Author Archives: beckbeam

PRESUMED GUILTY – Mesmerizing!

becky beamer doc and a drink review presumed guilty

I’ve been waiting for a chance to see PRESUMED GUILTY for months. The movie is, as expected, a Law & Order film and, as unexpected, an uplifting story of empowerment and personal justice. It’s one man’s struggle through the Mexican legal system after he gets convicted of a homicide he didn’t commit. It’s gotten critical acclaim internationally and, now, it’s showing at Silverdocs.

The visuals pulled me in and the strong storyline kept my attention. I also have to point out the detail spent on sound design and the sound track. It was superb. And, I found out that all of the hip hop songs were written and performed by the main character, Tono. Each character was perfectly crafted – as if they were in a Mexican Soap – each cast by an agent. There was a annoying shifting judge, crooked detective with excellent facial expressions, and a pregnant fiance. There was injustice, drama, and joy.

As I started absorbing everything I was seeing and feeling I was hit by the film’s access. The cameras were everywhere that cameras have never been before. The cameras followed the main character – Tono – behind bars in every corner of the prison and recorded the entire trial.

My personal pet peeve is with documentaries that take on a specific issue and then don’t explain what can be done to join the “mission”. This film has a clear message and just as clear directions for those who want to help “the cause”.

As it happens – yesterday the directors Roberto Hernández & Geoffrey Smith were in attendance. They answered questions from the audience. And while it’s always interesting to get additional background on the film, the most interesting part of the Q&A was that each question was preceded by and exclamation about the film’s excellence. Also notable was the emotion that was still evident in Roberto as he held back tears when discussing his experience with Tono (the main character of the film).

Unfortunately, there are no additional showings of PRESUMED GUILTY at Silverdocs. But, I have good news. A one hour version of the film will be aired on July 27th on PBS – for all to enjoy. Check your local listings to times. I also encourage everyone to check out the film’s website for future screenings and details.

Festival Tip of the Day: You can join the stand-by line before the movie and extra seats will be released 15 minutes before the movie starts.

5 out of 5 Cheers —

— Becky Beamer, Writer, Doc & a Drink


Silverdocs Opens to a Packed Crowd!

I just returned from a spectacular opening night at the AFI Silver theater for the AFI-Discovery Channel Silverdocs Film Festival.

Attending the opening just reminded me what a beautiful venue AFI – and local residents- have in the Silver.  The architecture is retro but unlike other refurbished theaters, the seats are comfortable, there’s plenty of leg room, and they have a stellar sound system.

FREAKONOMICS was the main event.  And besides the slow start – the night was a success.

Without giving too much away – I will say FREAKONOMICS stayed true to the book.  First, the authors were directly involved in the movie.   Also, like the book, the movie is divided into easily digestible segments directed by a variety of recognizable filmmakers.

The  powerhouse lineup includes:

Seth Gordon: Directed THE KING OF KONG in 2007 and he’s also A TV director for Parks and RecreationThe Office.

Alex Gibney: Won the Oscar for his 2007 documentary TAXI TO THE DARK SIDE.

Morgan Spurlock:  Known for his 2004 Oscar nominated documentary SUPER SIZE ME.

Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady: Nominated for an Oscar for their 2007 doc  JESUS CAMP.

Eugene Jarecki: Known for his 2005 doc called WHY WE FIGHT.

The film  highlighted the most memorable moments from the book including the explanation of “what’s in a name”, “causes of drop in violence” and “incentives for students”.  My favorite segment-hands down-was called “Incentives”.  The segment brought a “face” to the story of an economic experiment at a Chicago  high school.  The University of Chicago paid students for good grades and tracked the number of students who improve their scores. I found myself laughing out loud with the entire audience during this final segment – ending the film on a good note.  The characters were beyond endearing and their story was supported by hard facts and good camera work. As it happens the two directors (Ewing & Grady) and many of their local “cheer leaders” attended the event.   I am sure those two could “feel the love” in the building.

