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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Genocide > War > Torture > History > Art > Hatred > TV > Drama > Literature > Communist Witchhun > After Kony: Staging Hope (2011/First Run DVD)/Bill Moyers: Beyond Hate (1991/Acorn/Athena DVD)/Sidney Lumet’s Daniel (1983/Paramount/Legend DVD)/Witness: A World In Conflict Through A Lens (2013/HBO D

After Kony: Staging Hope (2011/First Run DVD)/Bill Moyers: Beyond Hate (1991/Acorn/Athena DVD)/Sidney Lumet’s Daniel (1983/Paramount/Legend DVD)/Witness: A World In Conflict Through A Lens (2013/HBO DVD)


Picture: C+/C/C+/C+     Sound: C+/C/C+/C+     Extras: C+/B/D/D     Main Programs: B-/B/B/B-



Murder, genocide, terrorist attacks, brutal attacks, homicides, threats, prejudice, bullying, rape, hate.  It seems we see more of that in the media than ever before, whether in the U.S. or otherwise.  Why?  Do some people like this situation to take advantage of other’s misfortunes?   To hold onto power falsely?  To ruin the world because they hate it and themselves while pretending to have some satisfaction with it?  A cycle of new releases and one you may have missed cover the spectrum of these issues well.



Bil Yoelin’s After Kony: Staging Hope (2011) is a fine documentary finished before the anti-Kony internet movement that was nice, but failed to get the genocidal maniac captured.  The 99 informative minutes here show us in more detail than most U.S. media how Joseph Kony and the “Lord’s Resistance Army” fought briefly for, than suddenly against the Acholi people of Northern Uganda for over 20 years, terrorizing them, recruiting young people by force, rape, torture, murder and much, much more.  With Kony on the run, how does a nation and people heal and find way to fix things when some scars will last forever?


Enter Melissa Fitzgerald, a stage, theater, performance and acting artist who has come to the country to set up artistic expression for people all over the place and help them deal with an ugly night, are the government could not stop and is still permanently affecting huge numbers in an under told story we should all be aware of.


Miss Fitzgerald narrates the program very thoroughly and allows the many survivors to tell their nightmares to us, then we often see them acted out and dealt with.  It is a remarkable thing she has done to go to this dangerous place to help people so selflessly and have such a positive effect.  We meet so many great people as well who in no way should have ever gone through the living hell they have endured.  There are also issues with poverty, hunger and HIV/AIDS, but this work does not shy away from them either.


I hope the U.N. (et al) gets Kony and brings him to trial, but until then, Uganda hopefully is at a turning point and this work stands as a testament to what was, is and hopefully will be in terms of a better future finally after such horrible times.


Extras include text on the filmmakers, Photo Gallery Trailer Gallery and DVD-ROM PDF Study Guide on the subject.



Though made 20 years before, Bill Moyers: Beyond Hate (1991) has dated little as our host examines the history, dark ironies, cruelness, consequences and ugly state of hatred and how it leads to so many of the world’s ills.  I remember seeing this when it first aired and it stayed with me.  Now, even after so many changes, the Internet era, end of the USSR & Cold War, new surge of terrorism and comebacks of hatreds we thought would not return, the priceless points and valuable information presented is as important as ever.


The interviews with various experts and the words of ignorance, hate and anger of the awful people who fan the flames of hate are also here to embarrass those ignorant enough to admit their hatreds.  Especially when you have a sort of ideological war between news media, even major media, such a solid journalistic approach to the subject stands the test of time and makes us realize one of the reasons hate has increased in too many ways is because major media has irresponsibly allowed some forces to try and kill journalism.  Another solid entry in Athena’s long, ongoing DVD series of Moyer’s great works, this one needs revisited as much as any issued to date.


Extras include Facing Hate, the second show made the same year which has Moyer doing a full-length interview with Elie Wiesel, informative text on Moyer & select participants in these shows and another one of Athena’s nicely illustrated 12-page booklet on the programs here.



