This is a grave documentary. The motto is simple: If we don’t save our past, we’ll lose it.
First Run Features has released the DVD of Unmarked not only explores these untold stories of the past but also the efforts underway to preserve them.
Throughout the South, vast numbers of African-American gravesites and burial grounds for enslaved persons have been lost or are disappearing through neglect and nature reclaiming the solemn tombstones and markers.
Recently, there has been a rise in the restoration and preservation of these forgotten sites by those who have a personal connection with the deceased or an appreciation of their historical significance.
It’s a courageous journey, transgendering from man to woman, woman to man. Full Bloom: Transcending Gender follows 13 transgender and two gay actors as they transform their lives through the use of monologue, dialogue and performance art while preparing for the world premiere of the play, Lovely Bouquet of Flowers: An Exploration of Non-Traditional Gender Voices.
Michael D. Brewer’s Full Bloom features behind-the-scenes, rehearsal and performance footage that are interwoven with candid personal interviews with the cast, who talk about how they deal with family, inner conflicts, discrimination, coming out, surgery, hormones and the complexities of sexual identity and orientation. By sharing their own journeys, the actors transcend gender and challenge us to move past stereotypes and see what we all have in common as human beings.
Share the journeys with the First Run Features DVD release.
New year, new first rate documentaries from First Run Features.
The first: The Cellist: The Legacy of Gregor Piatigorsky. It will hit January 20.
Piatigorsky was one of the 20th century’s greatest classical musicians, a beloved teacher and larger-than-life personality whose story may not be familiar to most audiences today. In 2015, with the blessing of the cellist’s family, filmmakers Murray Grigor and Hamid Shams began delving into the Piatigorsky Archives at the Colburn School of Music along with family materials, Piatigorsky’s autobiography and biographies.
Along the way they interviewed dozens of subjects–from Yo-Yo Ma and Zubin Mehta to a who’s who of former students. Incorporating footage spanning the musician’s life and times (everything from performances to home movies), photographs, annotated music sheets and some re-enactments, Grigor and Shams capture the vibrancy of the cellist’s life and adventures.
In 2015, filmmakers Murray Grigor and Hamid Shams embarked on an odyssey that led them from the Piatigorsky Archives at the Colburn School of Music to Los Angeles, New York, Moscow and beyond. Along the way they interviewed dozens of subjects, from Yo-Yo Ma and Zubin Mehta to a who’s who of former students. Unearthing a trove of material that span Piatigorsky’s life and times–including performances, home movies, photographs, annotated music sheets–they capture the vibrancy adventures and achievements.
Don’t take our praise for it. Coos Christopher Koelsch, President and Chief Executive of LA Opera: “An extraordinary achievement. What a huge pleasure it was to be in the presence of that towering individual, the awe he inspired and the joy he radiated. You can feel your admiration for the man in every frame.”
Before making Hollywood epics such as Tora! Tora! Tora! and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, director Richard Fleischer started his career with a series of low-budget B-features, often taking ripped-from-the-headlines tales of crime stories and spinning them into noir gold, of which an exquisite example is 1949’s endlessly entertaining Trapped.
A young Lloyd Bridges stars as hard-boiled hood Tris Stewart, a convicted counterfeiter doing time in the Atlanta pen. When a fresh batch of fake bills starts circulating, treasury agents bail Stewart out to help lead them to the maker of the fake plates. But Tris double-crosses the Feds, hooking up with his gun-moll sweetie (22-year-old Barbara Payton in her breakout role). They plan to heist the plates and hightail it across the border. With the Feds closing in and the double-crosses piling up, Stewart finds himself between a rock and a hard place. Will he trapped for good?
Although long sought by the Film Noir Foundation,Trapped was believed to have suffered the unfortunate fate of many B-films of the era—oblivion. But when a private collector deposited a 35mm acetate print at the Harvard Film Archive, the Film Noir Foundation and UCLA Film & Television Archive (with support from the Hollywood Foreign Press Association’s Charitable Trust [The HFPA Trust]) sprang into action, restoring the film. The result, presented in a Blu-ray/DVD dual-format edition by Flicker Alley, honors the pitch-perfect performances, assured direction, and gorgeous cinematography of this edge-of-your-seat, noir classic.
