Kino Lorber has announced the upcoming release of Be Natural: The Untold Story of Alice Guy-Blaché (DVD: $29.99), slated for August 20. Directed by Pamela B. Green and narrated by Jodie Foster, Be Natural is a comprehensive documentary portrait of cinema’s first female director, screenwriter, producer, and studio owner, Alice Guy-Blaché, whose innovative and groundbreaking films are only now beginning to be fully appreciated. In a career spanning two decades and two countries, Guy-Blaché wrote, produced, and/or directed 1,000 films, including comedies, Westerns, and dramas, as well as films with still-controversial subject matter related to child and spouse abuse, immigration, anti-Semitism, and female empowerment. Bringing the “Belle Epoque” to life using a cutting edge blend of animation and archival footage, the film also features interviews with filmmakers and actors including the late Agnès Varda, Ava DuVernay, Jon M. Chu, Geena Davis, Julie Taymor, Gillian Armstrong, Ben Kingsley, Walter Murch, and Kathleen Turner, as well as historians and archivists including Serge Bromberg, Kevin Brownlow, and Jan-Christopher Horak.
The Criterion Collection’s October slate kicks off October 8 with 3 Silent Classics by Josef von Sternberg (Blu-ray: 3 discs, $99.95), which marks the Blu-ray debuts of a trio of the Vienna-born filmmaker’s stylish classics, including the 1927 gangster breakthrough Underworld, the 1928 Hollywood machine send-up The Last Command, and the 1928 working-class waterfront drama The Docks of New York. Coming on October 15 is a new restoration of Benjamin Christensen’s 1922 bizarre occult silent film Häxan (Blu-ray: $39.95), which employs a series of dramatic vignettes to explore the scientific hypothesis that the witches of the Middle Ages suffered the same hysteria as turn-of-the-century psychiatric patients. Slated for October 22 is 1996’s When We Were Kings (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), filmmaker Leon Gast’s indelible portrait of Muhammad Ali’s late-career journey to Africa for the Rumble in the Jungle fight against George Foreman in this edition that includes the 2009 companion documentary Soul Power. And arriving on October 29 is a new restoration of John Sayles’s galvanizing 1987 labor saga Matewan (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), starring Chris Cooper, James Earl Jones, David Strathairn, and Mary McDonnell in a wrenching historical drama that recounts the true story of a West Virginia coal town where the local miners’ struggle to form a union rose to the pitch of all-out war in 1920.
PBS recently released the Frontline documentary The Abortion Divide (DVD: $24.99), which offers a window into the sometimes difficult and deeply personal choices women face with unplanned pregnancy. With intimate access, the film follows women struggling with unplanned pregnancies, doctors and nurses who provide abortions, and those who counsel women against the procedure. In the film, anti-abortion protesters serve as a constant reminder of the intensity of the conflict—and in recent years, there has been an increase in abortion clinic invasions and threats against providers. The program also focuses on nurses and administrators who work at crisis pregnancy centers that cater to low-income pregnant women by offering free services, with a primary goal to support women who choose to keep their baby, and to ultimately encourage them to reject abortion. The Abortion Divide presents a well-rounded look at a timely and deeply contentious issue.
Cinema Libre is releasing Creating Woodstock (DVD: $19.99) on July 30. With the future of the highly anticipated Woodstock 50 music festival unclear, a younger generation may not know that the original “Three Days of Peace and Music” were also plagued by uncertainty, last-minute venue changes, a lack of headliners and permits…and in fact almost didn’t happen. With more than 70 hours of interviews with Woodstock producers, planners, and performers, director Mick Richards, who attended the 1969 festival as a teenager, has created the most comprehensive and deeply researched look back at how the event came to be in the documentary Creating Woodstock. Three decades in the making, the film resurrects the original site blueprints, features interviews with the founders of Woodstock Ventures, and takes viewers from the initial idea of the “happening” to the moments when the last festival goer stumbled off a once pastoral alfalfa field. Including never-before-seen private film and rare archival video footage, and original interviews with key figures, Creating Woodstock also feature first-hand accounts of little known stories woven throughout the film, such as when Jimi Hendrix was stranded at the airport and hitched a ride to the site, or when a bank manager was awoken in the middle of the night to get money to pay The Who—money that needed to be helicoptered to the band before they would go on stage, much like the personal supply of strawberries that Janis Joplin required.
The Criterion Collection’s September slate kicks off September 3 with a 4K Blu-ray restoration of Marco Bellocchio’s provocative 1965 Italian-language debut Fists in the Pocket (Blu-ray: $39.95), which follows a young man who takes drastic measures to rid his grotesquely dysfunctional family of its various afflictions. Coming on September 10 is Ritwik Ghatak’s 1960 family tragedy The Cloud-Capped Star (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), a masterpiece of Bengali cinema that tells the story of a family that has been uprooted by the Partition of India and has come to depend on its eldest daughter, the self-sacrificing Neeta (Supriya Choudhury). Arriving September 17 is the home video debut of Ernst Lubitsch’s 1946 final film Cluny Brown (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), a zany, zippy comedy of manners set in England on the cusp of World War II, starring Jennifer Jones in a rare comedic turn as an irrepressible heroine sent to work as a parlor maid at a stuffy country manor. Also slated for September 17 is filth maestro John Waters’s 1981 film Polyester ((DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), featuring his muse Divine as Baltimore housewife Francine Fishpaw, a heroine blessed with a keen sense of smell, cursed with a troubled family, and relieved by a handsome hunk (Tab Hunter). Extras include an interactive “Odorama” technology scratch-and-sniff card. Scheduled for September 24 is Charlie Chaplin’s 1928 final silent era film The Circus (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), featuring Chaplin’s Little Tramp as he flees into a traveling circus and soon becomes the star of the show. Bonus features include a new 4K digital restoration of Chaplin’s 1969 re-release of the film. Also coming September 24 is a 2K digital restoration of Bill Forsyth’s offbeat 1983 small-town fable Local Hero (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), in which a Texas oil guy (Peter Riegert) is dispatched by his crackpot boss (Burt Lancaster) to a remote seaside village in Scotland with orders to buy out the town and develop the region for an oil refinery.
