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    ‘The Jump’ Review: A Seaman’s Story of a Daring Escape

    This documentary looks back at a Cold War defection drama that took place off the coast of Massachusetts.In its first half-hour, the documentary “The Jump” brings a bracing immediacy to a 50-year-old Cold War incident. In 1970, a Lithuanian sailor, Simas Kudirka, jumped from a Soviet trawler onto a U.S. Coast Guard vessel off Martha’s Vineyard in an effort to defect from the Soviet Union. (The boats were moored alongside each other for talks on fishing rights.)The Soviet crewmen were allowed to forcibly remove Kudirka from the Coast Guard ship and take him home, where he would presumably meet a chilling fate. The episode led to protests in the United States.To lay out these events, the early scenes principally crosscut among three people. Kudirka revisits the Coast Guard vessel he had jumped to a half-century earlier and energetically points out what happened and where.The director, Giedre Zickyte, interweaves Kudirka’s recollections with testimony from the ship’s captain, Cmdr. Ralph W. Eustis, and Lt. Cmdr. Paul E. Pakos, its executive officer, to create a fluid account that shows how the day unfolded from multiple perspectives.When the story shifts to the Soviet Union, Zickyte introduces a K.G.B. interrogator who recalls questioning Kudirka. The sailor received a 10-year sentence but was freed in 1974. In the film, Kudirka revisits a prison where he was held.“The Jump” grows less exciting after that, partly because Kudirka, its most engaging storyteller, was necessarily in the background of efforts to secure his freedom, and partly because his eventual release owed more to incredible luck than to a political breakthrough. In the film, Henry Kissinger recalls that President Gerald R. Ford directly intervened on Kudirka’s behalf. “No professional diplomat would ever have done that,” he says.The JumpNot rated. In Lithuanian and English, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 24 minutes. Rent or buy on Amazon, Apple TV and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators. More

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    ‘Selling Kabul’ Holds Up a New Mirror After the Taliban Takeover

