Tag Archives: Documentary

Bad Rap – Documentary Review

Bad Rap comes to Video on Demand (VOD) this Tuesday, May 23, 2017 on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play and Vudu.

Since the 70’s hip-hop has made global stars of its finest artist. Those artists are predominantly black, white and brown. Bad Rap follows four Asian-American rappers in their quest to perfect their art and as they try to break into a world that that treats them as outsiders.

Release Date: May 23, 2017
Director: Salima Koroma
Cast: Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina, Rekstizzy, Lyricks, Jin the MC

A documentary, like Bad Rap, is hard to put together. The director, Salima Koroma, masterfully chooses the most pressing topics, present the state of Asian rap and provide insights into the melding of Asian and hip hop culture.

Bap Rap follows four Asian rappers: Dumbfoundead, Awkwafina, Rekstizzy, Lyricks. All at various stages of their careers. It looks at their careers and the challenges they face as Asian breaking into a world that does not necessarily know what to do with them.

The movie starts with the most controversial topics when two cultures collide. The first being Asian in the world of hip hop. Are these artists trying to be an individual rap artist or are they simply Asian-version of rap. Is just enough to bring Asian references into a song or will audiences slap on the label of “Asian” and dismiss the music as second-rate.

Culture appropriate is the next controversy addressed. The idea that hip hop music is an African-inspired form of music and that Asians are trying to make money from an artform that is not there’s to take. Most fascinating is an argument between singer Rekstizzy and producer Jaeki Cho. The two battle over the appropriateness of Rekstizzy’s new music video, where he sprays ketchup and mustard on the posteriors of his Black background dancers. Is it culturally offensive or is it freedom of speech?

Bad Rap also spotlights female singer, Awkwafina, who managed to create her own style of hip-hop-influenced style and music. She created a unique laid-back style of rap and successfully broke into the mainstream. Even with her success, her contemporaries question if her success came, because it’s “easier” to book Asian females over Asian males.

Bad Rap also looks at other pertinent topics of Asians in the arts. For many of these artists, they had immigrant parents, who came to the United States and worked hard so their children would have a better life. Rap was not the life they imagined. For the artist, Lyricks, who comes into conflict with his deeply religious background. He struggles to maintain a mainstream rap career while struggling over his Christian upbringing.

Director Salima Koroma does a few things that are fascinating. She allows mainstream bookers and producers to view the work of the four artists. They give their honest and insightful opinions on the crew’s talent and potential. She also documents Dumbfoundead’s return to his roots of battle rap as he comes face-to-face with celebrity rapper, Conceited. Finally, Koroma jumps forward two years to see how each artist progressed over time.

Full Disclosure: I am not a fan of rap or hip hop, but I am an Asian-American. For me, Bad Rap excels in documenting the struggle of Asian-Americans in finding their individual voices as they blend in with the world they live and the culture they came from. It’s a story of individuals who find that hip hop is the only way they can express who they are and what they experience. It’s the story of these individuals finding meaning in a world they hope sees them as a serious artist and not a novelty.

The True Story of Survival Comes to ‘Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story’ – Newport Beach Film Festival Preview

In Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story, director Phillip Baribeau tells an intimate and riveting look into the complex layers of trauma, healing, and relationships. The film premieres at the Newport Beach Film Festival today at 5:15 pm at the Triangle Cinemas.

The documentary feature film, “Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story,” which had its World Premiere as the Opening Night Film at the Santa Barbara International Film Festival, provides extraordinary access into the emotional and inspiring journey of Eduardo Garcia. In a few short moments, this accomplished chef became the survivor of a freak accident — alone, near death and miles from help deep in Montana’s backcountry — hit with 2400 volts of electricity, the strength of a primary high voltage wire.

Miraculously despite severe shock and weakness, Eduardo found the strength to take his first steps toward finding help. The result of the accident was the loss of his left hand and forearm and a recovery which included 21 surgeries. It was during his 48 days in ICU with his former long-term girlfriend and business partner Jennifer Jane with him every step of the way, Eduardo faced yet another health scare — he was diagnosed with Stage 2 testicular cancer.

After months of surgeries and chemotherapy, Eduardo was ready for his next and perhaps greatest challenge — asking, “How am I going to get back to being me?”

There will be a second screening Monday, April 24 at 5 pm.

