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Reviews
userpicTanzania: A Journey Within (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Tanzania: A Journey Within

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

African and American Travel to Tanzania in Transformational Documentary

            After finishing high school, Venance Ndibalema made the most of an opportunity to leave Tanzania to study physics and philosophy at the University of Miami. Now, he’s ready to visit his homeland for the first time in years, a trip likely to prove traumatic, given the changes both he and the country have undergone during the interim.

            Accompanying him on the eventful return to Dar es Salaam is Kristen Kenney, a fellow Miami alumnus who’s never been to Africa. A child of privilege, she must brace herself for the culture shock involved in adjusting to modest accommodations sans most of the modern conveniences she’s always taken for granted.

            The subsequent sojourn is the subject of Tanzania: A Journey Within, a documentary chronicling Venance and Kristen’s emotional and physical challenges long the way. Directed by Sylvia Caminer, the picture is worth watching for the spectacular visuals and anthropological insights alone, given the off-road trekker’s point-of-view it affords the audience of everything from Mount Kilimanjaro to the Serengeti Plains.                

            However, proving just as compelling is the badinage between Venance and Kristen, as well as their chats with everyone they encounter. He enjoys a reunion with his BFF William, and searches for a sibling he hasn’t seen in over a decade. Meanwhile, Kristen experiences a sense of exhilaration at exploring new places and at being so close to nature, at least until she becomes deathly-ill during a bout with Malaria.

            Nevertheless, she has to admit that she’d grown up in the lap of luxury, so spoiled, in fact that she never even had to cook her own food. By contrast, Venance reflects upon the harshness of formative years spent fatherless in abject poverty exacerbated by his HIV+ mother’s being shunned by her neighbors until the day she finally lost her battle with AIDS.

            Lessons? “We learn through hardship,” Ven rhapsodizes, adding, “If there were no fathers on the planet, I would never have known I needed a father to be a man.” As for Kristen, she finds it hard to leave Africa, “because you get so close to the people so fast.” She also comes away appreciating that “they don’t care about status. They just care about you.”

            “I was soulless before this trip,” the grateful debutante concedes. “This is the real world I was searching for.” Africa from the perspectives of a “Native Son” returning to his roots and of a blue-eyed sister transformed by an unexpected catalyst for spiritual growth. 

Excellent (4 stars)

Unrated

Running time: 103 minutes

Distributor: Heretic Films

To see a trailer for Tanzania: A Journey Within, visit:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRjlvCLFR_w   




A Haunted House 2
Film Review by Kam Williams

A Haunted House, an irreverent spoof of Paranormal Activity, co-starred Marlon Wayans and Essence Atkins as Malcolm and Kisha, a couple whose home was invaded by demonic forces. Along the way, she became possessed by the devil and turned on her man, despite the best efforts of an exasperated exorcist (Cedric the Entertainer).

All of the above are back for A Haunted House 2, a jaw-dropping sequel which ups the ante in terms of gratuitous gore, sexuality, nudity, profanity and use of the N-word. Nevertheless, the review-proof teensploitation flick is apt to appeal to the same folks who made the original such a runaway hit.

At the point of departure, Kisha perishes in a car accident, which Malcolm and his cousin Ray-Ray (Affion Crockett) survive. Fast-forward a year and Malcolm’s married to Megan (Jaime Pressly) and moving into a new home, along with her kids, Becky (Ashley Rickards) and Wyatt (Steele Stebbins), and his dog, Shiloh.

The shopworn cliché of a safe literally falling from the sky and flattening the pooch is the first sign that something suspicious might be afoot on the premises. The mysterious goings-on only escalate after an inconsolable Malcolm tries to join his dearly departed pet in the grave.

Turns out jealous Kisha’s ghost is determined to wreck the newlyweds’ relationship. Spells subsequently provide the convenient cover for disgusting skits ranging from Malcolm’s mating with a doll, to flatulent Wyatt’s farting in his sister’s face, to projectile vomiting, to promiscuous Becky’s having a penis lodged in her throat.

Eventually, the priest is summoned again, leading to another finale serving as a set up for a sequel. A kitchen sink comedy more shocking than funny and strictly recommended for rabid fans of the bottom-feeding franchise.

Fair (1 star)

Rated R for violence, graphic sexuality, frontal nudity, drug use, ethnic slurs and pervasive profanity

Running time: 87 minutes

Distributor: Open Road Films

To see a trailer for A Haunted House 2, visit




Vanishing Pearls: The Oystermen of Pointe a la Hache

Film Review by Kam Williams

On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon, a drilling rig owned and operated by British Petroleum (BP), exploded, spilling over 50 million barrels of oil in the Gulf of Mexico before it was finally capped weeks later. In June, President Obama announced that the company had set aside $20 billion in cash designated to help those deleteriously affected by the ecological disaster.

Kenneth Feinberg’s law firm, which had previously handled the distribution of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund, was retained at a rate of $850,000/month to handle the BP one also. Although the TV commercials running in the company’s highly-saturated PR campaign would have you believe that it was contrite and committed to undoing any damage, truth be told, that carefully-cultivated corporate image bore little relation to how it was actually treating many of the victims seeking restitution.

Take, for example, Pointe a la Hache, an African-American enclave located in Plaquemines Parish, Louisiana. For generations, the men of that Gulf shore village of less than 300 had supported their families by plying their trade as oyster fishermen. However, the BP spill put the brothers out of business and by 2012 the tiny black community had effectively been turned into a ghost town.

Its little-known ordeal is the subject of Vanishing Pearls, a heartbreaking documentary directed by Nailah Jefferson. The film retraces the blight visited upon Pointe a la Hache by focusing primarily on the plight of a local leader named Byron Encalade.

Mr. Encalade was the owner of Encalade Fisheries, a family business which employed his brother, his nephew and five of his cousins. In the wake of the spill, he filed a claim and very patiently awaited a check from BP.

But when he finally received a letter stating, “Your file is denied,” his whole world was turned upside-down. Now, a proud provider who had never in his life looked to the government for a handout suddenly found himself dependent on food stamps. His relatives also needed help from friends, charities and subsidies to survive, and had trouble understanding why no one cared about their predicament.

Meanwhile, Attorney Feinberg, ostensibly running interference for the profit-driven polluter, publicly stated “I see no evidence of anything other than fair treatment by BP. I think they wanted to do the right thing, and they did.”