    Sylvia Khoury’s play, which takes place over one night in Afghanistan in 2013, has only deepened after a pandemic postponement.In March 2020, “Selling Kabul” was just two weeks from starting previews when the theater industry suddenly went dark.The set — a modest living room in the Afghan capital — sat empty for over 19 months, another abandoned apartment in Midtown Manhattan. Still, the cast and crew stayed in touch, regularly video chatting and sharing their ongoing research.But in August, when the United States ended its longest war and the Taliban took over, their conversations changed. What did their play mean now, in this new geopolitical reality? Had their duty to their characters changed? What memories and frustrations would audiences now be bringing to the performance?“We were in almost daily contact about the changing situation in Afghanistan,” the director, Tyne Rafaeli, said, “and starting to understand and analyze how that changing situation was going to affect our play.”Sylvia Khoury, the playwright, also wrestled with the new resonance of her work. Ultimately, she decided not to alter the text, wanting to honor the historical moment and the individual experiences that had generated it.“The time that we’re in really colors certain moments of the play in different ways,” Khoury said in a video interview last month after the show began previews. “I haven’t changed them. A play is a fixed thing, as history continues.”“Selling Kabul” takes place in 2013, as the Obama administration began its long withdrawal of troops. Khoury wrote it in 2015, after speaking with several interpreters waiting for Special Immigrant Visas. And because that visa program, created by Congress to give refuge to Afghans and Iraqis who helped the U.S. military, requires rigorous vetting, many have been stuck in bureaucratic limbo for years. Now many American allies and partners remain in the country, potentially vulnerable to Taliban reprisals.“That time elapsed really speaks to a profound moral failure,” Khoury said. “That time elapsing, in itself, really showed us our own shame.”“Selling Kabul,” a Playwrights Horizons production that opened earlier this month and is scheduled to close Dec. 23, shines a light on the human cost of America’s foreign conflicts. It neither reprimands its audience nor offers catharsis. Instead, Khoury delivers an intense, intimate look at four people caught in a web of impossible choices.“If I still bit my nails I would have no nails left now,” Alexis Soloski wrote in her review for The New York Times..css-1xzcza9{list-style-type:disc;padding-inline-start:1em;}.css-3btd0c{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-3btd0c{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-3btd0c strong{font-weight:600;}.css-3btd0c em{font-style:italic;}.css-1kpebx{margin:0 auto;font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.125rem;line-height:1.3125rem;color:#121212;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-family:nyt-cheltenham,georgia,’times new roman’,times,serif;font-weight:700;font-size:1.375rem;line-height:1.625rem;}@media (min-width:740px){#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-1kpebx{font-size:1.6875rem;line-height:1.875rem;}}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1kpebx{font-size:1.25rem;line-height:1.4375rem;}}.css-1gtxqqv{margin-bottom:0;}.css-1g3vlj0{font-family:nyt-franklin,helvetica,arial,sans-serif;font-size:1rem;line-height:1.375rem;color:#333;margin-bottom:0.78125rem;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-1g3vlj0{font-size:1.0625rem;line-height:1.5rem;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}}.css-1g3vlj0 strong{font-weight:600;}.css-1g3vlj0 em{font-style:italic;}.css-1g3vlj0{margin-bottom:0;margin-top:0.25rem;}.css-19zsuqr{display:block;margin-bottom:0.9375rem;}.css-12vbvwq{background-color:white;border:1px solid #e2e2e2;width:calc(100% – 40px);max-width:600px;margin:1.5rem auto 1.9rem;padding:15px;box-sizing:border-box;}@media (min-width:740px){.css-12vbvwq{padding:20px;width:100%;}}.css-12vbvwq:focus{outline:1px solid #e2e2e2;}#NYT_BELOW_MAIN_CONTENT_REGION .css-12vbvwq{border:none;padding:10px 0 0;border-top:2px solid #121212;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-rdoyk0{-webkit-transform:rotate(0deg);-ms-transform:rotate(0deg);transform:rotate(0deg);}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-eb027h{max-height:300px;overflow:hidden;-webkit-transition:none;transition:none;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-5gimkt:after{content:’See more’;}.css-12vbvwq[data-truncated] .css-6mllg9{opacity:1;}.css-qjk116{margin:0 auto;overflow:hidden;}.css-qjk116 strong{font-weight:700;}.css-qjk116 em{font-style:italic;}.css-qjk116 a{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration:underline;text-decoration:underline;text-underline-offset:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-thickness:1px;text-decoration-thickness:1px;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:visited{color:#326891;-webkit-text-decoration-color:#326891;text-decoration-color:#326891;}.css-qjk116 a:hover{-webkit-text-decoration:none;text-decoration:none;}In the play, Taroon, who was an interpreter for the U.S. military, is waiting for a promised visa. He has just become a father — his wife had their son just before the play starts — but he cannot be with them. He’s in hiding at his sister Afiya’s apartment, where he has been holed up for four months hoping to evade the Taliban. But on this evening, they seem to be growing closer and closer.Taroon has to leave Kabul. And he has to leave soon.“A play is a fixed thing, as history continues,” the playwright Sylvia Khoury said about her decision not to update her play after the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.Elias Williams for The New York Times“Beyond the headlines, this play homes in on the detail, the intense detail of how this foreign policy affects these four people, on this day, in this apartment,” Rafaeli said.Told in real time, the 95-minute play is performed without an intermission. As fear intensifies and violence creeps closer, the four characters fight to keep secrets, and to keep one another alive, but they are also forced to make decisions that could endanger the others.“There’s not really one bad person, and they’re not just in a difficult circumstance; they’re in an impossible circumstance,” said Marjan Neshat, who plays Afiya. The coronavirus pandemic has changed the tone of the play, too. During an earlier run in 2019 at the Williamstown Theater Festival, audiences could only imagine Taroon’s claustrophobia. Now, they can remember. Khoury said she hopes that viewers come away with an understanding of how their individual actions can affect people they will never meet.“As Americans, we used to think it was enough to tend our own gardens,” Khoury said. “Now, I think we’re realizing: It’s not even close to enough.” Khoury wrote “Selling Kabul” while in medical school at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Pulling from conversations with Afghan interpreters, and from her own family history, she weaves a nuanced portrait of the myth of America.“No one that I ever spoke to was ever unclear that they wanted to come to America,” she said. “It was safer for them.”In the play, Afiya’s neighbor Leyla remembers the soldiers as fun, even handsome. Afiya — who speaks English better than Taroon does, despite being forced out of school when the Taliban took control in the 1990s — thinks Americans are untrustworthy. “To me, America is just the great abandoner,” said Neshat, explaining her character’s view. “Like, ‘You promised this thing that you could never fulfill. And, how dare you?’”And for Taroon, America is a promise. “America, their word is good,” he tells Afiya.When “Selling Kabul” was first performed at the Williamstown Theater Festival, Donald Trump was president. That was a laugh line. Now, there aren’t many chuckles, but Taroon’s conviction still stings.“Our word still is not good,” Khoury said. “That’s something that’s difficult to admit on this side of the political spectrum.”Dario Ladani Sanchez, left, as Taroon and Marjan Neshat as Afiya in the play at Playwrights Horizons.Sara Krulwich/The New York TimesRealizing that her play might leave audience members wondering what they can do to help, Khoury started a private fund-raiser for the International Refugee Assistance Project, which will follow the play as it moves to other cities. Information about the charity is tucked inside each Playbill.“Not giving people somewhere to go after felt like a missed opportunity,” Khoury said.The playwright also held up a moral mirror to audiences in “Power Strip,” a story about Syrian refugees at a migrant camp in Greece, which debuted at Lincoln Center in 2019. In “Selling Kabul,” her characters also stand on the precipice of leaving almost everything they know.“The stories of how we left are the fabric of my childhood, from country to country, in pretty extreme circumstances,” said Khoury, who is of Lebanese and French descent, and whose family has been affected by colonial and imperial shifts across the Middle East and North Africa.“Who are you, before you leave? Who is the person who makes the decision to go?” she said, adding, “And it’s without saying goodbye, in most of the stories I know. It’s immediately. It’s taking the first truck you can.”As audiences filed out of the theater after a recent performance, one friend turned to another. Where do you think they are now? she wondered. What happened to them?For Neshat, who was born in Iran and moved to the United States when she was 8, that’s almost too painful to think about. “How do you choose between your best friend neighbor and your brother?” she said of the play’s excruciating dilemmas. “Like, how do you do that?” More

