After playing both at Sundance and New Directors/New Films, Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi’s “5 Broken Cameras” is being made available to a wider audience. The first-person documentary follows Burnat, a Palestinian fighting the construction of a barrier within his home village. Through its various festival stops, the documentary has earned a B+ from our Criticwire network, yielding the highest average grade among this week’s new releases.
We previously singled out “5 Broken Cameras” as one of our top five Criticwire picks at the aforementioned ND/NF, where Filmmaker Magazine’s Howard Feinstein wrote of the film, “The footage is astounding, both as a chronicle of an unjust and violent situation and as filmmaking. Burnat has an intuitive feel for the medium.” Burnat, who, according to Feinstein, became involved in the film partly by accident, explores the protests against the barrier through different chapters brought on by the fate of his equipment (as the title suggests).
Documentaries lead the way this week, as Steve Kessler’s documentary tribute “Paul Williams: Still Alive” also opens on Friday with high marks from Criticwire members. After premiering at Toronto last year and playing at SXSW, the film currently holds a B average. Williams, the doc’s main subject, may not be as well known as his music. From “Rainbow Connection” to “We’ve Only Just Begun,” Williams’ work caught the devotion of Kessler, who makes his attempt to tell the musician’s life story just as much the focus of the documentary as the man himself. Kessler’s advances are not initially embraced. As The Playlist’s Katie Walsh describes it: “Kessler wants to know how Williams feels about no longer being as famous as he was in the ’70s, when he was a household name and played himself on all manner of sitcoms, was a regular on ‘The Tonight Show’ and hugged Barbra Streisand at the podium while they accepted the Academy Award for ‘Evergreen’ (from ‘A Star is Born’). The fact of the matter is that Williams doesn’t want to look back.”
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The largest opening with limited first-wave feedback is “Snow White and the Huntsman.” While it’s too soon to claim any kind of consensus, if a majority of the reviews concur with Daniel Green’s CineVue assessment, the film might fall prey to the same feelings of ambivalence that hampered its 2012 fairy tale predecessor “Mirror Mirror”: “Sanders’ commercial director past looms large over SWATH, which at times resembles a multi-million dollar perfume ad set in a fantastical, medieval-inflected world…Yet the central performances shine through and there is just enough humor (almost all of it from the well-drawn, well-designed and often comical dwarves who count Eddie Marsan, Ray Winstone and Nick Frost in their ranks) in ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ to avoid too many accusations of adolescent grumpiness.”
Rounding out this week’s slate is Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli’s animated tale “A Cat in Paris,” the 1920s-set Cristero War western “For Greater Glory,” the over-the-place marijuana school battle comedy “HIGH School” and “Wish Me Away,” the documentary about out country music singer Chely Wright.