The Big Lonely – Movie Review – Dances with Films 2015

The Big Lonely follows the life of Michael Nelms and his dog, Tic. Michael is a homeless man who, rather than live under a bridge or in a big city alley, live in a self-built cabin 60 miles into an Oregon forest.

The movie not only documents Michael’s life for about nine months and through a brutal winter but also serves as his personal diary. The entire movie was shot and recorded by Michael without the supervision of any third person. The only subjects in The Big Lonely are Michael, dog Tic and you the viewer.

Dances With Films Entrant
David Manougian
Director: David Manougian
Cast/Subject: Michael Nelms

The movie tells two parallel stories. The first story is one of survival. Every day, Michael has to find food, get drinking water from a well and cope with loneliness. The movie starts with the coming of a particularly harsh winter. When the weather gets cold, Michael must stay warm and decide if he is going to brave the elements to get much-needed water and food. As the temperature drops to sub-zero degrees, food and water become more and more scarce. At one point, Michael must make a 60-mile trek in the dead of winter to a nearby town to find small odd jobs and buy enough food for another year. This is a trip he does not want to make. First, because of the cold winter’s snow and second, the nearby town does not want him on its streets.

The second story is Michael himself. For a man living in isolation, he is a fascinating man. Before becoming homeless, Michael Nelms was a business man and a realtor. After his divorce, the state went after him for child support. After receiving a letter that he had fulfilled his support obligation, the state went after him again for more money. Ignoring the first letter, the state took away his driver’s license and Michael is now unable to work and find any employment.

Now living in the Oregon woods, Michael is reflective about his past and the events that lead to his current situation. He can enjoy and embrace the beauty of his natural surroundings to the point of being amazingly philosophical and poetic with his words. Looking at the amazing green forest landscape, Michael calls it “Poverty with a view.” Then there’s his future, Michael lives in an annual cycle of survival. His sole purpose in life is to make it to the next day and through the next winter. He fights with himself in hopes of not crossing the line into hopelessness. He is unable to see a future where his situation gets better.

Writer/Director David Manougian does a magnificent job piecing together hundreds of hours of Michael’s video diary. He paints a story that makes you feel Michael’s struggle in the coldest winter. You are engaged with Michael’s story and fall in love with the beauty of the American outdoors. You will be touched and challenged with The Big Lonely.

For more information about The Big Lonely and future screenings, visit TheBigLonely.com.

Love Me – Movie Review

Finding love is not an easy process. For many, it’s almost an impossible undertaking. When the traditional methods of finding someone within our social circles fails, we turn to untraditional methods. The business of love is certainly non-traditional and takes many forms including online dating, mobile apps, and millionaire matchmakers.

Release Date: February 10 on VOD
Rated: Not Rated
Director: Jonathon Narducci
Running Time: 1:34

Love MeIn his documentary, Love Me, Jonathon Narducci explores the business of mail order bride. The movie follows American customers, international dating businesses (A Foreign Affair and Elena’s Models) and the Ukrainian brides themselves through the process of international matchmaking.

My exposure to the world of “mail order brides” is purely limited to my passive exposure on television and film. I envisioned desperate socially awkward men going to questionably legitimate businesses and introduced to women desperate to leave their third world lives for the hope of legally coming to their dream of heaven, the United States.

Love MeNarducci’s Love Me does what a documentary needs to do, by opening its audience to a world they knew nothing about and gave an honest perspective on the subject. At first, I was concerned that Love Me would become a 90-minute infomercial for the mail order bride business.

Narducci introduces us to a half-a-dozen men at various points in their lives when it comes to love. These men are on the spectrum of love from the socially-awkward who has a hard time socializing with women in general to the newly widowed man unwilling to “play the dating game.”

Two companies highlighted in Love Me are A Foreign Affair and Elena’s Models. The movie follows men who have subscribed to the website and began corresponding with potential brides in the Ukraine. It also follows men to have decided to go on a matchmaking tour of the Ukraine, hoping to find love at various dances and singles events.

Are these services legitimate or a scam? Are the Ukrainian women looking to find the fast track to the United States? Yes, no and probably is how Narducci answers these question. Love Me is an excellent documentary that manages to look at multiple aspects of Mail-Order Bride services. Ultimately, we learn that people are people with real emotions, real desires and a real need to find companionship that is right for them.