Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Arts Express: Cocoa Brown Talks Dying Laughing

            Cocoa Brown in Tyler Perry's The Single Moms Club

** "Most comics are tortured souls - And to be able to go on stage and make people laugh, you're healing yourself in the process." 

Dying Laughing: A conversation with standup comic and actress Cocoa Brown - among the multitudes of comedians baring those tortured souls in this documentary. Delving into the alternately fascinating and conflicted psyches of standup comics. Including Jamie Foxx, Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld, Sarah Silverman, Jerry Lewis, and countless others. Brown phones in to Arts Express from LA to talk about the dark places she and other comics are coming from; surviving sexism on stage; the many characters she's played on the big and small screen; rejection, mirrors, Richard Pryor, and the philosophy of funny; and the Tyler Perry experience on For Better Or Worse, in navigating black identity humor.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW HERE


** "It's the Native people that get it, and we need to look to them as teachers."
Water Is Life [Mni Wiconi]: Resisting The Dakota Pipeline. Earth Mum reports from the embattled front lines at Standing Rock. A presentation compiled from the Pacifica radio host's journeys to the ground zero heart of the pipeline resistance. Including movement eyewitness accounts, videos, images, and oral history audio interviews she gathered from the encampment. While the elders, spiritual leaders and assembled tribes speak about the importance of respecting Mother Earth. And as the struggle continues, no matter what. A treasure trove of material Earth Mum brought back, and an education moment. Jack Shalom reports

New Directors/New Films 2017: Menashe - Offbeat Orthodoxy Rules In Hassidic Brooklyn Tale
 'The Three Things That Bring A Man Happiness, Says The Talmud: A nice wife, a nice house, and nice dishes.'

So proceeds the uncommonly fascinating and vividly authentic Yiddish subtitled dramatic feature Menashe, as it balances both somber and quirky. And as the despondent and defiant widower in question, Menashe [Menashe Lustig], single father of young schoolboy Rieven [Ruben Niborski] resists the relentless attempts of his authoritarian religious community to procure him a new wife as quickly as possible - and while insisting that Menashe relinquish his son to the family of his late wife's disdainful brother until he does so.

Director Joshua Z. Weinstein impressively displays his background as a documentary filmmaker here, seamlessly blending a delicately layered journey through an actual Brooklyn Hasidic community depicted utterly unself-consciously by nonprofessional actors. And with a keen eye for capturing emotional truth rather than the typical anthropological when not exoticized outsider perspective, when delving into such typically hermetic traditional communities.

And within that dramatic landscape, Weinstein sets his measured pace to allow audiences to discover and decide for themselves just what is playing out along the way. Does the rebellious behavior of Menashe indicate a villain or victim - or an enigmatic force at work beyond the seeming stubborn selfishness turning his community against him, in his insistence on raising his son on his own - even if lacking in the security and comforts for his son to be offered by an intact nuclear family.

And what comes surprisingly to light, is the way in which forced marriages can psychologically scar males as well as females - who knew. And though the resolution may amount to something more realistic than satisfying, there is much along the way to infuse our collective soul and senses. Including bachelor-proof cooking recipes, a pet chicken fond of dancing atop heads, the paternal lovingly resolved dilemma of an excrement laden shoe, and a purchased painting of an esteemed local rabbi guaranteed to scare away household rodents.

Along with a euphoric scene captured among the Latino immigrant workers in a grocery story where the downcast dad likewise toils - as they along with Menashe drink themselves into song and sorrow together on a downtime backroom break - commiserating about male problems when it comes to surviving romance and other issues, in universally perplexing cross-cultural worlds everywhere.

New Directors/New Films 2017, in its 46th year, runs from March 15th through 26th at New York City's Museum of Modern Art and the Film Society of Lincoln Center. The film festival introduces audiences to the work of emerging or not yet established filmmakers here and internationally, and takes place at the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center and at The Roy and Niuta Titus Theaters at MoMA. More information about New Directors/New Films is online at newdirectors.org.


Arts Express: Airing on the WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network and Affiliate Stations 

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