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Film Critics Screen Their Favorite Documentaries

Saturday, January 13----The Museum of the Moving Image, in collaboration with the New York Film Critics Circle, is presenting a on-going series of critical choices of influential documentaries, introduced by members of the Circle. This weekend, three influential films, two from the recent past, and one a silent film classic, are being showcased in the Critics Choice: Great Documentaries series. If you have never seen these films on a big screen, rev up the car engine, hail a taxi or grab the next subway to Astoria, Queens for this rare opportunity to appreciate these non-fiction milestones.

This afternoon, the Museum is presenting two documentaries that delve into the netherworld of crimes and misdemeanors. THE THIN BLUE LINE (1988) by Errol Morris explores the 1976 shooting of a Texas police officer and the subsequent arrest of a drifter, who was found guilty and sentenced to death row. The documentary posited that the accused was denied due process and had shoddy legal representation, since his public defender was less than motivated to get his client off the hook. The film, which abandons all pretext of objectivity, uncovered evidence that a young hitchhiker had actually done the crime, but his youth protected him from prosecution, so the drifter was fingered as the fall guy. Morris' influential documentary uses dramatic re-enactments and other techniques to further its case that this was a case of incorrect justice, and the film's influence resulted in the release of the wrongly convicted murderer. Another crime, one would say, is that this milestone documentary was not even nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar the year it was made. However, it did secure Morris' reputation as a prime mover of the form (and he did eventually win that Oscar for his excellent THE FOG OF WAR). Mike D'Angelo, the film critic of Esquire, will introduce the film and discuss its influence after the screening.

The series continues on Saturday with the screening of PARADISE LOST: THE CHILD MURDERS AT ROBIN HOOD HILLS (1996), by the prolific directorial team of Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky. After the bodies of three eight-year-old boys are found naked and mutilated in a wooded area in rural Arkansas, the town demands justice. Suddenly, fingers are pointed to three heavy metal music-loving teenage rebels, whose attire and "goth" tastes made them suspects. This engrossing documentary not only attempts to solve the riddle of this ghastly crime, but comments on the vulnerabilities of the outsider, especially in a community of conservative conformity. The film is scored to the music of the heavy-metal band Metallica, the subject of the documentary duo's later film SOME KIND OF MONSTER. Both filmmakers will be on hand, along with film critic Stephen Whitty of the Newark Star Ledger, to discuss the making of the film and its implications on the American ethos of tolerance and equal justice.

Sunday afternoon's screening of the silent classic MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (1929) by the pioneering Russian filmmaker Dziga Vertov will be presented with a new musical score, performed by Donald Sosin and John Davis. The musicians will need to play quickly, to keep up with Vertov's dizzying, kaleidoscopic portrait of Soviet Russia in motion. The film, which has been cited on international critics lists as one of the top ten films ever made, is still an anarchic bonanza of amazing images, free-form camerawork and dynamic editing. If you've only seen this classic in a scratchy 16mm film print when you were in film school, come revel in the beauty of the presentation at the Museum, which is introduced by influential critic J. Hoberman of the Village Voice.

For more information on the series and upcoming events at the Museum of the Moving Image, visit their website: Museum of the Moving Image

Sandy Mandelberger
Film New York Editor


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Mandelberger Sandy
(International Media Resources)

The Ultimate Guide to the New York Film, Video and New Media Scene.

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