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Documentary Film Review: ‘Misconception’

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Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jessica Yu’s Misconception offers another take on the question of over population, a fresh look at forces that really drive both familial and environmental destruction, and allows the viewer the opportunity to delve in to one of the most poignant questions for modern humanity: What is the value of one human life? Who decides that? Why?

If the temperature of Russian culture were taken, it would run hot with the need to breed. If you give birth on Russia Day, you may win a luxury SUV. Conversely, the way to win a car in a part of Rajasthan is to be voluntarily sterilized – a program that targets women. The population pressure versus the statistics of a male to female ratio skewed by China’s “One-Child Policy” leads to the first act of this film, aptly titled “Lonely Emperor Seeks Wife”. The 25-year-old Chinese policy led to a severe gender imbalance and was ended this year. The consequences are staggering.

Using elegant visual poetry alongside the investigative documentary format and some reality style videography, Misconception takes us inside three far-flung cultures to review the main topics from very diverse angles. We are invited into the world of a 29-year-old bachelor in Beijing who is searching for love, a Canadian pro-life activist setting off to speak at the United Nations, and a Ugandan journalist with a missing children column in the local news who searches the streets for those who have been abandoned by their largely underage and uneducated mothers.

This intimate look at the myriad of issues surround the larger topic of reproductive health and family planning widens the scope and reveals the heights and depths of the global impact on a vulnerable group: women. This film reinforces the universal truth that what unites humanity is stronger than what divides it. Namely, we are all united in our beginnings as infants who need care, who need stable mothers, parents and community.

The premise suggests that the threat of overpopulation is a myth to be debunked. Statistician/ professor/ academic/ TED talker Hans Rosling of Sweden uses plain talk to explain that humanity has already decelerated global birth rates. Women with access to family planning and reproductive health options have chosen career pathways ahead of pregnancy, while still being sexually active. Now fairly 80% of the planet settles on a two child per couple household; only the poorest 20% are left with the five child statistics of the past. Global birthrates are affected by international policy from the United Nations, government programs, non-governmental organizations (NGO) and not-for-profits (NPO). When the financing of special interest groups drives the latter two, the use of one culture’s agenda is propagated on to a foreign culture. There is a remarkably huge disconnect between religious morals or societal ideals and what people need to survive.

The “Misconception” is that global population may continue to skyrocket. Evidence clearly presented by Hans Rosling guides a conclusion that the global population is rebalancing. For this we can thank women. The assertion is that women’s civil rights movements, the access to contraceptives which curtails unwanted pregnancy, and the ability to gain higher education and access to career choices have all helped contribute to a slowdown of population growth. The high birthrates of the past only occur where education and development for women has not. The film ends by reinforcing that the imbalance of resource usage is the main threat to this planet, that the wealthiest countries are restricting access of resources to the poorest.

The true interconnectivity of all life is what is asserted finally, that we need to switch our focus away from fear and “Misconception” and on to a greater compassion for humanity. The answer to the question of “What is the value of one human life?” should be: priceless.

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Movie Review: Amy

Amy is a brilliantly crafted together piece that tells the heartbreaking story of the incredibly talented six-time Grammy award winner, Amy Winehouse.  The film is told in the stark details of her own words using archival footage and personal accounts from the people who were closest to her during that time.

Amy, a young ingenue with an amazingly unique voice, is able to capture the attention record executives, who immediately recognizes her as a once in a life time talent. We see her life chronicled through the accounts of two of her oldest friends (Juliette Ashby and Lauren Gilbert), as well as her close personal friendship with her first manager, Nick Shymansky, as she starts on her path to eventual stardom. We also get a keen look into her life as a child and her demons through interviews her mother, Janis, and father, Mitch, who are contrite in their acknowledgement of where they might have failed Amy along the way. All of the interviews have a sheer honesty to them that transports the audience into the middle of a life in chaos, and a girl who was not prepared for the media attention and fame she would receive.

