JWR Articles: Film/DVD - For Your Consideration: Documentaries 2013 - 2 (Directors: Greg “Freddy” Camalier, Kristi Jacobson, Lori Silverbush, Kirby Dick) - May 21, 2014

For Your Consideration: Documentaries 2013 - 2

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Three varied documentaries

Muscle Shoals
Greg “Freddy” Camalier
112 mins.
Four stars

The Power to Bind

Camalier’s loving chronicle of the small town in Alabama that—through one man, Rick Hall’s Fame Studios then later a rival just down street established by Hall’s ex-house band, The Swampers and bankrolled by NYC producer, Gerry Wexler who also, initially, partnered with Hall—spawned a distinctive sound and launched or cemented dozens of careers (notably Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett—not to mention the Osmond’s…) is a must-see for music lovers of R&B, soul and/or rock and roll and also a spectacular introduction for those new to those truly fantastic bygone eras.

The allure of this, now, iconic town with its “singing” Tennessee River running through it would never have been put on the map were it not for the Hall’s tenacity and inability to accept no for an answer. Camalier opts to take a decidedly romantic view of the history, rightly showing how Hall succumbed then overcame a variety of family tragedies as he began churning out hits for his talented charges, employing local heroes who provided countless tracks of backup. The inevitable struggles for power mixed in with competing egos on both sides of the recording studio glass is glossed over to the point that viewers might wonder how this big musical family could ever fall apart. With the schism so many years behind the principals, it’s readily apparent that digging deep into their acrimonious past is not going to be on the playlist.

No complaints here: it’s the music that lifts this film from stem to stern; having living proof that our most universal art is now more colour blind than when these songs were first heard, savoured and—finally—seen is a very convenient truth that George Wallace could never have imagined, much less understood. JWR

Single mom with many mouths to feed

A Place at the Table
Kristi Jacobson, Lori Silverbush
85 mins.
Three and one-half stars

More food for thought

Oddly similar to just what’s missing in Captain Phillips’ relative silence as to why young Somali men are driven to piracy (cross-reference below), this exposé of debilitating hunger in America fails to examine one of the root causes of poverty: absent husbands.

If the family unit is complete with two breadwinners, then there is a greater chance that the very real problems of being perpetually poor (hunger, disease, lack of self-esteem all leading to a corresponding deficit in education) have at least a chance to break out of—for many—the endless cycle of despair.

Those living this miserable life and consenting to tell their stories on camera are to be commended for their honesty and courage. Viewers who have never walked in their desperate shoes might begin to understand the devastating toll that “I wonder where my next meal is coming from?” takes on those living the American nightmare: “It [fill in your own blank] messes with you”; “When you have work there is a different pace to your walk.”

Founder of End Hunger Network, Jeff Bridges, appears several times in the production. It is heartening to see a celebrity so tangibly give back, yet even his fame hasn’t mustered enough support and desire to act by politicians and bureaucrats of all stripes who’d rather tend to Homeland Security before properly feeding the country’s citizens. Like the disenfranchised Somalis, some will reach the point of “nothing to lose” and horrifically take matters into their own hands. Surely that’s a vital part of Homeland Security too? JWR

A couple deals with the aftermath of rape The Invisible War
Kirby Dick
97 mins.
Four stars

Fighting the enemy within

Now that women have proved beyond doubt that they are at least equal to men (many surpass the stronger sex) in virtually any occupation except for sex-segregated sports (and good luck getting into the parking lot much less in the field for The Masters) it is high time they were treated with the respect they deserve—especially in the close quarters of the military.

Alas the epidemic of sexual abuse and outright rape of women in uniform, according to Dick’s painstakingly documented array of grievous incidents, is far from subsiding to isolated cases. But if it is the Commander who committed the atrocity or one of his buddies (all for one and one for all most foul), then the likelihood of a trial much less a conviction is slim to none. After all, they enjoyed it, they brought it on themselves by dressing for it, they were as drunk as their “superior” (in rank only) officers.

The film offers some hope at the regulatory level once Congressmen/women of all parties finally faced up to the tragic consequences of their own willful blindness. It is also heartening, if equally repulsive, to have a male victim come forward and share his tale of being sodomized by his uppers. How this type of unpunished activity squares up with “The Land of the free and the home of the brave” much less “And justice for all” is a travesty that is a deep stain on the reputation of the world’s last remaining super power, proving yet again how power corrupts absolutely. JWR

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