Saturday, October 30, 2010

Catch These Docs

Two Spotlight on Documentaries alums of IFP’s Project Forum opened theatrically this Friday, giving New Yorkers the opportunity for an IFP subway series of sorts - the ability to shuttle between two terrific documentaries.

Jennifer Arnold’s A Small Act (now at Quad Cinema), which premiered at Sundance 2010, chronicles how one small act can dramatically change the entire course of another person¹s life as it tells how the donation of a then-stranger (Hilda Back) allowed young Chris Mburu stay in school in Kenya. Mburu is now a Harvard Law School graduate who is a human rights officer for the United Nations, and A Small Act follows Mburu¹s efforts to honor his benefactor, give back to his community and continue the cycle of sponsorship. With clarity and grace, the film bears witness to the ripple effect one singular action can have.

At Spotlight on Documentaries 2010, Jen and producer Patti Lee connected with HBO’s Lisa Heller at a Project Forum meeting, and A Small Act rapidly became an HBO Documentary Film. Jen writes about this and her film’s production story this week on Ted Hope’s blog.

Last July, just prior to its HBO broadcast, A Small Act was the opening film for IFP’s ENVISION: Addressing Global Issues through Documentaries, produced jointly with the United Nations Department of Public Information. It’s always great when an IFP-supported film can work cross-programmatically and it was a perfect fit for this program - and it was especially wonderful to have Jen, Patti, and Chris Mburu here for it.

Speaking of being part of more than one IFP program…this brings me to our second opening: Doug Block’s The Kids Grow Up. Films that Doug has been involved with as a producer, DP, and, of course, director have been coming through IFP, well, since before even I was here. Most recently, Doug’s The Kids Grow Up (then titled Almost Gone) was one of my favorite projects in Spotlight on Documentaries 2008, so I was happy to be asked to join Doug and producer Lori Cheatle to introduce it at Friday’s theatrical opening at the Angelika. A companion piece in spirit to his 51 Birch Street, it continues his personal look at parents and children and family relations, centering on the emotional reverberations and ripples through time prompted by his daughter Lucy’s eminent flight from the nest as she prepares to depart for college. It’s a rich and moving work.

So, in short – seize the opportunity to see both of these docs – A Small Act and The Kids Grow Up now playing in New York, and continuing to play across the country the rest of this year.

And coming up:

Standing in front of the Angelika last night when I arrived was the tireless Thom Powers, handing out brochures for his upcoming inaugural DOC NYC (November 3-9). Check out their schedule – you really can’t go wrong with anything. A special shout out to the exquisitely compelling Puppet by David Soll, an alum project of IFP’s 2010 Independent Filmmaker Labs.

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