In February 2027, the Martin Luther King Jr. surveillance tapes recorded by the FBI will be unsealed and made available to the public. These tapes are the result of J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI’s extensive harassment of MLK. Hoover sought out sordid details of MLK’s extramarital affairs hoping that the information would ruin his public image and in turn weaken MLK’s leadership. What Hoover didn’t anticipate is that ultimately no one cared. The movement was full speed ahead and even one of the most powerful men in America couldn’t stop it.
Directed by Sam Pollard, MLK/FBI is both a compelling look into one of the darkest times in the history of the FBI and a brilliant portrait of a charismatic leader who was able to mobilize a community into peaceful action despite all the challenges that faced him. The documentary is comprised of photographs and archival footage as well as clips from newsreels and relevant classic movies. It was based on recently released documents made available by way of the Freedom of Information Act.
The talking heads narrate but are not seen until the end of the film. The narrators include Civil Rights leaders, historians and former FBI employees including former director James Comey. The greatest value of this documentary is the amount of quality archival footage of MLK himself. I have seen several documentaries about the Civil Rights movement but none have included this much actual footage of MLK. The film is based on recently released documents made available by way of the Freedom of Information Act.
MLK/FBI is a priceless documentary that sheds light on the past and serves as a warning for the future.
MLK/FBI recently screened at the 2020 virtual Double Exposure Film Festival. It will be released by IFC in January 2021.
Sergio Chamy can’t believe his luck. While reading the morning newspaper he finds a job listing calling for a man between the ages of 80 and 90. Out of curiosity he goes to interview for the position. A private investigator is looking for an elderly man to pose as a resident the San Francisco Retirement Home in Chile to find out if the staff there is abusing the residents. In particular he has to keep an eye on one patient on behalf of her daughter.
Armed with a smartphone, camera glasses, a notebook, an inquisitive nature and a good dose of charm, Sergio infiltrates the retirement home. There he makes friends, becomes part of the social atmosphere, checks in on residents who are going through a difficult time and reports everything back to the private investigator. But Sergio gets more than he bargained for. He learns where the true neglect is coming from and its not from the staff.
Directed by Maite Alberdi, The Mole Agent is an incredibly endearing if not heartbreaking film. It’s a hybrid-like documentary that tells a true story in real time but has all the elements of a quiet feature film. It requires some love and some patience. If you have both you’ll be handsomely rewarded. The Mole Agent is very effective in its messaging. One can help but be charmed by Sergio Chamy who is stylish, debonair and has a heart of gold. I can’t recommend this film enough and I’m counting down the minutes before I can watch it again.
The Mole Agent recently screened as part of the 2020 virtual Double Exposure Film Festival.
The brutal Guatemalan Civil War (1960-1996) resulted in the deaths of many civilians, especially those of the indigenous Mayan population. In the days after the war, Bishop Juan Gerardi became an outspoken activist for the Mayan people, seeking justice for the crimes against humanity and giving a voice to the voiceless. He was a truly remarkable individual and one of the key members of REMHI, an organization that sought to bring to light the many human rights violations enacted by the military and government. This unfortunately made him a target and on April 26th, 1998 Bishop Gerardi was brutally murdered.
Directed by Paul Taylor, The Art of Political Murder investigates Bishop Gerardi’s state ordered assassination, the mishandling of the crime scene, the theories behind what exactly happened and the arrest and trial of the three assassins. George Clooney served as one of the film’s executive producers and the documentary is based on Francisco Goldman’s book of the same name. It features interviews with journalists, experts and those who knew Bishop Gerardi both personally and professionally. There isn’t much by way of background on either the Guatemalan Civil War or how Bishop Gerardi came to be involved with his activism. Instead the focus here is on the crime itself. In essence one could call this a biography of a crime as it dissects all the details of the murder, investigation, media coverage, trial, etc. I would have preferred more background on Bishop Gerardi but this was an interesting approach.
The Art of Political Murder is well worth the watch for anyone interested in true crime in general or Guatemalan history in particular.
The Art of the Political Murder recently screened at the 2020 virtual Double Exposure Film Festival.
Dr. Quincy Fortier was a fertility specialist based in Las Vegas in the mid 20th Century. He helped countless women battle infertility. Little did they know that the babies they had, thanks to Fortier’s “treatment”, were also biologically his. Years later, in an age of advanced DNA technology, his offspring find themselves on a harrowing journey of self-discovery.
Directed by Hannah Olson, Baby God is an engrossing and shocking documentary about deceit, manipulation and fractured identity. Dr. Fortier passed away in 2006 at the age of 93 and during his lifetime he got away with using his own sperm to fertilize his patients. It was only in his final years when his patients and their children started to catch on and he was brought to court numerous times. After his death, his actions continue to have ripple effects. The documentary investigates the culture in which Dr. Fortier was able to operate and how he was able to get away with this for so long. Unfortunately, there was no law against what he did and he was not the only doctor to have “worked” in this manner. Fortier genuinely thought he was helping these women.
In the film, we hear from his children, the offspring he raised with his wife, his two adopted daughters, and the half-siblings who discovered their origins in the most shocking of ways. We also hear from the women he treated as well as two of his Las Vegas colleagues. It’s easy to relegate Fortier’s actions to a mid-century naivete. But this documentary clearly demonstrates that Fortier was a deeply disturbed man.
“Do you want to say your father was a monster? And what does that say about you?”
Baby God can be disjointed at times. I would have preferred a more structured approach rather than its more free-flowing slow build. There was so much to grasp in terms of information, context and meaning that we, the audience, require more guidance. It’s still a highly compelling film that will leave viewers in a state of shock and awe. A must see.
Baby God recently screened at the 2020 virtual Double Exposure Film Festival and is slated to be released on HBO.