Movies

Politics, power, and pickles

Ethan Hawke (right) with Seymour Bernstein in “Seymour: An Introduction,” which Hawke directed.

Ramsey Fendall

Ethan Hawke (right) with Seymour Bernstein in “Seymour: An Introduction,” which Hawke directed.

Kirby Dick’s “The Hunting Ground,” now playing at the Kendall Square Cinema, has shocked audiences with its revelations about sexual assaults on college campuses in the United States. BBC documentarian Leslee Udwin’s “India’s Daughter,” about the gang rape and murder of a young woman on a Delhi bus in 2012, also shocks audiences. But not in India. Fearing it might provoke a public already outraged by the crime, the courts banned its broadcast.

The film had its US premiere in New York Monday at Baruch College with a special screening attended by Meryl Streep and Freida Pinto, star of the 2008 Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire.” “This is not just an India problem, this is a problem that afflicts almost every country in the world,” said Pinto at the event. “There’s not a single country in 2015 that is free of sexual violence against women.” Kirby’s film suggests as much.

On the air

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On the weekend of Feb. 28, 150 million people in China watched a video about air pollution. In “Under the Dome” (yes, it is named after CBS’s popular sci-fi series), Chai Jing, a reporter for China Central Television, supplements Al Gore’s PowerPoint lecture approach with heart-rending personal experiences to condemn governmental negligence in protecting the environment. Anecdotes about her daughter prove especially effective, as the responses of the audience demonstrate.

The facts she relates are truly frightening, but almost as impressive is the fact that the program was permitted to be posted at all — a marked contrast to the official response to “India’s Daughter.” Does this mean a victory for free expression, or is it a sly way for the government to introduce a more enlightened approach to the pollution problem? Either way, the Chinese people, and the world, win.

To see “Under the Dome” go to www
.youtube.com/watch?v=T6X2uwlQG
QM#t=45

Service industry

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Erik Greenberg Anjou’s “Deli Man,” now playing at the West Newton Cinema, celebrates delicatessens that have maintained the old traditions, including treating employees fairly. That was not the case at the Hot & Crusty on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. As shown in Robin Blotnick and Rachel Lears’s documentary, “The Hand that Feeds (which does not yet have a local opening date), the management exploited undocumented workers by paying them a fraction of the minimum wage.

But they did not figure on the determination of their sandwich maker Mahoma Lopez, who unionized the workers and mobilized them into demanding a fair contract. It’s Norma Rae with a side of sauerkraut, a tribute to American labor, and an example of socially conscious documentary filmmaking at its best.

For more information about “The Hand That Feeds” go to thehandthat

feedsfilm.com

In honor of Schmeer

The fifth annual Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship has been awarded to Anna Gustavi, whose work can be seen in the documentary “Seymour: An Introduction,” which opens March 27 at the Kendall Square Cinema.

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The fellowship honors the memory of Karen Schmeer, an outstanding film editor who worked with Cambridge documentarians Robb Moss and Errol Morris, among others. She was killed in a hit-and-run accident in 2010, three weeks short of her 40th birthday.

For more information about the Karen Schmeer Film Editing Fellowship go to www.karenschmeer.com

Peter Keough can be reached at peter
vkeough@gmail.com
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