Thursday, October 13, 2011

Documentary: The Weather Underground, We Jam Econo, A Man Named Pearl

Several interesting documentary choices were added to Netflix Watch Instantly this week, two of which I have put in my queue and the other can recommend from seeing it at the Cucalorus Film Festival back in 2009.

Bill Siegel and Sam Green's The Weather Underground was nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar for 2002.  You should try to check out Sam Green's earlier documentary The Rainbow Man/John 3:16, which is not currently streaming but is available on DVD from Other Cinema.  If you find the Weather Undergound interesting, you should also check out the earlier documentary Underground by Emile de Antonio on DVD.

The Weather Underground (Bill Siegel, Sam Green, USA, 2002, 90 minutes)
Netflix: This sobering documentary about a group of 1960s "committed freedom fighters" known as the Weather Underground chronicles a global trend of revolution that sprang from the belief that not acting against violence is violence. A radical offshoot of the Students for a Democratic Society, the Weathermen didn't just march or sit in: They rioted and bombed -- not to change the American political scene but rather to destroy it.  Netflix link.

We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen has been one of the more acclaimed band documentaries of the past few years, earning an 88% positive critical rating and a 95% positive audience rating at Rotten Tomatoes.  I was well behind the curve back when Double Nickels on the Dime came out (okay, I was only 13 in 1983, but I should have been cooler, sooner), but I've finally been catching up with the Minutemen lately and I'm looking forward to this doc.

We Jam Econo: The Story of the Minutemen (Tim Irwin, USA, 2005, 91 minutes)
Netflix: Tim Irwin's documentary chronicles the ups, downs and all-arounds of pioneering punkers the Minutemen. The film weaves together more than 80 interviews to tell the story of the underground California band formed by D. Boon and Mike Watt. Punk icons including Red Hot Chili Peppers' Flea and Black Flag's Henry Rollins discuss the band's influence on the genre, and never-before-seen footage captures the raw intensity of the Minutemen live onstage.  Netflix link.

I had a chance to catch A Man Named Pearl at the 2009 Cucalorus Film Festival in Wilmington, North Carolina.  Cucalorus has a strong commitment to regional filmmaking, and this documentary out of South Carolina does a good job of capturing the local flavor of this story about a humble man and his very impressive garden.  Even at 77 minutes the film could be a bit tighter, but it is well worth watching to meet and appreciate Pearl Fryar and his work.

A Man Named Pearl (Scott Galloway, Brent Pierson, USA, 2006, 77 minutes) 
Netflix: Angered by white residents' racist comments that he wouldn't "keep up his yard," Pearl Fryar teaches himself topiary sculpture and becomes the first African American in his Bishopville, S.C., neighborhood to win the coveted "yard of the month" award. This acclaimed documentary traces Fryar's inspiring story, as he grows into a legendary horticulturist, welcoming thousands of tourists eager to catch a glimpse of his stunning works of art.  Netflix link.

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