On February 5, First Run Features is releasing the award-winning and crowd-pleasing documentary Hot to Trot (DVD: $24.95). Offering a deep-dive look inside the fascinating but little-known world of same-sex competitive ballroom dance, director Gail Freedman’s lively, poignant film follows an international cast of four magnetic men and women over several years, on and off the dance floor, as they journey to the quadrennial Gay Games. Along the way, dancing is revealed to be both a means of overcoming personal hardships—from drug addiction to familial rifts—and a joyous opportunity to merge passionate artistic expression with proud sexual identity.
PBS Distribution has announced the upcoming release of Frontline: Documenting Hate (DVD: $24.99), slated for February 12. An in-depth, two-part investigation into today’s white supremacy groups in the U.S. and the violent attacks that have taken place as a result, the program includes “Charlottesville,” in which correspondent A.C. Thompson methodically tracks down some of those at the center of the infamous and deadly 2017 rally in Charlottesville, VA, revealing how ill-prepared law enforcement was to handle an influx of white supremacists from across the country, some of whom had been part of a series of earlier violent confrontations in California and descended on Charlottesville specifically to fight. And “New American Nazis” presents an investigation into white supremacist groups in America, specifically Atomwaffen Division, a cell that has actively recruited inside the U.S. military.
Kino Lorber has announced the March 5 DVD release of the critically-acclaimed documentary Of Fathers and Sons (DVD: $29.99), which was recently nominated for Best Documentary Feature for the 2019 Academy Awards. With a Blu-ray release to follow on April 16, director and producer Talal Derki’s film finds him returning to his Syrian homeland where he gained the trust of a radical Islamist family, sharing their daily life for over two years. His camera focuses primarily on the children, providing an extremely rare insight into what it means to grow up with a father whose only dream is to establish an Islamic caliphate. Osama (13) and his brother Ayman (12) both love and admire their father and obey his words, but while Osama seems content to follow the path of jihad, Ayman wants to go back to school. A work of unparalleled intimacy that captures the chilling moment when childhood dies and jihadism is born, the film also won the Grand Jury Prize in the World Documentary section at last year’s Sundance Film Festival.
The Criterion Collection’s April slate kicks off April 9 with two beloved Jim Jarmusch films: the minimalist 1984 masterpiece Stranger Than Paradise (Blu-ray: $39.95) and the 1991 taxicab odyssey Night on Earth (Blu-ray: $39.95), the latter starring Gena Rowlands, Winona Ryder, and Armin Mueller-Stahl. Available April 16 is a 4K restoration of Jan Němec’s haunting and hallucinatory 1964 feature debut Diamonds of the Night (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), one of the most visionary films of the Czechoslovak New Wave, adapted from the novel by Arnost Lustig, which closely tracks two boys who escape from a concentration-camp transport and flee into the surrounding woods. Coming April 23 is the Blu-ray debut of Elia Kazan’s eerily prescient 1957 satire A Face in the Crowd (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), which chronicles the rise and fall of Larry “Lonesome” Rhodes (Andy Griffith), a boisterous entertainer—discovered in an Arkansas drunk tank by a local radio producer (Patricia Neal)—who reaches heights of TV stardom and political demagoguery. On April 30, Jackie Chan smashes into the Criterion Collection with a double-bill edition of his 1985 and 1988 action-comedy classics Police Story and Police Story 2 (DVD: 3 discs, $39.95; Blu-ray: 2 discs, $49.95), newly restored in 4K as the director/star/one-man stunt machine plays Ka-Kui, a Hong Kong police inspector with unorthodox methods. Also coming on April 30 is Australian auteur Gillian Armstrong’s 1979 coming-of-age classic My Brilliant Career (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), adapted from teenage author Miles Franklin’s novel about headstrong young Sybylla Melvyn (Judy Davis), who bemoans her stifling life in the backcountry.
Slated for release on March 12 is Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes (DVD: $24.99), available from Magnolia Home Entertainment. Directed by Alexis Bloom, the documentary fuses the personal, the political, and the just plain surreal as it charts the rise and fall of Fox News Chairman, Roger Ailes (1940-2017), a key media consultant to Presidents Nixon, Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, who powerfully shaped American political history over the last five decades. After creating a ratings powerhouse at Fox, with more viewers than all of its direct competitors combined, in 2016 Ailes was forced out amid multiple allegations of sexual harassment. Divide and Conquer tells the origin story of one of the most powerful and divisive figures in American media.
