documentaries

‘Who Killed Vincent Chin?’ Explores a Murder Case Steeped in Injustice

Ulises Duenas

If one were to look at the case details on paper, it would look like a random act of violence caused by unchecked rage. The initial case’s ruling drew a lot of outrage from Asian-Americans and activists across the country and beyond. It appeared as though the judge was trying to sweep it under the rug since key witnesses and even the police officers who were at the scene weren’t present for the trial and weren’t even aware it happened until after the verdict.

‘The Automat’ Tells the Story of the Little Restaurant That Could

Ulises Duenas

There’s a certain magic about our favorite restaurants. They’re places where we’ve made memories with friends and family and might serve as a source of comfort. While many restaurants have been long forgotten by now, there’s one chain that resonated with many important people that is, unfortunately, no longer around: The Automat. The story and impressions this unique establishment left behind are told in the new documentary The Automat by Lisa Hurwitz.

PBS’ ‘American Reckoning’ Focuses on the Necessary Quest for Civil Rights Justice

Barbara Noe Kennedy

A car bomb attached to his left-turn signal killed Wharlest Jackson Sr., on February 27, 1967, in Natchez, Mississippi. Despite evidence pointing to the inner circle of the KKK, no one was ever charged in the death of the civil rights activist and father of five. The new feature-length documentary, American Reckoning, from Frontline and Retro Report, with support from Chasing the Dream, follows Jackson’s cold case, including the events leading up to the murder and the ensuing investigation.

The Story of Remarkable Teacher Pedro Santana Hits the Screen

Sandra Bertrand

With every encounter, the camera captures the magnetism of the man. Teaching in a Covid-free environment, he lights up the room with his smiles, kisses, and hugs. In the words of a colleague, “He always thought about the kid that was on the bottom.” But as one former student admitted, he “lets you know what he really thinks.”  “How are your grades?” became a familiar mantra to his charges.  He expected the best and to the amazement of his family, teachers, parents, and even nay-sayers, he got it.

Why ‘My Octopus Teacher’ Is the Best Film of 2020

Christopher Karr

The story is so straightforward, and yet the complexities multiply. The documentary details a relationship so unexpected and curious and unfathomable. It sounds ridiculous, but this masterpiece shows how one man (Craig Foster) manages to establish a genuine friendship — a kind of love affair, really — with an octopus in the waters of a kelp forest at the tip of Southern Africa. At first, Foster is just as astonished as the viewer. After all, he didn’t venture into the water seeking a new friend. Who would?

‘No Small Matter’ Deftly Explores the Science and History of Childhood Education

Christopher Karr

In terms of exploring a relatively underreported concern, the documentary is well worth watching. It’s probably even essential viewing for any prospective or new parent who wants to be informed about the struggles ahead. As a new father, I was alarmed enough by the exploration to think twice before sharing the content of the film with the mother of my newborn. Nevertheless, it’s healthier to encounter harsh realities than to ignore their existence. Therefore, I appreciate the diligence and attention to detail the filmmakers bring to the table. 

Mourning the Loss of an Icon: The Disappearing Comic Book Store

Christopher Karr

“My hope is that the documentary inspires its viewers to reflect on the places and rituals (comic shops and otherwise) that have given them a sense of belonging, as my comic shop did for me,” Desiato said in a statement. And to the extent that the movie prompted me to reflect on my own experiences at a comic shop, it’s successful. The problem is that reflection isn’t necessarily the most engaging response to elicit from a viewer.

Paying Homage to the Genius of Black Artists

Sandra Bertrand

The film is strongest when it focuses on the individual artist, in some instances a long-overlooked glimpse into lives we often didn’t know existed.  Take, for instance, Edmonia Lewis, whose sculpture “Forever Free” from 1867 is an artistic marvel in white marble.  It portrays a black man and child, sculpted in a classical style that could stand beside any Greek sculpture in a major museum.  Lewis eventually went into exile in Rome, undoubtedly seeking out a more accepting environment for her inspiration. 

‘Other Music’ and the New York City of a Bygone Era

Christopher Karr

The movie chronicles the shuttering up of New York City’s most beloved record store, Other Music, which took exquisite pride in championing the kind of musicians whose work you wouldn’t find at Tower Records across the street. The owners and employees acted as indie curators, relishing every opportunity to geek out over thousands of obscure musicians, personally selecting albums based on their customers’ tastes and inclinations. 

Dreaming of Future Possibilities in New Documentary, ‘Inventing Tomorrow’

Mandy Day

The International Science and Engineering Fair or ISEF, put on by the Society for Science and the Public, draws 1,800 students from 80 countries every year to compete in all levels of science including Environmental Science, Becker told AsAmNews. Inventing Tomorrow’s director, Laura Nix, and producers had the tremendous task of finding just a few projects to feature among the more than 1 million students who compete for a spot at ISEF every year. In the final cut of the film, just four projects and their creators were featured.

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