked by their daughter, photographer Francesca Woodman, whose reputation has skyrocketed in the decades after her suicide in 1981 at twenty-three years of age. After the Tribeca Film Festival screening, director C.


I just got back from seeing the documentary Babies. I have to say that it was great! Director Thomas Balmès followed four babies from four countries for a little over a year each. The movie is mostly without dialogue, except for the little bit of the parents' talking. It is mostly shot from the baby's level, and is organized by the developmental stages of babies' lives.

The Codes of Gender: Identity and Performance in Pop Culture

The main theme of The Codes of Gender is “commercial realism.” As explained by the narrator of this film, Sut Jhally, Professor of Communication at the University of Massachusetts, a code of gender has to be understood as a shorthand language, a set of rules and behaviors.

Black Wave: The Legacy of the Exxon Valdez

In light of the recent devastating oil spills along the southern U.S. coast, it seems unfortunate but appropriate to revisit the Exxon Valdez spill of 1989. Black Wave is a documentary that looks at both the environmental and personal economic impact of the disaster on the small fishing village of Cordova, Alaska, twenty years after the spill. The story of the Exxon Valdez is as convoluted as you want it to be. Some maintain that the vessel’s captains were drunk and/or overworked when they ran the tanker aground in Prince William Sound.

Behind the Burly Q

We can't deny that we're in the midst of a Burlesque Renaissance, at least in New York City—go to any club downtown and see for yourself.

Waking Sleeping Beauty

We all know the Disney Renaissance well.

When You're Strange: A Film About The Doors

When You’re Strange is director Tom DiCillo’s loving yet flawed homage to The Doors. The film is comprised almost entirely of original footage of the band, shot between 1966 and 1971. It follows members John Densmore, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek, and Jim Morrison from their first performance to heated recording sessions, and ultimately, to Morrison’s tragic death at the age of twenty-seven.

Gotta Dance

Gotta Dance opens with a scene of an energetic NBA game, with all the halftime mascot antics and acrobatic dance routines we’ve come to expect. But the New Jersey Nets are trying out something different this year.

Off and Running

Considering the number of children in need of adoption—and the number of children who are actually adopted each year—it's surprising there aren't more adoption stories being told. Aside from The Locator, we've had especially limited access to stories about adopted children reaching out to their birth parents. The delicate, vulnerable position of someone sending a letter out into the world, waiting and hoping to hear back about where they come from, is still a bit of a mystery, and more than worthwhile.

One Summer in New Paltz: A Cautionary Tale

Weddings always tug at my heartstrings, but there is nothing quite as heartwarming as hearing people sing in the streets. The Whos in Whoville taught me that. The name New Paltz may ring a bell. It is a small college town in the mid-Hudson Valley of New York State that gained national attention in 2004 when the town’s twenty-six-year-old mayor, Jason West, married two dozen same-sex couples, an idea that was the result of a conversation between West and a local same-sex couple during a house painting project.

Fig Trees

It’s hard to explain Fig Trees. It’s an opera yet it's also a documentary. There’s an albino squirrel and a nun. It scrutinizes the critical circumstances of the AIDS epidemic, from the 1980s to the present day, and points out, with sharp observations, the irony of consumer-driven AIDS campaigns. The main issues addressed are the ineffectiveness of governments and the greediness of pharmaceutical companies, but popular culture is not completely innocent either. In Fig Trees, director John Greyson documents the story of South African AIDS activist, Zackie Achmat.

subCITY: Out of Sight. Out of Mind.

In less than forty-five minutes, subCITY will shatter any notions you may have about access to mental health care in the United States, in Oregon in particular, the state where I live. Working for a mental health advocacy group, I'm reminded daily that the system is broken. But I didn't realize just how broken until I watched this film. The director/producer team of Kevin and Dawn D'Haeze has created a powerful indictment of our current mental health care system.


