Now in Virtual Cinema – October 2020

By Barbara Twist

Almost half of the films in the October Virtual Cinema Roundup are documentaries, covering several of the most critical issues facing us right now: criminal justice reform, reproductive health, the environment, and what it means to have an effective, functioning government. Not only are these films timely, they are critical viewing for this precise moment. We are facing a great decision as a nation this November, and I firmly believe cinema has the power to shape our opinions, expectations, and understanding of the world around us. 

Erika Cohn’s BELLY OF THE BEAST opened my eyes to the horrifying reality of forced sterilization taking place in women’s prisons in California. Too soon after I watched it, Dawn Wooten came out as a whistleblower on forced sterilization for women detained by ICE. Having just seen and heard the stories of the women in BELLY OF THE BEAST, I came to these new stories, these new victims’ experiences, with a deeper understanding and horror.

Documentaries have long been celebrated in art house and independent cinemas. The Pickford Film Center in Bellingham, WA hosts ‘Doctober,’ a month long celebration of documentaries. Of course, this year, they’ve shifted to streaming, yet the curatorial eye is still there. Why am I so focused on documentaries this month? Beyond the fun moniker of ‘Doctober’? Because they’re important. And right now, the world, and specifically, the United States, is facing an important moment. Where fiction films help us imagine another’s perspective, documentaries can put us squarely in their shoes. Whether it’s a fly-on-the-wall documentary like Fredrick Wiseman’s CITY HALL, or a mix of archival and present-day interviews like AGGIE to ground us in history, a non-fiction film gives the audience an opportunity to enter into someone’s real life and to develop real empathy for them.

All stories are shaped, and documentaries are no exception. There is a director and a cameraperson (or many), editors, producers, and the personalities themselves. But in times like these, documentaries feel like a tonic, a deep breath, a way to connect with the real world and remember what it’s like to be with others. 

I hope you’ll watch 1, 2, or all 18 of these films this month. Remember: you are supporting a bricks-and-mortar exhibition space, the filmmakers behind the film, and the distributors releasing the film. Your ticket is more than just a gateway to another person’s life, it is a tangible, financial support to the entire film eco-system. 

Go Vote.

Release Date: 10/16/20

Release Date: 10/2/20
Distributor: Magnet Releasing
It’s 1998 and over the course of one night at an Arkansas hospital, a junkie nurse, her scheming cousin and a group of black market organ-trading criminals get caught up in a heist gone wrong.
Trailer: 12 HOUR SHIFT – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here.

Release Date: 10/2/20
Distributor: Abramorama
With his trumpet he turned the Tijuana Brass into gold, earning 15 gold and 14 platinum records; He has won nine Grammy Awards between 1966 and 2014, and received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama in 2012. John Scheinfeld’s documentary Herb Alpert is… profiles the artist, now 85, mostly from the perspective of colleagues like Questlove, Sting, and Bill Moyers. In their words, the shy, unassuming trumpeter is a musical, artistic and philanthropic heavyweight.
Trailer: HERB ALPERT IS… – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here.

Release Date: 10/2/20
Distributor: Filmmakers
Based on the best-selling novel by Bonnie Jo Campbell, Once Upon A River is the story of Native American teenager Margo Crane (Kenadi DelaCerna) in 1970s rural Michigan who after enduring a series of traumas and tragedies, sets out on an odyssey on the Stark River in search of her estranged mother. On the water, Margo encounters friends, foes, wonders, and dangers; navigating life on her own, she comes to understand her potential, all while healing the wounds of her past.
Trailer: ONCE UPON A RIVER – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here.

Release Date: 10/2/20
Distributor: Menemsha Films
The Keeper, directed by Marcus H. Rosenmüller, tells the incredible true story of Bert Trautmann (David Kross), a German soldier and prisoner of war who, against a backdrop of British post-war protest and prejudice, secures the position of Goalkeeper at Manchester City, and in doing so becomes a footballing icon.
Trailer: THE KEEPER – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here.

Release Date: 10/2/20
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn Films
Nine friends, each harboring a dark secret, go camping in the woods. After a wild night of partying, they wake up with suicide bombs strapped to their chests, all with varying times on their countdown clocks. They decide to work out how to disarm the bombs or find help – until they discover they can ‘take’ one another’s time by killing each other.
Trailer: TRIGGERED – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here.

