"I Origins" requires and rewards patience. Screenwriter/director Mike Cahill takes a scientific premise and pursues it as a serious interrogation. This fits the central, systematic research into the origins of the visual eye, the title complementing this with I, the first person pronoun, thereby suggesting finding the source of one, the physical eye, reveals critical insight into the other.
"Evergreen: The Road to Legalization" fulfills the promise of its title. In an information-packed 86 minutes, this documentary charts Washington State's thorny path to what we now know was a successful campaign to legalize marijuana use. Of course, the legalization issue has figured in the news often, but producer/director Riley Morton analytically lays out its multifaceted complexity.
In present-day Hamburg, Russian-Chechen Issa Karpov seeks asylum as German and American anti-terrorist agents go on full alert, sometimes cooperating, sometimes at cross purposes. Heir to his father's fortune held in a Hamburg bank, the Muslim Issa may have philanthropic motives or may have jihadist intentions. Director Anton Corbijn's "A Most Wanted Man" will work to untangle the intrigue.
New Zealand producer/director Anthony Powell invested more than ten years making his documentary "Antarctica: A Year on Ice." His decade of labor captures the grandeur and the harshness of this amazing continent, larger than the United States. As fascinating, Powell profiles the psychological challenges facing the fewer than 700 people who winter at Scott Base, near McMurdo Station.
The 14th Annual Cinema St. Louis Whitaker St. Louis Filmmakers Showcase takes over Landmark's Tivoli Theatre from Sunday, July 13th through Thursday, July 17th. To qualify for inclusion in the Showcase's sixteen programs, the works selected must be written, directed, edited, or produced by St. Louis natives or the films must show strong local ties.
It's an uphill battle for film directors who challenge conditioned expectations--dramatic characters, coherent stories, a brisk pace and appealing art direction. Writer/director Aaron Schimberg takes the dare and faces a daunting task with "Go Down Death," pretentiously based on the writings of fictitious folklorist Jonathan Mallory Sinus. Disjointed and shallow, it fails to present imaginative or clever material.
For the first two-thirds of director Aram Garriga's documentary "American Jesus" he presents a kaleidoscopic snapshot of a surprisingly diverse array of American Christian groups. Individual ministries cater to cowboys, bikers, surfers, yoga practitioners, mixed martial arts cage fighters, strip clubs, and more. Pastors characterize their religious allegiances and their congregations. Then, unexpectedly, Garriga's approach changes.
Director Andrew Rossi's documentary "Ivory Tower" critiques numerous aspects of American college education from its relevance in the 21st century to the exorbitant costs of private universities. "Ivory Tower" offers profiles from Harvard to Arizona State; from the all-male, free Desert Springs school to historically black, all-women's Spelman College; from Massive Open Online Courses to the UnCollege movement.
Quietly intense and profoundly moving, Polish director and co-writer Pawel Pawlikowski's "Ida" begins with the title character, 18 years old, a novitiate in a Catholic convent, preparing to take religious vows. It's the only life Ida, an orphan called Anna, has known. What she will discover in 1960s Poland about her past comes courtesy of her aunt Wanda Gruz.
Director/editor Joan Grossman chronicles the 1962 origins, development, and eventual demise of Drop City in her documentary of that title, treating the subject with a lively cinematic approach befitting the inventiveness of the people who developed the community called the first rural commune. Through informative, candid interviews in a quick 82 minutes, Drop City becomes an exhilarating location.