Influence

Before you see this documentary, do a little homework otherwise, like me your interest will be peaked, but you will be overwhelmed. This film seems to be the real life version of “Wag the Dog”.

Lord Timothy Bell is the primary subject. He was the founder of the reputation management firm Bell Pottinger, which came apart in 2017. He began his career as a partner in Saatchi and Saatchi where he met and befriended Margaret Thatcher. With her he learned about power, influence and the strength of advertising/marketing in the political realm. From there it was a fast track to political interference which eventually backfired. This includes trying to be a persuasive force in Iraq (which backfired), Chile, and South Africa where he had a hand in trying to distract South African’s from the corruption of Jacob Zuma’s government by inciting racial tensions.

Leaked to the film makers were over 200,000 emails that linked Bell and his firm to the racial divide in South Africa. This leak led to his demise. Like most documentaries these days, this one discusses the weaponization of social media leaving you to wonder who/what you can trust. It’s disgusting. Information warfare.

Cinematography is terrific, music works well, a little long but worth the watch. Date night worthy with discussion!

Where’s My Roy Cohn?

…asked Trump recently. He’s longing for his relentless, defiant, pit bull lawyer…mentor. This documentary brings to light the life and career of a man full of contradictions and power yet, how many of you have heard of him? He seems to have unwittingly started reality TV with McCarthy vs the Army hearings. A fascinating look at the man who once aspired to be a congressman yet fell to be the go to lawyer for the mafia and loyal friend to Trump, considered by the documentarian to be pure evil. Ironicaly Roger Stone was a key interviewee and arrested the day the film premiered. Well produced, good music and a fascinating look at history, date night worthy with conversation to follow.

Mike Wallace Is Here

Want to know about Mike Wallace, the man behind the hard hitting questions? Then this isn’t the the film for you. A nice retrospect on Wallace’s career, you do become intrigued by his vast number of interviews and appreciate his hand in the creation of 60 minutes. A work-a-holic, it seems appropriate that the film barely even touches his persoal life unless poignant to his career, such as the death of his son and a lawsuit that left him depressed. It’s an interesting documentary and well made. But, perhaps best if you are bored, flipping channels and come across it, not quite one to go out of your way for date night.

Maiden

A film about determination, you will leave inspired and proud. One thing I really like about attending the Sundance film festival is that my friend often chooses films I might not have otherwise considered. Sailing is my friends passion so I thought ok, “I’ll take one for the team” in seeing this one and perhaps fiind some interest in turbulent waters that might convince me to again risk getting sea sick. Instead I found a fascinating documentary about a lost girl who had a strong desire to do something. And despite all odds at many points in time, she never strayed from her dream. Along the way she and her crew were facing the possibility of going far beyond accomplishing her dream. When that possibility began to slip away, thousands unexpectedly came out to support her and her crew. While the world wants this to be a feminist story, which in a sense it is, it’s really about never giving up. My favorite film from the festival thus far. Date night worthy.

The Great Hack

We all know our data online is not safe and is being used. Facebook is constantly in the news for this very reason. What we don’t know or perhaps don’t want to think about are the details and effect. The Great Hack lifts part of the curtain behind the Cambridgee Analytica scandal as it continues to unfold. The film begins with a professors question, grows with a whistle blower and finally lands with a questionable true life character. Not only do you get caught up in this current story that directly affects our lives but you can’t help but scratch your head at the films really smart yet possibly really stupid central figure. What exactly are Brit Kaisers motives? The film leaves you curious, wanting to continue following the story, discussing the issues and hopefully more vigilant in your tech saavyiness. As the film says, our personal information is more valuable than oil. The film is, as expected from a Netflix film, very slick – well produced. Yes, date night worthy.

Hala

America is a melting pot and we still have those who are first generation here trying to find their way. Regardless of ethnicity or belief we struggle with finding our identity, not necessarily the ones our parents would like for us. Poignant, this film is a slow slice of life that is oddly relatable and hopeful, full of the spirit of the Sundance film festival theme this year – risk. While I didn’t love it, I was struck by its underlying message and look at teenage struggle. Interestingly, the writer chose the night of the premiere to call and tell her mother that she had done a film, with very little reference to the topic. It would be interesting to be a fly on the wall when that discussion takes place. It’s telling of just how sensitive and life changing this film is. Beautiful cinematography. Lead actress was best when interacting in a foreign language as she didn’t know the language and therefore had to pay attention, less “acting”. While interesting, can’t recommend it for date night.

The Edge of Democracy

What do you know of world politics, much less Brazilian politics? Well, this film gives you a slightly confusing view of what happens when a country attempts democracy. The film makers voice immediatly warns you this will be a somber film and as she drones on you realize there will be no relief. In love with the architecture the continual use of drones to capture the same scenery becomes monotonous. Skipping around a bit in history, introducing a number of key players, it’s a bit difficult for the unrehearsed to follow any clear path. This could be the result of the film makers own indecision. She seems to be in the middle of a story not yet ready to be fully exposed but had she focused on a single subject, she would have had impact. Perhaps she should revisit in a few years. In general an interesting topic that makes you glad to be an American and fearful of how far we could fall with current leadership. But overall, not date night worthy.