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.
Whatever your political persuasion, the documentary "Citizen Koch" delivers an alarming description of democracy imperiled. Focused on the Wisconsin drama involving then Governor Scott Walker and movement for his recall, critical contributing elements include the Citizens United case and the U.S. Supreme Court, the Americans for Prosperity organization, Federal Elections Commissioners (past and present), and various Senators and Representatives.
A sound in the middle of the night awakens a couple, an intruder moves through a downstairs room, a gun is loaded, it is aimed at the burglar and a shot goes off. Thus begins director Jim Mickle's "Cold in July," a gritty slice of life in 1989 East Texas where hidden agendas and ugly revenge rule.
The documentary "Particle Fever" goes inside the world of theoretical and experimental physicists in their search for the Higgs boson. This particle, if found, would potentially change perspectives on scientific understanding of the universe. Enter the Large Hadron Collider and experiments to which over 10,000 scientists from over 100 countries contribute. "Particle Fever" follows six of them from 2007 to 2012.
What is daily life like for a group of high school teenagers drifting in and out of each other's lives as they experiment sexually, push boundaries, and engage in some downright dangerous behavior? "Palo Alto" offers its ideas for a cross section of privileged young men and women, searching and rebelling, desperate to find themselves.
A slow-paced but bracing antidote to "Django Unchained," writer/director Chris Eska's "The Retrieval" dramatizes a grim story of Texas bounty hunters in 1864, hunters who employ blacks to track and trap runaways. Eska writes that his curiosity about the period just after the Emancipation Proclamation led to his story set on the fringes of the Civil War.
Told entirely from 14-year-old Lila's limited point of view, "It Felt Like Love" immerses the viewer visually and psychologically in Lila's subjective perceptions and emotional concerns. Writer/director Eliza Hittman maintains a coherent, even strikingly astute understanding of Lila's yearning for a boyfriend, accompanied by her distress since Lila lacks the sexual appeal she desires.
In "The Railway Man" Eric Lomax first appears in 1980 where he's most comfortable--on a railway car. There he accidentally meets his future wife, Patti, because his train was delayed. He rattles off the circuitous connection he'll make to complete his journey--a lovely metaphor for his emotional passage from traumatized ex-prisoner of war to a psychologically strengthened individual.
Rights for the LGBT community rank among the most important contemporary issues, and civil union/gay marriage status figures prominently. In 2008 Puerto Rico became a microcosm of the legislative and religious debate with Concurrent Resolution 99, rushed through the Senate, essentially elevating marriage only between a man and a woman to a constitutional level.