Angola Do You Hear Us?

 What does it take for a writer/actress to perform a play she’s written about prisons, at a prison? And in particular, at one of the most notorious prisons in the country, Angola, the Louisiana State Penitentiary, America’s largest prison-plantation. A new documentary about that performance and its aftermath, titled Angola Do You Hear Us?, has been shortlisted for the Oscar for Documentary Short Subject. I was happy to speak with the director of the film, Cinque Northern, and the playwright/performer, Liza Jessie Peterson.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear the interview as broadcast on the Arts Express radio program today, aired on WBAI -FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

The film is streaming on Paramount +

2nd Chance: Sex, Violence and Bulletproof Vests

Why would a man shoot himself in the chest 192 times? In a country that worships guns, explosives, and comic book super heroes, what kind of stories move product? And finally in a country that professes to be deeply Christian and compassionate is there a second chance for all of us—even the worst among us? All this and more are explored in a really intriguing documentary called 2nd Chance. I was happy to talk to the director of 2nd Chance, Ramin Bahrani.

To hear the interview as broadcast today on the Arts Express program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation, click on the triangle or mp3 link above.

Same Storm

The twists and turns of the last three years add up to several lifetimes. But somehow, with all of Covid’s initial attendant panic, fear and isolation, and the major film studios shut down, filmmaker and writer Peter Hedges decided to make a film during the very heart of the pandemic. The result was a unique film project called The Same Storm, the interlocking stories of some two dozen characters facing life as the world turned upside down. I was very happy to be talking with the creator of The Same Storm, Peter Hedges.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my interview with director Peter Hedges as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI-FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

My Old School: Alan Cumming And Jono McLeod On The Great School Hoaxer

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

Cell-Based Meat? Meat The Future

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.

Guantanamo Diary Revisited

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.

Mr. Bachmann And His Class

 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.

“We Are Plain People”: Sidney Poitier

The great Sidney Poitier died this month.

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.

Thanks to YouTuber The aesthetic of the Image: [world] cinema clips

Marionette Land

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.

Savior For Sale: Da Vinci’s Lost Masterpiece?

Some fifteen years ago the art world was aghast over what was called the biggest discovery of the 21st century: a newly found painting by Leonardo Da Vinci. Originally bought for about $1000, it eventually sold at auction for an astounding record breaking 450 million Euros. But was all what it seemed? Was the painting really by Da Vinci? And who was the mysterious buyer? And who were the shadowy middle men and agents taking their cuts? Was the whole art world just one large international scam operation?  In a fascinating new documentary film, Savior For Sale: Da Vinci’s Lost Masterpiece?  the full tangled story is explored. I was happy to interview the director and writer of Savior For Sale, filmmaker Antoine Vitkine.

Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my interview with Antoine, as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI FM NYC, and Pacifica stations across the country.

Fireboys

California is once again on fire and it’s unlikely to end anytime soon. But the firefighters fighting those fires include a large number of incarcerated youth who have been trained to combat the fire on the ground. I was happy to speak with filmmakers Drew Dickler and Jake Hochendoner, director/producers of a wonderful documentary film, Fireboys, about those youth who are risking their lives to fight the fires.

Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my interview with Jake and Drew, as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI FM NYC, and Pacifica stations across the country.

The People Vs. Agent Orange

Agent Orange has been called the most destructive instance of chemical warfare in modern history. Sad to say the US government has been instrumental in the awful deaths caused by Agent Orange both in Vietnam and the United States. A powerful new documentary,  The People Vs. Agent Orange, depicts the horrific story but also the courageous action by two extraordinary women, Tran To Nga and Carol Van Strum, who fought and sacrificed so much to bring the guilty parties responsible to account.

I was happy to speak with the directors and producers of the film, Alan Adelson and Kate Taverna, and also with one of those extraordinary women, Carol Van Strum, on Arts Express.

The film, The People vs Agent Orange is broadcast on PBS starting 6/28/21 and can be streamed via the PBS streaming app until July 11.

Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear our interview, as broadcast this week on Arts Express Pacifica stations across the nation, and later in the week on WBAI FM NY.

The Conductor: Marin Alsop

Photo: “WEF Annual Meeting” by WEF

The Conductor is an excellent documentary film about Marin Alsop, who struggles against enormous odds to become the first female conductor of a major symphony orchestra in the US. It’s a wonderful story told by Director Bernadette Wegenstein, with a compelling theme about the world of high stakes musicianship, along with the high cost of success for a woman in that field.

