By Howard Pousner
The Atlanta Film Festival has released a list of 15 documentaries that will be shown during this year’s cinema extravaganza, March 26-April 6 at the Plaza Theatre and 7 Stages.
Two of the 15 films are products of Georgia filmmakers: “Limo Ride” and “Mayan Blue.”
Here is a listing of the 15, constituting a sampling of the fest’s documentaries, with descriptions provided by the festival…
“15 to Life: Kenneth’s Story,” directed by Nadine Pequeneza
Kenneth Young, the product of a drug-infested community, is seeking a second chance at life in one of the most punitive states in the country. Until 2010, Kenneth believed he would die in a Florida prison. The U.S. Supreme Court’s banning of mandatory life sentences for juveniles has impacted more than 2,300 inmates who were sentenced as children. Kenneth now has a chance to prove his rehabilitation through a powerful testament of a child’s remarkable capacity for change.
“120 Days,” directed by Ted Roach
Family man Miguel Cortes could be forced to leave the country in four months as a result of his immigration status. In exchange for Miguel agreeing to leave the country voluntarily — and paying a $5,000 bond —the judge offers him 120 days to get his affairs in order before leaving his wife and two daughters in the United States to continue their education. Miguel has “120 Days” to work hard, save money and weigh his options about returning to Mexico alone, or risk changing his name and disappearing back into another U.S. city illegally with his family.
“Above All Else,” directed by John Fiege
One man will risk it all to stop the tar sands of the Keystone XL oil pipeline from crossing his land. Shot in the forests, pastures and living rooms of rural East Texas, “Above All Else” follows David Daniel as he rallies neighbors and environmental activists to join him in a final act of brinkmanship — a tree-top blockade of the controversial pipeline. What begins as a stand against corporate bullying becomes a rallying cry for climate protesters nationwide.
“Dog Days,” directed by Laura Waters Hinson and Kasey Kirby
After losing his job in 2009, Coite Manuel sets off to build his dream business with the help of two unlikely women — Deane, his harp-playing aunt, and Siyone, an East African hot dog vendor and single mother of four. Staking his meager life savings on a vision to revive Washington’s dwindling hot dog vending community, Coite faces bewildering challenges — from hostile city regulations and an entrenched local monopoly to the sudden popularity of food trucks. Filmed over the course of four years, “Dog Days” journeys to a world where the top dogs of big business meet the underdogs of street food in a comically serious caper about the promise and struggle of the American Dream.
“Exposed,” directed by Beth B
Profiling eight women and men who use their nakedness to transport us beyond the last sexual and social taboos that our society holds dear, “Exposed” allows us to look down on our myriad inhibitions. These cutting edge performers — operating on the far edge of burlesque — combine politics, satire and physical comedy to question the very concept of ‘normal.’ From a unique perspective, “Exposed” takes the audience into the clubs and other hidden spaces where “new burlesque” is challenging traditional notions of body, gender and sexuality.
“A Fragile Trust,” directed by Samantha Grant
Jayson Blair is the most infamous serial plagiarist of our time. In 2003, he unleashed a massive scandal that rocked The New York Times and the entire world of journalism. “A Fragile Trust” is the first film to tell the whole sordid story of the scandal while exploring the deeper themes of power, ethics, representation, race and accountability in the mainstream media.
“Getting to The Nutcracker,” directed by Serene Meshel-Dillman
Every Christmas season, “The Nutcracker” ballet is performed in cities all over the world. “Getting to The Nutcracker” takes you inside the Herculean effort involved in gathering the resources, assembling the volunteers, casting the dancers, rehearsing and staging the performances of this classic ballet. Los Angeles’ Marat Daukayev School of Ballet takes you behind the curtains to witness countless hours of auditions and the rigorous hours of rehearsals. The film follows dancers from ages three to 18, shining a light on the incredible sacrifices of time and money they make just so that they may dance.