Olive Signature line has released a Blu-ray edition of Bells of St. Mary’sthat is a significant improvement over the DVD released by Republic Pictures 100 years ago. The lack of specks and soot and and scratches leads us to believe the film has been (greatly) restored, though why Olive doesn’t use this bragging point is beyond us.
This is not a true “Christmas film”, but the warmth and heart and humor and luminous Ingrid Bergman make it worth a few viewings. We are still a bit surprised when we admit that she and co-star Bing Crosby (as a nun and a pastor at odds with each other) have appealing chemistry together.
Have an appetite for a dark, delectable comedy in the tradition of cannibal classics Eating Raoul and Delicatessen? Look no further than A Feast of Man (IndiePix Films), certain to satisfy your hunger (and funny bone).
When a wealthy and eccentric New York playboy prone to mischief dies unexpectedly, his four closest socialite friends are summoned to the late aristocrat’s country home overlooking the Hudson for a viewing of his video will. Only things don’t go quite as Wolf, the executor of the estate, had planne: Gallagher’s posthumous wish is to put his dearly beloved to the test—each will become a millionaire overnight if they can unanimously agree to consume his dead body and the group, has until the end of the weekend to reach a decision. Funny food for thought!
Say hello to the ultimate Tony Montana experience with the Scarface“The World Is Yours” Edition Gift Set (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment). This gem is chockfull of goodies: The 1983 film is 4K UHD; experience the unforgettable film like never before with HDR for brighter, deeper, more lifelike color.
There’s also more than 2 and a half hours of bonuses, including the brand-new Scarface 35th Anniversary Reunion Feature, with an all-new conversation with director Brian De Palma and actors Al Pacino, Michelle Pfeiffer and Steven Bauer. Another Blu-ray bonus: Both the original theatrical and alternate censored versions of Howard Hawks’ newly restored 1932 version Scarface. Perhaps best of all is the limited edition, individually-numbered replica of one of the most iconic props from the film.
After a 30-year-old bachelor, leaves his corporate job to pursue his dreams as an artist, he embarks on a new life as an Uber driver while working on a graphic novel titled Pixelia, which just happens to also be the name of this IndiePix Films release. One day, a transgender woman gets into his car and changes his life forever; they spend the whole day together, opening each other’s minds: she shares her desire to adopt a child, while he narrates the story of his graphic novel.
After a special bond quickly forms, he realizes his own queer identity, and the couple start to make their way in a culture that is not always friendly to alternative ways of life.
This LGBTQ festival favorite, made on a show string budget, is a prime example of India’s budding queer cinema movement.
The Broad City Complete Series(Paramount) has everything a queen or two could ever need. In addition to every single freakin’ episode, there are special features including outtakes, deleted/extended scenes, and every episode of Hack into Broad City and Behind Broad City. Plus, a special features only disc with more than 30 minutes of additional extras. Yaaaas!
Frank Capra’s heart-warming masterpiece is the best-known and most-loved holiday film. Now you can watchIt’s a Wonderful Life (Paramount) holiday classic like never before, newly remastered from the original film negatives and more vibrant than ever with stunning clarity.
With the endearing message that “no one is a failure who has friends”, Capra’s heartwarming masterpiece continues to endure, and after more than 70 years, this beloved classic still remains as powerful and moving as the day it was made.
Not to be catty, but little heroes can romp to the rescue with the PAW Patrol pups, as the canine crew use their tools, tech, vehicles and problem-solving skills to save Adventure Bay.
Each pup has a unique job and skills, but the pack must always come together as a team to save the day. The 3-DVD set PAW Patrol: Best in Snow Collection (Nickelodeon) deserves a spot in each kid’s stocking.
For the young and young-at-heart: Bumblebee & Transformers Ultimate 6-Movie Collection,
including Bumblebee and all five Transformers films, from visionary director Michael Bay and legendary producer Steven Spielberg.
Baby Boomer boom! The Toys That Made Us (Screen Media) is an American television series created by Brian Volk-Weiss. The first four episodes of the series began streaming on Netflix on December 22, 2017, and the next four were released on May 25, 2018.
