“Seeing Allred”: Gloria Allred fights for women and then gays, and she may have someting on Trump

Seeing Allred”, directed by Roberta Grossman and Sophie Sartain, gives us a complete history, a lot it in Gloria Allred’s own words (she is now 75, two years older than me) of her activism for women and sometimes other groups.

Much of the film focuses on the litigation against Bill Cosby, where she represents many plaintiffs. Sje also helped represent the Goldman family in the O. J. Simpson case in the 1990s.

But the film also traces the culture of intimidation, where women are silenced from speaking about rape.

Allred tells the story of her own rape, before Roe v. Wade, and her illegal abortion, from which she almost died.

Gradually, the film starts taking up LGBT rights. The early 1993 battle over gays in the military is mentioned, along with the early versions of the fights over gay marriage and adoption. Gloria seems to believe that homophobia is and indirect part of the way straight men control women and assert a claim to have a right to children by them anytime they demand.

Gloria assists clients in testifying before both Nevada and California legislatures on removing statues of limitations on rape prosecutions. “The privilege of being listened to” becomes an issue in one hearing. She also demands that a college become an activist as a way of giving back.

The last part of the film traces the 2016 election, through watching Election Night returns, and then the Inauguration protests and the Women’s March the next day. At one point at the March Allred turns back a fundamentalist homophobe (with a free speech meme) who doesn’t even realize that Trump has no specific objection to gay marriage. She has pointed out, however, that Donald Trump rejected a transgender Miss Universe contestant.

The last part of the film also deals with women who accuse Donald Trump of sexual harassment. The film makes it look like these cases could blow the presidency wide open.

Women’s March 2017/1/21 scene (wiki).

Name:  “Seeing Allred”
Director, writer:  Roberta Grossman, Sophie Saltrain
Released:  2018
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed: Netflix instant, 2018/2/14
Length:  96
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Netflix
Link:  LA Times
Stars:  4-1/2 out of 5

(Posted: Wednesday, February 14, 2018 at 11:30 PM EST)

“I Am Another You”: Filmmaker from China tails the story of a talented homeless man with mental illness

As a movie title, “I Am Another You” reminds me of “Call Me by Your Name”. (Dec. 21), and there is some similar charisma in this road documentary by Chinese filmmaker Nanfu Wang.

As the film opens, she is agreeing to film the life in south Florida of a rather articulate young while man Dylan Olsen, who has chosen to live in the streets as homeless.  I was in the area in mid November and there is one shot that may be on Fort Lauderdale Beach, where I stayed;  some of it looks more like down around Hollywood. Dylan has become the classic 60s hippie, with some tattoos, one in the geographical center of his chest, which my own personal bias would judge as disfiguring.  We learn he has semi-voluntarily left a comfortable middle-class upbringing in Utah and can wonder why.

Then Wang goes back to New York, where she has to finish some work on “Hooligan Sparrow” (2016, my legacy review), a film which exposed sexual harassment of female teachers by a high school principal in China, which the state wanted to suppress.  She then travels to Utah, to meet Dylan’s family, in the second part of the film, called “The freedom to choose”.

The father, active in the LDS Church works in law enforcement and has even dealt with child pornography. His two younger children are much more “successful” by establishment norms. The younger brother, Austin, seems to budding as a potential concert pianist, as he plays part of the first movement of Beethoven’s Pathetique Sonata (#8, in C Minor) on the family grand piano with impeccable technique. The father, in a flashback, recounts how he gave his son $400 cash once he was in a line at a Greyhound bus station, having asked the son to leave after catching him with drugs in the home, repeatedly.

You wonder here, with the same upbringing; what is the difference.  Maybe genetics means a lot more than we want to admit.

In the last part of the film (titled as the film), Dylan has returned to witness a wedding (the film detours into the father’s own marital instability). Then he goes off on his own again, with some beautiful scenes in the Great Salt Lake desert that reminded me of “Zabriske Point” (and also of “Gerry”).  Then the film goes back to Florida, and Dylan starts to share his “visions” of what is his reality.  We suspect he is recounting his own journey into schizophrenia as he entered young adulthood, which should have been treatable. Dylan is not violent or hostile (as most mentally ill people are not, confounding the impression left by the Aurora shootings case).  Again, we witness how good his street smarts and street survival skills are.  He lives in a world where there is no shame in begging for help.  But he says his “visions” would keep him from holding down a real job with regular hours.

