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    Lives and times

    Victor Victori in Michael Melamedoff’s “Victori: The Truth Just Can’t Be One Thing.”
    Garden Thieves Pictures
    Victor Victori in Michael Melamedoff’s “Victori: The Truth Just Can’t Be One Thing.”

    He’s the strongest man in the world, or so he believes, but is that enough to make it in America? In making “Strongman” (2009), Zachary Levy spent nine years recording the life of Stanley “Stanless Steel” Pleskun, a showman who can bend a penny and can lift a pickup high enough to slip a piece of paper under the wheels. But it’s a hard act to sell, so he makes a living collecting scrap metal.

    Levy records Pleskun’s desperate ambitions and endless disappointments without judgment, though a tragic absurdity permeates the film. Combining the Rupert Pupkin in “The King of Comedy” (1982) with “The Ram” from “The Wrestler” (2008), Pleskun is an unsung American hero.

    The Film Series at the University of Massachusetts Boston will screen “Strongman,” for free at 7 p.m. on Thursday in the UMass Boston Campus Center, 3d Floor Ballroom, 100 Morrissey Blvd. A Q&A with the director follows.

    For more information go to

    Remembering a local light


    Boston native Bruce Sinofsky, who with his collaborator Joe Berlinger made some of the best documentaries of the past two decades, died on Feb. 21 of complications from diabetes. He was 58.

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    He and Berlinger developed a filmmaking style that combined the best of cinema vérité, in-depth studies of characters and communities and investigative reporting. Their first film, “Brother’s Keeper” (1992), a compassionate “Grey Gardens”-like look at feral brothers that evolves into a murder mystery, established the two filmmakers as major figures in nonfiction cinema. But their “Paradise Lost” trilogy made between 1996 and 2011, which ended with the release from death row of three men wrongfully convicted of murder, was the team’s greatest achievement.

    “Bruce’s humanity is on every frame of the films that he leaves behind,” Berlinger said about his partner. “Words can’t express how graced I feel my life has been by having the extraordinary opportunity of being able to say we were partners and, more importantly, best friends.”

    Sinofsky’s last film, “Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory” (2011), codirected
    by Berlinger, can be accessed

    Quick Cuts

    Among the many achievements of the Jewish people, their journey over a period of centuries and from many countries to the promised land of the United States ranks among the most impressive. The epic migration would have as profound an impact on American culture as it did on the lives of the new arrivals. Andrew Goldberg recounts this exodus in his documentary “The Jewish Journey: America.” It airs on WGBH on March 8 at 2 p.m.


    In a scene from Michael Melamedoff’s “Victori: The Truth Just Can’t Be One Thing,” mall artist Victor Victori sits in front of one of his canvases — an expressionist depiction of planes slamming into the World Trade Towers. Guided by his business school-educated son, he wants to take on the New York Art scene with his aesthetic movement “multiplism,” a cubist spin-off featuring works such as the Mona Lisa with a dozen different expressions. Exploring the fine line between kitsch and genius, Melamedoff’s dead-pan doc outmocks some of the best of Christopher Guest. “Victori” is available on DVD on Tuesday from Garden Thieves Pictures, $24.95.

    One of the world’s best programmed documentary film festivals takes place a few miles north of Boston. The eighth annual Salem Film Fest, running March 5-12, presents more than 30 features, including “The Iron Ministry” by J.P. Sniadecki of Harvard’s groundbreaking Sensory Ethnography Laboratory. For more information go to

    Peter Keough can be reached at