And the Oscar Goes To… Not a Clue

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2fer review: The Salvator Mundi docs

Back in June I saw The Lost Leonardo at AFIDOCS and described it as a great art thriller documentary. I remember when the Salvator Mundi (Savior of the world) painting was front page news and shook up the art world. But the story here begins when an art dealer finds a painting at a small New Orleans auction house and purchases it for $1175. He takes it to a respected art restorer who removes years of over-painting and comes to believe that it is in fact an undiscovered work by the master Leonardo da Vinci.  It goes on to become the most expensive ($450 million) painting ever sold.  And what the twisty documentary does is take the audience behind the scenes as the authenticity of the painting is questioned and then obscured. The cast of characters involved in its journey upward are politicians, art dealers, a Russian oligarch, even Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman. And the question of whether its provenance even matters becomes the big question. It’s a fascinating look inside the hidden art world where owning a piece has nothing to do with its aesthetics and more to do with its perceived worth.

AFIDOCS 2021: Arty Chick’s Download

This year was a distance festival. There were opportunities to be in the theaters in DC, but I chose to watch everything online from afar, on my couch. That’s a mixed blessing. No running from theater to theater. No missing something because it overlapped with another film. No frozen feet from arctic-cooled theaters. Lots of good snuggles with my dog. But also no standing in line with other festival-goers and talking about what we’ve seen and loved. No Q&A’s after the films. (There were some that were available, but it just didn’t seem the same taped from a distance.) And no watching films in some of DC’s beautiful landmarks like the National Archives. A slew of distractions that made it very different from sitting in a dark room with an audience. And for me the worst part was that I don’t have a big screen television, so some of the films were definitely shortchanged.

Nevertheless, it was a good festival and there were several films I will be thinking of for a while. The Audience Award for Best Feature went to one of my faves for sure, Storm Lake. It is a smaller film and I hope that the award will mean it gets seen by a lot more people.

The films I saw were: The First Step – Radiograph of a Family – Rise Again: Tulsa and the Red Summer – LFG – Storm Lake –  The Neutral Ground – The One and Only Dick Gregory – Obama: In Pursuit of a More Perfect Union –  Roadrunner: A Film about Anthony Bourdain – The Story Won’t Die –  Daughter of a Lost Bird –  and The Lost Leonardo.

Review: Kingdom of Silence

In October of 2018 the world reacted in horror at the news that journalist Jamal Khashoggi had been brutally murdered inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. The story of his demise changed hourly. But thanks to the Turkish government’s bugging of the consulate, we now know exactly what happened. It was the Saudi government and in particular Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) who ordered a group of assassins to kill and dismember a journalist whose opinions were in opposition to the story they wanted to be told. Most of what I read around that time spoke of Khashoggi as a brave dissident whose goal was to tell the truth about the Saudi government. And while that was true towards the end of his career, Kingdom of Silence looks at his very close relationship with the royal family over decades as a window into the power and influence they exerted in the region and internationally. And it is a fascinating and frightening story.