In recent years, I have sometimes volunteered on a few Saturday afternoons at a local church “Community Assistance” program, and many of the clients are said to be “mentally ill”.  There seems to be a big correlation between schizophrenia and homelessness.

But now the title of the film comes into play. To Dylan, the visions are reality.  Turning this upside down, if you had lived during the time of Christ, the miracles (even the resurrection and Ascension) would be reality if you had seen them yourself.  (And then there is the lesson on doubting Thomas.)

We’re led back to wonder about young heroes when we do encounter them. For young men, physiologically, the early twenties can be a challenge, as the brain finishes its final phase of biological maturation (and pruning process, which may once in a while prune connections it needs).

PBS aired this film Monday January 29. 2018 at a very late hour, 11 PM.  It followed with a 10-minute short film, “Jason”, drawn from “Dogtown Redemption”, about a young homeless man with HIV and severe lymphedema.

Great Salt Lake and desert, wiki.

Name: “I Am Another You”
Director, writer:  Nanfu Wang
Released: 2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  2017/1/29 PBS
Length:  80
Rating:  NA
Companies:  PBS Independent Lens, Film Rise
Link:  PBS

(Posted: Tuesday, January 30, 2018 at 10:30 AM)

“The Force”: A look at the Oakland Police Department in the era of BLM and even sex scandals

The Force”, directed by Peter Nicks, documents the evolution of the Oakland CA Police Department under constant challenges from the largely minority community it polices.

The film indicates it started education of officers on profiling on 2013, a year before the Ferguson MO shooting and riots, and the growth of Black Lives Matter. Nevertheless, there have been at least four shootings.

The film gives some long memory history.  Police departments more than a century ago enforced Jim Crow laws and even supervised lynchings (as would fit into the late Gode Davis’s incomplete film, “American Lynching”).  In 1977 the West Oakland area had been ground zero for the Black Panther movement.

The film has many scenes of classes of uniformed officers being addressed.  A spokesperson says that emergency dispatch works 12 hour shifts without lunch breaks and can’t possibly control all the petty crime.  A street confrontation managed by a white Hispanic police officer shows how sensitive conditions can get.

Toward the end, the film deals with a sex scandal, possibly involving minor females, among some of the officers. The female mayor of Oakland scolds the police department and says that it is not a “frat house”.  Officers are accused of racist texts, but among the accused are African-American officers themselves.  The department is now under federal supervision.

The film makes me wonder about what it is like to become a police officer and put on the starchy overloaded uniform everyday.

Wikipedia panorama view.

Name:  “The Force”
Director, writer:  Peter Nicks
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  PBS video, original airing 2018/1/22
Length:  84
Rating:  NA
Companies:  PBS Independent Lens, Kino Lorber
Link:  PBS, KL

(Posted: Monday, January 29, 2018 at 1 PM EST)

Picture: Mine, Mono Lake area, 2012.  I was last in Oakland in 2000 for an SLDN event on Treasure Island.

“Unrest”: a graduate student and filmmaker with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome documents her own illness

With “Unrest”, Harvard Ph. D. graduate student Jennifer Brea documents her own odyssey into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFE).

The film opens with her going to the emergency room at Princeton Hospital in Princeton MJ (I remember a night in 1970 when I was taken there by a friend after I broke my arm falling off a bicycle – odd total recall).

The early part of the film gives some medical history, dating back into the 1980s when CFE was getting some attention while AIDS, which is biologically unrelated, exploded.

In fact, the film discusses findings that CFE or “myalgic encephalomyelitis” patients also show an acquired immune deficiency, which may be related particularly to earlier infection with Epstein-Barr virus, a herpes DNA virus that also causes mononucleosis.  There have been particular clusters, such as at Incline Village, Nevada;  but the CDC also did a study in the 1980s in which if found no consistent immune abnormalities and claimed it was hysteria. Indeed, patients have often been told “it’s in your head” (as in the opening scene in an emergency room).  But the film also explains how the physiology of the disease involves the failure of “anaerobic respiration” within cellular mitochondria. A research project at Stanford is briefly shown.

The coincidence with the publicity over AIDS and HIV in the 1980s might have given the “religious right” the opportunity to make another charge:  that people already immunocompromised by HIV could nurture other secondary infections (like TB) that might then spread to the public at large.  But this did not materialize. But it’s a sobering thought when you compare it to the public health issues surrounding severe forms of influenza today, and also SARS about ten years ago;  but that’s a different movie.

CFE seems to occur more with women, although a teen male patient is shown in the film. It seems to occur rather suddenly, and then the patient may only gradually get better.

