One Night in Miami… (USA, 2020. Dir: Regina King): Regina King is having a moment. Following her winning turns in If Beale Street Could Talk and Watchman, King demonstrate strong directing chops in her first outing behind the camera. The film imagines the evening following Cassius Clay victory over Sonny Liston. The heavyweight champ, Malcolm X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown—all four at crossroads in their lives—celebrate by debating their contributions to the Civil Rights movement and getting in each other’s kitchen. One Night in Miami… can’t escape its stagey nature (it’s based on a play), but the exchanges between the four legends are often electric. Well-rounded performances across the board make the film an early awards season contender. I would have liked to see something more cinematic than a motel room, but it’s very much worth your time. 3/5 all-star planets.
The Way I See It (USA, 2020. Dir: Dawn Porter): I don’t want to get political here, but it only takes comparing pictures of Barack Obama and Donald Trump to notice who is truly presidential and who is a vat of orange toxic waste. The Way I See It is theoretically about Pete Souza, Obama (and Reagan)’s official photographer, but it’s mostly about his subjects. Souza captured such iconic images like the situation room during the operation that killed Bin Laden and the small child touching Obama’s hair (representation!). Lately, Souza has become a particularly effective Instagram troll by posting pictures that emphasize the differences between the Obama administration and whatever the heck Trump is doing. This enlightening and somewhat depressing doc is bound to face accusations of bias, but the Pete’s pics speak by themselves. 3.5/5 planets that would have voted for Obama a third time. Distribution: Focus Features.
Enemies of the State (USA, 2020. Dir: Sonia Kennebeck): Quite often reality doesn’t rise to our expectations. This documentary about hacker/former National Guard official Matthew DeHart wishes the subject was a patriot railroaded by the American government like Chelsea Manning or Edward Snowden, but evidence indicates the more likely possibility he is a predator who can spin a good lie and stick to it. For three-quarters of the movie, director Sonia Kennebeck takes us on a wild goose chase under the belief Matt was harassed by the FBI and other dark forces and reports on a conspiracy based on happenstance and missing drives, minimizing the alternative until its unavoidable. Enemies of the State could have been shaped in an entirely different way and be compelling. Instead, the filmmaker goes for drab, dull and ultimately pointless. 2/5 skeptic planets.
Gaza mon amour (Palestine/France/Germany/Portugal/Qatar, 2020. Dir: Tarzan & Arab Nasser): A quite simple love story at heart, Gaza mon amour has the added value of showing what is it like to really live in Gaza (the film is mercifully free of westerners’ gaze). Issa (Salim Daw) is a confirmed bachelor who suddenly finds the single life less than fulfilling. The fisherman has an eye on Siham (Hiam Abbass, Succession), a seamstress perennially trying to make ends meet. Issa’s courtship is repeatedly interrupted by the upshots of finding a statue of Apollo while at sea. A gentle, low impact movie, by existing alone Gaza Mon Amour is an statement of resilience. As depicted in the film, older Palestinians seem more willing to enjoy happiness whenever available, rather than look for it elsewhere as the younger generation. A small delight. 3/5 hard-knock planets.
The Boy from Medellín (USA, 2020): For a brief, frightening moment, I thought this entire film was a reggaeton concert. It was a little better than that: The doc follows Colombian singer J Balvin as he gets ready for a massive concert in his hometown. The time could have been better: Social unrest has taken over Medellín and Balvin is perceived as “lukewarm” on the streets for not opposing the right-wing government. The reggaeton star can’t understand the animosity against him, believing that positioning himself above politics should have sufficed (he sends “light” to everybody, whatever that means). Given that the film is produced by J Balvin himself and his inner circle, it’s no surprise the singer is presented in the best light possible and the resolution of his inner conflict is a total copout. Only for hardcore fans willing to suspend their critical thinking. 2/5 planets that wouldn’t be caught dead listening to reggaeton. Distribution: Amazon.