“Hank: Five Years From the Brink,” directed by Joe Berlinger
As Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson was tasked with preventing a collapse of the global economy during the financial crisis of 2008. In “Hank: Five Years from the Brink,” he tells Academy Award-nominated director Joe Berlinger a riveting story of leadership under unimaginable pressure, explaining how he strategized and improvised to persuade banks, Congress and presidential candidates to sign off on nearly $1 trillion in bailouts — a move even he found morally reprehensible.
“Limo Ride,” directed by Gideon C. Kennedy and Marcus Rosentrater
When a group of friends hired a limousine to take them to the beach for their annual New Years rite of passage, the last thing they expected was to find themselves kidnapped, stripped, stranded and left for dead on a dirt road 24 hours later, fighting to survive. A true tale told by those who lived it, these 10 Southern raconteurs are as practiced in spinning great yarns as they are in hard living. By combining the narration of the actual participants with feature-length re-enactment, “Limo Ride” transforms the greatest bar story ever told into a wild, experimental docu-comedy.
“Little Ballers,” directed by Crystal McCrary Anthony
Exploring the bonds created through basketball, “Little Ballers” follows four 11-year-old boys and their coach as they set out to win an AAU National Championship. For these young men, basketball is a positive outlet to their harsh reality of poverty and gang violence. Their influential coach becomes a father figure, offering them the hope of getting an education and living the American dream. NBA players including Steve Nash, Carmelo Anthony, Joakim Noah and Amare Stoudemire share their stories of playing youth basketball that mirror the lives of the Little Ballers.
“Mayan Blue,” directed by Rafael Garcia
In an expedition deep beneath the waters of Guatemala’s Lake Atitlán, “Mayan Blue” chronicles the discovery and investigation of the 2,000-year-old city of Samabaj. While carefully studying these ruins, the film also explores the Maya view of the cosmos and their ancient mythologies. The findings reveal a catastrophe the likes of which the Maya could never have imagined, reshaping everything they believed about the earth and the origins of their underworld.
“The Road to Fame,” directed by Hao Wu
Spotlighting China’s first official collaboration with Broadway, “The Road to Fame” chronicles the staging of the American musical “Fame” by the graduating class at China’s top drama academy. Five students of diverse personalities and family backgrounds compete for roles, all while struggling to prepare to graduate into China’s reality of income inequality and rampant corruption. As part of China’s single-child generation, the students are compelled to carry on the failed dreams of their parents. Often confused by the conflicting cultural values shaping China today, they must confront their anxieties about an uncertain future and find their own paths to success.
“The Road to Livingston,” directed by Erik Mauck
Thrust into circumstances she did not choose, Delia Perez Meyer is introduced to a vast community surrounding the prison system in Texas. Her brother, Louis, was convicted of triple murder in 1999 and is currently on death row in Livingston. Since his incarceration, Delia has fought to establish his innocence, while also taking up the larger issue of the death penalty. Her story is one of sacrifice, endurance and loyalty as she continues to support her brother, and the many others she meets along the road to Livingston.
“Web,” directed by Michael Kleiman
For 10 months, Michael Kleiman lived with families in small villages in Peru’s Andes Mountains and the Amazon jungle as children there experienced the internet for the first time. “Web” documents how the children and their families used the new technologies, as well as the inevitable complications that arise from digital connections. “Web” considers the incredible potential born out of technological connection —including new possibilities for dialogue, cultural exchange and collaboration — while also considering what is lost in the process.
“A Will for the Woods,” directed by Amy Browne and Jeremy Caplan
Musician, folk dancer and psychiatrist Clark Wang battles lymphoma while facing a potentially imminent need for funeral plans. Determined that his last act will not harm the environment — and, hopefully, help protect it — Clark has discovered the movement to further sustainable funerals that conserve natural areas. “A Will for the Woods” is an immersive, life-affirming depiction of people coming to terms with mortality by embracing their connection to timeless natural cycles.