If Salt ‘N Peppa had written lyrics with the phrase, “Let’s talk about sexuality, baby,” instead of, “Let’s talk about sex, baby,” I wonder if it would still have its legendary pop status. After all, it is easier to talk about sex than it is to talk, or rap, about sexuality. It’s much easier to talk about sex acts than the decision to express one’s sexual development or process of maturity. If talking about sex is socially taboo, save a handful of pop culture, then talking, or rapping, about sexuality is unthinkable.

One Summer in New Paltz: A Cautionary Tale

In the wake of a failing U.S. economy and two unwarranted wars, former president Bush set out to condemn the gay community as he called for a constitutional amendment to reduce gay rights. Facing reelection, the president’s call to enshrine a heterosexual definition of marriage into the Constitution effectively diverted attention away from his failures and used the gay community as a convenient scapegoat. But Bush’s move did more than spark nationwide debate.

The Line

This documentary, which clocks in at just twenty-four minutes, will continue to haunt you long after it ends. The Line is Nancy Schwartzman’s wonderfully brave effort to interrogate the circumstances of a sexual assault she endured while living aboard.

Off and Running

Off and Running is a very non-traditional coming-of-age story told in a way that deftly conveys one young woman’s unique situation as well as more universal themes. Filmmaker Nicole Opper was afforded intimate access to her subjects, which enabled her to invite the viewer to take a sensitive and warm perspective as the events unfold. The film’s central subject, a high school track star named Avery Klein-Cloud, is honest and likable.


Director Jennifer Steinman’s debut, Motherland, is a poignant documentary about six American women who have lost their children (and a brother) and find themselves together on a quest of healing.

The Revival

In October 2009, hip-hop was declared dead yet again by music critic and New Yorker writer Sasha Frere-Jones.

Diagnosing Difference

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is referred to as “the Bible” by the psychologists and psychiatrists who utilize it to diagnosis and treat patients. A project of the American Psychiatric Association, the DSM was first published in 1952 and subsequently revised in 1968, 1980, 1987, 1994, and 2000; the forthcoming 2012 edition is currently in formation.

Brick City

In Brick City, Sundance Channel’s five-part documentary series about life in Newark, NJ circa 2008, the camera crew follows Cory Booker, a mayor who is passionate about making a difference in the crime beleaguered city.

Garbage Dreams: Raised in the Trash Trade

At seventy-nine minutes long, Garbage Dreams is New York-based producer, director, and cinematographer Mai Iskander’s directorial debut. Before viewing the film I had never heard of the Zaballeen nor did I know that Cairo, one of the world’s most historic cities, once at the very pinnacle of human history, has no municipal waste disposal system to handle the trash of its eighteen million residents.

Every F---ing Day of My Life

Stark, appalling, and heartbreaking are all words that came to mind when I viewed Every F---ing Day of My Life. Every F---king Day of My Life depicts a woman’s last four days of freedom before being sentenced to ten years in prison for murdering her brutally abusive husband.

The Jazz Baroness

It is not difficult to be unconventional in the eyes of the world when your unconventionality is but the convention of your set. - William Somerset Maugham The preceding quote could very well be used to describe the Baroness Pannonica ("Nica") Rothschild de Koenigswarter’s attitude toward her decidedly eccentric lifestyle. The Baroness is the subject of The Jazz Baroness, which premieres tonight at 8 p.m. ET/PT on HBO2.

Oh My God

Oh My God is the kind of documentary that holds you in wonder from start to finish. Once the credits begin to roll, you finally exhale and find yourself muttering “Wow.” Peter Rodger's trek across every inhabited continent in search of the answer to one of humankind's ultimate questions—“What is God?”—is both a revelation on the unifying conceptualization of something higher and a celebration of what elevates us.

Trouble the Water

If you missed the exhaustively, deservedly lauded Trouble the Water in theaters last year, now you can catch it on the small screen.

Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy

The opening shots in Poto Mitan: Haitian Women, Pillars of the Global Economy, a fifty-minute documentary narrated by Edwidge Danticat, reveal an island paradise: turquoise waters, green hills, beautiful, and colorful flowers. But these scenes don’t last long. Almost immediately, we’re introduced to numerous working-class and poor women, nicknamed poto mitan, Creole for the pillar around which everything revolves.