Doc Roundup: December 13, 2007

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IN THEATERS
Black and white photo of people with their hands up in the air, from the film Nanking

A film still from Nanking

In 1937, Japan invaded the Chinese city of Nanking (now called Nanjing). They slaughtered over 200,000 civilians and committed 20,000 rapes in six weeks. The new film Nanking by Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman remembers this event, also known as the rape of Nanking. Twenty-two Europeans and Americans set up a safety zone in an attempt to save as many lives as possible, and the film focuses on the group through the readings of diaries and letters written by them, recited by actors including Mariel Hemingway and Woody Harrelson. In a rave review, the Hollywood Reporter says that “Nanking honors the highest calling of documentary filmmaking” and Film Threat notes that “[w]hile at times the film begins to feel like a laundry list of bad deeds, the first-person accounts pack a wallop.”

ON DVD
Danish filmmaker Asger Leth’s Ghosts of Cite Soleil is a portrait of the turbulence in Haiti during the 2004 overthrow of Jean-Bertrand Aristide and his government. The main subjects of the film are two brothers who are gang leaders hired by Aristide’s government as “enforcers.” The film is full of chaos and violence, and blends vérité footage with newsreels. Reviews of Ghosts of Cite Soleil were deeply divided, and many reviewers noted that the film is — at different times — incoherent, intimate and explosive; the overall effect is the the film is unlike any other documentary film. The New York Daily News calls the film an “… indelible documentary, which dives into the brutal heart of a place most people would avoid at all cost, but the Guardian gave a much harsher review, calling the film “politically and morally illiterate.”

Ruiyan Xu
Ruiyan Xu
Former POVer Ruiyan Xu worked on developing and producing materials for POV's website. Before coming to POV, she worked in the Interactive and Broadband department at Channel Thirteen/WNET. Ruiyan was born in Shanghai and graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Modern Culture and Media.