Streaming Surprises, Volume 20

Our “Streaming Surprises” series calls attention to good movies new and old that our board members are watching. Titles are available from various streaming services.

“Blindspotting” (2018)
Collin has three days left of probation. He is working hard to stay out of trouble, which is not easy in his native Oakland where police brutality is still a haunting reality; and not easy when his friends’ idea of a good time is driving around in flashy cars, smoking dope and brandishing guns. Collin works for a moving company, where he and best friend Miles are a team. (Collin is black and Miles is white.) Driving the moving van home, nervous about his 11 p.m. curfew, Collin witnesses a white Oakland cop shooting an unarmed black man. He and the cop make eye contact before the cop indicates to Collin to get moving. What Collin witnessed does not comport with the report he sees on the news the next day. The audience feels Collin’s ache to take action to right that wrong, as well as his struggle to remain silent. Speaking up would surely land him back in prison. As the 3-day clock ticks away, the tension becomes unbearable, reaching a poetic crescendo in the final scene. “Blindspotting” presents us with the social issues of the current Oakland—gentrification and class conflict, racism, police brutality. At the same time, it is wildly entertaining. The film was written by real-life best friends Daveed Diggs, who plays Collin (and who also played Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson in Hamilton), and Rafael Casal, who plays Miles.
Submitted by Linda Knight. Available on Amazon.

“The Intouchables” (2011)
The recently released film “The Upside” starring Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart is a remake of one of the highest-grossing French films of all time, “The Intouchables.” Both films were inspired by the true story of Philippe Pozzo di Borgo and Abdel Sellou, his French-Algerian caregiver. Philippe is a wealthy aristocrat who becomes paralyzed in a paragliding accident. After interviewing candidates for a caregiver position, Philippe hires Driss, a young man from the projects. Driss assists Philippe with every aspect of his life, proving himself a competent caregiver. Even when Philippe learns that Driss spent time in jail for robbery, he refuses to fire him. He appreciates that in addition to doing his job properly, Driss does not treat him with pity or handle him with kid gloves. The story moves between Philippe’s mansion to the small, government-funded apartment Driss shares with his family. Both these men carry burdens; both are “untouchables.” Philippe is confined to his wheelchair, reliant on others for his most basic needs, and Driss, whose choices in life have left his family disappointed in him. While theirs is not a traditional friendship, they both fill voids in each other’s lives. Philippe introduces Driss to art and opera, even encouraging Driss to take up painting. In a particularly enjoyable scene, Philippe enjoys a private concert of classical music in his home. Driss finds the music dull and livens up the party by switching to a recording of Earth, Wind and Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland.” Both men enjoy myriad new experiences based on their growing friendship, opening them both up to lead fuller lives.
Submitted by Cindy Peters Duzi. Available on Amazon.

“Of Fathers and Sons” (2017)
There’s good reason why Berlin-based, Syrian-born filmmaker Talal Derki has won such universal acclaim for his sophomore film, “Of Fathers and Sons,” which is nominated for a 2019 Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Derki’s doc pulls off a staggering feat of documentary access: He returns to his homeland where he gains the trust of a radical Islamist family, sharing and documenting their daily life for more than two years. Derki and cinematographer Kahtan Hassoun, who worked together on Derki’s celebrated debut, “The Return to Homs,” provide chilling and rare footage from inside a burgeoning Islamic caliphate. The father, Abu, proudly names his sons after internationally known terrorists. The eldest sons, Ayman and Osama, lovingly admire their father and reflect his views and actions as they come of age–although Ayman does veer toward a life of education, while Osama seems to follow the life of a jihadi. As we peek inside their world, one where women are sometimes heard in the background but almost never seen, the juxtapositions of their family life feel shocking. A young brother plays with a captured bird until the older brothers “slaughter” it on command. Abu leaves his job defusing landmines after the lower half of his leg is brutally blown off. Ayman and Osama attend sharia camp where they jump through literal rings of fire and practice laying still while being strafed with live machine-gun rounds. And yet, the intimacy Derki creates with the family (and thus, with the viewer) creates the ultimate in cinematic dissonance. Are you feeling empathy? Understanding? Disbelief? Or just plain horror?
Submitted by Jefferson Beavers. Available on Kanopy.