Docurama Film Series

Cinedigm’s DOCURAMA independent film brand has launched an inaugural series of documentary film screening events in theaters across the country, starting April 22. The hand-picked selection includes: G-DOG, ¡Vivan Los Antipodas!, The Fruit Hunters, The World Before Her, Charge, Ping Pong, and London: The Modern Babylon. Each of the seven films will be preceded by a 3-minute short film from GE FOCUS FORWARD-Short Films, Big Ideas and will end with a 3-5 minute, pre-taped Q&A by the filmmakers. In addition to broad DVD and digital distribution, films in this series will be made available on the new DOCURAMA application launching late spring.

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7 Films in 7 Weeks!

Week 1

G-Dog - Not Rated - 92 min - Digital


A = Auditorium
S = Screening Room

Fri. - April 26 - 6:30 pm A
Sat. - April 27 - 6:15 - 9:00 pm A
Sun. - April 28 - 4:00 - 7:00 pm A

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G-Dog Directed by Freida Lee Mock, 2012

“…vitally captures an extraordinary character in extraordinary circumstances.”— Variety

G_DOG is about second chances – about a charismatic visionary who launched the largest, most successful gang intervention and rehab program in the US, now an international model, Homeboy Industries.

G-DOG tells the entertaining, hilarious and unlikely story of how a white Jesuit priest became an expert in gang lives. His name is Father Greg Boyle (G-Dog to his homies) and he works by a powerful idea: “Nothing stops a bullet like a job.” G-Dog’s unstoppable compassion has transformed the lives of thousands of Latino, Asian, and African American gang members.

His Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles, with a 70% success rate at redirecting kids away from gang life, is global in influence – Manchester, Toronto, Hamburg, Rio and more. It provides tattoo removal, job training, counseling, yoga, fatherhood and substance abuse classes – all free. It’s the one place in the ’hood that turns lives around: swapping violence for community and building toward a future of hope.

Top Ten Audience Favorite, Hot Docs
Official Selection, Los Angeles Film Festival

Week 2

Vivan Las Antipodas - Not Rated - 108 min - Digital


A = Auditorium
S = Screening Room

Fri. - May 3 - 6:30 pm A
Sat. - May 4 - 4:00 pm A
Sun. - May 5 - 2:00 pm A
Mon. - May 6 - Not Showing
Tues. - May 7 - 7:00 pm A
Wed. - May 8 - Not Showing
Thurs. - May 9 - 7:00 A

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Vivan Las Antipodas - Directed by Victor Kossakovsky

What would be the shortest route between Entre Ríos in Argentina and the Chinese metropolis Shanghai? Simply a straight line through the center of the earth, since the two places are antipodes: they are located diametrically opposite to each other on the earth’s surface.

During his visits to four such antipodal pairs, the award-winning documentary filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky captured images that turn our view of the world upside down. A beautiful, peaceful sunset in Entre Ríos is contrasted with the bustling streets in rainy Shanghai. People who live in a wasteland are connected to people dwelling next to a volcano. Landscapes whose splendor touches the soul are juxtaposed with the clamor of a vast city. These antipodes seem mythically connected, somehow united by their oppositeness.

Kossakovsky’s movie is a feast for the senses, a fascinating kaleidoscope of our planet.

Week 3

The World Before Her - Not Rated - 90 min - Digital


A = Auditorium
S = Screening Room

Fri. - May 10 - Not Showing
Sat. - May 11 - 4:00 pm A
Sun. - May 12 - 2:00 pm A
Mon. - May 13 - Not Showing
Tues. - May 14 - Not Showing
Wed. - May 15 - Not Showing
Thurs. - May 16 - 7:00 A

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The World Before Her - Directed by Nisha Pahuja

Women and India are the ostensible subjects of “The World Before Her,” but Nisha Pahuja’s docu hangs a big, fat question mark over the future of humankind itself. Will the world grow increasingly Westernized and, some would say, licentious, a la the Miss India competition chronicled in the film? Or will fundamentalist zealotry turn back the clock on individual freedom, as per the extreme Hindus who provide the film’s counterweight? Walking a tightrope over a vat of hot-button topics, and boasting plenty of sex appeal with its beauty contestants, this Tribeca prizewinner could well break out of the festival ghetto.

Doing a fairly good job of not taking sides while viewing both with a jaundiced eye, Pahuja (“Diamond Road,” “Bollywood Bound”) focuses on two teenage girls in two very different parts of India. Ruhi Singh, a rural beauty who stands a fairly good chance of becoming Miss India, has drunk the beauty-contest Kool-Aid; Prachi Trivedi is a young Hindu fundamentalist who works and teaches at a camp run by Durga Vahini, the women’s branch of the right-wing Vishwa Hindu Parishad, commonly referred to as the “Hindu Taliban.”