BAFTA Award-winning director Asif Kapadia (SENNA), shines an unfiltered light on the sensationalism of the media at the time, while letting the audience relate to the person and the pure musician behind the big hair and the thick eyeliner. As a fan of Amy Winehouse, hearing unreleased tracks, seeing footage from old performances and studio time, I was mesmerized all over again by the unique presence of the singer/songwriter’s voice and words. Her soulful new age jazz style ushered in a renaissance of sound that you can see still influences artists of today in the likes of Hozier and Sam Smith. Seeing her actual process revealed on the screen made my heart bleed for her as we are clearly shown a soul in pain, crying out for help the only way she knows how to, through her music.

Even if you aren’t a fan of Amy Winehouse and her music, Kapadia expertly weaves a tragic tale of self-destruction that is profoundly moving and powerful. Giving audiences the time to reflect on the choices we make in life, Kapadia leaves us with a cautionary message on how quickly loved ones who suffer from addiction can be taken from us, how important it is to recognize signs early, and how futile our efforts are when they are not willing to help themselves in their recovery.

Amy is in theaters in New York and Los Angeles on July 3. It opens nationwide on July 10.

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Movie Review: “3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets”

This powerful documentary chronicles the murder of Jordan Davis, who was shot and killed at a Florida gas station for playing his music too loudly.  The film (directed by Marc Silver) gives a glimpse into the aftermath that this tragedy has on the family of the victim, and the role laws like “Stand Your Ground” play in the senseless killing of human beings. 

I found the film both compelling and moving. Silver expertly guides us back and forth from the trial to the lives of Jordan’s parents, family and friends. Stitched in between, you hear the cold jail house recordings of the man on trial for Jordan’s murder as he discusses with his girlfriend (who was a key witness to the shooting) what happened and his motive for shooting Davis. It is very clear, in his own words, that Michael Dunn is not only in denial of the crime he committed in shooting into a car of unarmed teenagers, but he is also in denial of who he is as a person. It’s not surprising to hear the words that come from his mouth as he describes his impression of the teens who had pulled up to the gas station around the same time as he did playing their “rap crap”, and his justification for killing Davis as if he had done the world a service by ridding it of one more young black man. However, it is extremely sad when you realize that Mr. Dunn is not an anomaly, and that there are many others out there like him who may want to examine this stereotyped image of danger that the “Young Black Male” personifies to them.

GeekGirl World was fortunate enough to get an exclusive interview with film director Marc Silver. He was very gracious to share his thoughts with us on making this socially conscious film, and the dialogue that he hopes will spark from audiences viewing it.

3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets is in theaters now.

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Interview: Dino Wells of When the Bell Rings

wtbrwebsite_color_newBoxing is an unforgiving sport. It’s brutal, hard, and punishing for those who enter the ring. Championship quests are often never fulfilled, and glory is sometimes fleeting. Yet, the sport can be as rewarding as it is exciting to watch. Those rewards don’t always come in the form of monetary success. Sometimes the reward is life success, and the ability to realize goals and dreams you never thought were possible to achieve.

Dino Wells is a man who is embarking on a difficult journey. At 40, he is getting back into the boxing ring to begin his professional career in the super middle weight division. During the early 90’s, he was a rising star in the amateur ranks, but faced with setbacks, he had to put his dreams of a boxing career on hold.

To chronicle his path towards professional boxing, Dino has teamed up with director Brad Bores for the documentary When the Bell Rings. I was fortunate to be able to sit down with Dino and chat about the film, his life, his goals, and the sport. In this interview and the trailers for the film, you will be able to see Dino’s heartfelt ambitions to become a better man, a better father, and a championship fighter.

Ari: What keeps you motivated on your journey towards getting back into the ring?

Dino: Wanting to be a better father, and my past anger built inside of me.

Ari: What level do you hope to achieve in professional boxing?

Dino: I want to win a world title. I will give it all in the ring to do so. Why? Because as an amateur I failed to win…I think 4 titles.

Ari: How does boxing influence the person that you are, and shape the person you want to become?