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    ‘3212 Un-Redacted’ Review: Trying to Solve a Mission’s Mysteries

    The documentary looks into the complex circumstances involving four American soldiers who were killed in an ambush in Niger in 2017.For anyone confused about the circumstances in which four American soldiers were killed in an ambush in Niger in 2017, the documentary “3212 Un-Redacted” clearly lays out the geography and complicated timeline. It also suggests that confusion is understandable: The movie argues that the Pentagon’s official investigation, which placed the bulk of the blame on junior-level officers, unfairly characterized the events and went out of its way to protect high-ranking officials.“3212 Un-Redacted,” produced by ABC News with the investigative reporter James Gordon Meek serving as a writer and an onscreen presence, visually plays more like a television special than a feature documentary. It devotes much of its first half-hour to remembering the fallen men — we learn, for instance, about how Sgt. La David T. Johnson rode a single-wheeled bike around the Miami area — and introducing their families, no strangers to military culture, who feel betrayed. “The army let me down,” says Arnold Wright, the father of Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright. “They let my son down. And then they lied about it.”Meek is particularly interested in why higher-level officials might have proceeded with the operation, after pushback from the ground; the answer he proposes suggests complex motives that probably couldn’t be fully assessed without more information than is publicly available. But at times, the filmmaking itself could be clearer. Meek indicates that he was first contacted about the project around 2018, but the movie shows footage of an American-Nigerien military meeting in September 2017, the month before the ambush. (A representative for the film says it comes from “Chain of Command,” a series by National Geographic, which isn’t credited until the end.) The lack of labeling only raises questions, slightly marring what otherwise plays like a thorough, outraged exposé.3212 Un-RedactedNot rated. Running time: 1 hour 38 minutes. Watch on Hulu. More

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    ‘Apocalypse ’45’ Review: Graphic Images of Wartime

