May 18, 2020

Screen Time: Week of May 18

Bruce Franks Jr. (left), protagonist of Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan's 'St. Louis Superman,' which premieres May 18 on MTV. Photo: Chris Renteria

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

Premiering Monday at 9:00 on MTV, the Academy Award-nominated short St. Louis Superman, from Smriti Mundhra and Sami Khan,  profiles Representative Bruce Franks Jr., a Ferguson, MO activist and battle rapper who was elected to the overwhelmingly white and Republican Missouri House of Representatives. Forced to deal with the trauma he's been carrying for nearly 30 years after witnessing the shooting death of his nine-year-old brother, the film chronicles his work toward overcoming both personal trauma and political obstacles in an effort to pass a bill that is critical to his community. 

PUBLIC UPDATE, recently launched by POV Spark, is an online home for exploratory content, driven by the next generation of experimental documentary creators. Volume One of PUBLIC UPDATE, entitled "Interact," challenges visitors to interrogate the meaning of documentary. Works in this volume include A Ritual of Habits, by Rosalie Yu; Mercado, by Lucia Hierro; Reason to the Moon, by Ng Sze Min; Fade Resistance, by Zun Lee; and A Journey with a Camera in Five Movements, by Kimi Maeda

Streaming on YouTube through May 24, The Why Foundation presents its Quarantine Film Club, an international selection of films from its celebrated omnibus series Why Women?, Why Poverty?, Why Stories, Why Democracy? and Why Poverty?

Now streaming on Quibi, Michael Jacobs' documentary series Blackballed examines the cultural context of race in America through the lens of one of the most explosive events in recent sports history—the Donald Sterling expulsion from the LA Clippers and the NBA. The series highlights the five days during the 2014 NBA playoffs, when Doc Rivers, Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan and the LA Clippers led an unprecedented movement of athletes to hold racism accountable.

Currently streaming at Maysles Documentary Center's website through the end of May, Le Joli Maysles, curated by Emily Apter, Annie Horner and Inney Prakash, looks at the lineages of Chris Marker and Pierre Lhomme's Le Joli Mai and Jean Rouch and Edgar Morin's Chronicle of a Summer in a wide range of repertory and new release documentaries. The filmmakers in this series contemplate issues of labor, bodily autonomy, personal safety, impending crisis, rising temperatures, and the passage of time. Sometimes tributing Marker and Rouch and sometimes challenging them, these filmmakers connect the lives of individual people with their complex social, political, and economic environments. They take a hard and thoughtful look at the present moment-actual people and their collective memories, anxieties, and desires-while gesturing toward an endlessly uncertain future. As part of the series, the Maysles Documentary Center presents a Zoom panel discussion with filmmakers Brett Story (The Hottest August), Gordon Quinn (Inquiring Nuns) and Mark Street (Work Songs & Happy?) this Saturday, May 23 at 4pm EST.

Premiering May 19 on FRONTLINE, Inside Italy's COVID War goes inside a hospital battling the coronavirus crisis in northern Italy, as doctors are forced to make life and death decisions. This intimate, exclusive story, produced by Sasha Joelle Achilli and Dan Edge, follows one besieged ER doctor, her staff and the patients suffering from COVID-19, from the darkest days to the signs of hope.

Streaming for free on Anthology Film Archives Vimeo page Notes on an American Film Director at Work: Martin Scorsese is the late Jonas Mekas’ documentary capturing the legendary filmmaker in the process of shooting his Academy Award-winning The Departed. As Mekas described Notes, "It's a chamber kind of movie, a personal tribute to a friend."