May 6, 2020

Screen Time: Week of May 4

From Matt Wolf's 'Spaceship Earth.' Photo credit: Philippe Plailly / Science Photo Library. Courtesy of Radical Media.

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

Premiering May 5 on HBO and streaming on HBO NOW and HBO GO, Natalie Wood: What Remains Behind, by Laurent Bouzereaue, follows the celebrated actress' daughter, producer Natasha Gregson Wagner, as she explores her mother's illustrious filmography and the mother she knew, through personal interviews with, among others, husband Robert Wagner, who speaks on-camera about Wood's tragic death at age 43 in a drowning accident. This intimate documentary goes beyond the story of her passing that has defined her in the decades since, revealing Wood's struggles with her domineering mother and her challenges with the studio system for control over her career. 

Jane Gillooly's Where the Pavement Ends premieres May 5 on PBS World Channel's America Reframed series. The 2014 murder of African-American teenager Michael Brown by a Ferguson, Missouri police officer in 2014 triggered international media coverage of the months of protests that ensued. But the history of Ferguson, a formerly whites-only "sundown town," and the neighboring black town of Kinloch, now semi-abandoned, is not well known. Incorporating reflections of residents of both towns (including Gillooly, who grew up in Ferguson), this film explores the relationship between these two locations. Beginning with a 1960s roadblock that divided then-white Ferguson from black Kinloch, the film depicts a microhistory of race relations in America.

Launching online May 8 through NEON, Impact Partners and Radical Media, Matt Wolf's Spaceship Earth tells the tale of eight visionaries who in 1991 spent two years in the Arizona desert, quarantined inside of a self-engineered replica of Earth ecosystem. They called this experiment BIOSPHERE 2, and it attracted worldwide attention of critics, some of whom hailed it as a reimagined alternative to an imperiled planet, while others mocked it as a cult enterprise. For its part, NEON will not only launch the film online through Hulu and other digital platforms, but it has partnered with exhibitors, museums, festivals and bookstores to stream the film on their respective websites.

In This Together: A PBS American Portrait Story, premiering May 8 on PBS, is the latest installment in this experiment in sourced storytelling that answers the question, What does it really mean to be an American today? With the unprecedented global and national impact of COVID-19, the answer to that central question and related prompts has shifted in recent weeks, which is reflected in the submissions still pouring into the site. The half-hour special will spotlight the many personal stories, photographs and videos shared by thousands of people in response to the prompt “I never expected…” and viewers will hear first-hand accounts of how this global pandemic has affected our nation. For In This Together: A PBS American Portrait Story, RadicalMedia’s Jon Kamen and Dave Sirulnick serve as executive producers alongside director/ executive producer Craig D'Entrone. Michéle Stephenson is series producer.

Available online on Vimeo from May 8-24 is Feast of the Epiphany, a docu-fictional diptych from Michael Koresky, Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman, in which a dinner party takes on unexpected significance, turning to meditations on mortality as night turns to day, and viewers are taken somewhere else entirely―albeit with a lingering dissolve of emotions, ideas and grace. The film is a rumination on community, collaboration and support groups in the face of hardship, labor, and loss.

100 Years of Japanese Cinema (1996), directed by Nagisa Oshima on commission from the British Film Institute, explores, in a mere 52-minutes, the forces and themes that shaped Japan's cinematic tradition, examining realism in depictions of family life and society, war films and comedies and struggles against censorship. The film streams on OVID.TV beginning on May 5.