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I Am Richard Pryor (2019)
A Powerful and Disturbing Documentary about a Troubled Comic Genius
I am Richard Pryor was well-received during its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. The film paints a powerful picture of a transformative comic figure. Through footage of his performances and interviews with his friends and colleagues it presents a full picture of Pryor's dark and troubled life. It starts with his deeply troubled and traumatic childhood and shows how those events surely shaped his life which included both his genius and also his aberrant destructive behavior including his heavy drug use. His talent and his comedic influence as both a purveyor and a shaper of the complex times in which he lived are examined. The film is well-constructed as it covers the arc of his career which went through a number of stages as both a comic and actor. Fans of his work and students of comedy will greatly enjoy this film.
A Beautifully made Documentary about Complex Musical Genius
The Gift was warmly received at its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. Through a combination of Cash's musical performances (with an emphasis on his famous 1968 recording at Folsom Prison), autobiographical audio tapes of Cash speaking about his life late in his life, photography and interviews with his family and friends, this documentary draws a remarkable and complicated portrait of Cash's difficult and remarkable life. It presents a complete picture of his life including his rise from poverty, the tragic death of his brother, his troubled first marriage, and his struggles with addiction. And yet, the audience also sees his remarkable talent and his efforts to confront his traumas through his music. The film also captures his activism on behalf of Native Americans and the deep and powerful role of his Christian faith in his life and his music which spanned genres and generations. This documentary is extremely well-made and serves as a fitting tribute a musical icon. It will be enjoyed by both hard core and casual fans of the "Man in Black."
A Troubling Documentary on the relationship between the Developed and Developing World
Sakawa seemed to be positively received in its North American premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. This Dutch-produced documentary profiles young internet fraudsters in Ghana who desperately engage in variety of online sex schemes with lonely Westerners. Sometimes they perform online sex acts and attempt to get the Westerners in the US, UK, Canada and elsewhere to send them money or plane tickets. It is a disturbing and troubling picture of what desperate people in the third world will do when they have no real economic opportunities. It reflects the international hierarchy of politics and economics played out in a very a disturbing human microcosm. These young people have become human commodities as developed countries continue to exploit the developing world economically in the post-colonial era. The documentary is made in a cinema verité style and lacks any real contextualization. The documentary could have been strengthened by some expert analysis of the history of colonization, economics, and the international sex trade in order to help the viewers gain more nuanced understanding of the tragic events rather than just an emotional picture. Sakawa is provocative and well-filmed, but feels like an incomplete experiment.
Apollo 11 (2019)
Apollo 11 takes you on a Remarkable Journey
Apollo 11 was warmly and enthusiastically-received at the SXSW Film Festival. It is a remarkable documentary that takes us back in time 50 years ago to one of the greatest technological achievements in world history. I was born 6 months after the Apollo landing, so it is literally a journey to the time of my birth. It was a very dark time in our history when the country was divided by civil rights and the Vietnam War and yet the moon landing was a joyous unifying optimistic moment of technological triumph that brought the country and the world together.
The documentary captures the moment with the original archival video and audio tapes of the time - most of them filmed by NASA itself. There is no real suspense for the audience in that we all know exactly what happens and yet it takes us back to that moment when know one knew if the mission would succeed or if the rocket would blow up and kill the astronauts on the launch pad. The only narration is provided by some of Walter Cronkite's news live broadcasts on CBS and mission control's audio. You can't always tell what you are seeing or clearly understand the audio, but that's fine, because it lends to the authenticity that takes us back to these incredibly dramatic moments. Space is truly our final frontier and captures our imagination like little else. But the real events are more powerful and dramatic and science fiction films can truly capture. This is a must-see documentary for anyone who believes we can still dream big and achieve great accomplishments.
The Hottest August (2019)
One of the Worst Documentaries I've ever seen
The Hottest August was received with confusion and bewilderment at SXSW Film Festival. It is an incoherent film and the director should find another line of work. It was supposed to be about climate change, but it wasn't. Basically, the director walked around Brooklyn (mostly along the beach) during the month of August 2017 and asked ordinary people what they thought about the future. The various individuals (who are all unnamed until the credits) talked about their anxiety about economics, race, and occasionally about the climate. Some gave sophisticated intellectual answers, some gave vaguely racist answers, and some offered total incoherent nonsense. Some just talked about ordinary challenges that they were facing in their daily lives. The film could be called a slice of life, but mostly it is bad film-making. The interviews are directionless, and the film is poorly edited. While some of the individual interviewee are interesting and insightful, there is no argument tying together the different interviews or any apparent order to the order in which they were edited together. A film requires a narrative and this one doesn't have one. Frankly, I'm surprised that the SXSW staff accepted the film. I've seen hundreds of documentaries and this is among the worst that I've encountered.
