Office worker Fran (Daisy Ridley) lives a simple and quiet life. Her days consist of work, cottage cheese, glasses of wine and Sudoku. She’s painfully shy which makes partaking in office culture, her only social sphere, all that more awkward. During quiet moments she daydreams about death, imagining the various ways her dead body could be discovered. Things change when Robert (Dave Merheje) joins the office. He’s sociable, funny and he’s taken an interest in Fran. Thus begins a courtship that requires an incredible amount of patience for Robert as he tries to lure Fran out of her shell.
Directed by Rachel Lambert, Sometimes I Think About Dying is on the surface a story about female loneliness. Fran, brilliantly played by Daisy Ridley, is an introvert severely lacking in social skills and awareness, preventing her from establishing meaning relationships with other people. However, the movie’s strength lies in how it captures corporate monotony and contemporary work culture. Lambert’s film examines every minutiae when it comes to work interactions. There is much to take away from how the film depicts the intricacies of office politics from meaningless rituals to strict expectations on behavior. Ridley and Merheje play off each other beautifully and it’s easy to become invested in their relationship. I appreciated that Lambert leaned more on a slow build up with the two protagonists rather than rely solely on the shock value of cringey behavior.
Sometimes I Think About Dying premiered at the 2023 Sundance 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.
Directed by Meg Shutzer and Rachel Lauren Mueller, 8 Days at Ware is a sobering exposé of the inhumane treatment of minors at the Ware Youth Center in Louisiana. This 27 minute documentary tells the story of two troubled youths and the juvenile detention system that failed them. In one case, a 13 year old is put in isolation and commits suicide after just 8 days at the facility. Another case follows an investigation into officer abuse when a youth suffers a head injury after an altercation.
8 Days at Ware offers viewers insight into a damaged system that ultimately creates a vicious cycle of abuse for anyone who gets trapped in it.
8 Days atWare was part of the 2022 Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival.
“Jeffrey Epstein got away with what he got away with because of who was in his address book.”
— John Cook, The Insider
Directed by Barbara Corbellini Duarte and Mark Adam Miller, The Other Little Black Book is a fascinating short documentary about a recently discovered “little black book” that may have been owned by Jeffrey Epstein.
In the mid-1990s, Denise Ondayko discovered the address book on a 5th Avenue sidewalk in New York City. Decades later, collector of the obscurities, Christopher Helali, took ownership of the book, sending it off to Insider for authentication. That little book is a small window into a world of power and corruption.
The Other Little Black Book was part of the 2022 Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival
Directed by Alan Snitow and Deborah Kaufman, Town Destroyer examines the contentious debate around Victor Arnautoff’s The Life of Washington. This 13 panel mural decorates the walls of George Washington High School in San Francisco, California. Installed in 1936, the murals tell the story of George Washington and includes images of violence against Native Americans and African Americans. Some see the art as subversive. By painting the scenes, Arnautoff seems to be both telling history and criticizing it. Others find the murals incredibly offensive and believe the art is perpetrating harmful stereotypes and further traumatizing minorities.
This film follows the recent battle among those who believe the mural should remain and others who believe it should be painted over. Many arguments are made and the documentary does an excellent job not taking sides. It’s up for the viewer to draw their own conclusion.
Town Destroyer is a fascinating documentary about the debate between free speech and social justice told through the lens of one controversial piece of art.
This documentary was screened at the 2022 Mill Valley Film Festival.