If you're one of the folks who've written in or called to ask if Escape Fire, Samsara or The Invisible War would be playing Nashville theaters, we've finally got an answer for you: Yes — along with 10 more of the year's most talked-about documentaries. Every October, The Belcourt programs a month of high-profile docs on subjects ranging from art and food to current events and sports. The Hillsboro Village theater has just posted the 2012 "Doctober" line-up, and it has ... oh, about 13 items of interest.
This year's Doctober launches Oct. 5 with Searching for Sugar Man, the Sundance hit that's brought new attention to musician Sixto Rodriguez and his stranger-than-fiction backstory; it closes Oct. 30 with a special screening of Neil Berkeley's Beauty Is Embarrassing, a runaway audience favorite from this year's Nashville Film Festival, with native Tennessee artist-puppeteer-cartoonist White in attendance. (Consider it a warm-up for White's keynote address at the Nash-Up event Oct. 31.)
Above: the trailer for Samsara, the visually sumptuous spiritual study from Baraka director Ron Fricke (not coincidentally the cinematographer of Koyaanisqatsi). Below: a list of all 13 selections with dates and synopses from the theater.
OPENS FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN tells the incredible true story of Rodriguez, the greatest '70s rock icon who never was. Discovered in a Detroit bar in the late '60s by two celebrated producers struck by his soulful melodies and prophetic lyrics, the two recorded an album which they believed would secure Rodriguez's reputation as the greatest recording artist of his generation. In fact, the album bombed, and the singer disappeared into obscurity amid rumors of a gruesome on-stage suicide. But a bootleg recording found its way into apartheid South Africa, and over the next two decades he became a phenomenon. The film follows the story of two South African fans who set out to discover what really happened to their hero. Their investigation leads them to a story more extraordinary than any of the existing myths about the artist known as Rodriguez.
FRI-THU, OCTOBER 5-11
ESCAPE FIRE: THE FIGHT TO RESCUE AMERICAN HEALTHCARE
Premiering earlier this year at Sundance and made prior to the passage of the Affordable Care Act, ESCAPE FIRE interweaves dramatic personal stories with the efforts of leaders battling to transform healthcare at the highest levels of medicine, industry, government, and even the U.S. military. The current battle over cost and access does not ultimately address the root of the problem: we have a disease-care system, not a healthcare system. We spend $300 billion a year on pharmaceutical drugs, almost as much as the rest of the world combined. We pay more, yet our health outcomes are worse. About 65% of Americans are overweight, and almost 75% of healthcare spending goes to preventable diseases that are the major causes of disability and death in our society. The film examines the powerful forces maintaining the status quo—a medical industry designed for quick fixes rather than prevention and for profit-driven care rather than patient-driven care. Destined to be hailed as the definitive film on American healthcare, ESCAPE FIRE offers a way out—a primer on how to save the health of a nation.
“Like a doctor’s carefully structured analysis of a patient’s condition, the film breaks down its massive subject into manageable, clear, but not simplified parts.” —Robert Koehler, VARIETY
OPENS FRIDAY, OCTOBER 12
Prepare yourself for another unparalleled sensory experience from director Ron Fricke and producer Mark Magidson, whose award-winning films BARAKA (1992) and CHRONOS (1985) were acclaimed for combining visual and musical artistry. Samsara is a Sanskrit word that means "the ever turning wheel of life" and is the point of departure for the filmmakers as they search for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives. Filmed in 70mm over a period of almost five years and in 25 countries, SAMSARA transports us to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders. By dispensing with dialogue and descriptive text, SAMSARA takes the form of a guided meditation. Through powerful images, the film illuminates the links between humanity and the rest of nature, showing how our life cycle mirrors the rhythm of the planet.
“A ridiculously ambitious cinematic experiment, a poetic and impressionistic visual essay shot entirely on 70mm film under exceptionally difficult conditions in dozens of locations scattered across five continents.” —Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.com
SUN & WED, OCTOBER 14 & 17
From acclaimed director Steve James (Hoop Dreams, The Interrupters) and award-winning producer Bruce Sheridan, HEAD GAMES is a revealing documentary about the concussion crisis in sports. Athletes and parents share their personal struggles in dealing with concussions from the professional to youth levels. Inspired by events from the book of the same name written by Christopher Nowinski, the film offers eye-opening insight and cutting-edge science on head trauma from the nation’s leading medical experts.
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 16 AT 5:00 AND 7:00 PM
Following both screenings, Linda Goldstein Knowlton (director) and Haley Butler (one of the film’s subjects) will be in attendance for a post-film Q&A.
In profiling Chinese adoptees in contemporary America, Linda Goldstein Knowlton (THE WORLD ACCORDING TO SESAME STREET) has created a deeply moving documentary illustrating that even the most specific of experiences can be universally relatable. Of the roughly 80,000 girls who have been adopted from China since 1989—a decade after China implemented its One Child Policy—the film intimately follows four teenagers: Haley (a Nashvillian), Jenna, Ann, and Fang. These four wise-beyond-their-years, yet typical American teens, reveal a heartbreaking sense of self-awareness as they attempt to answer the uniquely human question, “Who am I?” They meet and bond with other adoptees, some journey back to China to reconnect with the culture, and some reach out to the orphaned girls left behind. In their own ways, all attempt to make sense of their complex identities. Issues of belonging, race, and gender are brought to life through these articulate subjects, who approach life with honesty and open hearts.
