Doc talk | Peter keough

Documentary fare includes ‘The Sandwich Nazi’

Salam Kahil during filming of “The Sandwich Nazi.”
Rommy Ghaly
Salam Kahil during filming of “The Sandwich Nazi.”

Lewis Bennett’s “The Sandwich Nazi” is one of those films — like Jeff Malmberg’s “Marwencol” (2010) and Jesse Moss’s “The Overnighters” (2015) — that starts out with an intriguing premise and then takes an unexpected turn into something astonishing. 

Salam Kahil, proprietor of La Charcuterie Delicatessen in Surrey, British Columbia, may well make “the best sandwiches in North America,” as a sign proclaims, but they come with a price. 

Kahil habitually insults his customers, serves them what he wants and not necessarily what they ordered, regales them with inappropriate stories of his male hustler days, and occasionally exposes his penis. But the customers seem to — so to speak — eat it up. Perhaps it’s because they know Kahil has a kind soul under the R-rated surface; among other good deeds, he distributes free food to the homeless. 


Perhaps they also have an inkling of his troubled past — an immigrant from Lebanon, his family relationships are difficult if not traumatic. Bennett tells the story with deft restraint as he follows Kahil’s story wherever it takes him.

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“The Sandwich Nazi” is available on Vimeo on Demand, iTunes, Amazon Instant, Microsoft Video, and Google Play.

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Genocide denied

Joe Berlinger, along with his co-director, the late Bruce Sinofsky, proved the innocence of three young men falsely convicted of murder with their “Paradise Lost” trilogy. He seeks justice of another kind with his new documentary “Intent to Destroy.” 

Ottoman Turks killed an estimated 1.5 million Armenians from 1915 to 1918. To this day Turkey denies it ever happened. It also puts pressure on Hollywood, which, until the recent film “The Promise,” shied away from any mention of the genocide. Berlinger combines material shot during the production of “The Promise” with interviews and archival footage to put together a damning indictment.


“Intent to Destroy” screens this week at Apple Cinemas in Cambridge.

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All the editor’s men

You may have seen Jason Robards’s version in Alan J. Pakula’s “All the President’s Men,” and you’ll have to wait until January to see how Tom Hanks portrays him when Steven Spielberg’s “The Post” is released, but for a look at the real person, watch John Maggio’s documentary “The Newspaperman: The Life and Times of Ben Bradlee.”

At a time when the media is under constant attack, a film about the Washington Post editor who led his newsroom’s part in publication of the Pentagon Papers and who presided over historic coverage of the Watergate scandal could not be more urgently needed. Beginning when Bradlee was a Boston youth suffering from polio, the film follows his career from foreign correspondent for Newsweek in the 1950s to the 1970s, when he took over and transformed the Post into one of the country’s most important newspapers. Those interviewed include Bob Woodward, Carl Bernstein, David Remnick, Henry Kissinger, Jim Lehrer, John Dean, Norman Lear, Tom Brokaw, and Robert Redford.

“The Newspaperman” can be seen Monday at 8 p.m. on HBO. It is also available on HBO NOW, HBO GO, HBO On Demand, and affiliate portals.

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Coming to grips with grief

When her adored, talented sister Ruth committed suicide in 2008 at 42 after years of struggling with mental illness, Hope Litoff was shattered. Six years later, she decided to try to understand her sister’s actions by poring through her belongings and artworks and making a documentary about it. The result, “32 Pills: My Sister’s Suicide,” vividly records her search for answers (a table lined with hundreds of prescription bottles is almost a chilling artwork in itself), but reasons remain elusive and the process itself seems to be unraveling her own mental health. The film is an intense glimpse into grief and despair, and a tribute to the healing power of art. 

“32 Pills” debuts Thursday at 8 p.m. on HBO. It will also be available on HBO On Demand, HBO NOW, HBO GO, and affiliate portals.

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Compassion fatigue

Once a punk rocker, Ittetsu Nemoto became a Buddhist monk and found his calling as a counselor for people pondering suicide. But the work has started to affect his family life and his own mental health. The demands on his empathy are exhausting him, and his arguments in favor of life seem less convincing. Lana Wilson’s frank, wrenching, and lyrical documentary “The Departure” finds Nemoto at an emotional and existential impasse but still tending to those whose spiritual desolation and mental pain are driving them to self-destruction.

“The Departure” screens Monday at 7 p.m. at the Brattle. The director will be in attendance for a discussion.

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‘Boston’ still strong

Though the 2013 terrorist attack that killed three people might sometimes overshadow the history of the Boston Marathon, the event’s origins go back to 1897 when only 15 people competed. The documentary “Boston” by Jon Dunham, himself a marathoner, does justice to that heritage. Narrated by Matt Damon with a score recorded by the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the film’s credentials are impeccable and the tale it tells is stirring.

“Boston” will be available Tuesday on digital platforms such as iTunes, and Dec. 19 On Demand.

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Peter Keough can be reached at