His conclusion was a far cry from that of embittered Byron who lamented, “They’ve destroyed us… The world must know what BP did to this community.” Sadly, the devastation visited upon Pointe a la Hache is most likely a microcosm of a scenario being played out again and again in working-class communities all along the Gulf Coast.

Excellent (4 stars)

Unrated

Running time: 80 minutes

Distributor: AFFRM

To see a trailer for Vanishing Pearls, visit




The China Study: All-Star Collection
Whole Food, Plant-Based Recipes from Your Favorite Vegan Chefs
by LeAnne Campbell, Ph.D.
Book Review by Kam Williams

 

Foreword by T. Colin Campbell, Ph.D.

BenBella Books

Paperback, $19.95

316 pages, Illustrated

ISBN: 978-193952997-8

 

“In many ways, the world has changed dramatically since The China Study was released in 2005. Ten years ago, more doctors thought the idea that diet might solve serious health problems was fantasy. Now I hear more and more doctors actually recommending a plant-based diet to their patients…

In over five decades of biomedical research, I have learned, in so many ways, that a whole food, plant-based diet promotes optimal health and the prevention even reversal, in many cases, of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, autoimmune diseases, and brain disorders.

I’ve received overwhelming feedback from people who’ve seen incredible health results… But I’m still often asked… ‘What do I eat?’ In this follow-up, [my daughter] LeAnne has gathered some of the most popular and influential plant-based chefs to share their best dishes, all following the nutrition principles laid out in The China Study.”

-- Excerpted from the Foreword (pages 9-10)

Read the rest of this story »


Interviews
userpicKen Burns (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Ken Burns
“The Address” Interview
with Kam Williams

Gettysburg Revisited!

 

Ken Burns has been making documentary films for more than 30 years. Since the Academy Award-nominated BROOKLYN BRIDGE in 1981, he has gone on to direct and produce some of the most acclaimed historical documentaries ever made.

 

Burns was the director, producer, co-writer, chief cinematographer, music director and executive producer of the landmark television series THE CIVIL WAR. This film was the highest-rated series in the history of American public television, prior to BASEBALL, and attracted an audience of 40 million during its premiere in September 1990.

 

The New York Times called it a masterpiece and said that Burns “takes his place as the most accomplished documentary filmmaker of his generation.” Tom Shales of The Washington Post wrote, “This is not just good television, nor even just great television. This is heroic television.”

 

The columnist George Will said, “If better use has ever been made of television, I have not seen it and do not expect to see better until Ken Burns turns his prodigious talents to his next project.” The series has been honored with more than 40 major film and television awards, including two Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, a Producer of the Year Award from the Producers Guild, a People’s Choice Award, a Peabody Award, a duPont-Columbia Award, a D.W. Griffiths Award and the $50,000 Lincoln Prize, among dozens of others.

 

Some of Burns’s other films include THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE (2013), THE DUST BOWL (2012), PROHIBITION (2011), THE NATIONAL PARKS: AMERICA’S BEST IDEA (2009), THE WAR (2007), co-directed with Lynn Novick, JAZZ (2001), LEWIS AND CLARK: THE JOURNEY OF THE CORPS OF DISCOVERY (1997), and BASEBALL (1994).

 

Burns was born in Brooklyn, New York on July, 29 1953, and graduated from Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts in 1975. Here, he talks about his latest film, THE ADDRESS, a current-day documentary chronicling the herculean effort by students at a school for boys with severe learning disabilities to memorize the Gettysburg Address in order to recite it at an assembly of parents, friends and teachers.     

 

 

Kam Williams: Hi Ken, thanks for another interview. Like last time, I’ll be mixing in question from readers with my own.

Ken Burns: Fine, fire away, Kam.

 

KW: What was the source of inspiration for The Address?

KB: I live in Walpole, New Hampshire and, for the past 35 years, made all the films there. And across the Connecticut River, which divides New Hampshire from Vermont, is the tiny town of Putney. Over a decade ago, the Greenwood School, which is located there, invited me to be a judge in their annual contest judging the recitation of the Gettysburg Address. I just wept at the fortitude and inspiration that these boys and their struggles represent.

 

KW: The movie made me cry.

KB: It made me cry, too, just the other day when we had the premiere in Brattleboro which is the quote-unquote “Big City” nearby, with a population of maybe 8,000 people. I kept saying, “Somebody else should be making this movie. This is cinema verite, not the kind of thing that I do.” But I came back each year as my schedule permitted, and the more I came back, the more I felt that I just had to put my money where my mouth is and just do it. So, we embedded for abut three months, and it was a life-changing experience to watch these kids undergo their own life-changing experience. And then we had the idea to share it and say, “Hey, everybody can memorize the Gettysburg Address.” If you go to www.LearnTheAddress.org, you’ll find all the living presidents reciting it, as well as a lot of other figures in government, in the media and in Hollywood. And thousands of citizens and school kids from all over have memorized it... Alabama… Utah… Hawaii… from all around. It’s really wonderful!

 

That’s what the tears are for, from seeing the faculty lovingly teach and take care of these kids while the boys also assist each other. Each child has his own limitation, but that doesn’t stop them from trying to help each other. Seeing them overcome them makes our day-to-day problems seem kind of puny. Then, of course, this is all set against the context and backdrop of arguably the greatest speech every given in the English language, one that was doubling-down on the Declaration of Independence, the 2.0 version of it. And we haven’t had a new version since. It’s the one we still operate on today. Lincoln needed to write the 2.0 version, because Jefferson’s 1.0 had that inherent contradiction of tolerating slavery while proclaiming that all men are created equal. Jefferson himself was a slave owner. I think what the Gettysburg Address does is yank us into the future, however painful the moment might be, while commemorating the dead in the greatest battle on American soil.

 

KW: Your film has certainly inspired me to memorize it.

KB: I want you to. I’d love you to add your recitation to the website. You’ll feel so great. It’ll be very moving. A lot of people have broken down during their first attempt to record it because of the sheer emotion and power of the words. Just today, I was asked to recite it on camera by a reporter, and I was moved to tears not by my accomplishment but by my trying to invest those words with some meaning.    

 

KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: What is it about the Gettysburg Address that makes it stand out to you as one of nation's most powerful and memorable speeches?