The eight-episode documentary series, as it was originally touted, focused on the history of important toy lines. The first four episodes focus on the Star Wars, He-Man and G.I. Joe toy lines with subsequent episodes featuring LEGO, Transformers, Hello Kitty and Star Trek. The Bu-ray set includes a free collectible!
Christoph Willibald Gluck’s Orphee & Eurydice in one of opera’s most beautiful masterpieces; his exquisite drama introduces us to Orpheus, the poet and musician whose every word and note communicate the most overwhelming love for his Eurydice.
This production features Gluck’s reworking of the original German opera into a French-language production which contains thrilling ballet sequences that will come to vivid life under the direction and choreography of the legendary John Neumeier. This production stars Dmitry Korchak as Orphée with Andriana Chuchman as Eurydice and Lauren Snouffer as Amour. Oui!
Democracies should protect their citizens, especially the most vulnerable among them, but the United States is increasingly failing to do so especially in areas like the Rust Belt, the manufacturing heartland of the nation that includes Michigan, Wisconsin, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
The investigative documentary The Corporate Coup d’Etat (First Run features) shows how corporations and billionaires have taken control of the American political process, and in doing so have brought economic hardship and ruin to vast swaths of the country. It combines insights from political thinkers and journalists with the experiences of citizens from the Rust Belt, where factory closures and outsourcing have left it desolate and people hopeless.
The film argues that the crisis predates Adolph Freak’s election by many years: Decades ago, U.S. democracy began selling its soul to big corporations; lobbyists and business-friendly politicians took control in Washington, gradually undermining the will of the people. Provocative and revealing, The Corporate Coup d État exposes what happened and where we are now.
Other First Run features topping the list: Tattoo Uprisingreveals the artistic and historical roots of today s tattoo explosion. This sweeping overview explores how tattoos were used in early Christian practices, how they were discovered halfway around the world during the voyages of Captain James Cook, and how they exploded in popularity in America beginning with artists like Ed Hardy.
There’s an unforgettable appearance by Werner Herzog, who allows a rare glimpse at his Ed Hardy tattoo.
Spanning three generations, Chasing Portraits is a deeply moving narrative of the richness of one man’s art, the devastation of war, and an unexpected path to healing. Moshe Rynecki was a prolific artist who painted scenes of the Polish-Jewish community until he was murdered during the Holocaust. For more than a decade his great-granddaughter, Elizabeth, has searched for the missing art.
An elderly man, Octav Petrescu (portrayed by the brilliant Marcel Iures), returns to his childhood villa in Romania to sell it. Arriving there after a decades-long absence, Octavwanders through the atmospheric house and undulating grounds that surround it and is confronted and transformed by the memories and spectres of his youth, eventually finding answers to questions that have cast a shadow over his adult life.
From Oscar-nominated Josh Aronson and featuring a new song from Jon Bon Jovi, To Be Of Service is a documentary about veterans suffering from PTSD who are paired with a service dog to help them regain their lives.
The film follows these warriors with their dogs as this deeply bonded friendship restores independence and feeling for the men and women who so courageously served our country.
Inherited from Maria Montessori in 1907, the Montessori Method is a child-centered educational philosophy that celebrates and nurtures each child’s desire to learn, an approach valuing the human spirit and full development: physical, social, emotional and cognitive. The Montessori Method is increasing in popularity both in the U.S. and abroad.
Curious to see how the Method works first hand, filmmaker Alexandre Mourot sets his camera up in the oldest Montessori school in France (with kids from 3 to 6) and observes. He meets happy children, free to move around, working alone or in small groups. Some read, others make bread, do divisions, laugh or sleep. The teacher remains discreet.
Children guide the filmmaker through the whole school year, helping him understand the magic of their autonomy and self-esteem–the seeds of a new society of peace and freedom, which Maria Montessori dedicated her life work to.
Such is the wonder and joy of Montessori: Let the Child be the Guide.
Holy high notes! Melody Makers (Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Visual), a chronicle of the birth of music journalism from the world’s oldest and longest standing seminal music magazine, is not just another music documentary; through a series of interviews from artists and journalists of the time, the film tells the true story of the rise and fall of the world’s most influential music publication and uncovers an era of tremendous creative freedom.