You can’t ask for more than a great feature and full and animated crowd for an opening night film festival.

I am sure Silverdocs is going to be exciting and educating all week.  JOIN THE FUN – GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!. Tickets are going fast.

Cheers & Beers —

— Becky Beamer, Writer, Doc & a Drink

Nordic docs – Wet and Steamy!

Becky Beamer

Like many, I am very excited about the Silverdocs line up this year.  Yes, I want to see FREAKONOMICS. Yes, I want to see STONES IN EXILE. Yes, I want to see FAMILY AFFAIR.

But given the number and diversity of films shown at Silverdocs each year there are always combinations, perhaps patterns, that emerge to surprise and delight. One such group in this year’s festival comprises the nine features and three shorts from Sweden, Finland and Denmark.

Sky Sitney, Silverdocs Artistic Director, has noted, “[the]…Nordic films in the lineup…take us deep into the Nordic psyche – found in saunas (STEAM OF LIFE), living rooms (LIVING ROOM OF THE NATION) and swimming pools (MEN WHO SWIM). While there is a great sense of joy, curiosity and humor in the films, there is also a strong sense of ‘Nordic Angst’ that may resonate more deeply with American audiences as we find ourselves reflecting on our own response to the sometimes angst-filled world of today.”

STEAM OF LIFE (see trailer) received a lot of praise when it was shown at another popular film festival – Hot Docs.

“What makes the film spectacular is not the gawking at naked men part. It’s the fact that these men, who come from a culture that privileges the strong, silent, tough-guy type, all open up in the sauna and share honest, frank stories about their lives.” READ MORE

It turns out Steam of Life would be one of just two films I saw over the course of the week that was actually shot on film (scrappy 16mm, no less) and really did warrant the tearful pleas to see it projected on a large screen.” READ MORE

Want to know even more? Check out these interviews with the directors, Jonas Berghäll and Mika Hotakainen

Then, there is LIVING ROOM OF THE NATION. (see trailer) This film received strong support at yet another well known doc film festival – SXSW.

“Finlanders are known more for their buttoned-up silence than their willingness to share their most intimate thoughts. But as producer Sami Jahnukainen noted at the film’s first North American screening here March 15, a single camera placed in living rooms across Finland produced hours of footage of Finlanders addressing their deepest, darkest thoughts. The end result? An engaging documentary, lovingly edited in a way that allows each character to form his or her own narrative.” READ MORE

I’m particularly looking forward to viewing MEN WHO SWIM. I mean who doesn’t want to see men’s synchronized swimming ?  Seriously! OK – I may be biased as I participated on a synchronized swimming team – the Flamingos – as a child.   Check out the trailer – it’s a MUST SEE! …. Funny – inspiring – quirky – and, oh yeah,  excellent synchronization! Click here for schedules and tickets.

On behalf of the Silver Docs Blog Team – – – I’ll see you at the show!

Cheers & Beers,

Becky Beamer

Writer – Doc & a Drink

Cheers & Beers

Have you heard ? The very fabulous and completely awesome documentary blog site Doc & a Drink will be joining the SILVERDOCSBlog Squad 2010.  We’re going to focus on filmmaker introspection and offer some insights and drink pairings for their films.
(Doc & a Drink ::: Part I ::: Becky Beamer )

becky beamer Doc and a Drink Spread the Love D.C

I started my documentary adventures in college at Pratt Institute. A few years later I moved to the District to work for National Geographic.  I absolutely adore alliterations, natural history, and the District.

“I’ll stay in D.C for a max of 2 years and then try another city.”

That was 7 years ago. Now, I find myself existing in a beautiful documentary niche here — outlasting peers while pairing docs and beers.

Besides the D&D blog, I have a personal website with my entire background, work history and reel.  Please check out my latest project – “Spread the Love_DC” – it’s ambitious and could benefit from some early adopters.

Stay tuned for Doc & a Drink Part II, Katy Jones.

Prediction – AFI Silverdocs 2010 – 5 out of 5 Cheers.