For all my desire to celebrate the 40th Chicago International Film Festival as it moves into its second week, one thing sticks in my craw. Festivals are supposed to reflect what’s going on in the world of cinema, and one of the most important things going on right now is the astonishing and unprecedented success of muckraking documentaries. This year a remarkable number of films critical of the Bush administration have been released, including an astute French documentary by William Karel, The World According to Bush (which just showed up on Amazon). Yet not one of them is in the festival, a lamentable lost opportunity.
Chicago isn’t the only U.S. festival to help marginalize these works. The biggest concentration of anti-Bush films I’ve heard about all year turned up in Rotterdam rather than in this country. Are festivals unconsciously duplicating the self-censorship of network and cable TV, which has made these documentaries so necessary? The most conclusive evidence I’ve seen so far of why the American war strategy in Iraq has been disastrous is an account by a Swedish journalist of an army raid in Samarra, but the only place it’s available so far is as an “extra” on the DVD of Fahrenheit 9/11–with the unforgivable addition of guitar accompaniment.
Having gotten this off my chest, I want to offer a handful of recommendations. Among the remaining films that I’ve seen, Moolade and The 10th District Court are two masterpieces that shouldn’t be missed. My next two favorites, smaller in scope but just as successful in achieving their own goals, are Dear Frankie and Sideways. Other worthy possibilities are described in the reviews and descriptions below.