“A delicately wrought, deeply felt docu-profile of four teenage girls who differ in background and aspirations, but share one life-defining factor: All are Chinese adoptees, and all are trying to come to terms with that fact as they navigate the already perilous waters of American adolescence.” — John Anderson, Variety
FRI-TUE, OCTOBER 19-23
In 1994 a 13-year-old boy disappears without a trace from San Antonio, Texas. Three and a half years later he is found alive, thousands of miles away in a village in southern Spain with a story of kidnap and torture. His family is overjoyed to bring him home. But all is not quite as it seems. The boy bears many of the same distinguishing marks he always had, but why does he now have a strange accent? Why does he look so different? And why doesn't the family seem to notice these glaring inconsistencies? It's only when an investigator starts asking questions that this strange tale takes an even stranger turn.
“Slippery, manipulative, unstable and smoothly confounding. It's also one of the most entertaining documentaries to appear since EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP, a film similarly obsessed with role playing and deception.” — Jeannette Catsoulis, New York Times
FRI-SAT, OCTOBER 19-20
Detroit's story has encapsulated the iconic narrative of America over the last century—the Great Migration of African Americans escaping Jim Crow; the rise of manufacturing and the middle class; the love affair with automobiles; the flowering of the American dream; and now, the collapse of the economy and the fading American mythos. With its vivid, painterly palette and haunting score, DETROPIA sculpts a dreamlike collage of a grand city teetering on the brink of dissolution. As houses are demolished by the thousands, automobile company wages plummet, institutions crumble, and tourists gawk at the "charming decay," the film's vibrant, gutsy characters glow and erupt like flames from the ashes.
"It's elegiac, beautiful and quietly devastating." —New York Magazine
SUN, OCTOBER 21 ONLY
THE INVISIBLE WAR
THE INVISIBLE WAR is a groundbreaking investigative documentary about one of our country's most shameful and best kept secrets: the epidemic of rape within the U.S. military. Today, a female soldier in Iraq and Afghanistan is more likely to be raped by a fellow soldier than killed by enemy fire, and the assaults in the last decade alone number in the hundreds of thousands. Focusing on the powerfully emotional stories of several young women, the film reveals the systemic cover up of the crimes against them and follows their struggles to rebuild their lives and fight for justice. THE INVISIBLE WAR features hard-hitting interviews with high-ranking military officials and members of Congress, revealing the perfect storm conditions that exist for rape in the military, its history of cover-up, and what can be done to bring about much needed change.
“This is not a movie that can be ignored.” —A.O. Scott, New York Times
MON-WED, OCTOBER 22-24
AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY
In recent years, Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has garnered international attention as much for his ambitious artwork as his political provocations. From 2008 to 2010, Beijing-based journalist and filmmaker Alison Klayman documented Ai's artistic process in preparation for major museum exhibitions, his intimate exchanges with family members and his increasingly public clashes with the Chinese government. Klayman's detailed portrait of the artist provides a nuanced exploration of contemporary China and one of its most compelling public figures.
“The story is enthralling, but it's not over, and there's no telling where it's going. Which makes what we see on screen all the more involving.” —Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times
FRI-MON, OCTOBER 26-29
HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE
HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE is the story of two coalitions-ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group)-whose activism and innovation turned AIDS from a death sentence into a manageable condition. Despite having no scientific training, these self-made activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to patients in record time. With unfettered access to a treasure trove of never-before-seen archival footage from the 1980s and '90s, filmmaker David France puts the viewer smack in the middle of the controversial actions, the heated meetings, the heartbreaking failures, and the exultant breakthroughs of heroes in the making.
“Must-see: Timely, relevant, and informative, this AIDS docu about ACT UP is satisfying on any number of levels, thematically, politically, and emotionally.” — EmanuelLevy.Com
FRI-MON, OCTOBER 26-29
THE HOUSE I LIVE IN
WHY WE FIGHT director Eugene Jarecki shifts his focus from the military industrial complex to the War on Drugs in this documentary exploring the risks that prohibition poses to freedom, and the tragedy of addicts being treated as criminals. In the four decades since the War on Drugs commenced, over 45 millions of addicts have been arrested - and for each one jailed, another family is destroyed. Meanwhile, the prisons in America are growing overcrowded with non-violent criminals, and illegal drugs are still being sold in schoolyards. By examining just where it all went wrong, Jarecki reveals that a solution is possible if we can just find it in ourselves to be compassionate, and see past the decades of paranoia and propaganda.
“A ballsy mix of interviews and editorializing that's daring enough to question a costly crackdown that has long had the public's support.” — Peter Debruge, Variety
MON-TUE, OCTOBER 29-30
STEP UP TO THE PLATE
French chef Michel Bras, one of the most influential chefs in the world, has decided to hand over his renowned 3-Michelin-Star restaurant to his son Sébastien. Having worked with his father for 15 years, Sébastien is ready. But it's not easy to take over the family business when your father is a master in his field. Filmed in the gorgeous Aubrac region in the South of France, home to the Bras family for generations, Step Up to the Plate offers a rare glimpse into the Bras' culinary process while capturing one of the most closely watched transitions in the world of haute cuisine.
“The through-line from a rustic preparation of milk skin and chocolate on bread to a high-concept dessert illuminates the story of a family and how food unites generations.” — Allison Willmore, Onion AV Club
TUE-THU, OCT 30-NOV 1
BEAUTY IS EMBARRASSING
Wayne White will be in attendance for a post-film Q&A on Tuesday evening, Oct 30.
Raised in the mountains of Tennessee, Wayne White started his career as a cartoonist in New York City. He quickly found success as one of the creators of the TV show, Pee-wee's Playhouse, which led to more work designing some of the most arresting and iconic images in pop culture. The film chronicles the vaulted highs and the crushing lows of a commercial artist struggling to find peace and balance between his work and his art.
“A vivid, fluorescent-colored portrait of a sane man possessed with insane creativity.” — Chris Packham, Village Voice