KB: There are no proper nouns… It’s really short… It’s presidential poetry… Lincoln uses the word “here” many, many times. He moves it around in an attempt to rivet you to the place to make you appreciate what it is. And yet, with “Four score and seven years ago” he’s acknowledging the past, meaning the Declaration of Independence. He’s telling you where we are, “We’re engaged in a great Civil War,” but he’s also pushing us forward, saying we could have a new birth of freedom, and we did, just as we did at the first anniversary of 9/11 when among the very few speeches delivered was the Gettysburg Address, as if the words were medicine, which is precisely what they were.       

 

KW: Grace also asks: Do you think that the children who had to memorize the Gettysburg Address really understood the underlying issue of slavery and the necessity of the Civil War to keep our nation together? 

KB: Yes, Grace. I think you’ll see this quite clearly in the dynamics in the classroom in the film as it unfolds. Two of the youngest students, Kevin and Geo, have one of the most sophisticated conversations I’ve ever heard by kids that young about secession and slavery. It’s very clear that they’ve used the Address as a tool not only to overcome the difficulties of whatever diagnosis they have… dyslexia… executive function… dysgraphia… ADHD… the whole alphabet soup of stuff, but it’s a way to bind together their entire educational experience… History… English… Remedial Class… I have no doubt in my mind that, all across the board, the Gettysburg Address takes up a lot of space and gives a lot of meaning for a tiny speech. Then I learned that the school had never been to Gettysburg in its 35-year history. So, I built into my budget the renting of a bus and hotel rooms for the entire school, and I gave them a tour of the battlefield for an entire day.  

 

KW: I don’t remember the film mentioning that the school had never visited Gettysburg before?

KB: No, I left that out. I didn’t want to toot my own horn. We took them there as a kind of epilogue.

 

KW: Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier asks: Can you share the students’ sentiments when they accomplished the goal of mastering the speech?

KB: There was a wide range of reactions. For some, it was relief. Many of the boys knew the speech cold, but only felt comfortable reciting it in front of a couple people. The notion of saying it in front of an audience of 250 was terrifying In fact, some of them had issues connected to anxiety and what’s called executive function. So, there was often a release, followed by a sense of accomplishment. There was great pride and joy. Sometimes, there was the utmost confidence. One boy read it with such passion that I think all of us in attendance cried because he had imbued it with so much meaning, as I think you and your readers will feel as you take on this task. If you tape it up next to your mirror, where you can see it every morning, you might curse me for a few days until you get it. But then, it’ll be on your hard drive permanently and a source of great benefaction and meaning for the rest of your life. You’ll have both your own unique response to the Address and at the same time it will bind you to everybody else.        

 

KW: Patricia also asks: What is the most important thing you learned from the kids?

KB: As the Greenwood School’s psychologist, Tom Ehrenberg says in the film, “We’re a country that thinks we celebrate individuality, but it really celebrates conformity.” And when we see different, other, we don’t deal with it. We just avert our eyes. And these kids have been bullied and marginalized and worse. They’ve been driven to schools like Greenwood as their last refuge of hope. What I found each boy taught me was the preciousness of each individual life. Each boy taught me how smart they actually were. Each boy taught me that perhaps it is unfair to apply the same general metrics to everybody. When you look at the boys that way, my heart was enlarged. I tell you, Kam, I already had four daughters, but I now feel like I have 50 adopted sons.      

 

KW: Patricia would like to know what Abraham Lincoln means to you.

KB: He’s the greatest president in our history. He was the guardian of our republic at its greatest crisis, our Civil War. Lincoln was there to guide the struggle, to take on the weight of it, to keep the country together, and to do it with such extraordinary charity that his goodness and thoughtfulness about who we were and what our potential was goes hand in hand with that melancholy and sense of moral outrage about slavery’s still existing in a country which had declared that all men are created equal. He had a sort of Old Testament fervor, as though he was throwing lightning bolts. I refer you to his second inaugural where he’ll turn around and then give you a kind of New Testament “sea of enveloping love” which reminds you of the much more important things in life than nations.         

 

 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: What are the essential ingredients for the recipe for a great documentary?

KB: I think it’s always a good story, a good story, a good story, first, second and third. The word “history,” which is what I do, is mostly made up of the word “story.” That’s what we’re responding to. We tell stories to each other all day long. That’s what we’re looking for when we say, “Honey, how was your day?” We edit and superimpose. What you’re looking for is the best of a good story that appeals on so many levels, as I think the story of the Greenwood School and these boys does. Yes, it’s about the Gettysburg Address, but it’s also about something that mirrors it in a very profound and human way. And I’m just grateful to be caught up in the whirlwind of the Greenwood School.

 

KW: Harriet also asks: Is there another series of yours that you'd like to revisit the way you did with Baseball when you did The 10th Inning?

KB: No, I’m very happy to be working on a big series about Theodore, Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, another big series about the History of the War in Vietnam, and one on Country music, as well as biographies of Ernest Hemingway and Jackie Robinson. Baseball is the only one I want to keep coming back to. I hope there’s an 11th Inning and a 12th Inning down the line, God willing and funding willing.   

 

KW: Jim Cryan says: I really enjoyed Prohibition. Did making that documentary have any effect on your alcohol consumption?

KB: [LOL] I am periodically a teetotaler, Jim, but I definitely drank during the production just to offset the absurdity of the only Amendment to the Constitution that limits human freedom rather than enlarging it.

 

KW: Documentary filmmaker Kevin Williams asks: Why do the government archives in Europe charge money and a lot of it for archival footage and photographs, whereas our National Archives and Library of Congress do not? It is really disheartening for independent documentarians without big budgets. 

KB: I couldn’t agree with you more, Kevin, and all I can say is “God bless the United States of America!” These are the people’s archives, and so the people get free access to them.

 

KW: Lisa Loving asks: Have you ever dreamed of becoming a futurist?

KB: You know what, Lisa? The best indicator of the future is the past. If you don’t know where you’ve been, you can’t know where you are or where you’re going. You’ll find that people who understand history are the best futurists you can imagine. 

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Ken, and best of luck with The Address and all your other projects.

KB: Thank you, Kam. Take care.

The Address premieres on PBS on Tuesday, April 15th @ 9 pm ET/PT (check local listings)

To see a trailer for The Address, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sR2MIxjB_4c  

To learn more about the Gettysburg Address and to video record yourself reading or reciting it, visit: http://www.learntheaddress.org/



Interviews
userpicWayans Weighs-In on HH2
Posted by Kam Williams

Marlon Wayans
“A Haunted House 2” Interview
with Kam Williams

 

Born in New York City on July 23, 1972, Marlon Wayans graduated from the High School of Performing Arts before matriculating at Howard University’s Film School. He started out in Hollywood on TV as a cast member of the Emmy Award-winning variety series, In Living Color. Next, Marlon created and starred in the hit sitcom The Wayans Bros.

