TCM: The Essentials. For the new season of the acclaimed Turner Classic Movies series, host Ben Mankiewicz is joined by director Ava DuVernay to present films that had a profound cultural and personal influence on her. Dog Day Afternoon, Claudine, Sounder, The Battle Of Algiers, and Daughters Of The Dust are just some of the films that will featured throughout the series, with DuVernay offering her insights before and after each film. It’s a great evening of movies anchored by one of the top directors in the game. TCM: The Essentials premieres this Saturday, May 4th at 8pm East. You can also go to www.tcm.com for more information.
ReMastered: Devil At The Crossroads. The latest in Netflix’s ReMastered series looks back at the brief life, career and legacy of bluesman Robert Johnson. With the use of archival and new interviews with Johnson’s family, contemporaries, historians and devotees, the doc shows how Johnson forever changed the musical landscape with such classics as ‘Crossroads’, ‘Sweet Home Chicago’, ‘Love In Vain’. It also dives into the mythology on whether or not Johnson rapid ascension in stardom was in part due to selling his soul to the Devil in exchange for advanced musical prowess and fame. It also covers how the various tragedies in Johnson’s life played a key role in some of his greatest work – and led to his sudden and dramatic death. Finally, it details how Johnson’s small, but impactful body of work – 29 songs – had a profound impact on the world of rock, blues, funk and hip hop. It’s a fascinating look at a musical titan. ReMastered: Devil At The Crossroads is available now on Netflix.
Grass Is Greener. Fab Five Freddy directs this new Netflix documentary about how cannabis has played a key role in Black American music from jazz to hip hop – and their cultural impact led to a crackdown on weed that is still being felt today. Fab Five Freddy uses archival footage along with interviews with leading figures in the world of music, medical and policy experts to back up the claim that racism has fueled the so called War On Drugs as much as health concerns. The doc also shows that even the push to make weed illegal has made dramatic leaps across the country, there’s still a significant amount of Black and Brown people are still getting locked up on possession charges – and no real plan to excommunicate those doing significant time for marijuana related offenses. It also points out the cruel irony that even as Blacks and Latinos have borne the brunt of marijuana-related convictions, it’s white owned business that are largely profiting from legal weed. Going from New York to Jamaica and all points in between, Fab Five Freddy has put together a doc that is both informative and thought provoking. Grass Is Greener is available now on Netflix.
Bolden. Outside of hardcore devotees, the name of Buddy Bolden doesn’t often come up in conversations about the jazz greats. Writer-director Dan Pritzker aims to bring more awareness to Bolden’s music and importance with this new biopic. Gary Carr (The Deuce) portrays the Bolden, a cornet player, who in the early 1900’s, introduced improvisation into blues, ragtime and gospel to create what is commonly referred to now as jazz. But as Bolden’s fame grows, racism, shady management, drugs and alcohol all but derail his career. But even as mental illness would confine him to an institution for the rest of his life, Bolden’s influence would later be recognized and felt by such icons as Louis Armstrong, Jelly Roll Morton and Duke Ellington. Despite having little documented information about his life, Pritzker puts together a strong narrative that captures the excitement of the period as Bolden spearheads a new musical terrain. He also captures the rampant racism and overall exploitation that Bolden and other musicians had to endure during this time. Carr, last seen as the cutthroat pimp C.C.
on The Deuce, makes a strong turn in the title role, capturing both the aurora and charisma that made Bolden such a sensation. With a fantastic score by Wynton Marsalis, Pritzker has craft a solid salute to one of music’s most unsung heroes. Bolden opens nationwide this weekend. You can also go to www.boldenmovie.com for more information.
New York City: The 2019 Pen World Voices Festival: Open Secrets. Now in its 15th Year, The Pen World Voices Festival brings together 125 of the world’s best writers in an effort to foster more dialogue between the United States and the world on a variety of issues. This year’s theme is Open Secrets with guests such as Bill T. Jones, Laurie Anderson, Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, and Morgan Parker discussing the things we withhold, reveal, and the how blurring the line between the public and private across the board has positive and negative effects. Whether you are deep into the literary world or want to get a quick introduction, this festival has you covered. The 2019 Pen World Voices Festival: Open Secrets runs May 6th through the 12th. You can also go to www.worldvoices.pen.org for more information.
Los Angeles: Contact High: A Visual History Of Hip Hop by Vikki Toback. As a companion to the book of the same name, journalist Vikki Toback curates this new exhibit celebrating the photographers that gave hip hop its visual identity. Toback has assembled for 140 shots from more than 60 photographers that shows the evolution of how hip hop went from clubs and roller ruins to theaters, arenas and stadiums. In addition to iconic shots of Notorious B.I.G., Tupac, Snoop Dogg, Cardi B, and Salt-N-Pepa, there’s also a pics of Mac Miller and Nipsey Hustle. It’s a fantastic look at the birth and ongoing rise of a global phenomenon. Contact High: A Visual History Of Hip will be at the Annenberg Space For Photography through August 18th. You can also go to www.annebergphotospace.org for more information.