Little Richard was a Rock ‘n’ Roll icon. He called himself the “brown Liberace” but really he couldn’t be compared with anyone else. He was a groundbreaking in his delivery and had a style all his own. He rocked a pencil thin mustache, a tall bouffant and his signature wardrobe. Songs like Good Golly Miss Molly, Tutti Frutti and Long Tall Sally have become bonafide classics. But Little Richard was never really given his due for just how influential he was.His explosive energy made him a force to be reckoned with on stage and inspired countless musicians including The Beatles, Elvis, David Bowie, James Brown, The Rolling Stones and more.
A new documentary sets out to set the record straight about who Little Richard really was. Directed by Lisa Cortés, Little Richard: I Am Everything paints the portrait of a man who was a walking contradiction. The film goes into depth about his music career, his early influences, how he molded his image and took the nation by storm and the many times he went unrecognized for being a trailblazer. It also explores LIttle Richard’s sexuality and how it often conflicted with his deeply religious beliefs.
The documentary is a bit on the long side and includes some stylistic elements and flourishes that seemed unnecessary. And ending felt rushed. With that said, the film was quite engrossing. It does a tremendous job demonstrating his impact on the industry as well as the dichotomy between his private and public life.
Talking heads include Mick Jagger, John Waters, Billy Porter, Tom Jones, Nile Rodgers, scholars, historians, family members and more.
Little Richard: I Am Everything premiered at the 2023 Sundance Film Festival. It will air on CNN and stream on HBO Max at a future date.
Directed by Byron Hurt, Hazing explores the brutal culture of hazing with a particular focus on HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). Hurt meditates on his own experience with hazing in a fraternity to explore why hazing, despite it being illegal in many states, still persists in college culture. Several victims who have died as a result of hazing are profiled. Their stories are harrowing and you can’t help but feel for their families. These needless deaths are a result of an ingrained culture in which young people are socialized to endure violence as a means of attaining respect in their given group. The initiated blindly trust the upperclassmen who then put them through barbaric rituals for no reason other than attaining pleasure from their own gross abuse of power.
Hazing has an important message to convey but it can get lost in a documentary format that is too long and a bit muddled.
“You have to show people the animal in order to create that connection, that love and appreciation. It’s all about setting the stage and waiting.”
— Carlton Ward Jr.
This quote made a big impact on me as soon as I heard it. As someone who has a deep love and appreciation for wildlife, I have long championed the preservation of these creatures and their habitat. And this quote struck me as to why all of those beautiful National Geographic photos and those awe-inspiring wildlife documentaries were important. We need to see in order to both understand and empathize.
Directed by Eric Bendick, Path of the Panther is a documentary that does just that. It allows the viewers to see the Florida panther in all its glory while also learning about the creature’s struggle to survive. With the encroaching suburbs shrinking its natural habitat and a mysterious neurological illness affecting kittens,panthers are up against a big battle in order to not go instinct. That’s where Carlton Ward Jr. steps in. As a photographer for the National Geographic, he truly understands that in order to save the panther people must see the panther. He and his team set up a sophisticated camera system in an area of the Florida Everglades in order to capture images of the panther in all its glory. And these images are truly breathtaking. The documentary also follows the efforts to rehabilitate injured panthers and to stop a new toll road from taking away even more of the panther’s habitat.
Path of the Panther is as stunning as it is revelatory. Come for the important conservation message, stay for some incredible images of the Florida panther.
Directed by Grace Harper and Kate Stonehill, The Family Statement is a 15 minute compilation of WhatsApp messages exchanged by the Sackler family during the time of their lawsuit. The Sackler family is particularly notorious for their company Purdue Pharma, which marketed and distributed OxyContin and is considered the root cause for the deadly opioid epidemic. Its alleged that the Sacklers filed for bankruptcy during the lawsuit as a means to shield themselves from financial loss.
The WhatsApp message, released in December 2020, are shown against images of your typical American suburban landscapes. The messages appear in small white text making it difficult for the viewer to read. This, and the fact that the messages aren’t that revelatory, strips the film of any real shock value. Throughout the film there are also snippets of pre-court interviews with the Sacklers. Will appeal to anyone interested in getting more insight into the opioid epidemic.
The Family Statement was part of the 2022 Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival.
Chances are you’ve heard of the recent class action lawsuit against RoundUp, the brand of weed killer that contains glyphosate that is an alleged carcinogen. It’s one of the most widely-used weed killers on the market and it is alleged to cause non-Hodgkins Lymphoma among other health issues. Monsanto, the company that produces RoundUp, has long been vilified for its unethical business practices. In the past several years they have been highly scrutinized for how they’ve dealt with Roundup and the media attention around it.
Director Jennifer Baichwal’s documentary Into the Weeds delves into one lawsuit: Dwayne “Lee” Johnson vs. Monsanto Company. Johnson used the weedkiller for his work and after one incident when a large amount got on him he developed mysterious lesions. It developed into terminal non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. Putting a face to this problem really drives home what is at stake when these companies are allowed to contaminate us with toxic chemicals.
Into the Weeds effectively drives home the message that corporate greed and the lack of regulation makes victims of everyday people.
Into the Weeds was part of the 2022 Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival.