Tag Archives: documentary

Our Father Documentary Review

For as many couples that are able to have children the old-fashioned way, there are numerous others who cannot conceive naturally. That is where modern medicine comes in.

Our Father is a new documentary that recently dropped on Netflix. It starts with an at-home DNA test. The woman at the start of the film knows that she came into the world via in-vitro fertilization (IVF). When the results come back, she discovers a horrifying secret. Her mother’s fertility doctor, Donald Cline, said one thing and did another when he injected the sperm into his client’s eggs.

As I watched this film, I got so angry. This man, for whatever reason, chose to play G-d. A doctor is supposed to save lives, not play with them for their own disgusting purposes. In doing so, he has potentially messed up multiple generations, while pretending that he did nothing wrong.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Our Father is available for streaming on Netflix.

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The Martha Mitchell Effect Documentary Review

In every era, there are heroes that are recognized for their bravery. Then there are other heroes who are only acknowledged for their contributions long after that time has passed.

Martha Mitchell is one of those heroes who, unfortunately, is only starting to be seen and respected. The new Netflix documentary, The Martha Mitchell Effect, dropped recently on the streaming channel. In the early 1970s, she was married to John Mitchell, who was then the Attorney General for Richard Nixon. Not exactly known for being the meek and silent type, Martha was quick to blab to the press about her husband’s legally and morally dubious work. Silenced by both Nixon and her husband, she was made to believe that she was crazy.

I wish I had learned about her earlier. When we talk about second-wave feminism icons, Martha Mitchell is a name who rarely comes up. After watching this movie, I felt like she should be given a second look by modern feminists and historians. She dared to take on a corrupt administration and tell the truth when many stayed silent.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

The Martha Mitchell Effect is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Filed under Feminism, History, Mental Health, Movie Review, Movies, Netflix, Politics

Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen Movie Review

Fiddler on the Roof is one of those movies that we all know. Even if we have never seen the film or the various stage adaptations, the songs and the story are iconic in their own right.

The new documentary film, Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen was recently released in theaters. It tells the story of how the original 1960s stage show became a big-screen sensation a decade later. Based on the stories by Sholem Aleichem, the audience follows Tevye (Topol), a Jewish dairyman living in poverty who is trying to provide for his wife and five daughters in the fiction shtetl of Anatevka in the early 20th century. His three eldest daughters, Tzeitel (Rosalind Harris), Hodel (Michele Marsh), and Chava (Neva Small) are all of marriageable age and test the social boundaries of the period.

In addition to interviews with the actors, the audience also is taken behind the scenes by director Norman Jewison (who despite his surname is not a member of the tribe) and musical director John Williams. Narrated by Jeff Goldblum, this is a love letter to a beloved narrative and characters who transcend time, culture, and religion.

I loved this movie. It was everything I could have wanted and more. The making of the original film was a labor of love for all involved. Told with authenticity, heart, and nothing but love, this documentary is nothing short of perfection.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely. I would even go as far as to say that this is one of my favorite movies of the year so far.

Fiddler’s Journey to the Big Screen is currently playing in theaters.

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Found Review

We all want to know where and who we come from. Someone who is raised by their birth family can easily answer this question. Those who are adopted may not be able to come up with that same information as easily.

The 2021 Netflix documentary, Found, follows three young ladies who were born during the one-child policy era in China. Living in orphanages as babies because of their gender, they were each adopted and raised by Anglo-American parents. Finding each other via a DNA test, they travel to the land of their birth, hoping to find blood relatives.

This film is touching and beautiful. I felt for these young women, whose lives were forever altered simply because they were born girls and not boys. I loved their connection, it was the emotional throughline that kept me watching. Throughout the movie, I was crossing my fingers, hoping that their deepest wish would come true.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

Found is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Flashback Friday: One of Us (2017)

Humans were not meant to be alone. We need other people, we need to be loved and wanted. But sometimes, that need conflicts with the internal knowledge that we are different.

The 2017 Netflix documentary, One of Us, follows three former NYC-based Hasidic Jews as they break away from their previous lives. To say that this process is difficult is an understatement. It’s more than the change in physical appearance. The emotional journey from where they started to where they ended is challenging, to say the least. It requires the knowledge that they may lose everyone they love in the process.

Going through this process is akin to coming out of the closet as an LGBTQ person. The push-pull of being true to yourself while wanting to be accepted is a psychological see-saw that no one should go through. But we live in a world that says that the only way we will be loved is if we conform to what is “normal”.

Though the subjects of this film are Jewish, one does not need to be of the same faith to try to understand what these people are going through. I suspect that there are many people, of all faiths, who were raised one way, but come to realize that that is not how they want to live.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

One of Us is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Flashback Friday: American Masters (1986-Present)

We all know the basic narrative of a biography. The subject was born on x date, accomplished certain things, and died on y date. Once this skeleton is in place, it is up to the writer(s) or creative team to ensure that whoever this person is, they are brought to life in full color, flaws and all.

American Masters has been on the PBS schedule since 1986. This long-running and award-winning documentary series tells the story of American artists, writers, actors, dancers, filmmakers, etc. What these people have in common is that they have left a lasting cultural mark on our nation.

I enjoy this series. It goes beyond the surface, revealing the real person behind the icon. In doing so, the viewer not only gets to know the subject, but perhaps also changes their opinion about whom they have perceived them to be.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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Rita Moreno & Mental Health: A Revelation That Needs to be Heard

Rita Moreno is more than an icon. She is a trailblazer who opened the door for non-POC performers to not only have a career, but to play roles than were more than the servant or the background character. She also dealt with mental illness and lived to tell the tale.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It premiered a couple of weeks ago on the PBS series American Masters. The documentary follows her life and career from her early days playing “ethnic” characters to her current status as one of the most respected performers in Hollywood. Best known for her role as Anita in 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story, it was one of the first (if not the first) fully fleshed out Latino characters on the big screen. Up until that point, Latinx performers either had to hide who they were (a la Rita Hayworth) or play a stereotypical characters ( e.g. Carmen Miranda).

While I was not surprised that she was sexually assaulted. Then, as now, women are still seen as sex objects to be used and thrown away when our usefulness outside of the bedroom has vanished. What I was surprised is that she has lived with mental health problems for decades and survived a suicide attempt. I found her honesty to be refreshing and comforting. It was as if she was saying “I did it, you can too”.

If I could, I would send an invite to watch this film to anyone whose life is complicated by mental illness. If it provides one person at least a brief respite from the mess in our heads and the push to ask for help, I would be satisfied.

Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It is available for streaming on the PBS website.

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Flashback Friday: Secrets of the Dead (2000-Present)

When someone dies, it may appear that everything they knew was lost when they passed. But if we look closely enough, what they left behind speaks to us as much as the person themselves.

Secrets of the Dead has been on the PBS schedule since 2000. In this documentary series, each episode examines one person or moment in history using the known facts and the objects that stand in for the subject. Part scientific/archeological study and part true-life story, this program is ideal combination of educational and entertaining.

I find this series to be fascinating. It balances the history and the drama to present as much as a complete story as possible. Bringing these people and these worlds back to life, the audience is treated to a compelling drama and a time in history in which they may not have not had all of the facts.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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My Octopus Teacher Review

Nature has a lot to teach us. But we must be willing to listen.

My Octopus Teacher premiered last year on Netflix. This nature documentary follows Craig Foster, a documentary filmmaker from South Africa as he spends a year bonding with an octopus. Recovering from a depressed state, he takes to the water, looking for a reason to feel good about himself. This comes in the form of his eight legged friend. In the year that they spend together, she teaches him about life, the importance of saving the natural world, and appreciating what he has.

This movie would not be my first choice to watch. It is certainly interesting and is educational without the viewer realizing it. I can see its value and why it won the Oscar for Best Documentary. But ultimately, it is meant for a niche audience who can truly appreciate what this film has to offer.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

My Octopus Teacher is available for streaming on Netflix.

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Throwback Thursday: To Die in Jerusalem (2007)

When we go to war, it is not the old we sent into battle. It is the young ones who put their lives on the line.

The 2007 short film, To Die in Jerusalem, is the story of two young lives cut short by hate, war, and unending conflict. In 2002, Rachel Levy was was a 17 year old Jewish girl living in Jerusalem. She died at the hands of Palestinian suicide bomber. The person who killed her was a 17 year old Palestinian Muslim girl, Ayat al-Akhras.

When we talk about this conflict, we don’t discuss it on a human level. By making the story about two families, two young girls taken at the prime of their lives and two mothers looking for answers, it becomes personal and down to earth. The audience does not see an argument that is complicated and misunderstood. They see the ordinariness of the subjects and hopefully understand they are no different than anyone else.

Do I recommend it? Yes.

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