For Sama (2019)
A Shattering film about the horrific Siege of Aleppo
For Sama received a standing ovation at its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. It also received the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Feature. It is a remarkable film. Each of us tries to go through his/her daily life and pretend there is no place in the world where human beings are being routinely slaughtered as occurred in Aleppo. Waad Al-Khateab is a hero. She and her husband - a doctor - stayed in Aleppo through the worst of the siege. He saved lives and she documented the horrors for the world to see. For Sama presents some of the most unflinching war coverage that I have seen. The beauty of the film is that she presents it as almost a love letter to her infant daughter Sama who was born in Aleppo in the months leading up to the siege. She is trying to tell her story and the story of her city (one of the oldest continuously populated cities on the planet). The contrast between the horror of parents try to care and protect an infant while simultaneously trying to save lives and document the horror is breathtaking and heart-wrenching. It is as if you set a love story amidst the flames of hell. This is a story that needs to be widely viewed and it will be since it has been picked up by PBS and will air on Frontline in the coming months. Everyone who loves children and hates war (and I really hope that is everyone) should see this film.
A Fascinating film about the future of Self-Driving Cars
Autonomy was warmly-received at its world premiere at the SXSW Film Festival. The film was produced in cooperation with Car and Driver Magazine and has done an excellent job of providing a serious examination of the many (almost endless) questions that are raised by development of self-driving vehicles. They raise many provocative questions about the economics, political, legal, safety, cost, ethical implications, and cultural reverberations. They seriously examine what driverless vehicles will mean. Of course, they can not answer all these questions, but just asking them is a significant step forward. The film moves rapidly and is highly engaging. I highly recommend it to anyone who is trying to think seriously about this really important technological development that is likely to have immense implications on daily lives in the next decade or so.
A Beautiful Tribute to one of the Funniest people who ever Lived
Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins was warmly and lovingly received by liberal Austin at the SXSW Film Festival. The film is a loving tribute to one of the funniest political commentators who ever put pen to paper. Ivins was a daughter of Texas who made it her mission to challenge conservative Texas with wit and witticism. She used humor to skewer her enemies. This biopic relies heavily on her words and particularly on archival speeches and presentations. Her wit has become legend such as when she describes Pat Buchanan's 1992 Republican Convention as "It probably sounded better in its original German." The film is clearly meant as a tribute and so it sugar-coats some of the rough spots (although it does touch on her struggles with alcoholism). It verges of liberal hagiography, but still captures so much of her larger than life personality. For all her love of life, her death in 2007 from cancer at only 62 is sobering. Watching the film in 2019, one can not help but wonder what Molly Ivins would done with a Twitter account in the era of Donald Trump. Sadly, we will never know, but we can imagine. Recommended for her fans and admirers.
An Inspiring Film about a Community-based Project to House the Homeless
Community First, A Home for the Homeless, was enthusiastically received at its world premiere at Austin's SXSW. In Austin, Mobile Loaves & Fishes is a universally beloved project. Their work in support on behalf of meek and the suffering is truly God's work. This short film explains their beautiful Community First project which seeks not only the house the chronically homeless and disabled, but provide them with what they are truly missing - a loving and sustainable community. The President says that we have a national emergency at the border; we have a national emergency in the streets of America every night that a homeless person goes unsheltered. Community First is addressing that crisis every day that it takes in a chronically homeless individual. The picture that they are presenting is perhaps a little sugar-coated, but if we ever needed a little sugar-coating, this inspiring project certainly deserves it. Most importantly, the film deconstructs our stereotypes of the chronically homeless and shows how with a little TLC they can becoming functional and contributing members of society.
