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doc talk | peter keough

Doc Talk: Kidnapping, counseling, believing, Mooch-ifying

“The Gospel of Eureka” screens Oct. 22 as part of the DocYard series at the Brattle Theatre.
“The Gospel of Eureka” screens Oct. 22 as part of the DocYard series at the Brattle Theatre.(Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher)

In 2014 the terrorist group Boko Haram kidnapped more than 200 girls from a school in northeastern Nigeria. Some escaped, but most remained prisoners. Many were forced to marry their captors. The world expressed outrage, but the Nigerian government was slow in rescuing the hostages. In 2017 it negotiated the release of 82.

In their documentary “Stolen Daughters: Kidnapped by Boko Haram,” producer-writer Karen Edwards and director Gemma Atwal gain exclusive access to some of the freed girls, then being kept in a government safe house. She speaks to them about their rehabilitation from the trauma and their plans to attend a university, but was not allowed to ask questions about their experience in captivity. 

Edwards and Atwal did track down a few of the thousands of other girls who have been similarly victimized by Boko Haram and who were able to relate details of their ordeal. They tell tales of cruelty, suffering, and unbelievable heroism and compassion, a testament to the resilience of innocence and decency in the face of incomprehensible evil.

“Stolen Daughters: Kidnapped by Boko Haram” can be seen on HBO Oct. 22 at 8 p.m.

Guidance system

When public schools in poor neighborhoods in Brooklyn can’t provide enough guidance counselors to serve the needs of seniors applying for college, the students themselves step up to fulfill that need. Eddie Martinez and Julianne Dressner’s documentary “Personal Statement” (the title refers to the autobiographical essay required on most college applications ) profiles three such teenagers, who overcome their own personal challenges while participating in a program to motivate and instruct others in the complicated process.

They include the no-nonsense Karoline, a lesbian who overcomes a chaotic home environment and homophobia to pursue her dream of attending Smith College while whipping her fellow applicants into shape. Enoch, whose mother is in a homeless shelter, lives with his sister and niece in a small apartment; he hopes to get a football scholarship but struggles with his grades. Christine organizes political demonstrations, in addition to helping other students and excelling academically; unfortunately, her traditionally minded family is not keen on her hopes to attend the New School.

The filmmakers expose the disparity in opportunities in our educational system as they share their subjects’ lives over the course of their senior year and beyond. Despite dramatic ups and downs, the three demonstrate determination and resourcefulness in pursuing their goals and inspire hope that the future is in good hands.

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“Personal Statement” can be seen on “America Reframed,” on PBS and the World Channel, Oct. 23 at 8 p.m. It begins streaming on www.americareframed.org Oct. 24.

Go to worldchannel.org/programs/episode/arf-s6-614-personal-statement.

‘Eureka’ moment

Eureka Springs, Ark., population 2,073, is the site of Christ of the Ozarks, the largest statue of Jesus in North America, and hosts “The Great Passion Play,” a live performance of the last days of Christ that is a combination of theme-park magic, Cecil B. DeMille theatrics, Mel Gibson mayhem, and homespun kitsch. The show draws millions of spectators every year.

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As seen in Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher’s “The Gospel of Eureka,” Eureka Springs is also home to a thriving gay community — many members of which share the same evangelical faith as other residents. All are welcome at the town’s other main attraction, the fabulous Eureka Live Underground cabaret with its raunchy but oddly reverent drag shows.

The two are not incompatible — as the film’s parallel editing suggests, they’re even complementary. But the town hasn’t always seen such tolerance and mutual respect. Gerald L.K. Smith, a racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic preacher, commissioned the statue and established the play (which has been since purged of hateful content) in the 1960s. As the folksy “The Big Lebowski”-like narrator points out, the area has in the past seen its share of lynchings and homophobic violence. Now the community’s advances in tolerance are being tested as it votes on Non-Discrimination Ordinance 2223, an initiative that will allow transgender people to use public bathrooms.

Among the colorful locals profiled are the owners of the Eureka Live Underground, both devout Christians, who look through photo albums and reminisce about wild times in the 1980s while debating the existence of heaven and hell; the proprietor of a store selling Bible-inspired T-shirts (“I’ve got this,” says Jesus on one) whose own father was gay and who teaches his children not to judge others; and the jovial actor playing Jesus who demonstrates the tricks and illusions behind the show’s reenactment of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

“What a great play,” says the actor. “I love it!” This funny, touching, and wise film is pretty great, too.

“The Gospel of Eureka” screens as part of the DocYard series at the Brattle Theatre at 7 p.m., Oct. 22. The filmmakers will participate in a Q&A.

Ten days that shook the (media) world

How quickly they forget. On July 25, 2017, Anthony “The Mooch” Scaramucci took over as Donald Trump’s director of communications and shook the media world with outrageous statements and a freewheeling style rivalling that of his boss. Ten days later, he was gone. Maybe what did it was his reference to then-White House chief strategist Steve Bannon performing a physically challenging auto-erotic act.

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For those who want to reminisce about this unique personality’s meteoric Beltway rise and fall there’s Andrew J. Muscato’s documentary “Mooch.” Muscato first became interested in his subject in 2014, when the flamboyant Wall Street hedge fund manager was opening a Times Square steakhouse. In April, according to the New York Post’s Page Six column, the place was hosting a “Sugar Social” where 25 “invited gentlemen” met for cocktails and dinner with 35 “stunning women.” It looks like DC’s loss has been Manhattan’s gain.

“Mooch” can be seen on iTunes and other platforms beginning Oct. 23 .


Peter Keough can be reached at petervkeough@gmail.com.