There are three new documentaries this week. When the “New Shows + Movies by Women” article sees a lot of entries, documentaries will split off into their own article. It’ll vary week by week for the time being. Sometimes – as in this first entry – it gives a bit more space to talk about the issues a documentary covers.
Decade of Fire (VOD documentary)
directed by Gretchen Hildebran, Vivian Vazquez
“Decade of Fire” tackles the often-forgotten story of mass fires in the South Bronx during the 1970s. During this time, more than 40% of the South Bronx was burned or abandoned. Urban decay, a broke New York City, white flight, property devaluation…it all contributed to the gutting of a large part of the Bronx.
Fear drove an exodus of white people from the Bronx in the 1970s. It was common for properties in mixed neighborhoods to be devalued. Desegregated school busing (needed in northern states as well as southern) alarmed white families. As these families left, banks started devaluing the properties remaining. Before long, property owners couldn’t sell their buildings anymore. Building owners started burning them down for the insurance money instead.
Fixers came into the neighborhoods to buy properties, re-sell them through shell companies to drive up their value, and then burn them down to collect an inflated insurance value. It worked because police had refused to continue investigating fires. The fire department was overwhelmed. Dozens of residents died every year.
“Decade of Fire” covers the recovery and rebuilding that mostly Black and Latinx neighborhoods pursued, even as they were blamed for a disaster they hadn’t caused.
Gretchen Hildebran’s worked behind the scenes on documentaries for two decades. This is Vivian Vazquez’s first feature.
Father Soldier Son (Netflix documentary)
directed by Leslye Davis, Catrin Einhorn
“Father Soldier Son” follows a family for a decade. Brian Eisch spent most of his sons’ childhoods deployed overseas. He returned having lost a limb. His understanding of his duty to country and family, as well as that of how we define masculinity and how this impacts his sons, changes over time.
Director Leslye Davis is a documentary filmmaker and photojournalist for the New York Times. Director Catrin Einhorn has worked as a journalist in a range of media for the New York Times, and is perhaps most known for her reporting through audio.
You can watch “Father Soldier Son” with a Netflix subscription.
Blessed Child (VOD documentary)
directed by Cara Jones
“Blessed Child” deals with the Unification movement, often called ‘Moonies’. The Unification movement calls itself a church and is often referred to as a cult. It has a history of being accused of kidnapping and ‘brainwashing’ members, as well as taking stringent measures to ensure families won’t allow relatives to leave it.
“Blessed Child” addresses this from the inside out, years after director Cara Jones escaped the cult. This is Jones’s first documentary.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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