A Fascinating and Enjoyable Film about one of the Most Amazing Scams in Modern American Business
The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley was very well-received at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. This film which will premiere on HBO on March 18 is a remarkable and powerful story of Elizabeth Holmes remarkable fraudulent company, Theranos. A few years ago Holmes was being pitched as the next Steve Jobs; now her company is defunct and she is under indictment. Her company claimed to be inventing a device that could revolutionize the medical blood testing system, but their product was ultimately a complete fraud.
The film was directed by Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney and is in some ways a sequel to his 2005 film, Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. Both films capture the rise and fall of scam companies in a manner befitting Greek tragedy. Perhaps The Inventor proves that a woman con-artist can be just as corrupt as a male one. Holmes's product was bunk, but she was able to convince powerful and well-connected individuals that her non-existent product was actually about to revolutionize health care. Her business model appears to be as corrupt and deceptive as Donald Trump's. The film is demonstration that a good salesman can sell almost anything to a gullible audience. She was able to raise hundreds of millions of dollars in venture capital to finance a product that didn't exist and was virtually physically impossible to achieve. Like all of Gibney's films, it is entrancing, and the two hour run-time flies right by. This is a fascinating film that not only tells the story of a corrupt company but actually capture many of the flaws of our modern business and political culture. Absolutely fascinating.
An Intriguing Film on the Efforts of Citizen Journalists to factcheck Online Political Propaganda
Bellingcat was warmly-received in its North American Premiere at Austin SXSW Film Festival. Bellingcat tells the story of what it describes as a Citizen-Journalist website that was started by Elliot Higgins in Great Britain. They are attempting fact-check some of the political propaganda around the world particularly in conflict zones. They have challenged government narratives and used sophisticated open source techniques to challenge governmental lies. The film highlights examples from Syria and the Ukraine. For example, they challenge Russia's narrative trying to deny their role in the shootdown the Malaysia Airlines flight MH 17. Their research work goes really beyond journalism to using techniques that seem more like those used by intelligence services. Their work creative and provocative. They are attempting to deconstruct official political propaganda narratives in ways that require research that is often difficult for the profit-driven capitalist media to do. The film does a nice job of presenting their project and will hopefully provide their work with more publicity.
Building the American Dream (2019)
A Heart-wrenching film on Mistreatment of Undocumented Construction Workers in Texas
Building the American Dream was embraced by the audience at its World Premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. This is a beautiful film that shows how the cruel and the unscrupulous are willing to exploit undocumented workers. It shows the ugly tactic of wage theft in which companies refuse to pay workers and the cruel conditions that some workers face in unsafe workplaces in Texas. The film shares the heart-wrenching personal stories of some of the victims; it also shows the heroic work of the Workers Defense Project which provides legal and political support for the workers. It shows their victorious campaign to win support for a Dallas ordinance that forced construction companies to provide workers with 10-minute break every 4 hours. The film presents the irony that many times these desperately poor workers are building the luxury high-rises for the wealthiest of Texans. It positions the events within the larger political climate in Texas where politicians often oppose common-sense safety regulations as part of the "Texas Miracle" of economic development. But Building the American Dream asks us to consider what is the cost of that American Dream which for many workers is really a nightmare. The documentary is an excellent educational tool which can be used to teach both adults and students about the horrifying dangers faced by undocumented workers in Texas.
Running with Beto (2019)
A Charming Film about Beto O'Rourke's Ill-fated Senate Campaign
Running with Beto was enthusiastically received by hundreds of supporters at its world premiere at the Paramount Theater at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. The film is mostly warm liberal embrace for Beto O'Rourke and his ultimately unsuccessful progressive campaign to unseat Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2018 election. It isn't a very serious academic campaign film. It is mostly a soft and supportive portrait of the enthusiastic candidate and his young family. It paints a portrait Beto, his enthusiastic staffers and his dedicated volunteers. It is a fun film for all those who put their heart and soul into the Beto crusade. Folks who loved Beto and the daring grassroots campaign to turn Texas blue will love the film. Ted Cruz supporters will probably hate it. In Austin, the audience absolutely loved and especially loved when Beto and his wife and daughter showed up on stage with the director at the end of the film. If you are looking for affirmation about what could have been you'll enjoy this entertaining campaign film. Of course, Beto O'Rourke's campaign failed to win, but it did begin a process of remaking the Texas Democratic party (through his effort to visit all 254 counties) in Texas. If Texas ultimately does turn blue, people will come to understand that it all began with Beto's grassroots campaign.