Based on the E.L. Doctorow book, Sidney Lumet’s Daniel (1983) is an underrated, impressive adaptation of a story that examines hate, witch hunts, the death penalty, freedom of speech and freedom in general as we see a alternative version of the Rosenberg Story.  That was the 1953 incident where two people were charged with treason and spying for “communists” (often a metaphor for American Jews, et al at the time) and executed by the U.S. Government in the madness of the Communist and Hollywood Witchhunts.


Fresh off of his work in the likes of Ordinary People, Timothy Hutton is the title character, one of two now-adult children of the version of the Rosenbergs (Mandy Patinkin, Lindsay Crouse) who had no children in real life.  He has a sister (Amanda Plummer) who is not always well and in conflict with her brother, but he is determined to not just let their parent’s death be over-simply explained away.  He wants to know the all the details of how they were targeted and killed.


He does not remember them being involved in half the things they were accused of and loved them as they loved him.  He knows something is not ringing true about the history he has been fed and will not stop until he has piece of mind.  Hutton is great in the role, including his voiceovers and camera appearances discussing how certain kinds of torture and murder were always reserved for those with little or no power in human history.


Coming off of a great epic film like Prince Of The City, Lumet was up next to make the epic Al Pacino Scarface, but unhappy with some of the politics of that project, let Brain De Palma take over and made this film instead.  While that film has transmuted in all kinds of ways (which needs a separate essay), Daniel (especially in the new boring, conformist Reagan cinema that had arrived by 1983) was not a hit any more than Scarface and was also lost in the critical shuffle.  Now, it is one of the most underrated films of one of the greatest Hollywood filmmakers of all time.


Much of the cast comes from the stage and all are terrific.  The film expertly moves back and forth from a slightly sepia-toned 1950s to naturalistic full color of the late 1960s/near modern times and this works totally as a narrative approach and not some fancy device that backfires as it usually does today.


The many kinds of hatreds discussed in the above releases also find manifestation in several tough scenes in this film, showing that Lumet could be as realistic as any filmmaker today and all that makes Daniel a film more than worth rediscovering.


There are sadly no extras, but maybe Legend can add some if they do a Blu-ray version.



Finally we have a new documentary mini-series in the Michael Mann-produced Witness: A World In Conflict Through A Lens (2013) for HBO.  We get four shows featuring four very brave, bold, dedicated photojournalists telling important stories on location in Juarez, Libya, the South Sudan and the slums of Rio respectively.  Some of this gets ugly and you will see footage here you would never see anywhere else.


Eros Hoagland covers the Narco War in Juarez, Michael Christopher Brown tells of the trails and tribulations of dealing with the madman Gaddafi in Libya, Veronique De Viguerie goes to meet with and photography the Arrow Boys fighting Joseph Kony (see above) and his men in the South Sudan and Eros Hoagland also covers the drug and power was in slums of Rio De Janeiro between gangs and the government.


Now this is the kind of new, fresh, hard hitting journalism TV needs more of, and yet, here it is trapped on the great pay TV series HBO.  They should syndicate it. this should be an ongoing series and I hope more episodes are on the way, because this can only be the very tip of the iceberg.


There are no extras.



The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Kony and Witness are HD shoots on location and may have some flaws here and there, but I thought they looked good and were shot very well under the sometimes extreme circumstances.  Some shots are impressive and some sadly so.  The anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Daniel comes from a pretty good print, only limited by the format’s standard definition.  This is a well shot film that looks as good as anything on the list, but being the oldest of the releases, shows how 35mm film’s endurance is highly inarguable.


That makes those three on par with each other, but the 1.33 X 1 on Moyers is from professional analog videotape and has its share of moiré patterns, staircasing, aliasing errors and other flaws that the case warns about anyhow.  Still, color can be very good for the format and these were well edited for their time.


Witness is the only one of the four DVDs to offer lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on its programs, but with location audio issues and other unavoidable audio flaws, it is pushing it a little bit.  This is about as good as this could sound, though I wonder how this would sound in lossless form.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo on Kony has some of the same audio issues, but is not bad overall.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Moyers is the poorest here with slight background noise throughout and audio that might be second generation.  The lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono on Daniel is the oldest and most well-recorded of the four, done under controlled studio circumstances with possibly some post production audio and location audio that is not bad for its age.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


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