Some of his other noteworthy screen credits include: The Ladykillers, Scary Movie, Scary Movie 2, Little Man, White Chicks, Norbit, Behind the Smile and Dance Flick. The versatile thespian also exhibited an impressive acting range while delivering a powerful performance as a drug addict in Requiem for a Dream.

More recently, Marlon starred opposite Channing Tatum in G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra. And last summer he appeared in The Heat, a blockbuster featuring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.

Here, he talks about his latest film, A Haunted House 2, a sequel spoofing the Paranormal Activity franchise.  

 

Kam Williams: Hi Marlon, thanks for another interview.

Marlon Wayans: You got it, bro.

 

KW: Why did you decide to make A Haunted House sequel?

MW: Because the audience really, really enjoyed the first one. And I also felt like I could find a nice, natural progression for my character, Malcolm. Plus, comedically, I knew I could match or exceed what we did in the original, and make a bigger, broader movie that could appeal to a wider audience just by making some adjustments and by adding a few pieces to the puzzle. One of those pieces was Gabriel Iglesias, and another one was Jaime Pressly.   

 

KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles asks: How do you rev up a sequel so the faithful return for more while simultaneously enticing some newbies?

MW: I think you have to make sure you have a little bit of the old, while adding something knew. We kept Cedric the Entertainer, Affion Crockett and Essence Atkins and, like I said, we added Gabe and Jaime, and also Ashley Rickards. I think you have to stick with the integrity of the comedy or lack thereof, and keep in stride with the humor of the movie. I don’t believe you try to sell it out. Instead, you just keep your tone and your sense of humor, because that’s what they bought into the first time. It’s all about being authentic to whatever that movie is, and not reaching too hard. 

 

KW: Harriet also asks: Is there a remake of a classic film you'd like to star in?

MW: I’d love to redo Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

 

KW: Paranormal facilitator Kate Newell asks: Have you had any paranormal experience in real life?

MW: No, I haven’t, but I wish I had.

 

KW: Children’s book author Irene Smalls asks: Is it important to you not to get killed off in the first five minutes, as so often happens to black actors in horror films?

MW: Yeah, it’s very important to me, being I’m a black actor, and I don’t want my black ass to die in the first five minutes.

 

KW: Irene has a follow-up. Is storytelling in the horror genre different from storytelling in a typical comedy?

MW: Yeah, it is. But this is more of a typical comedy, because it’s a horror comedy with parody moments. It’s not a parody-parody, but what is kind of parody-esque is the pacing of how we tell the jokes. I’m throwing out five jokes a page. But what I’m not doing is going, “Here is the location, and here’s what’s funny about it.” It’s kind of grounded in reality, and once it’s grounded, we take the ceiling off and go crazy places with the comedy.    

 

KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: What's the most difficult thing about your work? And what's the most fun, aside from making a successful movie?  

MW: It’s always fun. I love my job, man. There’s no greater job for me in the world. I was born to do this. I think the most difficult aspect of the job is not having much time off, or time to sleep, or time to just chill. Sometimes, fame can be a little hard.

 

KW: Larry Greenberg says: I have been working so much on my own films and other people’s projects that I haven't had time to make a reel. How important is it for a director to have a reel that highlights their work?

MW: I think it is pretty important because producers and studio heads need to see that before they’re going to take a chance on you. You always need a piece of wok that represents you, because no matter what you say your execution will be, people need to see you execute. So, a reel is very important.

 

KW: Could you say something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?

MW: Wow! Probably, but it might also ruin my career. [Chuckles]

 

KW: Have you ever had a near-death experience?

MW: Falling off a roof. I only fell one story, but I still saw my life flashing before my eyes.

 

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

MW: My guiltiest pleasure would probably be coconut sorbet and wine.

 

KW: The Michael Ealy question: If you could meet any historical figure, who would it be?
MW: Jesus Christ.

 

KW: The Gabby Douglas question: If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?

MW: Probably a lawyer.

 

KW: The Viola Davis question: What’s the biggest difference between who you are at home as opposed to the person we see on the red carpet?

MW: None! What you see is exactly what you get. [Laughs]

 

KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

MW: The ability to bring people back to life.

 

KW: Attorney Bernadette Beekman asks: What is your favorite charity?

MW: The Wayans family. [LOL]

 

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key qualities do you believe all successful people share? 

MW: Hard work, a belief in themselves, and they never stop trying. A good work ethic is the greatest talent.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Marlon, and good luck with the film.

MW: Anytime, Kam. Thanks.

To see a trailer for A Haunted House 2, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJ1CsG-bJqc 

 



Reviews
userpicThe Address (PBS-TV REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

The Address

PBS-TV Review by Kam Williams

 

Students Memorize Gettysburg Address in Latest Ken Burns Documentary

            On November 19, 1863, Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to dedicate a cemetery at the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. The President kept his remarks to a mere two minutes, paling in length to that of the relatively long-winded Edward Everett, a former Secretary of State whose keynote speech lasted a couple hours.

            Although one newspaper reporter would derisively dismiss Lincoln’s 272-word sermon as “silly, flat, dish-watery utterances,” it would prove to be a soliloquy for the ages. After beginning with the icon phrase, “Four score and seven years ago,” he proceeded to recount the lofty ideals which had inspired the Declaration of Independence before cleverly repositioning the Civil War as less a struggle to save the Union as a God-ordained fight for human rights.   

            “The Address” represents a bit of a departure for Ken Burns, a director long associated with painstakingly-researched, historical documentaries. For, this picture is set in the present at the Greenwood School in Putney, Vermont, an institution founded in 1978 for boys with learning disabilities ranging from dyslexia to dysgraphia to ADHD to executive function.

            Nevertheless, the school has a tradition whereby every student is expected to comprehend and commit the Gettysburg Address to memory by the end of the school year in order to recite it individually in front of an auditorium filled with parents, guests and staff. This is no mean feat, given how the school serves as a refuge of last resort for kids who have basically been labeled unteachable everywhere else they’ve enrolled.

            Burns’ camera was apparently afforded unusual access to the classrooms at Greenwood over the course of the year. So, we’re able to observe how a dedicated team of educators and therapists managed to instill enough confidence in all 50 members of the student body, no matter how crippling the fear or handicap.

