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TagIndie Films

Double Exposure: 8 Days at Ware

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 at Ware was part of the 2022 Double Exposure Investigative Film Festival.

Mill Valley Film Festival: Town Destroyer

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.

Nashville Film Festival: Old Friends, A Dogumentary

What happens to old dogs when their owners either no longer want them or can no longer care of them? Many of these dogs are put down. Others languish in shelters. These dogs are not as appealing to adopters. Their days are dwindling and many suffer from health issues that require expensive treatments. But what if there was a way to extend the quality of life for elder pups? What if they could enjoy their final days in a happy environment where all of their physical and emotional needs met? For Zina and Michael Goodwin, this was the goal. At first they began caring for a few elderly dogs. And then they took care of more. And more. A few became many. While some dogs lived for just a few weeks or a few months more, those final days were happy ones.

Directed by Gorman Bechard, Old Friends, A Dogumentary is the story of the Goodwins and their elderly dog sanctuary Old Friends in Mount Juliet, Tennessee. What started as a small charitable effort out of the Goodwin’s home blossomed into a whole operation complete with a state-of-the-art facility. Old Friends has an on-site veterinary hospital, full-time caretakers and even physical therapists on hand to care for these dogs in their final days. It’s like an upscale retirement home for elderly dogs. They manage a dog’s health problems, are regularly evaluating their residents quality of life and even work on problem behaviors. They’re regularly expanding and by the end of the documentary we see their plans for the near future. Old Friends is funded by donations and have found much support from their social media. Members of the local community, referred to as Geezer Guardians, help out by fostering the dogs and essentially expanding Old Friends’ efforts. 

This is a very bare bones (pun intended) documentary. It watches more like a very long advertisement for Old Friends than it does an actual documentary. However, dog lovers, like myself, will easily overlook this as the film’s story pulls on our heart strings. You’ll want to have some tissues nearby because it will leave you a sobbing mess. 

Old Friends, A Dogumentary is a relentlessly positive and uplifting film that will appeal to anyone who truly loves dogs.

Old Dogs, A Dogumentary premiered at the 2022 Nashville Film Festival.

Nashville Film Festival: Butterfly in the Sky

If you were a child of the ’80s and ’90s, chances are you watched the children’s television program Reading Rainbow and it had a profound effect on you. I was a PBS kid who really took to LeVar Burton’s gentle and inviting demeanor and seeing real kids like myself get excited about books. This influence and my natural curiosity sent me a lifelong journey of reading and loving books. But you don’t have to take my word for it. Just ask any Reading Rainbow kid and they’ll tell you the same: LeVar Burton made books cool and interesting.

“Anybody who worked with us and said oh, it’s just a kids show, never worked with us again.”

Directed by Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb and produced by Bryan Storkel, Butterfly in the Sky chronicles the extraordinary story behind Reading Rainbow, the figures who made it happen and its profound effect on the children who watched the show. The documentary also serves as a celebration for all the incredible work Burton and the production team, who were all interviewed for the film, put into Reading Rainbow.

The show premiered July 11, 1983 but production began as early as 1981. It was a hard sell to get a show about reading on the air and to convince book publishers that they should want their books on the program. While it took a couple of years for the show off the ground, once it did it really started having a profound effect. The show had a solid concept and structure that just made it work: a friendly host, an earworm of a theme song, a memorable catchphrase, book reviews by real kids, readings by celebrity guests, songs and documentary style segments that put the featured book into context. LeVar Burton turned out to be the perfect host. Kids watching felt like he was speaking directly to them. Burton insisted on authenticity, always preferring to be true to himself even when the producers didn’t agree with what he was doing, and this really made the show work. 

Butterfly in the Sky is in the same vein as recent documentaries on PBS kids shows including Won’t You Be My Neighbor (2018) and Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street (2021), both of which are excellent in their own right. Butterfly in the Sky is relentlessly positive, even when the show’s many adversities are discussed (it also completely skips the tumultuous life of the brand after it went off the air in 2006). This film serves up a heaping dose of nostalgia while also enlightening viewers on the history and importance of this landmark television program.

Butterfly in the Sky was part of the 2022 Nashville Film Festival.

Nashville Film Festival: Warsha

Warsha — dir. Dania Bdeir

Set in Beirut, Lebanon, Warsha follows Mohammad (Khansa), a construction worker tasked with operating one of the tallest and most dangerous cranes in the city. Isolated and far away from his fellow workers and the city below, Mohammad has a moment of freedom, tapping into his most secret desire. The climb up to the crane and the fantasy sequence were absolutely breathtaking. I enjoyed the LGBTQ angle. Highly recommended.

 

Warsha screened at the 2022 Nashville Film Festival.

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