Screen Time: Week of August 6
Screen Time is your curated weekly guide to excellent documentaries and nonfiction programs that you can watch at home.
The early days of documentary yielded a handful of now-classic "city symphony" films, including Walter Ruttmann's Berlin: Symphony of a City. Influenced by the early work of Dziga Vertov, the film is structured to follow the life of Berlin and its inhabitants across the course of a single day, from dawn to dusk, to create “a symphonic film with the thousandfold energies that make up the life of a great city.” Now streaming on Mubi.
Premiering August 6 on POV, Joan Fan's Still Tomorrow tells the story of Yu Xiuhua, a village woman with no high school diploma who becomes China's most famous poet; her book of poetry is the best-selling such volume in China in the past 20 years. The film follows Yu Xiuhua as she faces sudden fame—while living with cerebral palsy. Still Tomorrow poignantly weaves her personal narrative with that of an ascendant, urbanizing China.
The city of Huzhou, China, is home to 18,000 clothing factories. They are staffed by about 300,000 workers, many of them migrants from rural areas in the surrounding provinces. Bitter Money, the latest from Wang Bing, follows a handful of these workers, both at work where they may labor for more than 12 hours a day and in their off-hours, as they hang around shabby dorms drinking, dreaming of home, worrying about getting paid, and trying to decide whether their jobs are worth keeping. Bitter Money is available on DVD through Icarus Films and for streaming on DocuSeek2.
Premiering August 6 on Investigation Discovery is Sugar Town, from Shawn Nicholson, which tells the all-too-familiar story of a young unarmed black male dying at the hands of the police. In New Iberia, Louisiana—a town with a deep history of racial division—Victor White was arrested in 2014 for possession of a small bag of marijuana. Police contended that, while in custody, handcuffed with his hands behind his back, White shot himself in the chest.
When the Beat Drops, directed by Jamal Sims and produced by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, premieres August 9 on Logo. As voguing exploded out of the ballroom scene of New York City in the 1990s, "bucking," an electric and subversive underground dance scene, was boldly pioneered in the clubs of the Deep South as a new form of self-expression and education. Together with his crew of fellow gay African-American men, Anthony Davis, helped grow a national movement, complete with fierce competitions. In the process, Davis created a haven for a generation of displaced black gay men.