In preparation for this labor-day weekend, I thought it might be fun to watch and rewatch a bunch of labour-related films, in particular those that highlight union or workplace struggles. Well, I am somewhat bleary eyed from my home film fest, but I am going to focus on a half dozen of the films that I most enjoyed.
Click on the grey triangle or Mp3 link above to hear my picks as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program, heard on WBAI FM and Pacifica affiliates across the country.
Monday morning, crack guitar player, singer, songwriter, and videomaker Mary Spender takes us behind the scenes to her castle, as she gives us a backstage explanation of how she put together her Romeo-and-Juliet influenced music video with zero crew. A really fascinating look at what talent and resourcefulness can do. Oh, and add camera drone operator to that list.
The American mass obsession with guns is clearly unique and filmmaker Richard Chisolm has made an intriguing short documentary called Gun Show which details one artist’s attempt to come to grips with the national gun worship.
Click on the triangle above or the mp3 link to hear my review as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program heard on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
In 1995, the students of a secondary school in Scotland, found out they were the victims of a hoax. Their popular student companion of the previous year, Brandon Lee, turned out not to be who he seemed to be, but an imposter. Now, one of those school students, Jono McLeod, who grew up to be a filmmaker, has made a film that takes that shaggy dog story further yet, as Jono and his former school companions investigate the effect that the student they knew as Brandon Lee had on all of them. And in a virtuoso turn, Alan Cumming plays the camera-shy Brandon.
I was very happy to interview the director of the film, My Old School, Jono McLeod, and its star, Alan Cumming, for Arts Express radio heard on WBAI-FM NYC and Pacifica stations across the nation.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the interview as broadcast today
John “Bubbles” Sublett, who taught Fred Astaire how to tap, and played Sportin’ Life in Porgy and Bess, was a master of rhythm tap. He appears in the clip above in the 1937 film, Varsity Show, with his long time partner Ford “Buck” Washington.
As a youngster I didn’t much like Laurel and Hardy, but viewing this short recently, I couldn’t help laugh at their absolutely perfect timing. I’m assuming that part of the way it comes across on this film is due to the director, Charles Rogers.
Imagine a world where meat is produced from animal cells rather than a slaughter house. Dr. Uma Valeti, the co-founder and CEO of Upside Foods claims such a world is now within reach. A new film documentary, Meat the Future—that’s meat spelled M-E-A-T–follows Dr. Valeti over a five-year period as he attempts to make his dream a reality. From the world’s first cell-based meatball which cost $18,000 per pound to the establishment of a growing industry, Meat the Future presents a different kind of meat-eating future. I was happy to have as my guest on Arts Express, Meat the Future’s director, Liz Marshall.
Click on the triangle above to hear my interview with director Liz Marshall, as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM NY and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
In 2002 a Mauritanian engineer named Mohamedou Slahi was bundled onto a military transport plane and imprisoned by the US at Guantanamo for 14 years enduring years of physical and psychological torture. He wrote a book about it while he was in there that eventually got made into a film called The Mauritanian. But after the film’s release, journalist John Goetz found himself enlisted by Slahi on an obsessive mission that Goetz could never have predicted. Goetz documents his journey with Slahi in a new film called Guantanamo Diary Revisited. I was very happy to speak with Goetz about his new film.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the interview with John Goetz as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica stations across the nation.
Two of the best films I’ve seen about teachers were foreign documentaries about the teachers of younger children. The first is a French film called To Be and To Have, released about two decades ago, about a rural teacher who taught in a kind of one room school house. But my new favorite teaching film is a recently released German documentary titled Mr. Bachmann and His Class. The Mr. Bachmann of the title is a 6th grade teacher who teaches new immigrants to Germany, and he is decidedly unorthodox.
Click on the grey triangle or mp3 link above to hear my review as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI-FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
Amiri Baraka was an internationally known poet, playwright, political activist and theorist. But as prolific and influential as he was, the rest of his family, including his wife Amina and children Ras and Middy, are just as special. A recent documentary called Why is We Americans provides a portrait of the Baraka family and how they helped shape modern Newark, NJ, the nation, politics, arts and subsequent generations. I was happy to talk with the directors of the film, Why is We Americans, Udi Aloni and Ayanna Morris, and also one of the subjects of Why is We Americans, Amiri Baraka Jr, known as Middy.
Click on the grey triangle or MP3 link above to hear the interview as broadcast recently on Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
When I was a child, my father took me to a Shangri-la. A beautiful high-ceiling building filled with people sitting at tables; the walls were made up of scores of little windowed cabinets filled with slices of lemon meringue pie, or coconut crème pie, or bean soup or dozens of other treats. And if you put your nickels into the magic slot, the window popped open and it all could be yours. Of course, I’m talking about the Automat. I was happy to speak with Lisa Hurwitz who has made a nostalgia-filled film documentary called The Automat.
Click on the gray triangle or mp3 link above to hear the discussion of The Automat with director Lisa Hurwitz, as broadcast today on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
Here he is in one of his most masterful performances as Walter Lee Younger in Lorraine Hansberry’s A Raisin in the Sun.
The play was originally directed on Broadway by Lloyd Richards, the first Black director on the Broadway stage. In their lean days as struggling actors, Richards and Poitier would pool their money to buy and split a hot dog. They promised each other that if one got an opportunity, they’d bring the other along. When Poitier got Hansberry’s script, he insisted that Lloyd direct the play. Lloyd worked intensely with Hansberry to shape the play and then cast and directed the play perfectly. The stage cast, many of whom were also in the film– and who you can see in this clip from the film–included Ruby Dee, Diana Sands, Claudia McNeil, and John Fiedler.
There’s a long history of actors and variety performers who have had their first taste of theater with a basement childhood puppet stage. But actor Robert Brock of Lancaster PA was determined to make good on his childhood dream of building a marionette theater for the public and living in an apartment upstairs. Now in a new documentary, director Alexander Monelli brings to life the joys and woes of Robert’s single-minded adult pursuit of his childhood dream in Monelli’s new film Marionette Land.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the interview with Alexander Monelli, as broadcast yesterday on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica stations across the nation.
In the early nineteen sixties, a hidebound Catholic Church attempted to modernize with a movement known as Vatican 2. But some Church people, nuns and priests, wanted changes that were a bridge too far for Vatican 2. In Los Angeles, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary went toe to toe with the church hierarchy, involving themselves in anti-war and social justice movements. I was happy to speak with Pedro Kos, the director of a new film documentary called Rebel Hearts about those women of the Immaculate Heart who insisted on staying true to their consciences.
Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the interview with Pedro Kos as broadcast today on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica stations across the nation.
In 2016, Californians voted “Yes” on proposition 64 which made cannabis legal for recreational purposes. But perhaps counter-intuitively, the consequences of that act were decidedly mixed and complex. A new documentary, Lady Buds, focuses on a group of six cannabis growers, mostly women, who had to wrestle with the many unforeseen circumstances that came along with pot legalization. I was happy to be speaking with the director of Lady Buds, Chris J Russo.
Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my interview with Chris Russo, as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI FM NYC, and Pacifica stations across the country.
Kurt Vonnegut’s humorous and fantastical novels are all still in print today. Certainly, if you were a college student of the 60s, 70s or 80s, you probably know lines from Vonnegut novels by heart. Producer, director and writer Robert Weide has come out with a new documentary on Kurt Vonnegut, which includes Mr. Weide’s personal relationship to Vonnegut, called Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time. I was happy to interview Robert Weide for Arts Express.
Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my interview with Robert Weide, as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI FM NYC, and Pacifica stations across the country.