            The transformations are so remarkable by the day of the assembly that tears will reflexively roll down your cheeks in admiration of the children’s achievement. Moreover, don’t be surprised to come away from the experience with a deeper appreciation of the Gettysburg Address and maybe even a determination to memorize it yourself.

            A current-day, Ken Burns PBS production every bit as moving as any of his nostalgic classics

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated TV-PG

Running time: 85 minutes

Studio: Florentine Films

Distributor: PBS

The Address premieres on PBS on Tuesday, April 15th @ 9 pm ET/PT (check local listings)

To see a trailer for The Address, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sR2MIxjB_4c  

To learn more about the Gettysburg Address and to video record yourself reading or reciting it, visit: http://www.learntheaddress.org/



Reviews
userpicsmall time (FILM REVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

small time

Film Review by Kam Williams

 

H.S. Grad Considers Skipping College to Sell Used Cars in Fact-Based Father-Son Saga

            Although Freddy Klein (Devon Bostick) is about to finish high school, he still hasn’t decided whether to attend college in the fall. That’s because he’s considering taking a job as a salesman on his father’s (Christopher Meloni) used car lot.

            The very idea of it frustrates Freddy’s mother (Bridget Moynahan) to no end, since she divorced Al years ago for being such a slippery character and poor provider. For that reason, she raised her son without her ex’s involvement.

            Consequently, she’s dismayed at the prospect of his serving as a role model upon belatedly coming back into the picture on graduation day. Predictably-unreliable Al even proceeds to screw up that occasion, arriving with his girlfriend (Garcelle Beauvais) too late to see his son walk across the stage. Nevertheless, Freddy opts to work and live with his long-estranged dad, an ill-advised decision which prompts his mom to warn, “I will hang myself, if he ends up like you.”

            This is the intriguing point of departure of small time, a compelling, coming of age tale ostensibly inspired by a true story. The movie marks the directorial debut of veteran scriptwriter Joel Surnow, who is best known for the Emmy-winning TV series “24.”

            Putting a unique spin on the “last summer before college” genre, the film revolves around a father-son bonding opportunity as opposed to the familiar escapist theme of hedonistic teens nostalgically reminiscing while bidding each other farewell in wanton fashion. Instead, we have Al and his partner (Dean Norris) showing Freddy the slimy tricks of the trade as the kid immediately takes to the sleazy profession like a fish to water.

            Of course, this development is not lost on his worried mom who hates seeing her son emulating those slippery con artists. Ultimately, it all boils down to whether Freddy will continue down this checkered path or wise up and start school in September?

            A refreshingly-realistic, slice-of-life drama highlighting the plight of a teen with a hole in his soul who’s understandably torn between moving on with his life and making up for lost time.

Very Good (3 stars)

Rated R for sexual references.

Running time: 95 minutes

Distributor: Anchor Bay Films/Freestyle Releasing

To see a trailer for small time, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hurvmhuwa1k 



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Interviews
userpicBridget Moynahan (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Bridget Moynahan
The “small time” Interview
with Kam Williams

 

Bridget’s Blue Blood!

Kathryn Bridget Moynahan was born in Binghamton, New York on April 28, 1971, though raised in Longmeadow, Massachusetts. The statuesque beauty was signed by the Ford Modeling Agency which led to a successful career as a cover girl on Glamour, Vogue and other leading magazines.

After adding acting to her repertoire, Bridget made a memorable feature film debut as Rachel in "Coyote Ugly." Much more than just a pretty face, the versatile thespian followed that breakout role with a string of powerful performances which established her as one of Hollywood's favorite leading ladies.

She has appeared in blockbusters opposite many of Hollywood's finest leading men, including Nicolas Cage in "Lord of War," Will Smith in "I, Robot," Colin Farrell in "The Recruit," John Cusack in "Serendipity," Greg Kinnear in "Unknown," Tim Robbins in "Noise" and Ben Affleck in "The Sum Of All Fears."

Among her many television roles, Bridget portrayed Carrie's rival and Mr. Big's wife on "Sex and The City." Today, she is best known for playing prosecutor Erin Reagan-Boyle on the nighttime drama Blue Bloods opposite Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg.

Here, she talks about new film, “small time,” a coming-of-age drama co-starring Christopher Meloni, Devon Bostick and Dean Norris.

 

Kam Williams: Hi Bridget, thanks for the interview.

Bridget Moynahan: Great, Kam. How are you?

 

KW: Fine, thanks. I’m a big fan of “Blue Bloods.” Congratulations on the success of the series.

BM: Thanks. We’re all excited that it’s going into its fifth season. I, for one, have never worked on a show this long, so it’s kind of exciting.

 

KW: Despite the presence of so many stars in the cast, I’ve really come to almost believe you’re really one big family. Such great chemistry!

BM: Yeah, and I think that happened for all of us on day one. We were kind of introduced to each other right before a family dinner, and we had to jump right into it, and it all seemed to fall into place. It’s also unique to shoot the show right in the city [New York], since we all live here. It’s so different from being away on location when you’re away from your family and away from home. In that situation, the cast tends to spend more time with each other. Here, we all go home to our families after work every day, but when we come back, it’s almost like it’s an extension of our family life. 

 

KW: Environmental activist Grace Sinden asks: Did you got to court or have a lawyer as an acting coach in preparation to play a prosecutor?

BM: We do have a couple people we rely on to ensure that it’s as credible as possible. We’ve had two on set over the years that I’m able to consult speak to about how a situation might be handled, because we do want to make the show as honest and as accurate as possible. We do our best and I work with them often. For me, a lot of it is learning the language of lawyers, because they have many words I would not use in my everyday life.   

 

KW: Well, I’m an attorney, and I’ve always found this show not only more credible but more enjoyable than any of the other nighttime legal dramas.

BM: That’s a good sign. Thank you!

 

KW: Lisa Loving says: In so many of our local communities, the police are mistrusted and even despised. Yet we LOVE watching TV detectives! Do you ever think about that disconnect?

BM: I do, because I think that many forget that police officers are people with real lives. They struggle with the same things that you and I do. They might be behind on their mortgage. They might have a family member who’s sick. So, they’re dealing with all that stuff, while also putting their lives on the line everyday. For us! Many of us don’t pay attention to them until we get a ticket for speeding, running a light, or letting a parking meter run over. It makes you angry, but they’re just doing their job. I think people love watching our show because you get to see the human side of their lives, their personal struggles, and also how the job and certain cases might affect them. It encourages you to think about what they see on a daily basis and how that might affect them. I’m sure that something most people don’t ordinarily think about when interacting with a police officer.  