The personal aspects of caregiving in this film make it intense to watch in spots.  Brea is profoundly weak in some scenes, having to be picked up off the floor by her father.  At times, I wondered if there could be any connection o ALS, which has happened in my own extended family.

The disease causes partial cognitive decline, which seems reversible (ALS does not cause that).

In the 1980s, a coworker’s wife had CFS.

The film aired on PBS Independent Lens on Jan. 8, 2018.   The film had an odd alternate title “Canary in a Coal Mine”.

Picture: Princeton campus, my picture, April 2010

Name:  “Unrest”
Director, writer:  Jennifer Brea
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  PBS video, 2018/1/22, aired 2018/1/8
Length:  84
Rating:  NA
Companies:  PBS, Shella Fims, Little by Little Films
Link:  PBS

(Posted: Monday, January 22, 2018 at 12 noon EST)

“Trophy”: the sad story of Cecil the Lion is only a little of it

Trophy”, directed by Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz, from The Orchard, aired on CNN Films Sunday night January 14, and treated us to breathtaking African safari scenery.

It also presented self-serving rationalizations of poachers and commercial hunters in Africa.

There is a basic argument that killing wild animals makes the native villagers safer.  There is the more sophisticated argument that if you limit legal hunting of animals, the illegal poaching will go up. That sounds a little like legalizing drugs, where libertarian arguments seem to make sense.  Much of the film shows a commercial auctioneer and land manager (John Hume) who says he is protecting animals from illegal poaching, but he will stay in business only as long as he makes money. At the end, the film tells us that Hume has won his case.

There is also a “religious” argument about man’s dominion over the animals (and the speaker denies evolution).

The film opens focusing on rhinoceros tusks, and soon move to elephants, where the world population has shrunk by orders of magnitude.

During the last part of the film, the sad story of the 2015 “accidental” killing of Cecil the Lion, by a Minnesota dentist, is covered.

Name: “Trophy”
Director, writer:  Christina Chusiau, Shaul Schwarz
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  CNN, 2018/1/14
Length:  108
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  The Orchard, CNN Films
Link:  CNN 

(Posted: Sunday, January 14, 2018 at 11:30 PM EST)

“Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin”: 2003 biographical documentary covers activist who connected many issues

A few years ago, Human Rights Campaign (HTC) gave away copies of a DVD for the 2003 PBS POV film “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin”, a biography   I overlooked it, and discovered it while packing to move from house to condo this fall in my own personal “downsizing”.

The 84 minute documentary is directed by Bennett Singer and Nancy Kates. It features a lot of black and white newsreel footage in small aspect, as well as interviews with two of Rustin’s male partners and also Eleanor Holmes Norton.

Rustin is perhaps best known for working with Dr. Martin Luther King on various events including the 1963 March on Washington, as a covert gay man.  But his life spanned many issues, moving from communism to anti-communism, working with labor unions to get them up to speed on civil rights, draft resistance, and only later in life openness about homosexuality. The film ends with some coverage of the 1987 LGB march on Washington;  the 1993 LGB march was larger and better known (I attended it) and covered heavily by writers like Andrew Sullivan.

Throughout his life, the FBI closely monitored him.  He served prison time for resisting the WWII draft, and wrote to his male partner from prison as if his partner was a woman. He had at one time joined the Young Communist League (in 1936) but after the US entered WWII the communists dropped their interest in race relations.  Ironically, later, he would push for racial integration of the military, which Truman achieved in 1948.

Later in life, he would be busted for public sex in Pasadena CA in 1953, and the history of a “morals charge” would be used in rhetoric against him, as by Senator Strom Thurmond (whom we know emphatically opposed lifting the ban on gays in the military in 1993, with his “it isn’t normal” rant in a public assembly in Norfolk right in front of Tracey Thorne.)

Later in his life, Rustin became anti-communist and supported US involvement in Vietnam but criticized many of the specific actions taken by the military. The film does cover the issue of identity politics and intersectionality as Rustin experienced it in earlier generations.  He created controversy as to whether is involvement with labor issues and later Vietnam represented the best interest of “his own people”, African-Americans.  He believed that African-Americans (called “negroes” in the 1960s when I was coming of age) needed to accept that technology would affect the labor market for everyone.  Heliked to use the phrase “angelic troublemakers”.

