|Houston Decimated by drugs and a broken heart.|
Armenians decimated by Turkey.
Dir. Nick Broomfield, Rudi Dolezal
Intent to Destroy
Dir. Joe Berlinger
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Veteran filmmakers Nick Broomfield (Tales of the Grim Sleeper, Kurt & Courtney) and Joe Berlinger (Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger) both have new feature documentaries that serve up plenty of extremely moving content.
Broomfield's biographical portrait of the late pop music icon Whitney Houston utilizes concert/tour/personal footage shot by co-director Rudi Dolezal from many years earlier along with new interviews conducted by the incisive Brit auteur of her friends, family and associates. It's impossible not to shed numerous tears throughout this finely-wrought piece as we learn about her early years with a gospel-singing Momma, her rise to fame as a machine-tooled pop-star, her desire to sing her own way and the loves of her life - a best (female) friend from the 'hood and "fly" singing sensation Bobby Brown.
Mostly, what we walk away with is a film portrait of a woman dying, almost from the get-go. It's impossible to not feel she's wasting away ON CAMERA before our very eyes. The movie eschews Broomfield's trademark wise-ass, sardonic presence, but we hear his voice and the film is structurally blessed with his finely-honed skills as a master film storyteller.
Berlinger's picture is very strange, but also one in which it's impossible not to shed tears. It is a documentary about the horrific 1915 Turkish genocide of over one million Armenians. We learn about the racist policies of forced relocation and wholesale slaughter of the Christian "infidel" and Turkey's continued (to this day) refusal to acknowledge the country's complicity in the first genocide of the 20th century.
The interviews and use of archival footage is first rate. What's less successful (and renders the movie into oddball territory) is the framing device and through-line of the windbag hack director Terry George's production of the absolutely horrendous Armenian massacre drama The Promise. Though Berlinger works hard to relate this part of the film to the real subject of the proceedings, it often feels like glorified EPK and/or DVD-extra material for George's dreadful movie.
Still, if Berlinger's picture (and much of it is very fine), sheds light on one of the least-know genocides, then this is enough to make it worth seeing. Alas, George himself certainly didn't ingratiate himself upon me from the get-go. Aside from the fact that I have little use for his by-the-numbers work as a director, he rattles off a list of modern genocides in an interview, but fails to mention Russia and Joseph Stalin's murder of 8-10 million Ukrainians during the Holodomor and purges. This is a pretty boneheaded omission. It's probably to be expected. His Armenian Holocaust picture turned out to be plenty boneheaded.
THE FILM CORNER RATING (Whitney): ***½ Three-and-a-Half Stars
THE FILM CORNER RATING (Intent to Destroy): *** Three Stars
Whitney enjoys its Canadian premiere and Intent To Destroy enjoys its International Premiere at Hot Docs 2017.