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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Art > Artist > Politics > China > Food > Genetic Engineering > Mayans > Chess > Surveillance > D > Chinese Lives Of Uli Sigg (2016/Icarus DVD)/Heart Of Sky, Heart Of Earth (2012/MVD/Bullfrog DVD)/Magnus (2016)/National Bird (both 2016)/Sunshine Makers (2014/all three FilmRise/MVD DVD)

Chinese Lives Of Uli Sigg (2016/Icarus DVD)/Heart Of Sky, Heart Of Earth (2012/MVD/Bullfrog DVD)/Magnus (2016)/National Bird (both 2016)/Sunshine Makers (2014/all three FilmRise/MVD DVD)

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

Now for some recent documentaries worth your time...

Michael Schindheim's Chinese Lives Of Uli Sigg (2016) gives us the untold story of the man who became a mentor to many Chinese artists that we know today and in the face of a country whose last concerns (until recently? Hmmm?) has bee anything much having to do with the arts. Thus, what Mr. Sigg has achieved is amazing and is now an important turning point in voices from a place that (outside of Hong Kong?) we were not hearing enough of.

Fortunately, China has started opening up just enough to The West to allow this to just happen enough that we have new ideas and points of view, though it has not been as clean cut as that, thus this fine documentary that is worth a good look to see the new developing discourse here (Lang Lang and Ai Weiwei included) that will hopefully be permanent and a great way for China, The West and the rest of the world to connect better with each other, which is needed now more than ever.

Frauke Sandig & Eric Black's Heart Of Sky, Heart Of Earth (2012) tells the timely story of how Mayan persons are trying to keep producing the foods they have made for centuries in the face of bonkers corporate overreach to make all food genetically engineered when those foods are not real and have NEVER been proven safe. If they were, why so many 'dark acts; to hide their origins?

Shot in Chiapas and Guatemala, we see how this is not just food production, but a key part of history and culture in these locales for these indigenous people and how the great food is a sense of pride (it looks so good, I wanted to order a few crates and start eating lunch immediately!) that is really not the business of anyone else, especially uninvited businesses who have nothing better to do that bastardize food resources offering promises they'll never deliver.

The documentary is also arguing against mindless corporate expansion at all costs, which is mutually damaging to us all for what kind of money? You cannot eat the money if the food is no longer real and satisfying, nourishing, etc., so the organics movement helps, but these persons deserve the right to be left alone, culture and freedom respected and maybe fair trade value for the food they might want to sell perhaps? Glad to catch this one.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on both DVDs are digital shoots, but Heart has some detail issues since the video is a mix of sources and a little rougher. They also both offer lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo that is on par with each other, location audio issues and all, but just fine for what they are.

Extras only appear on Lives and it is older footage of Sigg in China from 1982 to 1985 that can be rough and could use a new transfer.

If you're looking for an insightful and inspiring documentary, then you'll want to check out Magnus: From Child Prodigy to Chess Genius (2016). The film won the prestigious awards at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2016 and was the official selection at the BFI London Film Festival as well. It is directed by documentary filmmaker Benjamin Ree (When Allin Kissed Lars).

Born in 1990, Norwegian chess prodigy Magnus Carlsen becomes a grandmaster at age 13 and world champion in 2013. The film starts out with his extraordinary childhood while flashing forward to the future where he is in a chess competition. The film further fleshes out his introverted nature but consistent passion for the game of chess.

Presented in standard definition with an anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a lossy 5.1 surround sound track, the film looks and sounds as good as it can on the Blu-ray format and is fine for a documentary film of this nature.

No Extras.

The doc is interesting and is an interesting look at the life of a famous chess player. It also gives you a feeling of what its like in the midst of a national chess championship atmosphere at times and, much like every other game or sport, isn't without a huge following and strict rules.

The documentary National Bird (2016) follows the journey of three whistleblowers who are attempting to uncover the controversy of the secret U.S. Drone War. Directed by Sonia Kenneck the film stars Jesselyn Radack.

A bit frightening and maybe even chilling, the film features real military videos and centers around the important political topic that's close to the chest. The film is from executive producers Wim Wenders and Errol Morris, who are some of the top names in the doc business.

Presented in standard definition with an anamorphically enhanced 1.78:1 widescreen aspect ratio and a lossy 5.1 surround mix, the presentation here is fine and appropriate for the type of film this is. The cinematography is interesting and the score by Insa Rudolph is a bit somber yet appropriate.

No extras.

If you or a close friend or relative is heavy into conspiracy theories and exposing political truths, then this may be an eye opener and a good one to watch.

Finally, a true story that no doubt influenced Breaking Bad, The Sunshine Makers (2014) is a documentary that tells the story of Nicholas Sand and Tim Scully, two men who manufactured an insane amount of LSD in the 1960s... and managed to stay ahead of the law.

Furthermore, these men accomplished the impossible and created the gold standard for LSD called 'Orange Sunshine' and become known as the Sunshine Makers.

The film is directed by Cosmo Feilding Mellen and features great archival footage, and clever editing all making for a great trip. (no pun intended) This is a fun and easy to watch drug documentary that tells an interesting story at its core.

Presented on an anamorphically enhanced, standard definition DVD with a widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and a lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track, the presentation is up to par with the format but nothing too impressive. Know a Blu-ray edition is also available.

No extras.

- Nicholas Sheffo (Chinese, Heart) and James Lockhart



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