As February draws to a close, we’re celebrating another great week full of new films here at Fandor. We added thirty-nine new titles to the library this week, and we know that sometimes a few can slip through the cracks. That’s why we wanted to take a minute this week to highlight a handful of documentaries that just made their Fandor debut:
In Vortex, we meet Rachel Law, the young prodigy behind an anti-surveillance browser extension that allows users to switch metadata with others. Why is this important? Because digital ad targeting has gotten increasingly granular, presumptive and aggressive. But we don’t need to tell you that! You’ve no doubt experienced the haunting of your browser habits in your daily life. In this bite-sized short, Law demonstrates the Vortex project (think of it as a tinfoil hat for your search bar) in action, and advocates for practices of discrimination-free targeted marketing.
The struggle for self-determination and self-definition takes place in both the dark corners of our browser histories and on the international stage, as empires dissolve and borders shift. Letters to Max is a cinematic essay about what makes a nation, structured through correspondence between the director and his friend, former Minister of Foreign Affairs for Abkhazia. If you’ve never heard of Abkhazia, which split from Georgia in a bloody civil war nearly twenty-five years ago, that’s because the majority of the world’s governments still don’t recognize it as a separate nation. Through the entertaining and insightful dialogue between the two men and the gorgeous, evocative footage of the Black Sea coastal state, we learn about a people’s complicated history and uncertain future. With the region back in the news after Russia’s annexation of Crimea, it seems more important than ever to learn more about this particular corner of the world.
Inside every heartthrob, there’s a human, and That Man: Peter Berlin introduces us to an aging alt-icon who rose to prominence for his erotic self-portraiture and work in early art-porn. With lots of throwback footage and commentary from fellow LGBTQ luminaries Wakefield Poole and John Waters, among others, this profile traces how a German photographer and photo-technician named Armin Hagen Freiherr von Hoyningen-Huene decamped to San Francisco, turned his lens on himself, chose a stage name to fit his background and galvanized the gay imagination.
Finally, Let it Come Down (source of this week’s featured image) examines the life and work of another avant-garde expatriate, iconoclastic
writer and composer Paul Bowles. Whether or not you’re familiar with Fandor’s other Bowles-centered doc Paul Bowles: The Cage Door is Always Open, this film is an essential piece of the puzzle that is this enigmatic multidisciplinary artist. Director Jennifer Baichwal (who has several other titles in the Fandor library, including the mesmerizing and terrifying Manufactured Landscapes) presents plenty of her subject in his own words, but by mixing his candid interviews with plenty of commentary from both his fans and his critics she develops a detailed picture of Paul Bowles that is appropriately complex and considered.
All of these films do an excellent job of exploring and illuminating the intricacies of identity and the sometimes-deafening dissonance between our perception of ourselves and how we are perceived by others. We simply couldn’t let these films slip by without a mention and some loving attention. We’ll back here next week with another roundup of gems from our constantly-updating New Releases page. Until then, happy watching!