GKIDS and Shout! Factory have announced the release of the documentary feature Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki, available in a Blu-ray/DVD Combo on April 30. Offering a new look at the rarely-interviewed filmmaker as he faces the challenges of working with unfamiliar CGI technology to create a new short film, Never-Ending Man focuses on Academy Award-winning film director and animator Hayao Miyazaki’s sudden 2013 announcement of his retirement at the age of 72. But he can’t shake his burning desire to create, and after an encounter with young CGI animators, Miyazaki embarks on a new project to utilize CGI for the first time ever. Yet the artist, who has been adamant about hand-drawn animation, confronts many challenges that threaten to cancel the film. Can an old master who thinks he’s past his prime shine once again? Filmed over two years as Miyazaki overcomes struggles to create his short film Boro the Caterpillar, this release includes both the full-length 70-minute documentary in Japanese with English subtitles as well as a 48-minute broadcast version with English narration and alternate footage.
Criterion’s March slate opens March 12 with another entry in the year-long series of Ingmar Bergman releases: the standalone edition of 1975’s The Magic Flute (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), the director’s effervescent take on Mozart’s beloved opera, featuring soloists Josef Köstlinger, Ulrik Cold, Håkan Hagegård, and Birgit Nordin. Also coming March 12 is the Blu-ray debut of silent screen icon Harold Lloyd’s delightful 1927 comedy The Kid Brother (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), featuring Lloyd as the gentle everyman son of a prominent lawman who lives in the shadow of his rough-and-tumble brothers. Arriving March 19 is Edgar G. Ulmer’s 1945 film noir thriller Detour (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), a pitch-dark Poverty Row film following a nightclub pianist hitchhiker (Tom Neal) on his way from New York to Los Angeles who encounters a dead body and a vicious femme fatale (Ann Savage). Also slated for March 19 is writer-director-actor Barbara Loden’s 1970 lone feature Wanda (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), a wrenching character study set amid a soot-choked Pennsylvania landscape about an outcast woman who finds herself falling prey to a series of callous men—including a bank robber who ropes her into his next criminal scheme. On March 26, Robert Zemeckis revisits the frenzy of Beatlemania with a 4K digital restoration of his raucous 1978 first feature I Wanna Hold Your Hand (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), which spotlights the Beatles 1964 live appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show through the eyes of six teenagers (including stars Nancy Allen, Wendie Jo Sperber, and Marc McClure) who want to see the Fab Four. Also coming on March 26 is Carlos Reygadas’s 2002 Spanish language debut Japón (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), an existential journey through the Mexican countryside following a man (Alejandro Ferretis) who travels to an isolated village to commit suicide but meets a pious elderly woman (Magdalena Flores) whose quiet humanity incites a reawakening of his desires.
IFC Films has announced the release of Tea with the Dames (DVD: $24.95), slated for January 15. What happens when four legends of British stage and screen get together? Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Eileen Atkins, and Dame Joan Plowright are among the most celebrated actresses of our time, with scores of iconic performances, decades of wisdom, and many Oscars, Tonys, Emmys and BAFTAs between them. Directed by Roger Michell, Tea with the Dames features the longtime friends as they invite viewers to join them for a weekend in the country as they catch up with one another, reminisce, and share their candid, delightfully irreverent thoughts on everything from art to aging to love to a life lived in the spotlight.
Viewers will witness the courage of compassion through the eyes of parents journeying toward acceptance of their one-of-a-kind kids with the release of Far from the Tree (DVD: $24.98) on January 8 from IFC. Based on The New York Times bestseller by Andrew Solomon, the film provides an intimate, profoundly human look at families raising children who society deems “abnormal,” including a mother and son determined to show the world that his Down syndrome does not define him; a couple learning to communicate with their bright but nonverbal autistic son; a young woman dealing with what it means to be the only little person in her family; and parents whose deep love for their son persists even after he has committed an unspeakable crime. Tracing their joys, challenges, tragedies, and triumphs, filmmaker Rachel Dretzin’s Far from the Tree invites viewers to rethink what it means to be a “normal family.”
IFC Films is releasing Eating Animals (DVD: $24.98) on January 1. Current methods of farming may ensure vast and reliable production, but they also raise thorny issues concerning the environment, health risks, and humane treatment of animals. Based on the bestselling book by Jonathan Safran Foer and narrated by co-producer Natalie Portman, director Christopher Quinn’s frank and uncompromising film is an urgent, eye-opening look at the environmental, economic, and public health consequences of factory farming. Tracing the history of food production in the United States, the film charts how farming has gone from local and sustainable to a corporate Frankenstein monster that offers cheap eggs, meat, and dairy at a steep cost: the exploitation of animals, the risky use of antibiotics and hormones, and the pollution of our air, soil, and water. Spotlighting farmers who have pushed backed against industrial agriculture with more humane practices, Eating Animals offers attainable, common-sense solutions to a growing crisis while making the case that ethical farming is not only an animal rights issue but one that affects every aspect of our lives.