The Iron Hammer is a new documentary about Chinese icon Lang Ping, the first person in volleyball history to have won gold at the Olympics, both as a player and as a coach.
Directed by by Joan Chen; the film follows Ping’s journey in China, to a career coaching abroad, then returning back to China to transform a struggling national team into champions.
My story with volleyball starts and ends with mandatory physical education in high school. ‘Good at it’ I most certainly wasn’t. What I am is interested in Ping’s life story; how she came to be the best, likely against some notable odds.
Charting his struggles in two worlds, Be Water is a new documentary about Hong Kong American actor, director, martial artist and philosopher Bruce Lee, after he was rejected by Hollywood and returned to Hong Kong to complete four films.
Directed by Bao Nguyen, Be Water explores questions of identity and representation, through archive footage, intimate interviews, and Lee’s own writings.
I haven’t watched many martial arts movies; well, except Jackie Chan and Chris Tucker’s Rush Houraction/comedies. Yet, I never needed to in order for me to be aware of Bruce Lee.
Lee is after all one of the major cultural icons of the twentieth century, and my brother has been a fan ever since his first Bruce Lee movie.
‘Be shapeless, formless, like water‘ is one of Lee’s most famous quotes. I look forward to finding out the ways in which he applied ‘be water’ and other philosophies in his unfortunately short life.
Lenox Hill is a new documentary about the lives of four doctors – two brain surgeons, an emergency room physician, and a Chief Resident OBGYN – as they navigate the ups and downs of working at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Featured medical professionals include David Langer, MD – chair of neurosurgery and doctor John Boockvar, vice chair of the same department.
It looks as though this was filmed before New York City’s Covid 19 lockdown.
Either way, I’m interested to learn more abut the lives and experiences of medical professionals. After all, Grey’s Anatomy definitely isn’t happening right now, and shows like this are really good for reminding me to practice gratitude.
An interesting character study is what I was expecting director Benjamin Ree’s documentary The Painter and the Thiefto be; the story of Czech artist Barbora Kysilkova. Specifically the unexpected bond she forms with Karl Bertil-Nordland, the troubled man who stole her paintings from a gallery in broad daylight.
Ree’s film is indeed a good character study. We get to learn some detail about Karl and Barbora’s stories, leading me to realise why their friendship makes sense. It’s just that I had additional questions that didn’t get answered. Particularly concerning detail about Karl’s childhood, his mother and two siblings.
By the end, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky both Karl and Barbora were to have met very important people in their lives. Especially at a time when they least expected it. In Barbora’s case, it’s meeting her husband and arguably Karl. And for Karl, it’s of course, meeting the extraordinary and compassionate Barbora. The latter case making The Painter and the Thief another memorable story of a beautiful and very unexpected friendship.
Other key moments that stood out include the specific scene that shows how truly transformative and powerful art can be. There’s also the satisfying footage of when Barbora is seen in her element while drawing and painting. Lastly, the footage of the open, honest and respectful dialogue between Barbora and her husband.
Watch The Painter and the Thief if you’re curious. I’m glad I saw it even though I wish that more of my questions had been answered.
With a now famous oeuvre that has attracted millions of fans worldwide, including myself, the biggest revelation wasn’t simply that Klint was great but that she is actually the world’s first abstract artist. One who, for many years wasn’t mentioned anywhere in art history books; an unfortunate result of the usual sexism within the field.
Directed by Halina Dyrschka, I simply had to watch Beyond The Visible – Hilma af Klint to learn about an extraordinary woman. A woman who’s not only now firmly on my list of favourite artists, but one who also happens to be abstraction’s biggest discovery.
Through the use of images of Klint’s art, interviews with surviving family members, art experts and recreations of her most famous pieces, Dyrschka teaches us about the life of Klint, what made her tick and the inspiration behind her great works.
A key highlight of watching Dyrschka’s documentary is getting to look at a fair amount of Klint’s body of work. I definitely savoured every moment the camera was focused on her creations. Perhaps even more so once science, spirituality and ‘that which is invisible to the eye‘ were mentioned as additional sources of inspiration.
In terms of anything I didn’t love about this documentary, that would be the periods mainly at the beginning where it felt like the pace was slower than preferred. There may also be a chance that I was simply impatient to know as much as I could about Klint. Especially since beyond my appreciation of her use of colour, shapes and proportion, I had zero idea about what any of it really meant. By the end, what I knew for sure is that I had an expanded appreciation for science.
Watch Dyrschka’s film if you’re a fan of abstraction, curious about Klint – a woman who knew herself well enough to say, among other things:
‘Within me wells forth such power carrying me forward, that marriage and family happiness are not my destiny.’
There’s of course the art. Definitely watch for more of Klint’s beautiful art.
Becoming is a new intimate documentary that looks at the life of former First Lady Michelle Obama.
Directed by Nadia Hallgren, Becoming focuses on Michelle’s hopes and connection with others as she embarks on a 34-city tour that highlights the power of community to bridge our divides. As well as the spirit of connection that comes when we openly and honestly share our stories.
‘As my mother would say, Michelle and Barack Obama aren’t special. There are millions of Michelle and Barack Obamas all over the world.’
I do agree that the above is indeed true but so is the statement ‘Michelle and Barrack Obama are special‘.
I’m looking spending time with a smart, generous woman as she goes about positively affecting, inspiring and lifting those around her.