New film series at Frontline – Recommends
Sunday the 5th of June marks the beginning of Frontline’s new ‘Recommends’ season; a new screening strand in which friends of Frontline select one of their favourite documentaries to be shown weekly on Sundays.
Clive Stafford Smith’s choice Fourteen Days in May, directed by Paul Hamann, inaugurates the season. The seminal documentary about Edward Earl Johnson, an African-American convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to the death penalty in Mississippi, has become one of the most venerated documentaries about the death penalty. It gives unprecedented access to the prison system in which the death penalty still operates, including the voices of capital punishment in America.
For Stafford Smith, “the film goes a very small way to vindicating him [Johnson] and ensuring that something positive came out of the nightmare of his death.”
The following Sunday brings us Nick Fraser’s recommendation Please Vote For Me; director Weijun Chen’s experiment in introducing democracy to the ordinary Chinese citizen.
For Fraser, the film addresses attitudes towards democracy and questions regarding the meaning of citizenship “briskly and hilariously” via an election held in a third grade class election in a school in Wuhan, in which students run for the newly created position of class monitor. An election that, urged on by teachers and parents, becomes increasingly competitive as it wears on and through which Chen explores whether democratic elections outside the Communist Party would be possible in China.
“A rare delight, a true slice of life, an inspiration to many, and funny as f***” is how Sean Langan describes his recommendation and third instalment in the ‘Recommends’ season – Ross McElwee’s Sherman’s March.
Originally commissioned as a documentary about General Tecumseh Sherman’s devastating march through Georgia and the Carolinas in the last year of the American Civil War, the film’s focus shifts in the light of the filmmaker’s breakup with his girlfriend, becoming a painful, hilarious and epic journey frequently sidetracked by women and disappointed hopes of love and romance. Despite the deviations, the film still manages to examine the legacy and complexity of Sherman’s life while also giving a fascinating insight into corporate greed, religious zeal and impending nuclear doom in America in the ‘80’s.
Fourteen Days in May is screening on June 5 at 4pm. Details are here
Please Vote for Me is screening on June 12 at 4pm. Details are here
Sherman’s March is screening on June 19 at 4pm. Details are here
by Sam Bavin.