Release Date: 10/7/20
Distributor: Aubin Pictures
Aggie is a feature-length documentary that explores the nexus of art, race, and justice through the story of art collector and philanthropist Agnes “Aggie” Gund’s life. Emmy-nominated director Catherine Gund focuses on her mother’s journey to give viewers an understanding of the power of art to transform consciousness and inspire social change. Aggie is internationally recognized for her robust and prescient support of artists–particularly women and people of color–and her unwavering commitment to social justice issues. After falling in love with art as a high-school student, Aggie discovers a new way of looking at the world. The film opens with Aggie selling Roy Lichtenstein’s “Masterpiece” For $165 million to start the Art for Justice Fund. The proceeds from one of the highest grossing artworks ever sold fuel a monumental effort to reform the American criminal justice system and end mass incarceration. The film captures Aggie as a true maverick who demonstrates the unique role and potential of collectors and benefactors to use art to fight justice. This is untapped terrain, and we see Aggie leading the way.
Trailer: AGGIE – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here

Release Date: 10/8/20
Distributor: Janus Films
Mathieu Kassovitz took the film world by storm with La haine, a gritty, unsettling, and visually explosive look at the racial and cultural volatility in modern-day France, specifically the low-income banlieue districts on Paris’s outskirts. Aimlessly passing their days in the concrete environs of their dead-end suburbia, Vinz (Vincent Cassel), Hubert (Hubert Koundé), and Saïd (Saïd Taghmaoui)—a Jew, an African, and an Arab—give human faces to France’s immigrant populations, their bristling resentment at their marginalization slowly simmering until it reaches a climactic boiling point. A work of tough beauty, La haine is a landmark of contemporary French cinema and a gripping reflection of its country’s ongoing identity crisis.
Trailer: LA HAINE – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here

Release Date: 10/9/20
Distributor: Frameline
50 Years of Fabulous recounts the rich history of the Imperial Council, the oldest LGBT charity organization in the world. Founded in San Francisco by renowned activist, drag queen and performer José Sarria (the first openly gay man to run for political office), the Council has helped shape LGBT life and social history in San Francisco and beyond throughout the last five decades.
Trailer: 50 YEARS OF FABULOUS – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here.

Release Date: 10/9/20
Distributor: Good Deed Entertainment
Set in the backwoods of Vermont, Major Arcana follows Dink (Ujon Tokarski), an itinerant carpenter struggling to end a legacy of alcoholism and poverty as he attempts to build a log cabin by hand. His plans are complicated when he reunites with Sierra (Tara Summers), a woman with whom he shares a difficult past, and he is forced to reconcile his old life with his new one.
Trailer: MAJOR ARCANA – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here.

Release Date: 10/9/20
Distributor: Sony Pictures and Stage 6 Films
Rose, an undocumented Filipino girl, dreams of one day leaving her small Texas town to pursue her country music dreams. Her world is shattered when her mom suddenly gets picked up by immigration and Customs Enforcement. Rose, facing this new reality, is forced to flee the scene, leaving behind the only life she knows, and embarks on a journey of self-discovery as she searches for a new home in the honky tonk world of Austin, Texas.
Trailer: YELLOW ROSE – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here.

Release Date: 10/16/20
Distributor: Filmmakers
When an unlikely duo discovers a pattern of illegal sterilizations in women’s prisons, they wage a near impossible battle against the Department of Corrections. Filmed over seven years with extraordinary access and intimate accounts from currently and formerly incarcerated people, BELLY OF THE BEAST exposes modern-day eugenics and reproductive injustice in California prisons.
Trailer: BELLY OF THE BEAST – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here.

Release Date: 10/16/20
Distributor: Blue Fox Entertainment
A woman is like the ocean: a force of nature with depths unknown. SHE IS THE OCEAN follows nine extraordinary women – women who live in all corners of the globe, but are united by their love and devotion to the same sea.
Trailer: SHE IS THE OCEAN – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here.  

Release Date: 10/23/20
Distributor: Outsider Pictures
The film takes place over the course of one full day during which Chang-rae attempts to prepare  a traditional Korean New Year’s Eve dinner; like the one his mother always cooked for the family. The care and precision that goes into preparing this meal gives him time to reflect on the intense relationship between them. Memories become a doorway into a woman who was so much more than the mother he thought he knew. Now, Chang-rae is faced with the dilemma of living with the permanent scars of unresolved family sacrifice, or the risk of opening new wounds as cancer shadows their lives.
Trailer: COMING HOME AGAIN – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here

Release Date: 10/23/20
Distributor: Oscilloscope 
Don’t Go Gentle captures the 10 year journey of IDLES’ struggle, grief and moving determination. Exploring their vulnerabilities through their experience, lyrics and sound, we learn the reasons why these five individuals have connected with legions of people across the world. We see just how that relationship unfolds in the most courageous and positive of human ways. In a time when the ground is shifting beneath our feet, where open communication and truthful reflection are more vital than ever, we journey with lead singer Joe Talbot and the band as they tear across stages, knocking down stereotypes, empowering fans to talk about mental health and the realities we may not feel comfortable to speak about.
Trailer: Don’t Go Gentle: A Film About IDLES
Find participating theaters here.

