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LA92

This documentary chronicles the events that let up to the riots in Los Angeles in 1992 as a result of the exoneration of 4 LAPD officers who beat a Black man after a traffic stop. I watched this film right after Let it Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992, and the difference is that LA92 focuses much more on the days during which the riots occurred. It is a powerful and sobering look at the simmering pot of race relations in the United States. There is so much footage available here; the way it is cut, you actually feel like you are …

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Let it Fall: Los Angeles 1982-1992

This documentary examines the decade prior to the riots that resulted from the exoneration of 4 Los Angeles Police Department officers who were involved with the brutal beating of Rodney King. The film starts off right away with the message that for those who lived in LA, during the decade before, they knew that something was going to happen at some point. The film provides, through interviews and archival footage, a detailed context of what life in Los Angeles was like during that decade: A police department that was at times out of control in its dealings with gang-related activities; …

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Disclosure: Trans Lives On Screen

This Netflix documentary, told exclusively from the perspective of trans male and female actors, writers, and activists, documents the history of how trans characters have been shown on the main screen and television and how those depictions have controlled the narrative of how the mainstream (and trans people themselves) views transgender. What is particularly powerful is how the intersectionality of trans and race has been portrayed on screen, starting with the first full-length feature film, and probably one of the most racist, Birth of a Nation, and taking us through current trans-positive depictions such as those contained in shows like …

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The Innocence Files

This Netflix limited series features several stories of cases of men who were convicted and sent to prison for extended sentences, nearly 30 years in some cases, for crimes that they did not commit. The Innocence Project is a non-profit that is dedicated to investigating wrongful convictions and helping get cases overturned. The stories of these men tell are powerful. Through a combination of current interviews and archival photo and video footage, the directors take us through what happened. These stories also highlight the ways in which the justice system has failed these people and others, through over-aggressive prosecuting attorneys; …

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The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson

This biography explores the life of Marsha P. Johnson, a popular LGBT activist in New York City, who was found dead in the Hudson River in July 1992. Marsha and her long-time friend Sylvia Rivera were involved with the Stonewall uprising in 1969 and started the first trans activist organization, STAR, in NYC. One of her friends, Victoria Cruz, as she is getting ready to retire, decides to try to find answers to the case that police had long since closed and deemed a suicide. Victoria’s investigation was less interesting than following the lives of Marsha and Sylvia in the …

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Capital in the 21st Century

This fascinating documentary explores the rise of capitalism and tracks the origins of the significant wealth inequality that characterizes the US and many other countries. Using a combination narration from economic experts and popular culture samples such as movie clips and song tracks, the film starts off just before the Industrial Revolution examining changing economic and social trends and how capital has adjusted to the changes. There are some really interesting stories along the way, including how the need to change clothes each year to remain in fashion evolved and how the Christmas craze developed. But overall, the film takes …

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The Infiltrators

This documentary is about members of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance (NIYA) who had themselves detained by an ICE facility in Broward County, Florida in order to help from the inside those who were being inappropriately detained. Using a combination of interviews with the real NIYA members and actors who reenacted the operation, the film explores how they were able to get inmates connected to NIYA members on the outside who helped to secure their release. As a documentary, there is nothing novel or innovative here, and the shift from actual people to reenactments is a bit jarring at times, …

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Circus of Books

This documentary is about Karen and Barry Mason, a heterosexual married couple with children who found themselves owning the Circus of Books, a store that sold gay pornography and that was a congregation place for the gay community in the ’80s and ’90s. The film is really fascinating. It provides an interesting slice of the history of the gay community in an era when pornography was illegal in many states and during the height of the AIDS epidemic. What is more fascinating is the story of how these two came to own the bookstore (there were two of them) and …

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América

(Spanish, Subtitled): This documentary, set in Colima, Mexico, tells the story of three brothers (Diego, Bruno, and Rodriguez), two of whom have returned to take care of their grandmother,  América who, in her 90’s, is frail and appears to be suffering from older-age dementia. After she suffered a fall and the neighbors called the police, her son (their father) was sent to jail for neglect. It is a really endearing story, these young men who give up their lives away from Colima to return to help her. Her care causes tensions among them – they fight over her care, money, …

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Asperger’s Are Us

After seeing Paddleton, I was interested in other films by Alexandre Lehmann, and I found this film. This is a documentary about four young men – Noah, Ethan, New Michael, and Jack – who are all on the autism spectrum, had formed their own comedy troupe and were preparing to perform their last show. While I would have liked to have had more background on each of them in terms of their growing up years, I was inspired by these four men who set out to do what they loved doing – comedy. It was also great to hear these …

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