Click the triangle or mp3 link above to hear my review, as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI FM NY and Pacifica stations across the nation.

The Social Media Trap: The Social Dilemma

In the new documentary film, The Social Dilemma, a group of founding tech wizards warn of the dystopia awaiting us because of our fundamental misunderstanding of the true nature of the social media giants like Facebbok, Twitter, and Google. I was happy to be speaking with the director of The Social Dilemma, Jeff Orlowski, about how social media manipulates all of us.

To listen to my conversation with Orlowski, as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio show on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica affiliates across the nation, click on the triangle or mp3 link above.

Begin The Beguine: Fred Astaire and Eleanor Powell

Three minutes of heaven as Eleanor Powell, in heels, gives Fred Astaire a run for his money.

The clip above is from the film Broadway Melody of 1940. Powell was probably Astaire’s most accomplished tap partner. Astaire reportedly claimed he would never work with Powell again because Astaire (himself a notorious perfectionist)  never wanted to work as hard again.

Thanks to YouTuber CatCORViN

 

Chaplin and The Great Dictator

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Charlie Chaplin’s birthday occurs on April 16th, but really we can celebrate him anytime we like. Simply the greatest comedian on the big screen ever. Here’s a piece I produced that was broadcast today on WBAI’s Arts Express, WBAI.org, and on Pacifica affiliates across the nation.

Click on the triangle or mp3 link above to listen.

Bedlam: Serious Mental Illness in America

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In his new documentary film and accompanying book, Bedlam, Dr. Kenneth Paul Rosenberg, presents a moving portrait of what it means to be a person living with mental illness in America today. And in his quest to find the truth about others, he had to confront difficult aspects of his own history, and America’s history, of dealing with people diagnosed with serious mental illness.

You can hear part one of my interview with the fascinating Dr. Rosenberg, as broadcast yesterday on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI NYC and Pacifica Radio affiliates across the country, by clicking on the triangle above.

Part two is here: https://jackshalom.net/2020/04/14/bedlam-part-two/

BEDLAM will premiere on Independent Lens Monday, April 13 at 10pmET on PBS

Time Thieves

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The cliché is that time is money, and it must be true because there are plenty of folks out there looking to steal our time. My guest, Cosima Dannoritzer is the writer and director of an award-winning documentary film called Time Thieves, which takes an international look at the way time has become commodified and manipulated in modern capitalist society.

Click on the triangle above to hear the interview as broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI 99.5 FM NYC.

Trash To Gold

Gene Kelly, Michael Kidd, and Dan Duryea as three GIs about to be discharged, set out on a binge and do an incredible dance number with trash can lids. From the film, It’s Always Fair Weather, the last Gene Kelly–Stanley Donen collaboration.

Thanks to YouTuber Peggy Afuta

Stevenson–Lost And Found

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As readers of this blog know,  I’m a longtime fan of cartoons from The New Yorker magazine—and the man who wrote and illustrated almost 2000 of those cartoons was a prolific artist named James Stevenson.

But Stevenson, as Sally Williams’s new film documentary, Stevenson—Lost and Found, uncovers, led an unexpectedly complicated, rich, varied, and sometimes dark artistic life. I was happy to talk with Ms. Williams, the director and producer of the film, about her film and her enigmatic subject.

Click on the triangle above to hear the radio interview, as broadcast today on Arts Express on WBAI 99. FM NYC, and Pacifica affiliates across the country.

Up On The Air: Michael Apted

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You may know of the great British director Michael Apted for his thrillers including the James Bond film The World is Not Enough, or you may know him for his outstanding work with Sissy Spacek in the Academy Award-nominated Coal Miner’s Daughter, or his work with Jodie Foster in Nell. But for many, Michael Apted’s greatest achievement was begun 56 years ago when he selected 14 British schoolchildren from different social and economic classes for the documentary called 7 Up. He subsequently chronicled their physical, emotional, social, and mental lives in ongoing 7-year installments. In a remarkable coup, Apted is now releasing 63 Up, and the 7-year-olds we met in 1964 are now all 63 years old.

I was lucky to interview Mr. Apted for the radio program Arts Express. Click on the triangle to hear the interview as broadcast today on WBAI 99.5 FM, NYC