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NYScreen: Gorgeous Shots of Troubled Times

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Hot House  

How do you make a documentary look striking enough that it commands the viewer’s attention—without putting a too-slick gloss on a rough subject? Too often, documentarians sidestep the question entirely, opting for the fake authenticity of jittery filmmaking, but the unusually strong slate of films in this year’s Human Rights Watch International Film Festival, at the Walter Reade Theater from June 15 through June 28, offers up a few new answers: Jennifer Baichwal’s Manufactured Landscapes employs the kind of epic tracking shots that would make Scorsese blush in order to capture the Goliath scale of factories, global sprawl, and man-made disasters. Laura Dunn’s stunning The Unforeseen tells a classic Americana tale—a Texas real-estate developer’s unbridled hubris ruins both him and his hometown—with the most extraordinary photography this side of Terrence Malick (the Waco-born director co-produced the film). Still, the highlight of the festival is undoubtedly Israeli filmmaker Shimon Dotan’s Hot House (pictured), also premiering on Cinemax June 27. The Sundance prize winner is shot with a roving, probing camera that burrows into the lives of some of the 9,000 Palestinians imprisoned by Israel on security charges. With startlingly candid interviews and baffling access, Dotan’s film describes how these prisons have become the de facto universities—and political conventions—for the next generation of Fatah and Hamas leaders.


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