 

KW: I had fun watching “small time.” Editor/Legist Patricia Turnier would like to know what interested you in the film?

BM: I really like to try to do something on my hiatus, and it was really nice to find a script that was so well-written. The characters just popped of the pages, and Joel [director Joel Surnow] did a really fine job of casting those roles. I had been late in getting on the Breaking Bad bandwagon, so I was unaware of Dean Norris’ role in that until literally six months ago. I’m kinda bummed that I didn’t know more about him at the time of the filming, because I’m now such a huge fan of the show. As far as ‘small time,” I was thrilled to be able to do that project. I recently saw it and was pleasantly surprised at how well it came together. So, I’m really excited for Joel, because this is his feature film directorial debut, and he did a great job.

 

KW: How did you prepare to play Barbara?

BM: I just thought it was really important to work on the relationship between her and Christopher Meloni’s character [Al], because there was so much history in there, and so much conflict. I think they loved each other, but there were circumstances that she didn’t know whether it was worth sticking around for the “maybe” or the “what if,” since they might always be living that way. So, I think they really cared for each other, and they shared a son, and did the best they could. It’s just a kind of a nice reflection of life, not so different from many lives today. I think it’s a story that many people could recognize and relate to.  

 

KW: The film was written by Joel, but inspired by a true story. Did you meet any of the people it was based on?

BM: No, I don’t think I met anyone connected to the story.

 

KW: The Harriet Pakula-Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

BM: I think a true classic should never be touched, but I think it would be fun to be in a remake of Casablanca, or even of West Side Story.

 

KW: The Uduak Oduok question: Who is your favorite clothes designer?

BM: I have such a wide range. I’ve been wearing a lot of Martin Margiela lately. I’m sitting in my dressing room right now, so I’m looking at all my costumes. It’s funny, because we mix a lot so I might end up wearing some designers out of my character’s price range. But we do try to keep her clothes in a bracket of what would be affordable for someone in her type of job. It’s a wide range, but I do try to keep it realistic. Nowadays, you can great knockoffs of the higher-priced designers anyway.  

 

KW: also, a lot of TV characters in New York live in upscale apartments with expensive furniture they shouldn’t be able to afford, judging by their jobs.  

BM: I know. I have a new apartment in my storyline, and looking at it, I asked, “Where did we get this furniture?” But it was actually affordable, even though it looks nicer than my own apartment. [LOL] They were very conscious about that.

 

KW: You said you’re in the dressing room. When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

BM: Right now, I can’t see anything, because it’s covered with my lunch bag, which are meatballs. I have two places I get them from in this neighborhood. These are from The Meatball Shop. 

 

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

BM: Swedish meatballs. My son loves them, and that’s what he gets.

 

KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

BM: I can’t really say. I’m not one of those people who can’t remember stuff from back when I was 3 years-old. I have friends who can, but I can’t. Sorry.

 

KW: Thanks again for the time, Bridget, and best of luck with the film and the TV show.

BM: Thank you so much, Kam.

 

To see a trailer for “small time,” visit




The Railway Man
Film Review by Kam Williams

Eric Lomax (Colin Firth) served as a signals officer in the British Army during World War II. His unit was dispatched to the Pacific theater where it was captured by the Japanese when Singapore fell in 1942.

They soon joined the 60,000+ POWs subsequently forced to build the Burma Railway stretching from Bangkok to Rangoon. The Allies came to call the 258-mile construction the Death Railway, because so many soldiers perished along the way, including 6,318 of Lomax’s fellow Brits pressed into slave labor by their barbaric captors.

Their grueling ordeal has been brought to the big screen before, most notably in The Bridge on the River Kwai, the Academy Award-winning classic starring Sir Alec Guinness which swept the Oscars in 1958. That fictional adventure revolved around the daring exploits of some heroic saboteurs in the face of overwhelming odds.

By contrast, The Railway Man is a relatively-introspective affair. This poignant character study is based on Lomax’s moving memoir of the same name. And although he survived the war, he remained mentally scarred long after his physical wounds healed.

For, he had been subjected to unspeakable torture ranging from brutal beatings to waterboarding, especially at the direction of one particularly-sadistic interrogator, Nagase Takeshi (Tanroh Ishida). Eric had aroused the suspicion of the Japanese when he was caught with detailed drawings of sections of the railroad on which he was working.

Truth be told, he’d always been fascinated by trains while growing up in Edinburgh and had sketched such maps throughout childhood. But since the frustrated Nagase still suspected otherwise, the punishment only escalated.

Upon the cessation of hostilities, Lomax returned home a broken man unable to readjust to civilian life. Sure, he could commiserate with former platoon mates at the veterans club, yet the memories of Burma nevertheless continued to haunt him.

Directed by Jonathan Teplitzky (Better than Sex), The Railway Man is a heartrending, flashback flick set both during World War II and in 1980 which is when Lomax’s loyal wife, Patti (Nicole Kidman), urges him to track down Nagase. Her hope is that a meeting might help her traumatized husband exorcise his demons and thereby recover from his severe psychological afflictions.

Eric’s ensuing sojourn back to the Orient inexorably leads to a confrontation with the tormentor whose face he’s never been able to erase from his mind over the intervening decades. But the question is whether he’ll be able to resist the desire for revenge in favor of reconciliation.

A remarkable illustration of the human capacity to find peace through forgiveness.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for disturbing violence

Running time: 116 minutes

Distributor: The Weinstein Company

To see a trailer for The Railway Man, visit




The Retrieval
Film Review by Kam Williams

It is 1864, and the bloody conflict between the Union and the Confederacy is raging. Against the ominous backdrop of battle and cannon fire in the distance, we are introduced to Will (Ashton Sanders), a 13 year-old orphan ostensibly wrapped up in his own struggle to survive near the front lines.

Separated at birth from the mother he’s never known, the vulnerable black boy is trying to save enough money to track down his long-lost dad. He works as the assistant to Burrell (Bill Oberst, Jr.), a bounty hunter in the fugitive slave business. Will does the white Southerner’s bidding by first ingratiating himself with unsuspecting escapees, and then betraying them once they confess to being runaways.

Today, we find him on a mission in search of an ex-slave named Nate (Tishuan Scott). Will gains his confidence by offering to escort him back below the Mason-Dixon Line for a deathbed visit with a dying brother.