Name:  “Brother Outsider: The Life of Bayard Rustin
Director, writer:  Nancy Kates and Bennett Singer
Released:  2003
Format:  1.85:1  (often 1:37:1), often BW
When and how viewed:  DVD giveaway from HRC, 2017/12/27
Length:  84
Rating:  NA
Companies:  Question Why, PBS POV
Link:  PBS

(Posted: Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017 at

Robert Reich: “Saving Capitalism, for the Many, not the Few”

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich takes his book on tour in the Netflix film “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, not the Few” (Knopf), directed by Jacob Kornbluth and Sari Gilman.

My first reaction on finding this on “My List” was to recall that night in December 1972, in a Newark, NJ row house, when I spied on “The People’s Party of New Jersey”.  Why do we have to have capitalism, the young woman leading he session whined.  The group threatened revolutionary action.

Reich’s main argument seems to be to stop crony capitalism.  People leave Congress or public service and become lobbyists for trade groups, with the connections to keep campaign contributions coming to politicians.  I’ve received the fringe of this activity in my own blogger journalism and refused to have anything to do with it.  (I’ve gotten emails asking for money for Roy Moore, claiming he was framed by the media.)

The film discusses the significance of the Citizen’s United case, as well as court opinions that corporations are people and have the same free speech rights to advance their interests for their shareholders.

Reich also points out that the legislation that “the people” usually want passes in Congress only about 30% of the time. The recent paralysis in Congress on “replacing Obamacare” seems like case in point.

In the early part of the film, Reich explains how total wealth in the US has increased, while median wages have stagnated.  He disputes the Reagan-like ideology of the “free market” on its own, saying that government regulations set up a playing field and make capitalism possible. (That’s like Nancy Pelosi’s saying “Democrats are capitalists”.)   The rich get to manipulate the rules, though lobbyists, to increase the leverage of their capital over others. You get Piketty’s “rentier” culture.

Fareed Zakaria has pointed out that the US is a world leader on the “inequality index” at 0.81.

The debate on network neutrality may be relevant, as under Trump. Ajit Pai seemed determined to let telecom companies “monetize” their businesses fully, although litigation will probably slow down the works possible effects for individual speakers and small businesses.

Name:  “Saving Capitalism”
Director, writer:  Jacob Kornbluth, Sari Gilman
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play 2017/12/12
Length:  73
Rating:  PG-13
Companies:  Netflix
Link:  NYTimes

(Posted: Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017 at 12:45 PM EST)

“Voyeur”: More about the journalist Gay Talese than the “voyeur” of the Manor House Motel

The docudrama “Voyeur”, directed by Myles Kerry and Josh Koury, is more about journalism (and the values of writers) than about voyeurism.

Gay Talese (who has a traditional family of his own), now 85, introduces himself in his upper East Side brownstone basement, where he shows his physical files and artefacts from four decades of professional journalism and book authorship.  Unlike me, he writes other people’s stories.  I wish I had the time to do the same.

One of his most controversial books is the 2016 biography, “The Voyeur’s Motel”, about Gerald Foos, who bought a motel in Aurora CO (it may have been inconveniently near the site of the Holmes shooting) in the late 1960s, and constructed a clandestine viewing space to watch his guests having sex. He admits he was brought up in a Puritanical family and had developed a fascination with “watching” for its own sake.  It might be comparable to watch one man slowly do another on a gay disco floor today.

Talese would, at some point, visit the motel and climb into the attic to see it for himself.  Later he would write a big article for New Yorker magazine, which would become expanded into his book. At one point a fact checker from the magazine calls around (including Foos) to verify the story.  That is what you can expect if you have an assignment with a big publication. But the fact that Foos did not own the Manor House Motel the whole time even though he still ran it did not come up until discovered by the Washington Post just before the book’s publication.  That almost deep-sixed the book, and led Talese temporarily to want to disown it.  It is available from The Grove Press (of course!)  Talese would calm down when interviewed by Seth Meyers.

Talese has questioned whether Kevin Spacey should lose everything over a brief indiscretion three decades ago.   Indeed, the sexual harassment (and sometimes underage sex) scandals can lead to witch hunts, against straight men and gay men alike.

Talese makes some other points, about his being well-dressed (and having his clothes tailored, which I don’t), as well as the seriousness of professional journalism.  Imagine the scrutiny I would get if I got an assignment to investigate and report on the EMP issue “professionally”, which I have reported about here.  I think I could get a shot at it.  I welcome Talese to take it on.

The voyeurism issue reminds me of the “no spectators” idea of the film “Rebirth” (July 2016).

Wikipedia picture of Coors Field, the “homerama” baseball stadium at one mile elevation.

