Woodstock Film Festival: Capsule Reviews | Film | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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Woodstock Film Festival: Capsule Reviews 

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DOCUMENTARY FEATURES:

*Bad Brains: Band in DC Dir. Mandy Stein & Benjamen Logan

The directors gleefully throw everything at the screen and come up with a film as hyperkinetic as its subject: the pioneering African-American punk band. A go-for-broke depiction of the group and their era. (See an interview with co-director Mandy Stein.)

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*Chasing Ice Dir. Jeff Orlowski

For that remaining few (including Romney) who claim global warming is an elaborate tree-hugger myth, photographer James Balog has crossed the globe to capture tangible evidence in the form of dramatically melting glaciers. The genial Balog is admittedly obsessive, but heartfelt in a years-long mission that brings logistical problems. Breathtaking and jarring photography and powerful animation make the science of this disturbing phenomenon accessible and indisputable. Chasingice.com

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David Bromberg: Unsung Treasure Dir. Beth Toni Kruvant

A dependable foot soldier of the blues, folk and bluegrass movements, Bromberg is afforded a laid-back canonization in this ambling retrospective. From his days in Westchester as a Jew embracing black culture to the heady Greenwich Village '60s, jamming with Zimmerman and Harrison, Bromberg never grasped for fame. This loving but even-handed portrait explains his 23-year disappearing act, career detours, and unshowy return to the stage. Goodfootageproductions.com

Dinner at the No Gos Dir. Marco Orsini

If you can watch this film about a group of upper-class professionals, earnestly discussing progressive politics while eating elegant meals through a series of dinner parties across the globe and not mutter "limousine liberals" under your breath, you're a far better person than I. Meant as a social experiment to foster solutions to religious wars and terrorism, these self-important events drive home the indiscreet charm of the bourgeoisie.

*Fight to Live Dir. Barbara Kopple

The veteran documentarian, again training her camera on the underdog questing for justice, brings her talents to the battle for access to medications in America. Politics and greed in the pharmaceutical industry means life-giving drugs are not being government-approved quickly and patients are dying in the process. The complexity and dryness of the subject taxes Kopple's storytelling powers, but she assembles eloquent advocates whose life-and-death struggles underscore the urgency of this issue. Fighttolive.org

Idle Threat Dir. George Edward Pakenham

Pakenham spent years informing Manhattan motorists that their idling cars are releasing pollutants into the air. At last count, the figure was 2,946 people and he documented each response. "I'm an educator, not just a vigilante," says he. Call him brave or eccentric, but his crusade led him to city hall to lobby for an anti-idling law. A quirkily inspiring reminder that one person indeed can make a difference. Idlethreatmovie.com

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Informant Dir. Jamie Meltzer

The sole WFF documentary that would give Republicans cause to gloat. Brandon Darby, a charismatic lefty anarchist was working in New Orleans to provide support post-Katrina. Fiercely idealistic, he was not always a team player. Darby suddenly defected to the other side, going undercover to spy on former comrades and eventually became a Tea Party tool. Clumsily recreated scenes deepen the outrage and incredulity this bizarre film is bound to stir up. Informantdoc.com

*The Mechanical Bride Dir. Allison de Fren

Lars and the Real Girl was just the start. Men across the world, wearied by the dead-end searches of Internet dating, are purchasing custom-made life companions. Several satisfied customers—unsettling because they are thoughtful and eloquent—discuss sweethearts composed of silicone and circuitry, as do the doll designers. The film offers a thoughtful discussion about sexism, objectification, and eugenics. This deliriously fascinating study quickly sheds its initial "ick" factor. Mechanicalbridemovie.com

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*Oma and Bella Dir. Alexa Karolinski

Girlfriends since World War II, Regina from Poland and Bella of Lithuania survived the devastation of their homelands in the Holocaust and now reside together in Berlin. As the granddaughter of Regina (Oma is "grandmother" in German), the director is shrewd enough to know she has cinematic gold. So she simply lets the women tell their stories, which they interweave with sad memories, flinty outlooks, and the occasional bit of playfulness. Omabella.com

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