Virgil Films & Entertainment is releasing Clarence Clemons: Who Do I Think I Am? (DVD: 2 discs, $24.95), slated for August 13. An intimate portrait of one of the most famous saxophone players in the world, Clarence Clemons—known as “Big Man” and a lifetime member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band—was followed by director, friend, and photographer Nick Mead, who documented Clarence’s transcendent awakening overseas in a spiritual journey to China. Once Clemons had returned to the States, Mead decided to keep the cameras rolling, which is when tragedy struck: while in Florida, Clarence suffered a stroke and passed away. With the help of producer Joe Amodei, the film became a biography of his life and a love letter and farewell from those that knew him best. Featuring interviews with President Bill Clinton, Joe Walsh, Nils Lofgren, Jake Clemons, and former band mates, friends, and close family members, Who Do I Think I Am? highlights Clemons’s life as musician and member of the E Street band while also presenting another side of the man not many knew when he was away from bright stage lights.
On June 4, HBO Home Video released Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland. On July 10, 2015, a politically engaged 28-year-old African American woman from Chicago was arrested for a traffic violation in a small Texas town. After three days in custody, Sandra Bland was found hanging from a noose in her jail cell. Part legal thriller, part parable about race in America, filmmakers Kate Davis and David Heilbroner’s documentary follows the Bland family and legal team from the first weeks after her death as they try to find out what really happened.
Shout! Factory has announced the upcoming release on August 6 of the acclaimed documentary feature What We Left Behind: Looking Back at Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (DVD: $16.99, Blu-ray: 2 discs, $22.99). An in-depth look at the past, present, and future of a series whose dark, edgy take on Gene Roddenberry’s vision was often misunderstood when it premiered but has grown into a beloved mainstay in the Star Trek franchise, directors Ira Steven Behr and David Zappone’s film features extensive new interviews with the cast and crew of Deep Space Nine as well as newly remastered HD footage from the TV series. The film also focuses on the original writers of the series as they craft a brand-new episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, developing what would be the eighth-season premiere if the show were to return to the air today. Bonus features include deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, and a segment on the HD restoration process. The special edition Blu-ray includes an exclusive reunion with composers Dennis McCarthy and Kevin Kiner, as well as a 50-minute roundtable discussion with the crew.
On June 11, First Run Features will release the documentary Before Homosexuals (DVD: $24.95). Director John Scagliotti—who produced the landmark films Before Stonewall and After Stonewall—provides viewers with a tour of same-sex erotic history, touching on topics including censored chapters of the Kama Sutra and two-spirit rituals performed by Native Americans. Billed as a prequel to Before Stonewall (which is being released theatrically in June to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Inn riots in Greenwich Village), Before Homosexuals travels all over the world and utilizes expert commentary to unearth the diverse and fascinating garden of human same-sexual desire in a wondrous tour of erotic history, poetry ,and visual art from ancient times to Victorian crimes.
The Criterion Collection’s August slate kicks off August 6 with the Blu-ray debut of director Jane Campion’s 1990 biopic An Angel at My Table (Blu-ray: $39.95), a harrowing autobiography of distinguished New Zealand author Janet Frame (played as an adult by Kerry Fox) that won the special Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. Slated for August 13 is a restored 4K digital transfer of Lucille Carra’s poetic and insightful 1991 film The Inland Sea (DVD: $29.95, Blu-ray: $39.95), based on Donald Richie’s renowned travelogue on Japan, in which Carra undertakes a parallel trip inspired by Richie’s 1971 memoir. Arriving August 20 is the Blu-ray debut of Douglas Sirk’s delirious 1954 melodrama Magnificent Obsession (Blu-ray: 2 discs, $39.95), starring Rock Hudson in his breakthrough role as a reckless playboy. Coming August 27 is Yasujiro Ozu’s beautifully observed Japanese domestic saga The Flavor of Green Tea over Rice (DVD: 2 discs, $29.95; Blu-ray: $39.95), a study of a marriage on the rocks (an edition that also includes Ozu’s 1937 feature What Did the Lady Forget?). Also slated for August 27 is Abbas Kiarostami’s Persian language The Koker Trilogy (DVD or Blu-ray: 3 discs, $99.95), an eye-opening triptych of playful films from the Iranian master: the profound and sensitive Where Is the Friend’s House? (1987), the earthquake aftermath drama And Life Goes On (1992), and the human comedy Through the Olive Trees (1994).