Trivedi and Singh never meet in the film; nor do their personal worlds collide. But the contradictions inherent in both are explored to an enlightening and enlightened degree through interviews, newscasts and footage inside the Durga Vahini camp, to which Pahuja was apparently the first filmmaker permitted access.

There’s no question the Miss India contest is vapid, exploitative and degrading; at one point, organizer Marc Robinson, in order to better judge the shapeliness of his contestants’ legs, has them parade up and down the runway covered in linen sacks, with only their limbs exposed. Equally ignorant but far more dangerous matters are recorded at Durga Vahini, where campers are indoctrinated into a culture of violence, religious zealotry and paranoia. “We’ll never let them take our India,” one girl defiantly tells the cameras. How “her” India is being taken is very, very vague, but “they,” quite clearly, are Muslims and Christians.

The contrasts in “The World Before Her” certainly work in its favor, and Pahuja’s balancing act is an accomplished one. At Durga Vahini, life is grim, militaristic and scary. Conversely, the Miss India pageant is a hotbed of glamour populated by what have to be some of the world’s most beautiful women. The climactic fireworks and glitz are exciting, as are the scenes of preparation and rehearsals. There’s a degree of black humor, too, in the litany of banalities parroted by the beauty contestants, and even the rote hatred of the young militants.

The docu draws a strong contrast between its two principal subjects: Singh is adorable; Trivedi is not. Singh expects that marriage may be in her future; Trivedi, who describes herself as not quite girl, not quite boy, is resigned to a fate her fundamentalist family can’t envision. “Marriage is her duty,” says her father, who talks often of values and occasionally beats his daughter.

What the girls have in common, which Pahuja makes abundantly clear without hammering the audience over the head, are belief systems that claim to liberate them while doing exactly the opposite. Singh is virtually clueless about this, but Trivedi gets it. In what may be the film’s most devastating scene, she says she knows that she’s fighting for a system that would enslave her, but what can she do? After all, she’s only a woman.

Singh and Trivedi have something else in common: As girls, the doc suggests they might easily have been killed in infancy in a system that tacitly allows such a fate. While much of “The World Before Her” speaks to global womanhood, other aspects are more specific to India, but that’s what gives the film much of its life and spark. Tech credits are tops, notably David Kazala’s editing. Review by John Anderson,

Week 4

The Fruit Hunters - Not Rated - 95 min - Digital


A = Auditorium
S = Screening Room

Fri. - May 17 - 6:30 pm A
Sat. - May 18 - 4:00 pm A
Sun. - May 19 - 2:00 pm A
Mon. - May 20 - Not Showing
Tues. - May 21 - 7:00 pm A
Wed. - May 22 - Not Showing
Thurs. - May 23 - 7:00 pmA

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Lots of people juggle careers. Bill Pullman has grafted his. Pullman, who played the president of the United States in “Independence Day,” is included in Canadian director Yung Chang’s documentary, “The Fruit Hunters,” because he’s so involved in growing fruit on his orchard below Hollywood’s hillside sign. The film tells the story of individuals who cultivate and go to extraordinary lengths to savor fruits few people have tasted. Pullman, who grew up around an orchard in New York state, is one of those fruit hunters.

“Growing things and being able to live off the land has always appealed to me,” he said in a phone call. “I think in California it really blossomed. This climate is sensational for growing a lot of different variety of rare fruit plants from other climates all year-round. That idea was intoxicating to me."

Pullman, 59, has grown over 100 different varieties of fruit, including four of oranges, four of grapefruits, and many varieties of mandarins and tangerines. “I would say the biggest surprise to me, the tree that I just find so cool (is) Persian mulberries,” he said. “They’re so fragile, the farmer’s market will sometimes sell a single layer of them to gourmet chefs, but they’re pretty pricey. But, if you stand under a tree and eat away, you just feel so lucky to have a sensation that very few people get to have.”

Pullman is included in “The Fruit Hunters” with a shamanistic native fruit expert in Borneo, a Honduras scientist “racing against time” to breed a banana resistant to a devastating fungus and a 19th century Chinese worker who cultivated the Bing cherry before being deported under the anti-Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. But Pullman provides a sense of drama when he galvanizes his community to work with a government agency to buy some Hollywood orchard property slated for development. That effort failed, but the neighbors still get together for what Pullman calls a “picking kitchen.”

