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"October Country," "Timbuktu," "Videocracy" and "American Radical"

The Auteurs Daily

October Country

"The type of introspective, intimate domestic American nonfiction that has sprouted up so much in art-house theaters in the wake of the success of Capturing the Friedmans has come to typify documentary filmmaking of the past decade," writes Michael Koresky for indieWIRE. "Itself somewhat of an acolyte of the far more sensitive Crumb, which at least foregrounded its inevitable grotesquerie, Andrew Jarecki's sensational depiction of an upper-middle-class Jewish family torn apart by intimations of child molestation tried to pass off its essentially exploitative nature as an investigation into American suburbia.... Filmmakers Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher correct Jarecki's inelegance with their surprisingly stirring new film October Country, a visually remarkable and thematically unpretentious peek behind the doors of one upstate New York family."

It "forsakes guilty-pleasure exploitation and simply wows you in every other way," finds Kevin B Lee in Time Out New York. More from Joseph Jon Lanthier (Slant), Karina Longworth (Voice), S James Snyder (Artforum) and Justin Stewart (L). Opens at the IFC Center in New York on Friday. Update, 2/12: Noel Murray (AV Club) and AO Scott (NYT).

More docs opening this week: "An infectiously amused, if ultimately slight, portrait of irrepressible wanderlust and child-like curiosity, Barefoot to Timbuktu follows the illustrious exploits of Swiss artist and impromptu global activist Ernst Aebi through his lucrative days in the 1960s Soho art gallery scene to his subsequent adventures abroad," writes Joseph Jon Lanthier in Slant. More from Nicholas Rapold (TONY) and Vadim Rizov (Voice). At New York's Quad Cinema from Friday on. Update, 2/12: Mike Hale (NYT).

Also in Slant, Nick Schager: "A stylized, scattershot inquiry into Italy's TV-dominated culture, Videocracy is a portrait of 21st-century media fascism, right down to the country's renowned small-screen agent Lele Mora espousing his fondness for Mussolini and then playing a clip of the dictator's hymns on his cell phone, swastika imagery included. Writer-director Erik Gandini's documentary operates from the thesis that President Silvio Berlusconi, who controls 90 percent of the country's broadcast media, has created a corrosive Fourth Reich culture that champions fame as the ultimate ideal."

More from Joshua Rothkopf (TONY), Michael Joshua Rowin (L) and Matt Singer (IFC). Earlier: Reviews from Venice and Toronto. For Filmmaker, Damon Smith talks with Gandini "about Berlusconismo, the society of spectacle, and why people with no ideology are scarier than dictators." Opens at the IFC Center on Friday and then screens at the Portland International Film Festival on February 24 and 27. Update, 2/12: Manohla Dargis (NYT), Erin Donavan, Steve Erickson (Gay City News) and Noel Murray (AV Club).

"Even for those likely to be sympathetic to his point of view, Norman Finkelstein can be a difficult figure to embrace," writes Andrew Schenker in, yes, Slant. "Last seen stealing the show from ostensible star Abraham Foxman in Defamation, Yoav Shamir's look at the dubious uses of anti-Semitism among American and Israeli Jews, the Holocaust Industry author now finds himself center stage in David Ridgen and Nicolas Rossier's American Radical." The Holocaust Industry "accuses Israel (whose existence he supports) and its Diaspora Jewish supporters of playing the Holocaust-victim card in order to divert attention from the oppression of Palestinians," writes Ella Taylor in the Voice. "Finkelstein is partly right, but American Radical shows - albeit with great reluctance - how a formidable intellect partnered with an absolutist disposition can get you absolutely nowhere."

More from Joshua Rothkopf (TONY) and James van Maanen. At Anthology Film Archives from tomorrow through February 17. Update, 2/12: Stephen Holden (NYT).

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