Crime + Punishment

2018-12-24T17:42:31+00:00Categories: Docs in Review|

Crime + Punishment Director:  Stephen Maing. Watched on:  Hulu. Rating:  3.5/5.    You can tell that director Stephen Maing has studied his Serpico, The Conversation, and Prince of the City, those great fictional films from the ‘70s and early ‘80s that seethe with atmospheres of graft, corruption, menace, and surveillance; the sinister forces conspiring against lone heroes, the whistleblower, the watcher, the listener. I’ll remember Maing’s extremely well-made Crime + Punishment more for this authentic conjuring of those superior films than I will for the story he tells. Not so much because the story isn’t worth telling, but because he keeps telling it over and over. The movie’s main flaw is repetition, and maybe a bit too much self-indulgence in the area of transitional pauses, those moments that most documentaries fail to register, when characters (and viewers) need to catch their breath or reflect on the story's developments. There are also the unnecessary drone flyovers of New York precincts. These shots announce the film’s big budget, but little else. Maing clearly loves these interstitial segues. But they often suggest more of an indulgence on his part than a necessary element in the narrative flow. He also enjoys filming drivers in their cars, framing close-ups of their hands and rearview mirrors and darting eyes, while they talk in voice-over or aloud to the ride-along cameraman. And he relies a lot on hidden microphone audio, which gives the film a sense of low-grade danger. But as audacious and revealing much of it is, it's also excessive, a little [...]


2018-10-26T23:35:45+00:00Categories: Docs in Review|

Motherland Director:  Ramona S. Diaz. Watched on:  Amazon Prime. Rating:  3.5/5.    Motherland is a straightforward cinema verité excursion into the world’s busiest maternity hospital. It will remind viewers of Frederick Wiseman’s hands-off approach, but it is so much more absorbing and audience friendly than the legendary director’s lengthy and–dare I say it–often monotonous observational panoramic takes on institutions and communities. Motherland portrays a community as well, but it is an exclusive one, comprised mostly of young mothers, nurses, doctors and the occasional visiting fathers. The hospital is in Manila. Its vast stable of beds are lined up warehouse-style. Announcements are made over loudspeakers. Fans cool the new moms. Family planning counselors attempt to encourage them to receive IUD implants. The moms are young, mostly in their twenties, with several hungry children already at home. A 24-year old has five kids; a 26-year old has six; a slightly older mom is breastfeeding her seventh. A few of the women emerge as characters, as do a couple of the stern doctors who patrol the floor, admonishing women to keep track of their babies, eat their meals, and settle in for a long haul. Because of chronic poverty and the malnutrition that goes along with it, many of the babies are born premature. Mom and infant are not expected to leave until the baby’s health is cleared. In its own matter-of-fact, tough love way, the hospital is a place of compassion and rest in an extremely chaotic city. The dads don’t appear until halfway through the film. But [...]

Go to Top