“This picking kitchen is really going back to threshing bees (ceremonies to celebrate the threshing of a crop) — just pitching in to do something together outside and learn about fruit,” he said. “We had one in May about loquats (a yellowish fruit grown mostly in Japan). Most of the people had never eaten one before. We have a lot of loquat trees in the canyon that we identified, and we picked them and harvested them and made sauce out of them. A lot of people get to feel like a farmer, even if it’s just for four hours on a Saturday.”

Pullman found himself in the middle of what he calls a zeitgeist of interest about sustainability and community. They exchange ideas at these picking kitchens that are quite sophisticated.

“This whole climate change and what it’s doing to our environment is frightening to people,” he said, “and to have a forum where they’re discussing things like this, it’s very rewarding. The Asian psyllid (an aphid-like insect) is moving up. It could destroy a lot of citrus trees. There’s the whole whirling disease (infecting fish with parasites) and you’ve got colony collapse (caused by the mass disappearance of worker honey bees). Getting the word out for people to share knowledge is important. I think it begins in people’s neighborhoods.” Review by Bruce Fessier, The Desert Sun

Week 5

Charge - Not Rated - 90 min - Digital


A = Auditorium
S = Screening Room

Fri. - May 24 - Not Showing
Sat. - May 25 - 4:00 pm A
Sun. - May 26 - 2:00 pm A
Mon. - May 27 - 2:00 pm A
Tues. - May 28 - Not Showing
Wed. - May 29 - 7:00 pm A
Thurs. - May 30 - Not Showing

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Charge opens with the noise, velocity, and adrenaline of the Isle of Man's TT motorcycle race, a 37-mile mountain course taken at speeds of 200 mph. But this story is about the TT's zero-emissions grand prix, a looming folly. Even some proponents of the 2009 experiment seemed circumspect, and fans raged. People come to the TT "to see hard men ride hard motorcycles, not piss about on battery-powered scrap," rants one pub-goer. These are quiet bikes—birds smash into them!—that in the first year couldn't approach 100 mph. The riders marvel at the scenery, which blurs by in regular races. But documentarian Mark Neale, with drama provided by narrator Ewan McGregor and editor Rochelle Watson, shows there's no dearth of adrenaline as engineering teams face challenges every bit as bumpy, winding, perilous and exhilarating as the famous course itself. They harness amps and volts with wires and duct tape, but most of all, with true belief.

The characters are irresistible, especially gentle, long-haired Brit genius Cedric Lynch, who's been playing with electric motors since childhood and collected judgments from corporations that ripped off his ideas. (He has invested none of his money on shoes.) Another is Michael Czysz, an Oregon designer with the most American of advantages: money and unfailing determination. Advances in the bikes' speed, performance, and design in subsequent years are thrilling. Bikes top 100 mph. Change, minus emissions, is in the air. And the pub-talk turns friendly and even proud. Review by Daphne Howland,

Week 6

Ping Pong - Not Rated - 76 min - Digital


A = Auditorium
S = Screening Room

Fri. - May 31 - Not Showing
Sat. - June 1 - 4:00 pm A
Sun. - June 2 - 2:00 pm A
Mon. - June 3 - 6:00 pm S
Tues. - June 4 - Not Showing
Wed. - June 5 - Not Showing A
Thurs. - June 6 - Not Showing

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PING PONG is a documentary about elderly table tennis champs featuring Les D’Arcy, Lisa Modlich and Dorothy Delow. Senior citizens playing table tennis in Inner Mongolia. Sounds like the punchline for a bad joke. Or an ad for a Chinese retirement home.

It is neither. Ping Pong is a charming and even inspirational doc that follows eight medal-winning veterans of the sport on their way to and through the 15th annual World over-80s Table Tennis Championship.

Yes, I said sport, though the tendency is to think of ping-pong for this age group as lightweight rec-room entertainment. But these seniors take their game very seriously. They are athletes in every sense of the word.

Some perhaps more than others. England’s Les D’Arcy, at 89 years old, is more fit and focused than men half his age. He lifts weights and has a penchant for quoting philosophical poetry at length. He also wields a mean bat, with seven world championships and 20 gold medals to his credit. His sometime doubles partner, 81-year-old Terry Donlon, is anything but healthy. With a terminal cancer death threat hanging over his head, he wills himself well enough to make the trip to China to compete for what may be the last time.

