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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Politics > Election > Racism > Poverty > Art > Design > Architecture > Germany > Exploitation > Target: St. Louis (2019/IndiePix DVD)

ACORN and the Firestorm (2017/First Run)/Bauhaus Spirit (2018/Icarus)/Genetically Modified Children (2018/Cinema Libre)/Karl Marx City (2017/Film Movement)/Sins Of My Father (2011/Maya)/Target: St. Louis (2019/IndiePix/all DVDs)

Picture: C+ Sound: C/C+/C+/C+/C+/C+ Extras: C-/D/C-/C-/B/C- Documentaries: B-/B/B/B/B/B

Now for more documentaries with vital stories you definitely should know about....

We start with Reuben Atlas & Sam Pollard's ACORN and the Firestorm (2017) telling the story about how the 40-year-old organization that was helping poor, disadvantaged and vulnerable people became a target of the Right because it helped Barack Obama get elected President of the United States, so a campaign was started that helped cause it to collapse and this is how it happened.

Because the organization became to large, uncentralized and did not set up certain guidelines that could have helped it survive, a combination of an embezzlement scandal and a bizarre bit where two goofs impersonated a pimp and his prostitute, asking for an affordable building to open a brothel at one of ACORN's locations (the worker insanely tried to help them without once thinking something was wrong with this) helped bring it down forever.

This is a disaster for those in need, more in need now than when the events happened or this documentary was finished, but the 84 minutes here show they did help a huge amount of people and what a tragedy it is for those in need and for democracy. This is a great record of what they accomplished while they lasted and that so much said about them was myth and a pack of lies. Glad I got to see this one.

Niels Bolbrinker & Thomas Tielsch's Bauhaus Spirit (2018) is the latest of a cycle of documentaries on art, culture and design (architecture often included) how one of the most important movements in those categories came out of the disaster that was WWI and in Germany, where they lost the war and were devastated. It shows how the school was established, but whom, how innovative and forward-thinking it really was, how it was a threat to the Nazis who closed it down, forcing it to other free countries where it thrived and how its work helped rebuild the world post-WWII.

We've seen some works that included Bauhaus before and all the way to New Wave music, but this decent 90 minutes that includes some great works, rare stills, rare film footage and more. Very informative, you should see this one once just for all it offers.

Juliette Igier & Stephanie Lebron's Genetically Modified Children (2018) tells the very sad story of how poor farmers in Argentina have been exploited for decades to grow tobacco with a series of chemicals (most of which have since been banned, never wearing gloves, masks or other protective gear in the process) has resulted in record leukemia illnesses and deaths, children being born with all kinds of birth defects at very abnormal rates and how the chemicals (bet you can't name or pronounce them all) are in the bloodstreams of practically all of the residents there.

It is sad the government there allowed this to happen, but the money is huge and know this is happening in any country where this kind of endless chemical usage is going on, all the way up to the Round-Up weed-killer scandal that this program also includes. It is also a warning to anyone who loves their children, as most people are not rich enough to protect their children from this, but with so much of these chemicals all over (people are actually going to smoke these chemicals!?!) the place, is their anyone who ultimately won't be affected?

This runs a tight, strong 54 minutes and belongs on your must-see list.

Petra Epperlein's Karl Marx City (2017) is a very interesting look at the closed police state society of East Germany, which fell after the Berlin Wall and The Cold War and was the most successful surveillance society of the analog era and as part of the Warsaw Pact countries led by the now-defunct Soviet Union. The director grew up there are a little girl and had to go back to find out what happened there, why her father committed suicide and reconstruct the past to get to the truths even beyond her own story.

Sad, unfortunate, sometimes chilling and tragic in any language, she finds out all kinds of things, we see very rare still film, film footage, video footage (much of it in black and white; her new HD footage is in black and white as an ironic contrast) and the result is a priceless history lesson, some of which is being sadly repeated. So tight was the state, one expert says the film The Lives Of Others (reviewed on Blu-ray elsewhere on this site) and would have been impossible because even the watchers were being recorded.

I love how no matter where she goes, Epperlein carries her faux-fur-covered microphone (the cover is to dampen the wind) and points it almost like a weapon to make sure she does not miss one detail with a determination that deserves a standing ovation. What she does is what great documentary filmmaking is all about and 89 minutes here is never boring, always informative and offers all kinds of facts and truths long, long overdue.

Go out of your way to see this one and you too will be impressed.

Nicolas Entel's Sins Of My Father (2011) is about the two sons of Pablo Escobar, the famed drug kingpin who became the first great drug lord dealing in cocaine, which was being touted as being as safe as candy when he got his start during the late 1970s disco era and landed up controlling 80% of all of its worldwide production at the time, making him one of the richest and most powerful individuals outside of the legitimate capitalist elite. Many of you many have seen the first two season of the underrated Narcos TV series (reviewed elsewhere on this site) and as it turns out, the show was extremely accurate in showing and telling his rise and fall.

It should be noted that the TV series often used actual archive footage throughout each episode and we get slight overlap here, but scene after scene here, it is uncanny how the series hit the nail on the head on the history. The sons have many memories to share, insight and rare family treasures (along with their mom) to show and tell and overall, this is always interesting to view. They also show their father's opponents and the sons meet the sons of them, looking for peace and closure of a time that seems long ago, but was not.

Very well made, this makes for great viewing and is highly recommended.

Finally we have Sean Slater's Target: St. Louis (2019) tells yet another underreported, awful, horrific, shocking and repelling tale of how a group of poor people were used for experimentation without knowing it. To make things worse, the area of the title was already the point of controversy over a segregated housing project that was eventually trashed long-term because monied interests wanted it to fail and could have cared less what happened to these people. That was covered in the incredible documentary The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, which you can read more about at this link...


So if that was not bad enough, the federal government in the early days of The Cold War said they wanted to have a test case to 'protect' America by have a 'test case' in what would happen if a major U.S. city was hit by a nuclear device by the USSR, et al, so after examining several locations, they picked St, Louis and guess what housing project and surrounding areas they decided to spray with a nuclear-laced spray?

Of course, they were lied to and told the spray was just to get rid of insects, though the sprayers were wearing way more protective gear (gear that might have still been even insufficient to protect them!) as they kept spraying and respraying the area. The result was people got cancer, other illnesses, suffered severely and died in greater numbers and the like than would have ever been the case otherwise.

Unlike Attica or the ACORN story, this is one of those awful events like the ones with the poor Argentinian farmers being exploited with petrochemicals that is hardly known and is truly outrageous. Anyone who thinks otherwise has issues. This is as strong as any entry here and strongly recommended.

The anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on all six DVDs look good, but also feature older stock footage on analog videotape (PAL and NTSC, depending) and even old film footage, so expect some flaws including video noise, video banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, cross color, faded color and tape damage. We're lucky some of this footage survived, especially old black and white video.

The sound in all six cases are lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo with spots of Mono with Acorn the one with the most audio issues as it has more location audio issues and amateur-produced audio/video than the rest. Otherwise, they are good.

As for extras, all but Bauhaus (with no extras) and Sins have trailers, with Sins adding two audio commentaries by the director, one in Spanish, the other in English.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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