That establishes the absorbing premise of The Retrieval, a riveting road saga with escalating tension. Will Nate catch on before he’s turned over to Burrell? Or might the kid have second thoughts about striking a bargain with the devil?

Written and directed by Chris Eska, The Retrieval made a splash on the festival circuit including at South by Southwest last year where Tishuan Scott won the Special jury Prize in the Breakthrough Performance category. Besides being blessed with great acting, this atmospheric mood piece features eerie cinematography that manages to transport you back to the Civil War era more convincingly than either 12 Years a Slave or Django Unchained.

Slavery revisited as a sick institution making for strange bedfellows.

Excellent (4 stars)

Rated R for violence and ethnic slurs.

Running time: 94 minutes

Distributor: Variance Films

To see a trailer for The Retrieval, visit



Interviews
userpicTishuan Scott (INTERVIEW)
Posted by Kam Williams

Tishuan Scott
“The Retrieval” Interview
with Kam Williams

Great Scott!

Tishuan Scott was born on October 27, 1979 in Shreveport, Louisiana. He attended Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia as an Oprah Scholar, where he matriculated towards earning his Bachelor of Arts in Drama and Psychology in 2002. He then attended the University of California at Los Angeles’ School of Theater, Film & Television as a Lloyd Bridges MGM/Outer Limits Fellow, where he received his Master of Fine Arts in Acting in 2006.

Tishuan was recently seen as “Kenieloe,” a Ghanian guru, in Andrew Bujalski's 2013 Alfred P. Sloan Sundance Award-winning film ”Computer Chess” and as “Moses Washington” in the Lifetime Network TV movie “Deliverance Creek.” Here, he talks playing “Nate,” a freedman gravedigger for the Federal Union Army, in “The Retrieval.” He landed the South by Southwest Festival (SXSW) 2013 Special Jury Prize for Acting ­ Breakthrough Performance in that Civil War Era adventure.

Kam Williams: Hi Tishuan, thanks for the interview.

Tishuan Scott: It’s my pleasure. Thank You, Kam, for the interview.

KW: Congratulations on winning the Breakthrough Performance at the South by Southwest Festival.

TS: Thank You! I love SXSW! I love Austin!

KW: What interested you in The Retrieval?

TS: The story, writing, characters, and relationships. It’s history.

KW: It explores the themes of trust and betrayal during slavery, just as 12 Years a Slave. How would you compare the two pictures?

TS: The films’ singular comparison is that Solomon Northup is a free man who is enslaved for profit through the brutal trade and oppression of the system of slavery, and my character, Nate, a freedman, is sought after to make a profit, a bounty, by the patty-rollers who seek to re-enslave him. Both films share an insight to the great capitalization of the African-American male life, to be debased as worthless, yet so extraordinarily invaluable. There are also grander contrasts between the two films, however: 12 Years: 1841; The Retrieval: 1864. 12 Years: Pre-Emancipation Proclamation; The Retrieval: Post-Emancipation Proclamation. 12 Years: Brutality; The Retrieval: Humanity.

KW: 2013 was a banner year film for black film: 12 Years a Slave, 42, Fruitvale Station, The Butler, etcetera. What effect do you think that will have on Hollywood in terms of opportunities for African­Americans in front of and behind the camera?

TS: I believe it transcends Hollywood. It’s bigger than that! Our film has played in Toronto-Ontario, Calgary, Montreal-Quebec, Brazil, Australia, France-Deauville, Serbia, Greece, Germany, London, Istanbul-Turkey, Belgium-Ghent, Egypt-Luxor, and all over the U.S. in a myriad of film festivals, clearly displaying that there is an international and national interest and demand to see dark chocolate-skinned folks on the silver screen to observe and immerse an audience in the forgotten histories of who we are as a people and what we were as a nation. This canon of films will inspire many indie filmmakers and, hopefully, Hollywood to realize that our wealth is in our history, that we have so very many stories yet to be told. All five films have African-American male leads. You left out Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom – that makes six! That is exemplary and thrilling, but there are also stories with African-American women that must be told. We need African-American female lead actresses in films, in tandem with African-American male leading actors.

KW: How do you pick a role?

TS: I don’t believe I pick them. I think the universe sends me what’s for me. What attracts me specifically to roles is the heart of the character. How does the story move me? What is the character’s journey or driving force? Where is the character headed? Why is the character headed there? There absolutely and unequivocally has to be depth.

KW: You got both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in theater before starting your career. Do you recommend that route to aspiring actors?

TS: Yes. I met Samuel Jackson at our 2001 Morehouse College Gala: Candle in the Dark. I tell people what he told me. “Take your time. Get your education.”

KW: Are you also interested in writing and directing?

TS: Yes.

KW: The Harriet Pakula­Teweles question: With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you'd like to star in?

TS: I don’t care for remakes. There’s soooo much undiscovered material out there; old and new. I want to be original. August Wilson’s “Fences,” Gloria Naylor’s “The Men of Brewster Place,” Richard Wright’s “The Outsider,” “Black Theater USA – Plays from 1847-1938” has a myriad of material yearning to be on the stage and screen! Those are classics to me.

KW: Is there any question no one ever asks you, that you wish someone would?

TS: Would you like a free home renovation and free lawn landscaping?

KW: Would you mind saying something controversial that would get this interview tweeted?

TS: Legalize marijuana President Obama! Think of how many African-American males who would have to be freed from prison and how many it will save from ever being incarcerated!

KW: Have you ever had a near­death experience?

TS: Yes. I’m thankful for 9 Lives!

KW: Have you ever accidentally uncovered a deep secret?

TS: Yes. The United States of America: 1863­1963.

KW: The Teri Emerson question: When was the last time you had a good laugh?

TS: Today. It’s the kind of laugh where you throw your head back and laugh to the sky.

KW: What is your guiltiest pleasure?

TS: Jolly Ranchers, watermelon and apple-flavored.

KW: The bookworm Troy Johnson question: What was the last book you read?

TS: Essays actually. W.E.B. DuBois’ “Criteria for Negro Art,” “The Guiding Hundredth,” “On the Wings of Atlanta,” and “On Our Spiritual Strivings.” Nietzsche’s “On the Pale Criminal” and “On the Three Metamorphoses.” Solomon Northup’s 12 YEARS A SLAVE was the last novel that I read. But it was in August before I reread the aforementioned essays.

KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?

TS: Italian.

KW: The Sanaa Lathan question: What excites you?