Vienna-born Houston resident Lisa Modlich, 85, is the film’s most aggressive contender, with a challenging and unorthodox style she describes as being “as irregular as my driving.” Her German finals opponent, Inge Hermann, credits ping-pong for helping her fight her way back from dementia, and is feisty enough herself to trash-talk Modlich as “a stupid cow.” (They later make up.) Feistiest of all is Australian Dorothy Delow, who at the venerable age of 100 is competing in her 11th world championship.

Her sunny spirit inspires and astonishes. “Forget ping-pong,” an admiring 80-year-old Chinese player marvels. “If I can still stand up when I’m 100 I’ll be happy.” By the time they have worked their way up to the finals, you are emotionally invested enough in each of their stories you are genuinely caught up in the often fierce competition. But ultimately it doesn’t really matter who wins and who loses. You are grateful for the opportunity to have walked for a while in their orthopedic sneakers, and to experience their undiminished zest for life. Review by Rob Salem,

Week 7

London: The Modern Babylon - Not Rated - 125 min - Digital

Ends Wednesday


A = Auditorium
S = Screening Room

Fri. - June 7 - Not Showing
Sat. - June 8 - 4:00 pm A
Sun. - June 9 - 2:00 pm A
Mon. - June 10 - Not Showing
Tues. - June 11 - Not Showing
Wed. - June 12 - 7:00 pm A
Thurs. - June 13 - Not Showing

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Julien Temple's sprawling documentary pays tribute to the diverse people, sounds and neighborhoods of London.

A kaleidoscopic collage of social history and popular culture, momentous public events and intimate human stories, this sprawling documentary attempts the ambitious feat of telling the story of London from the dawn of the 20th century to today. Scheduled for limited release in UK cinemas this week to coincide with the London Olympic celebrations, Julien Temple’s archive-heavy film is a sensually rich and emotionally engaging experience. Partly backed by the BBC and the British Film Institute, it is a solid piece of work with niche theatrical potential among Anglophile culture vultures outside Britain, but will most likely find its natural audience on TV and DVD.

Emerging from the punk rock scene that energized London in the late 1970s, Temple has made several dramatic features in his three-decade career, but he remains most acclaimed for his socially conscious music-themed documentaries on the Sex Pistols, The Clash singer Joe Strummer, the Glastonbury rock festival, the city of Detroit and more. The irreverent spirit of punk still informs his directing style here -- not only in specific references like the Clash and Pistols songs that pepper the lively soundtrack, but also in the general celebration of London-based rebels and anarchists through the ages. Incorporating hand-cranked newsreel footage from the end of the 19th century, London: The Modern Babylon has a freewheeling but loosely chronological structure. Moving fluidly through a dense patchwork of extensive archive clips, songs, poems, and interview snippets both old and new, Temple charts the city’s bumpy evolution from Victorian capital of the British Empire to multicultural Olympic citadel of 2012. In between newsreel flashbacks, Temple inserts quickfire excerpts from classic London films including Hitchcock’s Blackmail, Michael Powell’s Peeping Tom, John Mackenzie’s The Long Good Friday and his own lavish musical flop, Absolute Beginners.

Woven into the busy musical soundtrack, a starry cast of narrators including Michael Gambon, Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton and Andy Serkis read quotations from WB Yeats, William Blake, TS Eliot and others. Meanwhile, famous London icons such as Michael Caine, David Bowie, Terence Stamp, Julie Christie, Quentin Crisp and the Rolling Stones all appear in archive cameos. Temple also includes first-hand reflections from a wide variety of Londoners including the 107-year-old former suffragette Hetty Bower, rocker Ray Davies of The Kinks and the veteran left-wing politician Tony Benn – plus a background chorus of storekeepers, dock workers, market traders and other cockney archetypes.

London: The Modern Babylon is an upbeat celebration of a city where over 40 per cent of the population are now non-British, and over 300 languages are spoken. But Temple is no simplistic propagandist, also exposing the city’s social and economic divisions, terrorist bombs and violent street riots. He pays unequivocal homage to successive waves of incoming immigrants who have reshaped and revitalised London -- from Jewish to Irish, Caribbean to Indian - but not without pausing to show the ugly racial tensions they often faced.

Squeezing more than a century of city life into just over two hours, London: The Modern Babylon inevitably offers only an impressionistic drive-by view of some momentous events: World War II bombing raids, the coronation of Queen Elizabeth, Winston Churchill’s funeral, the current financial crash. But precisely because it is such a messy and fragmented sprawl, Temple’s film does capture some of the true flavour of modern London – plus, most importantly, its heady mix of human stories. Review by Stephen Dalton,