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Arts & Life

Three Documentaries To Stream Online At DOC NYC's Film Festival

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Women in Blue
The documentary 'Women in Blue,' directed by Deirdre Fishel, is part of DOC NYC's 2020 lineup.

The 11-year old documentary film festival called DOC NYC is the largest all-documentary festival in America. For KUNC film critic Howie Movshovitz, who teaches film and television at CU-Denver, DOC NYC offers an astonishing range of films.

It’s a lousy reason that DOC NYC is available everywhere, but it is: the entire festival is online. Here are three suggestions, but know that there are another hundred features streaming, on a stunning range of subjects.

Deirdre Fishel’s Women in Blue is made from the usual interviews, along with scenes of public meetings and police work on the streets of Minneapolis.

Fishel was working on a film about Janeé Harteau, the first woman chief of police in Minneapolis, when, last May, George Floyd was murdered – and the film changed profoundly. Chief Harteau had wanted to re-shape the culture of the white male-dominated police force, but she’s also white and was forced out of the job. So, Women in Blue is not only about the role of women, but the deep problem of race, all jumbled with the tremendously hard job of policing itself.

A black chief took over after Harteau. He’s a long-time officer who might improve the racial problems, but he appointed only men to the other major positions. Women in Blue then shows how while one problem in the Minneapolis police may get better, another got worse.

In 1970, Simas Kudirka, a Lithuanian sailor aboard a Soviet fishing boat just off the coast of Cape Cod, literally jumped onto an American Coast Guard ship during a negotiation about fishing arrangements. It set off a major international situation that lasted for years. The Jump is a Lithuanian, Latvian, French film by Giedre Žickyte that explores just how bizarre international relations can be – and the strange coincidences that became part of the whole affair.

At first, The Jump looks like just a weird story about the Cold War, but it grows into a picture of one poor guy squeezed between two huge empires. The Coast Guard allowed Soviet sailors to come get Kudirka; the Soviets beat him on the US ship; he wound up in a labor camp in Siberia. Even then-President Nixon said Kudirka should have been protected.

All through the film, Kudirka is interviewed. He shows how he jumped; he swims in the ocean – in this country, so obviously he was freed at some point. And it happened through a series of mind-boggling connections. He was technically an American citizen and he didn’t even know it. The Jump reminds us that sometimes you really can’t make it up.

Songs of Repression left me shaken. In 1961, a group of Germans emigrated to Chile and started a colony in magnificent countryside which they called Colonia Dignidad. Their leader, Paul Schafer, had been a soldier and some say the group were Nazis. At any rate, Schafer behaved like one. He surrounded the compound with formidable, barbed wire fences and he controlled the group with constant beatings, rape and sexual abuse of boys and girls. In the 1970s, the group voluntarily joined in killing and disappearing opponents of the tyrant Augusto Pinochet. Schafer died years ago, and the remaining members say all has changed. In fascinating interviews, former cultists either understand or deny or sidestep what they’ve done.

The directors are Estephan Wagner, Marianne Hougen-Moraga. And the executive producer is Joshua Oppenheimer whose films The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence are brilliant studies of how murderers and torturers in Indonesia rationalize their deeds. Songs of Repression makes you shake your head at how people evade themselves.

DOC NYC is taking place online from Nov. 11 to Nov. 19, 2020 at www.docnyc.net.

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