The River and the Wall (2019)
A Fascinating Journey that seeks to redefine the U.S.-Mexico Border
The River and the Wall was warmly and enthusiastically received at its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. This is a amazing and unique film. The filmmakers capture the journey as a group travels down the entire 1200 mile length of the Rio Grande portion of the US (Texas) - Mexico border from El Paso to Brownsville. They spend two months on bicycles, horses and canoes traveling the entire river boundary. The filming is exquisitely beautiful. This powerful documentary seeks to redefine how we see the border as less of international boundary where Trump plans to build a wall and more of complex ecosystem and thus sheds a new light on how our political debate is framed. The River and Wall is beautifully filmed and presents an eye-opening examination of the border. It deconstructs our idea of the border itself. In doing so it argues that a border wall is not only a humanitarian disaster, but an ecological one as well. It is an important perspective that has been mostly absent from our debate about the moronic idea of building a border wall. The film also includes the personal perspective of the team that makes the journey and some of the local residents. The film is supplemented by interviews with former Congressman Beto O-Rourke (D-TX) and current Congressman Will Hurd (R-TX) who share a bipartisan opposition to building a border wall. This is an emotional and provocative film which needs to be widely viewed as antidote to the absurd arguments about building a border wall.
The Infiltrators (2019)
A Provocative Film about Immigration Detention
The Infiltrators was well-received at its regional premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. It is a provocative film about the efforts of undocumented activists to infiltrate the Broward Detention Center in Florida. These young people have taken the audacious step of getting themselves arrested so they can get inside detention facility and try to assist those inside the facility to get released. I can't decide if they are brave or foolish, but most likely both. They document the conditions inside the facility for the film. Because they can't film inside much of what goes on inside is recreated docudrama-style using actors after the fact. It is melding of styles of documentary and feature filming.
It is well-filmed and highly provocative in its description of the Kafkaesque world inside the detention facility. The film is enjoyable and informative. Some of the use of actors as well as the real individuals is quite confusing. The personal stories of the individual immigrants are heart wrenching. I was impressed that they challenge the prevalent stereotype that all undocumented individuals are Latinos by including undocumented individuals from Africa and Iran in the narrative. The film is recommended for anyone who wants to gain a better understanding of the intricacies of the immigration nightmare that we have created.
The World Before Your Feet (2018)
A Peculiar, yet Beautiful Story of New York
The World Before Your Feet was well-received in its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. It is the strange story of 37-year-old Matt Green who dropped out of normal life to begin a project of walking approximately 8000 miles of every street, park, beach and cemetery in New York City. He has chosen to be intentionally homeless - staying with different friends - so as to pursue some sort of massive performance art project of exploring and photographing every block of the massive city. The documentary is beautifully filmed and really is, in part, a tribute to the beauty and complexity of the organism that is that most remarkable and complicated city. The film is entertaining and beautiful.
The central conundrum of Mark Green's journey is never really answered. I get the feeling that Green is either running away or running towards something, or perhaps a little bit of both. I'm not sure he really understands his own "Forrest Gump"-like journey. I hope the walker eventually finds the direction he wants to travel with his life. Perhaps the film maker should have asked some questions about Green's mental condition since his behavior seems to be somewhat irrational. Recommended for those open to the highly unconventional.
Las Sandinistas! (2018)
A Provocative film on the role of Women in the Sandanista movement
Las Sandanistas was warmly received in its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. It is a provocative film on an unexpected subject. It tells the untold stories of the women revolutionaries within the Nicaraguan Sandanista movement in the 1970s. They fought both the corrupt Somoza regime and the patriarchy from within their own movement. The theme is not new; it is not at all unusual for anti-racist and revolutionary movements to also be dominated by men and to function highly patriarchally. The women's stories are powerful - told mostly through interviews - and insightful. Sadly, it appears that Nicaragua - even under the Sandanistas - remains highly oppressive to women today, especially in the area of abortion rights. The film is fascinating and well-edited with a combination of modern and archival footage. Highly recommended for those interested in truly understanding the complexity of social change.