TS: A hummingbird. Monarch butterflies. Seeing my garden growing. Good food and family dinners.

KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?

TS: My reflection. And I love it!

KW: If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?

TS: I wish for recycling to become a major industrial agriculture.

KW: The Jamie Foxx question: If you only had 24 hours to live, how would you spend the time?

TS: Surrounded by my family and the best of my friends on a tropical island with exotic palms, our skins glistening in the sun, feet promenading through the hot sand, eating mangos and strawberries and dark chocolate and sushi, drinking mango and rum, listening to music inspired by drums, and dancing and laughing.

KW: The Kerry Washington question: If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

TS: A peacock!

KW: The Ling­Ju Yen question: What is your earliest childhood memory?

TS: Playing with my Superman and performing sermons for my mother, granny and auntie with my Little Golden Book, a small glass of orange juice and a napkin to wipe the sweat from my unwrinkled brow. My most memorable lines they say were, “Just like Jeremiah said, ‘It was like fire, shot up in his bones’!” and “Lawd, thank you for the washing powder!”

KW: The Melissa Harris­Perry question: How did your first big heartbreak impact who you are as a person?

TS: I discovered that the heart is a breakable thing, but also discovered my capacity to love another person.

KW: The Anthony Anderson question: If you could have a superpower, which one would you choose?

TS: Flying.

KW: The Judyth Piazza question: What key quality do you believe all successful people share?

TS: A passion for what they do, an undying zeal and fervor to never give up and accept and embrace failures as the building blocks to the pyramids of success.

KW: What advice do you have for anyone who wants to follow in your footsteps? TS: Join SAG-AFTRA! And keep your head to the sky, for it is the stars, the ancient and everlasting stars that will guide you.

KW: The Tavis Smiley question: How do you want to be remembered?

TS: Zarathustra, Ubermensch and Herald of the Lightning!

KW: Thanks again for the time, Tishuan, and best of luck with The Retrieval.

TS: I think I heard someone before say, “Luck is for the godless.” Wish me Godspeed! Amen Ra.

KW: Godspeed it is then, bro!

TS: Thanks, Kam.

To see a trailer for The Retrieval, visit




Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence
Film Review by Kam Williams

Father Thomas Keating is a very influential theologian despite the fact that his is not as much of a household name as some of his contemporaries like the Dalai Lama and Deepak Chopra. That’s because the 91 year-old cleric got a late start after having spent the bulk of his life under the radar as a Trappist Monk withdrawn from the world and operating under a vow of silence.

How exactly did he land on that Spartan path? Well, as a sickly 5 year-old, Thomas had promised God to enter the priesthood if he were allowed to survive a life-threatening childhood disease. So, upon completing his studies at Yale University, he kept his word by joining an ascetic order located in rural Rhode Island.

However, he would resign in 1981 and start talking again in order to be able to share his unique brand of Eastern-influenced Catholicism with the masses. He subsequently moved to an abbey in Colorado where he founded the Contemplative Outreach program.

Over the intervening years he also wrote 30+ books about his meditative approach to spirituality. His Earth-friendly philosophy basically suggests that “The more we know about nature, the more we know about God.” In that regard, it reminded this critic of a passage from Shakespeare’s As You Like It which reads “And this our life, exempt from public haunt, finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

Co-directed by Peter Jones and Elena Mannes, Thomas Keating: A Rising Tide of Silence is an endearing biopic whose only flaw is a slight tendency at times towards hero worship. For, although the endearing documentary’s humble subject obviously has little interest in such glorification, the filmmakers can’t help but gush, cinematically, in the process of placing him atop a virtual pedestal he probably wants no part of.

The picture is at its best during relatively-introspective interviews conducted with Thomas which intermittently arrive between glowing accolades from colleagues and distracting reminders that, as an Ivy League grad, he could’ve written his own ticket had he gone the conventional materialistic route.

But it was apparently hard for the directors to leave well enough alone and just let Thomas speak for himself. A poignant portrait of a transcendent figure for the ages with a simple message that ”Forgiveness is at the very center of Christianity.”

Excellent (3.5 stars)

Unrated

Running time: 75 minutes

Distributor: Temple Rock

To see a trailer for Thomas Keating, visit




Being Ginger
Film Review by Kam Williams

Everybody knows blondes have more fun, but what about redheads? They have the least pleasure according to Scott Harris, the producer, director and primary subject of Being Ginger. In this bittersweet expose, the ostracized underdog explores his plight in particular as well as that of his fellow, so-called “Gingers” in general.

We learn that the 31 year-old filmmaker has apparently been saddled with low self-esteem ever since being mercilessly teased about his hair during his formative years. He sets about illustrating that point by confronting one of his former schoolteachers who, rather than stepping in to stop the torture, had joined in the bullying.

The inept educator even admits on camera to having threatened to hang Scott on a hook, if he didn’t stop blubbering, so that his classmates could pummel him like a piñata. As a result of such repeated mistreatment, the poor boy ended-up an adult lacking in self-confidence, especially when it comes to the ladies.

Scott claims women don’t find redheads appealing due to a basic look which is more goofy than virile. Consequently, he’s never been in a long-term relationship. Convinced that his soul mate must be out there somewhere, he decided to shoot a movie chronicling his desperate search for the girl of his dreams.

To that end, Scott looks for Ms. Right everywhere he goes, whether in a nightclub, on a college campus, at a redhead convention, online (at www.DateGinger.com), or by boldly walking down the street wearing a sandwich board advertising that he’s available. Which, if any, of these approaches works? Far be it from me to ruin the resolution of a delightful documentary’s denouement.

Actually, as a black man born with red hair and freckles, what I found far more thought-provoking was the question of whether I might have been emotionally scarred during my own childhood in a way similar to Scott. After all, I’d often been referred to as “Carrot Top” and “Kraut” as a kid, and was not particularly popular with the opposite sex.

Ultimately, I’ve come to the conclusion that those hair-related nicknames never bothered me as much as being the brunt of racial epithets. And I doubt that most females are so superficial as to reject a guy out of hand just because of his hair color.

Nevertheless, I don’t want to minimize the trauma Scott suffered since he did such a fine job, here, of illustrating the source of his angst. Ronald McDonalds of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your Cheetos-colored coiffures!

Very Good (3 stars)

Unrated

Running time: 69 minutes

Distributor: Garden Thieves Pictures / Quad Cinema

To see a trailer for Being Ginger, visit




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