One silver lining to these whacked out times is the new art that hopefully helps us cope. That includes cinema and, more specifically, provocative documentaries.
Five docs playing regionally over the next week and a half address hate, injustice, sick leave, gentrification and the death penalty.
Each screening is followed by discussions with filmmakers and/or locals involved in those issues.
Three showings are in non-traditional venues for seeing films and two are in historic moviehouses.
Not included in this roundup is Fahrenheit 11/9, Michael Moore’s documentary that explores “the two most important questions of the Trump Era: How the f**k did we get here, and how the f**k do we get out?” It opens in mainstream theaters countywide on Friday, Sept. 21.
The coming attractions covered here are :
Documenting Hate: Charlottesville
The film from PBS and ProPublica looks at the white power/white separatist/antisemitic/neo-fascist rallies that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia, from Aug. 11-12, 2017, but a local thread involves the rise of hate groups in Orange County and January’s murder of Blaze Bernstein. (Editor Nick Schou recently wrote of OC Weekly‘s role in the film and ProPublica’s reporting.) Authorities believe 19-year-old Bernstein, who was gay and Jewish, died in a fatal hate-crime stabbing by former classmate Samuel Woodward, 21, who ProPublica tied to Atomwaffen Division. Members of the fascist extremist group celebrated Bernstein’s death on encrypted chats online that Woodward himself participated in just three days after the slaying. The screening is “a family gathering” that includes a moderated panel discussion by “leaders and organizers who are tireless champions for equality, decency and justice,” according to organizers with Equality California, Human Rights Campaign, Anti-Defamation League, Organizing for Action, and LGBT Center of Orange County. “We rise together to say hate, discrimination and violence is not accepted in our Orange County. We know that there is hope when we come together. We will not be silent.” Irvine United Congregational Church, 4915 Alton Pkwy., Irvine; orangecounty.adl.org. Wed., Sept. 12, 6 p.m. Free.
Me Facing Life: Cyntoia’s Story
It’s the director’s cut of the documentary about Cyntoia Brown, a sex trafficking victim who was sentenced to life in prison at the age of 16 for killing a male john. Director Dan Birman, who participates in an audience Q&A and reception after the screening, does not paint Brown as an angel, but his film does make you question the harsh sentence given to a teen who had not yet reached adulthood. Business casual attire suggested, and all proceeds benefit Orange County Women’s Health Project. Port Theater, 2905 E. Coast Hwy., Corona del Mar, (714) 619-8419; ocwomenshealth.org. Sun., Sept. 16, 4 p.m. $100-$1,000.
The Orange County Civic Engagement Table, Nextgen America, California Work & Family Coalition, ACLU SoCal, Indivisible OC 45 and other organizations host a screening of Ky Dickens’ 2017 documentary about “America’s sick leave crisis” followed by a panel discussion. Why? Because Representative Mimi Walters (R-Irvine) recently introduced a bill in Congress that claims to expand flexibility for workers but, according to event organizers, it “would rob employees of their rights under state and local law to earn paid sick days and use them as needed.” Irvine United Congregational Church, 4915 Alton Pkwy., Irvine; occet.org. Tues., Sept. 18, 6:30 p.m. Free.
Priced Out: Gentrification in Portland, Oregon
Documentarian Cornelius Swart takes a personal and investigative look at housing discrimination and the pain of losing one’s community as new money moves into ethnic communities and old residents find themselves priced out. It’s certainly not a problem confined to Portland, and to drive home that fact, Emphasize Displacement presents the free screening and talk with Swart and a panel of experts about gentrification in Long Beach. Art Theatre, (562) 438-5435. Thurs., Sept. 20, 6:30 p.m. Free.
Cal State Fullerton’s Division of Politics, Administration and Justice presents Will Francome and Mark Pizzey’s new documentary on the death penalty, followed by a panel discussion. The film reveals an America where grieving families, botched executions and wrongful convictions challenge what we think we know about the ultimate punishment. Cal State Fullerton, Humanities 110, 800 N. State College Blvd., Fullerton, (657) 278-2011. Thurs., Sept. 20, 7 p.m. Free.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.