‘The Boy from Medellin’: The J Balvin doc doesn’t hit the right notes

“The Boy from Medellin” – Medellin is the capital city of Colombia’s Antioquia province.  It has a population of just over 2.5 million, and one of its favorite sons filmed his documentary here.  International reggaetón megastar J Balvin makes a triumphant return home to put on a massive show, but then again, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” Director Matthew Heineman follows this chart-busting marvel to his hometown for one week leading up to the planned live spectacular, but a set of soccer-stadium-sized stumbling blocks place…

‘The Year Earth Changed’ offers a silver lining to our cloudy year

“The Year Earth Changed” – “As we stop, remarkable things happen in the natural world.”  – David Attenborough COVID-19 has taken 3 million lives and disrupted almost 8 billion, and many of us have sheltered in place over the past year-plus.  It’s been a brutal time for the human race, and – countless times – I’ve said to myself and out loud, “Good riddance, 2020.” I assume that I’m not alone. With so much death and disruption, it’s challenging to find pandemic positives within our emotional spaces, especially when a…

Seek out ‘The Truffle Hunters’

“The Truffle Hunters” – Have you ever hunted for truffles?  It’s not that difficult.  Over the weekend, I strolled down a Trader Joe’s aisle and reached for a box of 16 Belgian truffles – an assortment of dark, milk, and white chocolates – sitting on an ordinary shelf about five feet off the ground.  The 7.05-ounce package cost about six dollars and was draped in decorative green and white wrapping paper because purchasing and devouring such a delicacy denotes a celebratory event, right?  Finding this particular sugary luxury burned about…

AHFW’s Top 20 Films of 2020: #2 ‘Gunda’

2. “Gunda” –  Have you ever lived on a farm?  Have you ever spent a few hours on one?  Well, director Viktor Kosakovskiy – inspired by his childhood pet piglet – places his camera on a small Norwegian homestead and follows the stories of a mama pig named Gunda, her piglets, nearby cows, and a one-legged chicken in a 93-minute documentary sans dialogue.  Shot in dreamy black and white, Kosakovskiy frames his friendly subjects at exceptionally close range and watches them stroll through their days.  While some carefree moments trigger…

AHFW’s Top 20 Films of 2020: #16 ‘Athlete A’

16. “Athlete A” – Directors Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk’s explosive, distressing documentary clarifies a horror show:  the sexual abuse and its cover-up at USA Gymnastics.  Cohen and Shenk interview “The Indianapolis Star” reporters who broke the story in 2016, as well as the survivors – the former gymnasts – who speak out against their abuser.  Heartbreaking but also empowering, “Athlete A” is a thorough 103-minute record of tenacious investigative journalism and the brave women who found their voices. ⭐⭐⭐ 1/2  out of  ⭐⭐⭐⭐ Image and Trailer credits:  Netflix

‘The Dissident’ sheds light on a pitch-black murder

“The Dissident” – “The Washington Post” journalist Jamal Khashoggi perished in a Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul on October 2, 2018, and the details of his murder are brutal. Sick. So sick that this critic won’t delve into the ugly specifics.  Well, director Bryan Fogel’s documentary does explain the man’s end in frank, grisly terms, but he thankfully spares his audience from photos or audio recordings.  Fogel makes a similar choice as director Werner Herzog did in “Grizzly Man” (2005), a film about the late Timothy Treadwell and his demise…

Movie of the Week: ‘Searching for Sugar Man’

AHFW’s Movie of the Week isn’t a feature but a documentary, a remarkable one.  We urge you to see “Searching for Sugar Man”! “Searching for Sugar Man” (2012) – Director Malik Bendjelloul’s film about folk singer Sixto Rodriguez won the Best Documentary Oscar in February 2013, and this critic thought “Searching for Sugar Man” was the best film – feature or doc – of 2012.   Who is Sixto Rodriguez?  He made two albums in 1970 and 1971, respectively, but this talented singer-songwriter’s career didn’t take off in the U.S.  It…

‘Time’ is sometimes off, but the punctual, personal messages resonate

“Time” – “If you fall, I will catch you.  I will be waiting, time after time.” – Cyndi Lauper, “Time After Time” Sibil Fox Richardson (a.k.a. Fox Rich) has been waiting for her husband’s return for just over 20 years.  Fox and her high school sweetheart Rob are not legally separated but remain physically apart. The couple is legally separated but in an altogether different way.  You see, in 1999, a Louisiana court sentenced Rob to 60 years in prison for armed robbery, and Fox was not an unknowing party. …

Watch Oscar-winner ‘The Cove’ on Marine Mammal Rescue Day

Hey, Happy Marine Mammal Rescue Day!   Since we are big Ric O’Barry fans, April 27 is an important day. If animal rescue is your thing, or if you are in the mood for a heart-stopping and heartbreaking documentary, then “The Cove” (2009) is a must-see.   Winning the 2010 Best Documentary Oscar, director Louie Psihoyos’ film follows Ric O’Barry – the former “Flipper” trainer – as he travels to Taijii, Japan to chronicle and hopefully stop a brutal, seasonal dolphin slaughter. Psihoyos’ film feels like an espionage movie, as O’Barry and…

‘All the Wild Horses’ wins by a comfortable margin

“All the Wild Horses” – The Kentucky Derby began in 1875, and this 1.25-mile race is dubbed the most exciting two minutes in sports. On the other side of the world, Mongolia hosts an altogether different event.  The Mongol Derby is one thousand kilometers long and runs across the country’s prairies.  The contest takes eight days to complete and is known as the longest and toughest horse race in the world. If the Run for the Roses is an ultra-brisk sprint, then the Mongol Derby is a marathon of the…