Who says the holidays can’t be a horror . . . and we don’t just mean when the in-laws come. George Roy Hill’s landmark science-fiction classic, Slaughterhouse-Five, tells the tale of World War II soldier Billy Pilgrim and how he was abducted by aliens. The flick took home the Jury Prize at the 1972 Cannes Film Festival and has been a favorite of sci-fi fans ever since. Kurt Vonnegut, who wrote the novel the book is based on, famously claimed, “I drool and cackle every time I watch that film.”
Not only is Arrow bringing this to Blu-ray for the first time in North America, but it comes with a brand new 4K restoration and a spaceship-load of special features. Yippee!
He was a true genius. And Kurt Weill’s Street Scene is an amazing mélange of show tunes, arias, jazz numbers, folk songs and spirituals, a true musical melting pot that aptly underlines the rich variety of characters that populate the New York City tenement block in the ’30s that’s the focus of this exceptionally vital and criminally undervalued work.
It was meant meant to be a truly American opera, half-way between his The Threepenny Opera and Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story and drawing from the famous play by Elmer Rice (recipient of the Pulitzer Prize when it was published in 1928).
Weill wrote Street Scene shortly after fleeing Nazi Germany. When he discovered the vitality of the American musical scene, his focus became to reconcile the Broadway musical with European traditional opera, jazzy and North-American tunes with an almost Puccinian-like lyricism. Under Tim Murray’s vivid and precise baton, the superb production by John Fulljames perfectly renders the vitality and energy released by the streets of New York that proved to be a great inspiration to the theatrical mind of the composer.
Released by BelAir Classiques, the staging generously evokes a bygone era of American history, simultaneously looking rundown and part of a dreamscape worth longing for.
Mad Hot Ballroom meets Paris is Burning? Or is it RuPaul’s Drag Race meets Dancing with the Stars? Whatever your reference, the award-winning and crowd-pleasing documentary Hot to Trot offers a deep-dive look inside the fascinating but little-known world of same-sex competitive ballroom dance.
Gail Freedman’s lively, poignant film follows an international cast of four magnetic men and women over several years, on and off the dance floor, as they journey to the quadrennial Gay Games. Along the way, dancing is revealed to be both a means of overcoming personal hardships—from drug addiction to familial rifts—and a joyous opportunity to merge passionate artistic expression with proud sexual identity.
Everything old is new again. An important move by First Run Features, who are proud to announce the theatrical re-release of the legendary documentary Before Stonewall on June 21 in New York and June 28 in Los Angeles, with other cities to follow. Fifty years after the riots gave birth to the modern lesbian and gay liberation movement, and with substantial progress made, LGBTQ Americans still find themselves fighting on many fronts for full equality, in the U.S. and around the world. Before Stonewall offers a potent reminder of what life was like for LGBTQ people before that extraordinary event.
In the early morning hours of June 28, 1969, the police raided the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village, leading to three nights of rioting by the city’s gay community. With this outpouring of courage and unity the gay and lesbian liberation movement had begun.
Before Stonewall pries open the closet door, setting free the dramatic story of the sometimes horrifying public and private existences experienced by LGBT Americans since the early 1900’s. Revealing and often humorous, this widely acclaimed film relives the emotionally-charged sparking of today’s gay rights movement, from the events that led to the fevered 1969 riots to many other milestones in the brave fight for acceptance.
Experience the fascinating and unforgettable, decade-by-decade history of homosexuality in America through eye-opening historical footage and amazing interviews with those who lived through an often brutal closeted history. The theatrical re-release of Before Stonewall is a chance for audiences to experience this eye-opening film on the big screen, with an audience, the way it was meant to be seen.
Narrated by iconic author Rita Mae Brown, the film features stirring interviews with pioneering cultural figures and activists including Audre Lorde, Allen Ginsberg, Harry Hay, Richard Bruce Nugent, Frank Kameny and Barbara Gittings.
The Sunday Sessions (First Run Features) offers an intimate portrait of a deeply conflicted young man named Nathan, who is struggling to reconcile his religious conviction and sexual identity.
In this observational documentary, the filmmakers are given unfettered access as Nathan willingly attends clandestine conversion therapy sessions, family sessions,and weekend camps with an alluring therapist. The result is a sensitively crafted emotional and psychological thriller, which chronicles two years of his journey from acceptance to skepticism, all leading to a profound epiphany.
