Monday, February 18, 2013

3 Oscar Nominated Documentaries Now Streaming On Netflix Instant

Folks wanting to catch up with Oscar nominated films before the Academy Awards this Sunday night are in luck because three of the five nominees for Best Documentary Feature are now streaming on Netlfix Instant: David France’s HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE, Kirby Dick’s THE INVISIBLE WAR, and Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s 5 BROKEN CAMERAS.

If it wasn’t for Malik Bendjelloul’s crowd pleasing SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (available on Blu ray, DVD, and Amazon Instant Video), HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE would be a shoo-in for the award. Journalist and first-time film maker France, via grainy amateur video, TV news footage, and recent interviews, tells us the story of the early days of AIDS activism through the fight of two coalitions, ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power) and TAG (Treatment Action Group) in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s.

A stunning tally of AIDS deaths is given a counter (appearing when the film identifies what year we’re in), that reaches well into the millions well before the film is over. The spirit of the war on homophobic factions of the government not supporting funding for AIDS research and treatment is uplifting when it comes to the many chants at protest rallies throughout: “Out of the bar and into the street!” “AZT is not enough, give us all the other stuff!” “300,000 dead from AIDS, where is George?” (Bush Sr. that is).

But what’s most affecting is the thread of the late Bob Rafsky, of ACT UP, who we witness deteriorating but not so much that he couldn’t heckle Bill Clinton on the campaign trail in ’92.

HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE is essential viewing. Force that loud mouthed homophobic relative to watch it with you. Yeah, that’s a great idea.

Kirby Dick’s THE INVISIBLE WAR, concerning the unbelievably high volume of rape incidents in the military, has plenty of emotional power as well.

It’ll break your heart over and over to hear these women’s (and a few men’s) testimonies about being sexually assaulted, then you’ll get angry at the career-ending repercussions the victims are dealt when trying to get justice. The case of Kori Cioca, who was raped by a commanding officer while serving as a seaman with the U.S. Coast Guard in 2005 is the dominant storyline. Dick’s camera captures Ciorca as she waits for a response from the Veterans Affairs office on her medical claim, as her aggressor had horribly injured her jaw.

Documentarian Dick’s movies have felt a bit incomplete before (THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED, I’m looking at you), but the well-lit interview heavy THE INVISIBLE WAR is his most fully realized work. The film may over utilize the effect of how ominous U.S. Marine Corps recruiting films can look in retrospect, but, along with the staggering statistics presented, and the exposure of the anti-rape ad campaign orchestrated by the SARC (Sexual Assault Response Coordinator) program represented by Kate Whitley (who Dick does a bit of snotty Michael Moore-ish interrogating of), all of the material here is worth a close look. 

Just disregard that its wrap-up makes it seem like a big infomercial for a cause with Mary J. Blige doing the Melissa Etheridge duties * for the end credits to boot.

Maybe the most riveting of these nominated documentaries streaming on Netflix is 5 BROKEN CAMERAS

“These are my five cameras, every one is an episode in my life” Palestinian peasant Emad Burnat explains in his intro to this film which covers from 2005 to 2010.

Burnat films the villagers protesting a large Israeli security wall that cuts them off from their land and gets footage that’s more action packed than the latest DIE HARD movie. Gun fire resulting in deaths right in front of Burnat’s lens is frequent, so much so that more than one of his five cameras gets a bullet lodged in it. Burnat speaks of filming as way to make this scary existence have meaning, and he achieves that greatly in the face of military telling him to turn the camera off, and in one striking shot in which he pans swiftly to catch a flock of birds flying over Bil’in in a rare break from turmoil.

Like with all the other categories, this Oscar race is looking like the hardest one to predict in recent memory. That won’t stop me from trying to predict though (check back here later this week for predictions). THE GATEKEEPERS, which is the only doc of those nominated that I haven’t seen, looks pretty spectacular too (check out this trailer), but again, SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (which is way worthy BTW) looks like the best bet of docs.

But in the meantime, the currently streaming HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE, THE INVISIBLE WAR, and 5 BROKEN CAMERAS, are possible Oscar upsets that Film Babble Blog followers who are fans of documentaries (all 2-3 of you), should definitely take not of.

I also touched on the Best Documentary Feature of 2013 in my appearance chatting with Kevin Brewer on postmodcast last evening, which you can hear here.

* Etheridge won the Oscar for her end credits song contribution “I Need to Wake Up” to Davis Guggenheim’s AN INCONVIENENT TRUTH in 2006.

More later…

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