People's Republic of Desire (2018)
A Beautiful Documentary about the bizarre phenomenon of Chinese Live Streaming
People's Republic of Desire was well-received in its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize in the Documentary Feature Competition. The film follows the lives of a young male comedian and a young female singer who have become stars in China's world of live streaming where people are making immense amounts of money by marketing their often-meagre talents in ways that get thousands of fans to send them gifts and pay money to vote for them in competitions. It is a bizarre pay-to-play form of online American Idol competition. It is kind of like a type of mostly not sexual prostitution where people are selling dreams and fantasies to those who are willing to pay. Wealthy patrons often pay thousands of dollars to support them while poor people pay small amounts to watch as they yearn to connect to their favorite star's fame and celebrity. They hope for some glimmer of their reflected glory. The film also follows one of the migrant workers as he obsessively watches his favorite performer. The film is beautifully made and edited with excellent animated displays of the performers screenshots and interactions.
This film implies that life in China is becoming more and more virtual as lots of lonely people turn online in search of human connection in a world that is increasingly-driven almost solely by a dehumanizing search for monetary gain. Both the performers and viewers seem desperately lonely and isolated. Virtual reality seems to be triumphing over, well, actual reality. The obsession with celebrity seems reflective of a deeply unhealthy society, but then, again, as an American how can I really criticize? Our idiotic country elected an incompetent narcissistic reality TV star as our President.
The Dawn Wall (2017)
Fantastic Documentary about the testing of the Boundaries of Human Endurance
Dawn Wall was enthusiastically-received in its North American Premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival where it received Audience Award in the Documentary Spotlight Competition. Dawn Wall is transfixing as we watch as two climbers, Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgensen, attempt the near impossible. They attempt to free style climb the vertical 3000-foot granite rock face of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. They test the boundaries of their skills and endurance and even the bounds of what is humanly possible. This isn't really just a sports film. When you learn the hurdles that Tommy Caldwell had to overcome you realize that it is an absolutely remarkable human story. The audience is literally hanging on the side of the mountain with Tommy and Kevin as they scale the mountain. The filmmakers actually scaled the mountain with them in order to film them. The film is beautiful edited and the drama is intense. Although the ending is somewhat predictable, the magic is all in the journey they are taking. Highly recommended.
A Powerful and Timely Story about the Complex Challenges facing Transgendered Soldiers
TransMilitary was very well-received in its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. It splices together the stories of 4 of the approximately 15,000 transgendered soldiers serving in the U.S. military. It tells their very human and complicated stories of their struggle to end the ban on transgendered individuals serving in the U.S. military. The film is beautifully told and skillfully edited. While clearly advocating for their inclusion, it doesn't shy away from addressing the complexity of their situations. Many of us were taught to see sexuality in simple binary terms. Films like this educate by allow us to break down the simple male/female dichotomy and explore the complicated and deeply misunderstood gray area in-between. The tragedy of the tale is that the progress that was being made under the Obama administration has been reversed by the close-minded bigotry of the current administration. Not surprisingly, it won the SXSW Audience Award in the Documentary Feature Competition. This film is highly recommended to all who are willing to watch it with an open-mind.
Social Animals (2018)
Social Animals was well-received at its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. It is best described as a digital coming of age story that shows the positives and the
Social Animals was well-received at its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. It is best described as a digital coming of age story that shows the positives and the pitfalls of the social media era. It showcases three teenagers and their experiences with Instagram. It also shows that while there is much that can be achieved positively (particularly in the experience of Humza Deas who uses Instagram as a platform to develop and showcase his amazing photography), butt there are also horrific downsides. The platform magnifies all of the worst pathologies of millennial culture including sexting, horrific cyberbullying, stalking, slut-shaming and so much else. All of the ugliest aspects of the playground are played out writ large on the social media stage. The director has done a thoughtful job of presenting the medium fairly. The film is entertaining, well-edited, and provocative. Frankly, I agree with the director (in his comments at the screening), if I had teenagers I wouldn't let my kids use this type of social media platform.
