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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 29.Jul.20

In Bright Axiom  
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

In Bright Axiom
dir Spencer McCall
scr Spencer McCall, Farouz Gipson, Wylie Herman, Geordie Aitken
prd Spencer McCall, Farouz Gipson, Jeff Hull, Wylie Herman
with Geordie Aitken, Jeff Hull, Tracy Pfau, Anna Seregina, Spencer McCall, Laika Young, Eva Grace Restad, Justin Oliphant, Alex Krzyzanowski, Oliver Mains, Adam Davis, Albert Kong
release US 17.Jul.20
20/US 1h29

Now streaming...

With a code of absolute discretion and absolute freedom, the Latitude Society was set up to stimulate imagination and intuition, stressing the double meaning of the word "latitude" itself. This fascinating documentary takes an inside look into its workings through the eyes of its creators and participants. Unusually entertaining, it's a cheeky film with a strong sense of humour even as it touches on powerful, inspiring ideas.
Accessible by invitation only, Latitude is an "international, extra-temporal" membership society that "transcends ordinary human limitation". Since experiences form beliefs and drive behaviour, the goal is to create better experiences. The process is elaborate, using quests, group activities and mind-bending locations to expand a person's sense of identity, harking back to a freer, more expansive, primal state of mind that has become dormant today. It's about rebuilding society through collaborative creation.
Expertly shot and edited, the film is skilfully assembled from elements including detailed animation, fantastical dramatisations, witty mysteries, news-style footage and interviews with a range of members who explain their experiences articulately. Along the way, a narrator escorts the viewer through various scenarios, provoking visceral responses. It's fairly astonishing to see how much thought has gone into this, encompassing existential theory, gaming and therapeutic playfulness.

The enticing idea is to add an extra layer of meaning to the world, as members discover things without explanation. They love the fact that they're escaping the grip of television and religions that preach that everyone else is bad. With Latitude, religious rituals are deployed without dogma to build community, although some have the eerie whiff of Scientology or fantasy roleplaying games. As time passes, the organisers are surprised to see human nature express itself within the society through divisive actions, including an uproar when a membership fee is imposed. But shutting it down feels devastating.

By its very nature, Lattitude has several purposes, including making culture the focus of life, rather than politics, and reaching people who sense that the world has closed in around them. And no one seems to mind whether this is a cult or entertainment. So it's tantalising to think that all of this was created specifically for this documentary (see also McCall's 2013 doc The Institute and his 2020 TV series Dispatches From Elsewhere). Does that violate the idea of absolute discretion? Clearly, we don't need a wealthy genius to create magic in our lives. We just need to be willing to embrace the questions.

cert 15 themes, language 14.Jul.20

Pornstar Pandemic  
Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5  

Pornstar Pandemic
dir Edward James "EJ"
prd Edward James "EJ", Rich Wolff, Susan Helfrich
with Alter Sin, Alex Lecomte, Jack Loft, DeAngelo Jackson, Dante Colle, Elijah Wilde, Pierce Paris, Edward James "EJ"
release US 31.Jul.20
20/US 2h13

Now streaming...

Clockwise: Loft, Wilde, Paris and Jackson
Loose and unstructured, this overlong doc would be a lot more engaging with tighter, more deliberate editing. But with this collection of raw footage, filmmaker Edward James finds some intriguing things to say along the way. It's also nice to see porn performers chat so openly about their lives, which don't seem remotely extraordinary as, like many others, their industry has been badly hit by the pandemic.
With the porn industry paused by Covid-19, filmmaker James contacts adult movie stars to document their day-to-day lives, letting them meander through their socially distant situations using phone cameras, followed by group video chats with guys who turn up shirtless simply to give the viewer more than just another talking head. Each of them is itching to get back on a film set, working out to keep in shape and seeking ways to earn a living while everything is on hold. Basically, they're coping with lockdown exactly like everyone else is.
First, each guy conducts a little tour of his home and describes his quarantine routine, including random and sometimes hilarious tips about grooming, exercising and cooking. After moving from a small town in the Midwest, newbie Jack is isolating in a huge Atlanta house with his boss. In Barcelona, director Alter talks about developing a working routine and staying busy with things he get ahead on now. From Sao Paulo, Alex says his work on social media has become more intense.

Meanwhile in Malibu, biker dude Dante lives alone in a cool trailer and is developing projects to make money on his own terms. Also in Los Angeles, Pierce describes himself as a normal guy from small-town Montana whose fans like his naked workouts. Newcomer Elijah stays fit at home in New York while working on remote productions. And the muscly DeAngelo does a yoga routine in his Atlanta backyard before a videogame session. Finally, James assembles a group chat to discuss advice they'd give those who want to get into the business ("Pay your taxes!").

More interesting moments include each guy talking about telling their families about their jobs. They also speak about cyber-bullying, the impact of social media on the industry and refusing to be put into any box regarding their sexuality. And they laugh that people assume they're promiscuous, even as they readily admit how much they love sex. Without any shape to the film, none of the points is made with much force. But unedited footage is perhaps the purest form of documentary.

cert 15 themes, language 29.Jul.20

Superhuman: The Invisible Made Visible
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
Superhuman: The Invisible Made Visible
dir-scr Caroline Cory
prd Jonathan Green, Jahanara Saleh
with Caroline Cory, Corey Feldman, Rachele Brooke Smith, Naomi Grossman, Karina Smirnoff, Ben Hansen, Sean McNamara, Paul H Smith, Tom Campbell, Colin Harrington, Mark Komissarov, Michael Dorn, Robert Picardo
release US/UK 17.Jul.20
20/US 1h55

Now streaming...

hansen, feldman and cory
This zippy, engaging documentary is about expanding our perception to understand the true power of the mind and the interconnectedness of everything. Yes, it's mainly for believers, but there are lots of intriguing ideas. The filmmaker, consciousness scientist Caroline Cory, takes psychic phenomena as a given and sets out to measure on-camera the extrasensory abilities of normal people, insisting that what we call parapsychology is actually common for everyone.
The film opens with children speaking about the power of switching on your internal energy. Cory has spent her career researching why it is we have that feeling that someone else is near, or how we can have a remote sense of an event. Is this chemistry or DNA? Does what we say have a measurable effect on our bodies? Does consciousness exist in physical space? Or is our physical form merely an avatar of our consciousness? And why is it measurably possible to see with the mind rather than the eyes?
Cory interviews a range of people who discuss these questions in matter-of-fact ways, despite the wild nature of the topic at hand. These include physicists and neurologists who casually speak about the "well-established fact" that credible institutions in the US, China and Russia have seriously looked into psychic phenomena. And in their personal experiences, they've witnessed the unexpected power of their own consciousness. So they bring in outsiders to test things in lab conditions.

This leads to several intriguing set-pieces, such as when CIA-trained psychic Paul Smith sends Cory outside and asks actress Rachele Brooke Smith to use the power of her mind to see where she is and what she's doing. Hansen proves to Feldman that his voice can be transmitted using pure energy waves without sound. There's also a lot of somewhat woolly scientific stuff about converting thoughts into colours, vibrations into patterns, feelings into sounds. The salient question is: if this is true, why isn't everyone doing it?

Whatever you believe, it's clear that there are more capabilities in the human mind than we can understand. And we must be able to feel the invisible electromagnetic waves that surround us on some level. So it's intriguing to see that these things can be captured by technology. Therefore, the film argues, this is science not magic. So experts should be investigating it if they really want to understand human existence.

cert u some themes 16.Jul.20

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