July 28, 2020

Screen Time: Week of July 27, 2020

From Catrin Einhorn and Leslye Davis' 'Father Soldier Son.' Photo: Marcus Yam/The New York Times

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

Now streaming on Netflix, Father Soldier Son, produced by The New York Times and produced and directed by reporters-turned-filmmakers Catrin Einhorn and Leslye Davis, follows a former platoon sergeant and his two young sons over almost a decade, chronicling his return home after a serious combat injury in Afghanistan. Originating as part of a 2010 project on a battalion's year-long deployment, Einhorn and Davis stuck with the story to trace the long-term effects of military service on a family. 

Premiering July 29 on HBO and streaming on HBO Max, Brett Rapkin's The Weight of Gold explores in deeply personal detail the mental health challenges that Olympic athletes often face. This documentary, which features such luminaries as Michael Phelps, Bode Miller, Shaun White, Apolo Ono and many others, is premiering at a critical moment for the millions of people who struggle with mental health—an issue greatly exacerbated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, and, for the Olympians, the postponement of the Tokyo Summer Games.

Now streaming on FRONTLINE, COVID's Hidden Toll examines how the COVID crisis has hit vulnerable immigrants and undocumented workers. The documentary follows the coronavirus pandemic's invisible victims, including crucial farm and meat-packing workers who lack protections and have been getting sick. Directed, produced and written by Daffodil J. Altan & Andrés Cediel.

This is a high-stakes election year, and a fair and free voting process is in peril, thanks in large part to voter suppression, excessive partisan gerrymandering, voter roll purges and polling place closures. Gilda Brasch's short doc Let My People Vote tells the story of civil rights activist Desmond Meade, trying to restore and preserve voting rights for all. Filmed in Tampa, two days before the 2016 presidential election, Let My People Vote traces a day of faith in and disillusionment with the democratic process in America.

Streaming for free at Maysles Documentary Center’s website, After Civilization, a series curated by Emily Apter, Annie Horner, and Inney Prakash, features documentaries that, according to the description, "employ speculative techniques to reckon with ecological crisis and the ongoing material violences of dispossession... From an Afrofuturist leapfrog between Africa, Detroit and outer space (The Last Angel of History), to a warning that the island nation Tuvalu's digital domain name will outlive its physical existence (.TV); from a projection of natural resurgence in the Florida Everglades (Wayward Fronds), to a prophetic retelling of contemporary indigenous identity in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (INAATE/SE/), the films in this series consider the interplay of power, technology, growth and destruction."

Blind Love, a series of shorts from Patricia Zagarella, follows four single, blind millennials in their quest for love. Each is on a mission to be understood for who they are; they don’t want pity. They want a serious relationship. Now streaming on Independent Lens.

Last week, The New York Times reported on a hostage situation in Ukraine, in which one of the gunman's demands was for the Ukrainian president to promote a 2005 documentary, Earthlings, about humanity's dependence on and abuse of animals. The president complied, reaching out to Ukrainian citizens via Facebook; the hostages were freed after a 12-hour standoff; and the gunman was taken into custody. Earthlings, directed by Shaun Monson, with music by Moby and narration by Joaquin Phoenix, enjoyed a dramatic spike in viewers. Nonetheless, while a unique means of promoting a 15-year-old documentary, committing a crime is not recommended.