The White House Super-8 Posse

Our NixonAnother highlight among the documentary entries at the 2013 VFF (Virginia Film Festival) was Our Nixon by Penny Lane, which takes an unexpected approach to a topic which has been the covered exhaustively in books, articles and films – the presidency of Richard Nixon. The hook here is that Nixon’s core staff members – H.R. Haldeman (Chief of Staff), John Ehrlichman (Domestic Affairs Advisor) and Dwight Chapin (Special Assistant to Nixon) were all home movie enthusiasts and took lots of candid super-8 footage (over 500 reels) during their White House tenure. Lane was able to get access to their films and uses them as a way to re-examine this turbulent time in American politics.    Continue reading

A Khmer Rouge Nightmare in Clay

The Missing PictureOne of the most unusual documentaries screened at the 2013 VFF (Virginia Film Festival) was The Missing Picture by filmmaker Rithy Panh. A personal account of Panh’s childhood in Cambodia during the years of the Khmer Rouge regime, the film follows Panh’s memories of his family and what happened to them when Pol Pot’s forces invaded the cities and deported the inhabitants to internment camps where they were “re-educated” under the most harsh living conditions imaginable. Continue reading

Pitch Black Noir

A Single Shot posterA contemporary film noir set in an economically depressed backwoods town, A Single Shot comes with impressive credentials – cinematography by Eduard Grau (A Single Man, Buried), production design by David Brisbin (Drugstore Cowboy, My Own Private Idaho) and a superior ensemble cast of Sam Rockwell, William H. Macy, Jeffrey Wright, Ted Levine, Kelly Reilly and Jason Isaacs. Nothing in the brief filmography of director David M. Rosenthal, however, suggested that he would follow such audience-friendly entertainments as See This Movie, Falling Up and Janie Jones with something so relentlessly dark. Based on the novel by Matthew F. Jones (who also adapted the screenplay), the film plunges you into a horrific situation from the start and then follows the terrible repercussions that fan out from there.     Continue reading