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Category:    Home > Reviews > Documentary > Nature > Environment > Water > ice > Money > Ideology > Economics > Politics > Counterculture > Aquarela (2019/Sony Blu-ray)/Capitalism (2014*)/Milestones + Ice (1975, 1969/*both Icarus DVD Sets)/Revolution: Art For A New World (2018/Film Movement DVD)/Water Wars (2010/Cinema Libre DVD)

Aquarela (2019/Sony Blu-ray)/Capitalism (2014*)/Milestones + Ice (1975, 1969/*both Icarus DVD Sets)/Revolution: Art For A New World (2018/Film Movement DVD)/Water Wars (2010/Cinema Libre DVD)

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

This group of documentaries take a raw look at our world, span several decades and tend to be ahead of their time in seeing where we are going and not always in a good way....

Victor Kossakovsky's Aquarela (2019) comes from Russia, but us shot in several locales (including Miami in the middle of one of its many storms), yet has no dialogue and is trying to make a point of today of how the material that covers most of the surface of planet earth is coming and going versus how it might have even been ten years before. This includes plenty of ice (still and breaking up) and is not trying to be Nanook Of The North, but cannot escape its shadow at times.

Running 90 minutes, it is not the first time a mostly wordless documentary/special interest release like this has happened in the sound film era, et al, but it is interesting to watch and is worth a look if you think you can enjoy the silence.

Ilan Ziv's Capitalism (2014) is a remarkable six-part documentary series that examines in great detail, the rise of free markets, commodification, its various implementations and the ideologies behind them. Very diverse and wide-ranging, James Kenneth Galbraith and Noam Chomsky are among the many great, smart and informative interviewees as the program also has plenty of stills, vintage stock footage and history to tell you most everything you could imagine.

This one runs over 300 minutes, so make sure you have the time. Once you start watching, it will be hard to stop, so well is this one done. Despite being 15 years old, it holds up very well, but IO wonder if it is time for a seventh episode.

Next are two works from the counterculture era that are very interesting and worth revisiting. This single release set offers the mini-series Robert Kramer & John Douglas' Milestones (1975) about what happened when the 1960s and its ideology ended and what those pushing for change did, though many were rightly still pushing for the end of Vietnam and Civil Rights, even with Nixon in the White House and of course, that was about to change. It is a very important time capsule and is amazing these people were able to allow their private lives top be captured and not get 'camera frightened' or 'fake' like the so-called 'reality TV' we see today.

Robert Kramer's Ice (1969) arrived a few years before and is part of a series of fictional works (some of which were actually science fiction, but not this one) imagines how a now/near-future New York City is out of quasi-fascist control and how the revolutionaries are about to finally over throw the (then-analog) federal U.S. government, how that will happen, but also how they are at odds with each other within the revolution to pull it off. It holds its own for 128 minutes, it shows its age in parts, but boldness all the way when things were so bad via the Vietnam era that who knew what would happen next. It makes sense to pair these two and not just because of their director.

Margy Kinmonth's Revolution: Art For A New World (2018) offers the new art movement in the once-new Soviet Union and how for the 15 years before Josef Stalin came to power and destroyed everything, the Soviet Avant-Garde movement defined the alternate world the USSR was trying to build in opposition to The West, Capitalism and any other state (including third world countries) as a beacon of a possible 'success' that would show the rest of the world a 'better' way to a 'better' tomorrow' and from what we see, many of its artists believed it.

Some of what they did (including extending to early Soviet Cinema) is still influential today and might look familiar at times, this documentary has many great surviving archival examples of a world that was disrupted by WWII forever and whose lost ideas likely even allowed the Soviet Union to eventually collapse as it would a few decades after Stalin's reign of terror. This runs 85 minutes and is always interesting. The art is a plus and some of it, elaborate.

Finally, we have Jim Burrough's Water Wars (2010) was mostly shot in Bangladesh before the current, horrific nightmare of events that are happening in late 2019 as we post this coverage started to happen, they were always dealing with poverty (as The Beatles' George Harrison made known) and this is the country most immediately affected by a crisis that has grown much worse in the decade since this first went into production.

Martin Sheen narrates the impactful 55 minutes (this ought to be expanded and updated, with Sheen adding more narration) and was more surprising then when it first arrived. Now that it is a more well-known international problem for places all over the place, it becomes an important record and not just another 'I told you so' work, though it was ahead of many on the subject. Especially at its short length, it is worth checking out.

The 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image transfer on Aquarela is a new HD shoot and easily the best transfer on this list, though it could have even better color range and detail, while the anamorphically enhanced 1.78 X 1 image on Capitalism and anamorphically enhanced 1.85 X 1 image on Revolution more than hold their own as more recent productions.

The rest of the DVDs are here in 1.33 X 1 framing with Milestones and Ice both shot on 16mm film and Water Wars on digital standard-definition video. Despite all those differences between DVDs, they are even out in playback performance with good shots at times and off shots in others, including archival vintage stock film and analog & digital videotape footage. The film can have scratches and some light debris, while the video can have flaws that include video noise, video banding, telecine flicker, tape scratching, cross color, faded color and tape damage.

As for sound, Aquarela actually has a Dolby Atmos 11.1 (Dolby TrueHD 7.1 for older systems) lossless mix and though we get no dialogue, little music and location audio, it is an interesting choice that has its moments and outdoes the lossy Dolby Digital sound on all the DVDs. Capitalism (better in this edition with the red and white cover versus an older edition) and Water Wars has lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound, Milestones and Ice have older monophonic sound represented here in lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono and Revolution has both lossy Dolby Digital 5.1 and somewhat lesser, lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo.

Extras include a nicely illustrated booklet on the Capitalism mini-series in its DVD case, Aquarela adds a Trailer, Revolution has 20 minutes of Bonus Footage and Water Wars adda an Original Theatrical Trailer, Video Bio of Kazi Nazrul Islam (National Poet of Bangladesh and author of Oh My Deep River), Music Video for Earth Song and a Behind The Scenes featurette on how this was made.

- Nicholas Sheffo


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