A Tuba to Cuba (2018)
A Beautiful Film about the musical connections between New Orleans and Cuba
A Tuba for Cuba was extremely warmly-received in its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. It is well-made and charming music documentary about New Orleans's Preservation Hall Jazz Band's tour of Cuba. It is beautifully-edited with sweetness and joy. The most intriguing part of the film is the connection that film makers and the musicians are trying to draw between the New Orleans Jazz traditions and the Afro-Cuban traditions. Without directly addressing the political issues, they are trying to breakdown the walls that have separated American and Cuba for 2 generations. I'm not particularly a fan of music documentaries which I often find a bit slow and directionless. I think this one had some of the same flaws although it is better than most of the ones I've seen. It may not be everyone's cup of tea. But if you love music documentaries and particularly if you love jazz, I would recommend it.
They Live Here, Now (2018)
An Intimate Documentary about the Experiences of Refugees
They Live Here, Now was warmly received in its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. This is a small intimate film about Austin's Casa Marianella refugee house. The humanitarian work done here is inspiring in its simplicity and its bravery. The film's power is in its intimacy. The director uses straight-forward interviews to tell the stories of refugees from numerous countries in Africa and Latin America who are struggling to overcome horrendous conditions at home and make themselves new lives in the United States. The power of this film is that in a time of anti-immigrant hatemongering is that it puts human faces on refugees.
There has been some controversy over the director's decision to use an actress to portray a character in the documentary. I think the director wanted to present a composite character who could fill in some of the stories that privacy and safety wouldn't allow him to tell with the material he had. Unfortunately, this is not clearly explained in the film. I believe the attempt was a well-intended. He called the film a hybrid of a documentary and scripted film during the Q & A session, but it is highly problematic none-the-less. This action undermines the strength of the film which is its authenticity and honesty. It makes the audience question whether the portrait itself is a fair one or an attempt to manipulate the audience. While I agree with his goals, this is not a wise decision. Still, for those who are open-minded and want to learn about the real-life experiences of refugees, the film is recommended.
Getting Over (2018)
A Remarkable Film about a Man Learning about the Addicted Father He Never Knew
Getting Over was warmly received at its world premiere at Austin's SXSW Film Festival. Jason Charnick has made a unique and deeply personal film telling the story of the father he barely knew. His father, Ray, was a lifelong heroin addict and thief who spent most of Jason's life in prison. In the weeks before his father died at age 47 of AIDS, Jason's uncle Arnie filmed 17 hours of interviews of Ray. After years of procrastinating, Jason finally watched the tapes and learned the story of the father he never knew. He has taken these tapes and turned them into a beautifully made personal story of his lost father's life. In the process, he seemed to liberate himself of many of his own demons and learns about aspects of his own life and childhood memories that were not how he had understood them.
Charnick offers us a journey inside the deeply flawed life of addict. His message is an important one today as he tries to humanize an addict's journey. He wants us all to see the human side of those who are lost in the bleak self-destructive world of addiction. Through his own family's story he also shines a light on the subject of intergenerational trauma. The film is powerful and beautifully edited as it takes us on a journey down the dark road of addiction and self-destruction. Highly recommended for those willing to travel to a very dark place.
On Her Shoulders (2018)
Disappointing Film about a Heroic Champion for her People
On Her Shoulders was received with some trepidation at Austin SXSW Film Festival. The fight for recognition of the genocide committed against the Yazidi people in Iraq by ISIS is an important one that deserves recognition. Unfortunately, this film is so muddled that it does a poor job in the effort. The film focuses on the personal struggle and harrowing tale of 23-year-old Nadia Murad to win recognition of the horrors that her people have undergone in the last few years. The film transforms the struggle to one person's personal journey rather than focusing on the tragedy of an entire people. In so doing, it confuses as much as it informs. The questions at the showing were telling. Audience members asked about the history of the Yazidis which is not explained. The film provides little political context on the Yazidis, Iraq or ISIS leaving viewers with little understanding of the underlying issues. The film focused on the footage of Nadia's travels in Canada, Germany and Greece which contained a lot of poorly edited and irrelevant material.
Even the title is problematic since it tries to present a people's struggle as dependent on a single young woman who the producer acknowledged was thrust into this role by accident when asked about it. The struggle doesn't depend on Nadia and the film's focus on her rather than on those who care about the Yazidis around the world does a disservice to their cause. The film concludes with Nadia's appointment as UN Goodwill Ambassador for Human Trafficking. The position is almost irrelevant and does little for the Yazidi cause. This film is a well-intentioned misfire. The Yazidis deserve a better profile of their cause and more direction on how others can help them move forward.