Non-fiction, drugs and rock’n’roll


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DOC-NYC has grown into America’s largest documentary film festival. What does this mean during the pandemic? Last year it took place entirely online. This year, it is divided between 8 days in theaters and streaming for the rest of November.

Streamers like HBO Max and Netflix have dominated documentary funding of late, leading to bloated documentary series, a shady fixation on real crime, and endless celebrity profiles in music, film, sports and politics. DOC-NYC tends to show fairly conventional material, unlike Columbia, Missouri’s beloved True / False Festival, or Lincoln Center’s “Art of the Real”. But their selection has something for everyone. The opening night film, “Listening to Kenny G” by Penny Lane, demonstrates the value of the much-hated smooth jazz musician. It includes a selection of the most buzzed documentaries of the year and sections devoted to photography, art and design, teenage life and autobiographical films.

“Fanny: The Right to Rock” by Bobbi Jo Hart presents the two incarnations of Fanny, the first all-female rock band to sign on a major label. Their early years retrace a disappointing trajectory of nude basking and partying with Joe Cocker and Mick Jagger in their Fanny Hill town hall to recording an album every year from 1970 to 1975, endless tours and sales. of average drives that amounted to a living wage. The gender of the group was treated as a novelty, mentioned in every newspaper headline.

Additionally, the Millington sisters, who formed its core, were Filipino-American, and three of the four members were bi or lesbian. In the macho climate of the day, their talent and the support of men like David Bowie did not lead to success. They had two top 40 singles but had already broken up by the time “Butter Boy” became their biggest hit in 1975. The film obeys many recent musical documentary conventions. He suffers from too many random celebrity talker interviews. Why is Def Leppard frontman Joe Elliott’s opinion of Fancy important? But it goes through the band’s original lifespan in its first half and picks up in later years, when they relaunched the band as Fanny Walks the Earth. While the second half sometimes feels like promoting their latest album, it tells a compelling story, especially when health issues force the band to face the difficulty of continuing to make music into their sixties.

Chris J. Russo’s “Lady Buds” takes a surprisingly pessimistic look at the legalization of cannabis in California. This grim view has nothing to do with the drugs themselves, but it sees changing laws as an opportunity for government and big business to crack down on a thriving black market economy whose profits fuel daily life in the cities. small towns in the state. (One of her six subjects, Chiah Rodrigues, is a second-generation cannabis producer; she remembers having to lie about how her father made a living.) He portrays women involved in the cannabis business. .

Russo, who is a lesbian, presents an intersection between the Bay Area LGBTQ community and the legalization of cannabis. Felicia Carbajal came to San Francisco because of its reputation as a gay paradise and goes back to the roots of medical marijuana use as a treatment for nausea and wasting in AIDS patients. Sam Taylor is a 71-year-old former Catholic school principal whose attitudes towards cannabis and homosexuality began to change when her son was released, which led to a passionate drive to serve the elderly. with a medical cannabis dispensary. But the film, which began filming shortly after the plant was legalized by California in 2016, shows the difficulty of keeping a small business under monopoly competition. To make matters even more difficult, cannabis remains illegal at the federal level, so business must be conducted in cash (which runs the risk of government confiscation). Even locally, cities seem to put obstacles in the way of legal cannabis cultivation and businesses.

While “Lady Buds” recognizes problematic cannabis use, her subjects are driven by the belief that the plant can make the world a better, more loving place. Bi singer Brittany Howard’s touching “Stay High” serenades us throughout the end credits, even as it explains how the subjects of the film struggle to keep businesses legal.

The title of “Colors of Tobi” by Alexa Bakony alludes to her subject’s hair color, which changes in almost every scene. Shot over a four-year span, it follows non-binary teenager Tobi, who goes through a hectic adolescence as he lives with his parents and siblings in a Hungarian village. At the start of the movie, they identify as a trans boy, but about an hour later, they decide they don’t want to put any labels on their gender or gender identity. Tobi’s mother, Eva, isn’t as forgiving as she would like, and much of the drama at the start of the film comes from the fact that Eva got her foot in her mouth. Despite the love she shows, she is bewildered by the LGBTQ identity and asks questions like “Why don’t gay and lesbian couples sleep together and raise children?” »Things get complicated when she abuses Tobi during their 18 yearse birthday party, but a trip to a pride march surrounded by hostile onlookers suggests how much worse Tobi could have it.

Bakony shot it with a team of three, allowing intimate access to difficult times. Her on-the-fly movie-making process leads to a platitude during emotional downtime, while the end comes too suddenly. But “Colors of Tobi” becomes a story of love and acceptance rather than a story of tension and confusion. Tobi’s personal story becomes urgent as the film is set in one of the most queerphobic European countries where the laws are becoming more and more repressive.

DOC-NYC | November 10-18 | IFC Center, Chelsea Cinepolis & SVA | Most Movies Available For Digital Streaming November 19-30


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