Name: Voyeur
Director, writer:  Myles Kerry, Josh Koury, Gay Talese
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix instant play
Length:  95
Rating: NA
Companies:  Netflix, Brooklyn Underground Films
Link:  Atlantic

(Posted: Sunday, December 10, 2017 at 1 PM EST)

“The Skyjacker’s Tale” and left-wing terrorism

Jamie Kastner’s 76-minute documentary “The Skyjacker’s Tale”, while not exactly the Pardoner’s Tale (from Canterbury), is indeed a riveting account of the background of a political hijacking in the 1980s, New Years Eve 1984, to be precise.

Ishmael Muslim Ali aka Ishmael LaBeet got a gun onto an America Airlines flight from the Virgin Islands and demanded to be left off in Cuba.  The film has many snippets of the elder l:aBeet talking from Cuba today, saying he is respected in his neighborhood.  He sounds proud of what he did.  But as Obama normalized (somewhat) relations with Cuba in 2014, he could face extradition again to the US.

The background is that in September 1972, apparently about the time of the Munich Olympic attacks, LaBeet and a cadre of other black men stormed the Rockefeller owned Fountain Valley Golf Club in St. Croix, killing at least five white people.  The motive was at first thought to be robbery but soon began to appear to be race and class war.  There were stories that this was an armed insurrection intended to make the Virgin Islands a black country.  The film makes a lot of the rhetoric of the time;  in some circles around the Black Panthers, you could not remain moderate;  if you didn’t didn’t fight for them, you were part of the enemy.  For a time much of the Virgin Islands was shut down by the terror threat.

LaBeet and the others were eventually caught, and confessions were extracted perhaps with torture (“Extreme Rendition”).  LaBeet wound up serving about 12 years in mainland US prisons before legal tricks got him back to the Virgin Islands for retrial. When he was flown back to the states to return to prison, he pulled off his own heist.

Charlotte Amalie, wiki

Communist Party HQ in Havana, wiki

See also “American Heiress”, Jeffrey Toobin’s book. Nov. 9, 2016.

Name:  “The Skyjacker’s Tale”
Director, writer:  Jamie Kastner
Released:  2016
Format:  1.85:1
When and how viewed:  Netflix Instant Play, 2017/11/15
Length:  76
Rating:  na
Companies:  Strand Releasing
Link:  official

(Posted: Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2017 at 11:50 PM ESR)

“Jane” Goodall’s work on chimpanzees on film shot in the 1960s becomes backstory for a new documentary

Jane” (2017), a National Geographic documentary directed by Brett Morgen, tells its backstory with “animals” (quasi non-human persons – chimpanzees) set in the 1960s in Gombe, Nigeria, and then Tanzania with found (in 2014) footage of Jane Goodall’s work at the time.  The film is based on her own autobiography, “My Life with Chimpanzees”.

In modern day, Jane is often interviewed, while the backstory shows her as a young woman, who spent five months camping out alone before getting the chimps to be comfortable around her.  Very early on. she discovers that the chimps can make simple tools to get at food (especially insects).

In the meantime, she married Hugo Van Wawick from the Netherlands (after saying she didn’t need a family) and had her own son, who would grow up in camp in Tanzania but go back to England for schooling.  As a little boy, you wonder if he could play with toddler chimps as equals.

The chimps learn to use the couple’s feeding station properly, and the chimps tend to view people as chimps themselves with oddly largely hairless bodies.  A polio epidemic occurs among the chimps, and the couple considers vaccinating them. Later, a political dispute or warfare (rather prescient of humans) develops between northern and southern factions of the chimps, rather like our own Civil War.

But the saddest story concerns a young chimp who seems autistic, never stopping suckling, and losing the will to live when his mom dies. That autism would occur in other primates besides man should provide major clues to the genetics of pervasive developmental disorders.

Wikipedia images:

Gombe picture: Goodall shelter

Chimpanzee picture

Tanzania picture

genealogy of chimpanzees to humans (full bipedalism seems to be the crucial step that facilitated human cognitive development to work with language, money, abstraction, and the transmission of culture)

Name:  “Jane”
Director, writer:  Brett Morgen, Jane Goodall
Released:  2017
Format:  1.85:1 with a lot of 1960s footage
When and how viewed:  Landmark E-street 2017/11/3 nearly sold out
Length:  90
Rating:  G
Companies:  Abaroama, National Geographic Films, Magnolia
Link:  Natgeo

(Posted: Saturday, November 4, 2017 at 11 AM EDT)