Release Date: 10/23/20
Distributor: Juno Films
Based on true events, Radium Girls follows teen sisters, Bessie and Jo Cavallo, who dream of Hollywood and Egyptian pyramids as they paint luminous watch dials at the American Radium factory in New Jersey. When Jo loses a tooth, Bessie’s world is turned upside down as a mystery slowly unravels.  She discovers a corporate cover-up and, in a radical coming of age story, Bessie and the Radium Girls decide to take on American Radium. Based on historical events, the national sensation following the notorious case of the Radium Girls in 1928 ultimately led to significant and lasting impact in the area of workplace health and safety and the study of radioactivity. 
Trailer: RADIUM GIRLS – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here.

Release Date: 10/23/20
Distributor: ArtMattan Productions
The Man Who Mends Women is the portrait of the impressive life and work of internationally renowned gynecologist Doctor Denis Mukwege. He received the prestigious 2014 Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought and 2018 Nobel Peace Prize for his struggle against sexual violence. Mukwege medically assisted over 46,000 sexually abused women in twenty years of professional practice. On September 10, 2020, Doctor Mukwege was placed under the guard of United Nations security forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo after death threats were made against him. Dr Mukwege said he received death threats after condemning a massacre. Overtly outspoken about human rights violations, especially killings and rapes by local or foreign armed groups, Dr Mukwege has been targeted in the past after pointing the finger of responsibility at DR Congo’s neighbors like Rwanda and Uganda. The October 23, 2020 virtual release of The Man Who Mends Women is meant to increase awareness of the life-threatening threats against Dr. Mukwege and to support his cause.
Trailer: THE MAN WHO MENDS WOMEN – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here.

Release Date: 10/28/20
Distributor: Zipporah Films
City government touches almost every aspect of our lives. Most of us are unaware of or take for granted these necessary services such as police, fire, sanitation, veterans affairs, elder support, parks, licensing of various professional activities, recordkeeping of birth, marriage and death as well as hundreds of other activities that support Boston residents and visitors. CITY HALL, by Frederick Wiseman, shows the efforts by Boston city government to provide these services. The film also illustrates the variety of ways the city administration enters into civil discourse with the citizens of Boston. Mayor Walsh and his administration are presented addressing a number of their policy priorities which include racial justice, affordable housing, climate action, and homelessness. CITY HALL shows a city government successfully offering a wide variety of services to a diverse population.
Trailer: CITY HALL – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here.

Release Date: 10/30/20
Distributor: KimStim
Amador Coro has been condemned for having provoked a fire. When he gets out of prison, nobody is waiting for him. He returns to his home town, a small village hidden in rural Galicia mountains, to live with his mother, Benedicta, and their three cows. Following the rhythm of nature, life goes by until one night when a fire starts to devastate the region.
Trailer: FIRE WILL COME – Official Trailer
Find participating theaters here.


Area 23a Films and Iambic Dreams Films
WE ARE MANY | Find tickets here

ArtMattan Films
MADE IN BANGLADESH | Find tickets here

Big World Pictures
THE HOLE | Find tickets here

Film Movement
GOD OF THE PIANO | Find tickets here

DEEP IN VOGUE | Find tickets here

Janus Films
BEAU TRAVAIL | Find tickets here.

Kino Lorber
BUOYANCY | Find tickets here
EPICENTRO | Find tickets here
JAZZ ON A SUMMER’S DAY | Find tickets here
LUCKY GRANDMA | Find tickets here
THE TOBACCONIST | Find tickets here

Zeitgeist Films (in association with Kino Lorber)
OLIVER SACKS: HIS OWN LIFE | Find tickets here

Magnolia Pictures
ALONE | Find tickets here 
AMULET | Find tickets here
THE FIGHT | Find tickets here
JOHN LEWIS: GOOD TROUBLE | Find tickets here
OUT STEALING HORSES | Find tickets here
RBG | Find tickets here

Music Box Films

PBS Distribution
A THOUSAND CUTS | Find tickets here

Oscilloscope Films
BILLY THE KID | Find tickets here

Samuel Goldwyn

Slamdance & Kino Marquee

Strand Releasing
THE ARTIST’S WIFE | Find tickets here

THE 11TH GREEN | Find tickets here

Well Go USA
HOUSE OF HUMMINGBIRD | Find tickets here 

Venera Films
AFRICAN VIOLET | Find tickets here

MR. SOUL! | Find tickets here 
VINYL NATION | Find tickets here
DEAD | Find tickets here