Before anything else, please vote and vote for Biden/Harris and a Democratic ticket. This is the most important election of our lives. A vote to finally move on from the current administration means re-establishing voting rights and helping marginalized communities avoid abuse and persecution. You want to fight climate change, gerrymandering, help our schools – vote for Democrats.
Most documentaries this week involve people who gave us an example to follow, who fought against hate, who put their all into giving us a better future – but their work can’t be done alone. It depends on us taking that next step. No candidate is perfect, but some give us a much better chance to work for progress, instead of simply exhausting ourselves trying to mitigate horrific damage. I’d rather spend the next four years fighting to move further forward than fighting against sliding further back.
Let’s get to the documentaries:
The Soul of America (HBO)
directed by K.D. Davison
“The Soul of America” is based on Jon Meacham’s non-fiction book of the same name. Meacham is a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and presidential biographer.
The documentary tracks white supremacy and bigotry’s evolution in national politics across time. If we know how it’s always bubbled under the surface, rising generationally in different political forms, then we better know how to deny it space in the future.
This is director K.D. Davison’s first documentary.
You can watch “The Soul of America” on HBO Max with a subscription.
John Lewis: Good Trouble (HBO)
directed by Dawn Porter
“John Lewis: Good Trouble” documents the life and impact of civil rights leader and U.S. Representative John Lewis. He was there in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement: one of the founding members and later the leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, organizing lunch counter sit-ins in Nashville, and one of the original 13 Freedom Riders.
He was the youngest and is the last surviving speaker of the 1963 March on Washington, having joined Martin Luther King, Jr. and four others famously speaking before the Washington Monument.
When the Selma to Montgomery march stopped to pray on Edmund Pettus Bridge in 1965, police charged and assaulted the crowd, fracturing Lewis’s skull. These are just the most fundamental basics of Lewis’s story. It goes on; to document it all here would take more time than director Dawn Porter’s film.
Porter herself has made a name in documentary filmmaking in a relatively short amount of time. “Spies of Mississippi” focuses on a taxpayer-funded spy agency the state formed to keep segregation alive and sabotage the Civil Rights Movement.
“Trapped” documents the hundreds of state-level regulations designed to strip away access to legal abortions bit by bit, particularly in Southern states.
“Bobby Kennedy for President” is a 4-part Netflix documentary that tells the story of presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy, who platformed various civil rights movements and anticipated many liberal and progressive policy stances by decades. He was doing well in the primaries for the 1968 Democratic nomination before his assassination.
I’ve previously featured this, but this is the first time it’s come available on a subscription service.
Barefoot: The Mark Baumer Story (VOD)
directed by Julie Sokolow
“Barefoot: The Mark Baumer Story” follows an activist who walked long distances barefoot to protest climate change. He was an activist who had protested arms manufacturing and the construction of a fossil fuel power plant.
In 2010, he walked across the United States in 81 days. Given his route, that means he walked 30.4 miles a day. In 2016, he decided to make a similar walk – this time barefoot. He would be struck and killed on the side of the road in Florida.
Director Julie Sokolow is a remarkable up-and-coming director. She previously directed “Aspie Seeks Love” and “Woman on Fire”, the latter of which follows the first openly transgender firefighter in New York City.
See where to stream “Barefoot: The Mark Baumer Story”.
My Name is Pedro (virtual theatrical)
directed by Lillian LaSalle
Pedro Santana was an educator and activist who turned Middle School 391 in New York around. He exposed systemic dysfunction within one of the poorest districts in the state and became popular both with students and teachers.
His tenure was controversial – involving arguments with colleagues, and ultimately a certification scandal (he was certified to administrate as a principal, but not to teach).
See where to stream “My Name is Pedro”.
A virtual theatrical release means you can select a theater to purchase a ticket from. You can still watch the documentary at home, but the ticket cost is split between distributor and theater just as if you’d purchased a physical ticket. It’s a good way to support local and art theaters during the pandemic.
Citizen Bio (Showtime)
directed by Trish Dolman
“Citizen Bio” investigates bio-hacking. Bio-hacking can incorporate a range of practices, from simply changing a number of habits to extend your life to radical – and often unproven – medical techniques by programmers who imagine themselves doctors.
The industry has its own celebrities. A popular eye-catcher is to inject oneself with gene-modification drugs in front of a live audience. Aaron Traywick injected himself with gene therapy intended to cure his herpes. It failed to do so, but this didn’t stop Traywick’s antics from garnering attention.
Traywick would later pass away at a meditation spa at 28 years old. Needless to say, there are conspiracies within the bio-hacking community about who must’ve done this to him. It couldn’t have possibly been the result of testing homemade gene therapy on his own body without proper medical supervision or ethics, and it certainly couldn’t have been his massive cocaine habit.
Essentially, the documentary tracks bio-hacking as a con that markets to the desperate and ailing. It subverts actual medical science in favor of a cyberpunk flavor of snake oil. Its practitioners also envision testing on people of color, the disabled, and the poor as if they’re lab rats.
Director Trish Dolman has produced a number of films and documentaries. As a director, this is her third feature documentary.
You can watch “Citizen Bio” on Showtime with a subscription.
Take a look at new shows + movies by women from past weeks.
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