Although it has been discredited by all major American medical, psychiatric, psychological and professional counseling organizations, some disturbing and unsettling quacks still offer conversion therapy for reasons almost exclusively rooted in a conservative religious belief system.
Let us share director Richard Yeagley’s statement about the documentary “The filming and production of this documentary proved time and time again to be an emotionally taxing process. I knew from the outset that access was going to be the most important element to producing this story. I didn’t want to make a film that was a presentation of facts (something that relied on talking head interviews and an authoritative voice-over narration); I wanted to tell a personal story of an individual’s journey through this therapy.
Instead of an exposé or advocacy-based documentary, I preferred to tackle the story with an observational, fly-on-the-wall approach. I wanted access to the therapy sessions and to the personal life of the protagonist. In order to garner such access, I knew I had to strip myself, as best I could, of bias and approach the film as objectively and curiously as possible.
With all this said, biting my tongue was difficult at times. In many situations, and specifically when things started to get emotionally dark for Nathan, I just wanted to give him a hug and tell him that everything was going to be alright. I wanted to recommend that he move out of rural Virginia, and into a city like New York or Washington D.C., where there is more diversity and a bigger support system for the LGBTQ community. But as a documentary filmmaker employing the observational technique, this was not my role. So I remained observant, and strictly so, in hopes that it would result in the creation of a powerful, thought-provoking film.”
Extraordinary Ordinary People is a music-fueled journey through folk and traditional arts in America.
At a time when the existence of the National Endowment for the Arts has never been more threatened, this new documentary focuses on one of its least known and most enduring programs: the National Heritage Fellowship, awarded annually since 1982.
Featuring a breathtaking array of award-winners including musicians, dancers, quilters, woodcarvers and more, the film demonstrates the importance of the folk and traditional arts in shaping the fabric of America. From Bill Monroe and B.B. King to Passamaquoddy basket weavers and Peking Opera singers; from Appalachia and the mountains of New Mexico to the inner city neighborhoods of New York, the suburbs of Dallas, and the isolated Native American reservations of Northern California–each of the artists share exceptional talent, ingenuity and perseverance.
In 1943 a young British officer, Norman Lewis, entered a war-torn Naples with the American Fifth Army. Lewis began writing in his notepad everything that happened to him during his one-year stay, observing the complex social cauldron of a city that contrived every day the most incredible ways of fighting to survive. These notes turned into his masterpiece, a memoir titled Naples ’44.
With narration by Benedict Cumberbatch, this new documentary based on Lewis’s memoir imagines him returning many years later to the city that charmed and seduced him.
Combining archival war footage with clips from movies set in Naples from the ’50s and ’60s (featuring Marcello Mastroianni and Ernest Borgnine among others) we see a thrilling and unpredictable parade of unforgettable stories and characters: women in feather hats milking cows in the rubble, statues of saints carried by hysterical crowds attempting to stop Vesuvius erupting and impoverished citizens impersonating aristocrats. But this unusual and riveting evocation of a timeless city is also a powerful condemnation of the horrors of war, whether just or unjust.
We love that source known as “unknown”. And we often love his/her quotes. Like this one: “Running is nothing more than a series of arguments between the part of your brain that wants to stop and the part that wants to keep going.”
We now run to tell you about a great new First Run Features film, that honors a city and its historic marathon. From its humble origins 120 years ago to the present day, Boston immerses the viewer into the wondrous kaleidoscope of the oldest annually contested marathon in the world.
Evolving from a workingman’s challenge to welcoming foreign athletes and eventually women, the iconic race
played no small part in paving the way for the
modern marathon and mass participatory sports.
Narrated by Oscar winning Boston native Matt Damon, Boston features many of running’s greatest champions including Shalane Flanagan, Meb Keflezighi, Bill Rodgers, Frank Shorter and Joan Benoit Samuelson.
The documentary pays such homage to Boston that its Executive Produced is Academy Award nominee and Boston Marathon competitor Frank Marshall; its original soundtrack was recorded by members of the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Face it: I will come in last. Boston (the city and documentary) always comes in first.