Dino: Well I can release my inner anger in training, and ultimately whoever I fight, as I rise as a fighter, I will gain the long lost respect that I deserve.

Ari: How did you and director Brad Bores team up?

Dino: Working on the Independent Spirit Awards. I was fat and out of shape. Sad and bitter. I wanted to do this comeback for years, and no one took me serious. So more I fell in the dumps. So I poured out my heart to him, and told him my life. He was compelled, and said let’s do this.

Ari: How is filming of the documentary taking place? Do cameras follow you around 24/7? Is there any part of your life that is off limits in this film?

Dino: Filming is going great. We shoot on Brad’s schedule, now that he’s taken this on 100% cameras will be rolling 60% of my day. I guess if I had a woman, the bedroom nocturnal activities would be off limits (laughs).

Ari: You want to become a better father. In your opinion, what qualities do you believe are necessary to be a good parent?

Dino: Well this is a very sensitive matter that I will discuss, which is the one of the reasons for the documentary. Two of my children’s mothers makes my life difficult. Meaning, I want to spend time with them, have the means to have funds to do things with them, give them things they need and want. Spend quality time at their sporting events and so forth. Time spent and conversations are the best, but when you are forced to be a dead beat, and the kid gets one view of the father then it’s no good.

(in tears in Starbucks now)

I have really four children. An 18 year old son that my mom took from me. A 14 year old daughter who calls me when she wants something, (when I don’t have it and then back to distance). I have a 10 year old son who’s mother’s sole mission is to make my life miserable.
My 9 year old son’s mom is the only one I am cool with, and she finally understands my drive and wants. Three mothers, four kids

Ari: And how is your relationship with your own parents?

Dino: (laughs) I love my mother, but we had a terrible relationship. I hadn’t seen her in 14 years. On this trip, shooting this documentary, we are about to see each other for the first time since she took my son, and it will be emotional. My father, bah hum bug. I love him because he’s a Vietnam vet, and he contributed in making me. This is the reason why I want to be in my kids’ lives now more because of my disgruntledness with my dysfunctional relationship with my parents

Ari:
What inspires you and how do you hope to inspire others with this film?

Dino: What inspires me? I don’t want to sound like a broken record, me being a better father, and I want others to see you can do what ever you want if you just fight, no matter how many dream terrorists are out there to blow up your dreams down playing your goals or mission, keep it moving. I am 40, and finally getting motion and guidance where I am moving. Plus, I am a Buddhist now so that helps even more.

Ari: What is your opinion on the state of professional boxing? I happen to live in Las Vegas which was a boxing mecca, and has seen the sport decline in audience here in the last decade with the rise of MMA. What do you think needs to happen to keep boxing as a top draw sport?

Dino: Boxing is in a great state except for the heavy height division. MMA is what it is, but that’s another reason why I am back in the ring. Build a big following and give it the luster that Sugar Ray Robinson and Marvelous Marvin Hagler brought to the table. What needs to happen? Give me a title shot, and after I become 11-0-10 KO’s. Which I am 0-0-0 right now as a pro (laughs). I am a beast, and I will not be denied. I will beat anyone in front of me. I have nothing to lose. Much to gain. I was borderline suicidal at one point, but hey, I overcame that. I was scorned by false love. I have been destroyed by two of my kids’ moms. I’m rebuilding my legacy so the next 40 years of my life I can live without scratching for change. My film career didn’t take me there. My writing didn’t take me there. So I go back to what I know: kickin’ azz!

Ari: Besides boxing, what other talents, projects, and plans do you have and are working on?

Dino: I am a screenwriter with numerous scripts and an abundance of plots, ideas and concepts. Hollywood is sleeping on me. I am a unsung poet. Check my past facebook notes, and/or myspace blogs. I am focused on my boxing career since everything else is being blindsided by every one else doing their thing in Hollywood.

If you would like to learn more about Dino Wells, Brad Bores, or donate towards the completion of their documentary film, visit www.whenthebellrings.com

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