July 17, 2020

Screen Time: Week of July 13, 2020

From Linda Goldstein Knowlton's 'We Are the Radical Monarchs.' Courtesy of Linda Goldstein Knowlton

Screen Time is your curated weekly guide to excellent documentaries and nonfiction programs that you can watch at home.

Linda Goldstein Knowlton's We Are the Radical Monarchs, premiering July 20 on POV to kick off the series’ 33rd season, documents an Oakland-based group of tween girls of color, who lead an alt-scout troop whose mission is to educate themselves on social justice including being an LGBTQ ally, the environment, and disability justice. The film follows the first troop of Radical Monarchs for over three years, until they graduate, and documents the co-founders' struggle to respond to the needs of communities across the US and grow the organization.

MUBI presents a celebration of the work of Madeleine Anderson, the first African American female documentary director. The series, Madeline Anderson: To the Front Lines, streams three of her films, all made in the 1960s and recently preserved by Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, that document the Black struggle for equality. Integration Report 1, from 1960, is a snapshot of the civil rights movement—tracking speeches, sit-ins and protests all over the country in the late 1950s (and featuring a song by Maya Angelou)—that captures its energy and scope. Shot by the Maysles Brothers and Richard Leacock, this underappreciated gem helped usher in the Direct Cinema genre. Tribute to Malcolm X, made in 1967 for William Greaves' television program Black Journal, on the occasion of the fourth anniversary of Malcolm X's assassination, is an essential portrait of one of the leading figures in the civil rights movement and a rare collaboration with Malcolm X's widow, Betty Shabazz. I Am Somebody, from 1969, documents the struggle of Black hospital workers in Charleston, South Carolina fighting for workers' rights.

Streaming on YouTube, The Giverny Document, from Ja'Tovia Gary, takes viewers to both Harlem in New York City and Impressionist artist Claude Monet's gardens in Giverny, France, to explore the safety and bodily autonomy of Black women. Gary deploys multiple formats—animation, 16mm film, montage, woman-on-the-street interviews—to, as she describes on her YouTube channel, "explore the creative virtuosity of Black femme performance figures while interrogating the histories."

Twenty-five years ago this month, Chicago suffered through a devastating heatwave in which 739 citizens—most of them Black, poor and elderly—died in one week. Judith Helfand visited that city more recently to investigate the devastating impact of the disaster: pernicious poverty, economic and special isolation and racism. Cooked: Survival by Zip Code, streaming this month on Independent Lens, is the story of the politics of crisis.  

Decade of Fire, from Vivian Vásquez Irizarry, documents a period in the 1970s when the Bronx was the site of numerous fires and years of neglect by city government—and its Black and Brown residents bore the blame. Bronx native Irizarry exposes the truth about her borough's untold history and how her community opted to resist, remain and rebuild. Now available on Google Play.

The Ninth Annual PBS Short Film Festival, now streaming through the end of July, celebrates independent filmmakers and showcases diverse fiction and nonfiction storytelling. And viewers can once watch, vote and share their favorites.

Southland Sessions a new series on Los Angeles-based public media outlet KCET, showcases the vibrancy and resilience of creators, change-makers and cultural leaders across Southern California, from high school operas and drive-thru art exhibitions to Chicano comedy and underground DJ sets. The series premieres July 15.