‘I Am Not Your Negro’
James Baldwin was one of the most influential writers of the late 20th century, penning numerous essays and acclaimed novels addressing issues of race at a time when racial friction seemed to be boiling over in America. Working from an unfinished Baldwin manuscript, director Raoul Peck has created I Am Not Your Negro, a documentary examining Baldwin’s views and how they apply not only to the tumults of the ‘60s, but to modern America as well. Samuel L. Jackson narrates, infusing the material with a husky weariness. I Am Not Your Negro leaves one with the impression that Baldwin’s work has never been finished, and never been more important.
Although not as famous as many acts of the ‘60s, the Stooges proved to be a hugely influential rock band, with raw sound and avant-garde songwriting that laid the foundation for early punk and metal bands. It’s only fitting that no less a cinematic renegade than Jim Jarmusch would be the one to direct Gimme Danger, a documentary that tells the story of the Stooges through the words of its members, including Jim Osterberg (aka Iggy Pop). Fans of the band will appreciate the many anecdotes and insights into the philosophy of the band, while newcomers may quickly develop a taste for the music, which sounds as lively as anything released today.
This documentary from director Penny Lane examines the fascinating and terrifyingly prescient story of John R. Brinkley, an unlicensed doctor who, in the 1920s, became one of the most successful doctors in America, thanks to a truly bizarre operation he invented. At the behest of a man suffering from impotence, Brinkley implanted a pair of testicular glands from a goat into the patient’s scrotum. Although the procedure had no actual medical benefits (indeed, many subsequent patients would die from the operation), his patient was convinced it worked, and Brinkley soon had men and women coming to him in droves for miracle cures. Brinkley amassed a fortune, and he soon sought more power, establishing a successful radio station to broadcast his medical “wisdom,” and even running for governor of Kansas. Nuts! tells the story through interviews with historians, as well as charming animated reenactments.
A condiment perhaps more widely used than ketchup or mustard, the spicy Sriracha “rooster sauce” takes center stage in this award-winning, short documentary. To help get the flick off the ground, director Griffin Hammond took to the popular crowdfunding website Kickstarter in 2013, successfully raising over $20k in pledges to just a $5k goal. Hammond’s knack for interesting storytelling allow this 30-minute documentary to properly celebrate one of food’s most beloved and popular sidekicks.
‘The Invisible War’
This documentary from award-winning director Kirby Dick explores the ever-increasing incidence of violent sexual assault within the U.S. military. The Invisible War features interviews with veterans from multiple branches of the United States Armed Forces, who recount the events surrounding their sexual assaults. Their stories express the lack of recourse in the justice system, and the absence of emotional and physical care for the survivors. The survivors call for a change in the way military handles sexual assault and hope for a shift to a more honest conversation.