    Candid testimonies from World War II veterans accompanies vivid archival footage in this immersive documentary that showcases the myths we tell ourselves about war.At one point in “Apocalypse ’45,” the camera gazes over Tokyo from an American military bomber as the plane ejects a cluster of cylinders. For several beats, the bombs disappear into the air. Then we see the explosions: tiny bursts of orange far below.Startling images appear throughout “Apocalypse ’45,” a transfixing documentary that depicts the final months of World War II in rare detail. The film (streaming on Discovery+) combines vivid archival footage from war reporters with the accounts of an array of veterans. Its project is to immerse us in the horrors of warfare, and to convey the ways its witnesses cope with war’s psychic toll.The images, taken from digitally-restored film reels that sat in the National Archives for decades, are disturbingly graphic. A Japanese woman steps off a cliff in the Mariana Islands to avoid being taken hostage. Soldiers on Iwo Jima shoot flamethrowers into caves. Planes piloted by kamikaze plunge into ships near Okinawa. The director Erik Nelson adds realistic wartime sound effects to the silent footage, achieving an unsettling verisimilitude.But the veterans, whose candid testimonies are interwoven in voice over, are the movie’s shrewdest addition. Notably, Nelson declines to distinguish among the men, and instead patchworks their deep, breathy voices into sonic wallpaper. Without faces or names, their remarks cannot be individually condemned or celebrated. Rather, they blend into a collective, showcasing how people seek out myths — about war’s inevitability, Japanese conformity, or American might — to find reason where there may be none.When it comes to representing non-American experiences, the documentary is less equipped. Nelson calls on only one Japanese interviewee, a survivor of Hiroshima. His voice opens the documentary, and reappears later on to describe the atom bomb attack. The survivor’s perspective is vital, but offered alone, its inclusion feels perfunctory. “Apocalypse ’45” knows that war is hell for everyone. But it’s difficult to escape the sense that, in this film’s view of history, America is top of mind.Apocalypse ’45Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 43 minutes. Watch on Discovery+. More

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    ‘F.T.A.’: When Jane Fonda Rocked the U.S. Army

    AdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storyRewind‘F.T.A.’: When Jane Fonda Rocked the U.S. ArmyA newly exhumed documentary delves into the actress’s anti-Vietnam vaudeville tour of American military bases in 1972.Donald Sutherland and Jane Fonda in the 1972 documentary “F.T.A.,” which stood for something ruder than Free the Army.Credit…Kino LorberMarch 4, 2021, 11:52 a.m. ET“F.T.A.,” an agitprop rockumentary that ran for a week in July 1972, reappears as an exhumed relic, recording the joyfully scurrilous anti-Vietnam War vaudeville led by Jane Fonda that toured the towns outside American military bases in Hawaii, the Philippines and Japan.The movie, directed by Francine Parker, who produced it along with Fonda and Donald Sutherland, opened the same day that Fonda’s trip to North Vietnam made news. The film, greeted with outrage and consigned to oblivion, has been restored by IndieCollect, and is enjoying a belated second (virtual) run.The F.T.A. show was conceived as an alternative to Bob Hope’s gung-ho, blithely sexist U.S.O. tours; its initials stood for something ruder than “Free the Army.” The skits, evocative of the guerrilla street theater, ridiculed generals, mocked male chauvinism and celebrated insubordination. The show was hardly subtle, but, as documented in the movie, opinions expressed by various servicemen were no less blunt.In interviews, Black marines characterized Vietnam as “a racist and genocidal war of aggression” and even white soldiers criticized the “imperialistic American government.” Half a century after it appeared, “F.T.A.” is a reminder of how deeply unpopular the Vietnam War was and how important disillusioned GIs were to the antiwar movement. “I was ‘silent majority’ until tonight,” one tells the camera after a performance.Fonda may be the designated spokeswoman, but the show was largely devoid of star-ism. A shaggy-looking Sutherland, who had recently appeared with her in “Klute,” gets at least as much screen time. Two relative unknowns, the singer Rita Martinson and the poet (and proto-rapper) Pamela Donegan, have memorable solos performing their own material.The hardest working individual was the Greenwich Village folk singer and civil rights activist Len Chandler, who assumed the Pete Seeger role of prompting the audience to sing along with compositions like “My Ass is Mine” and “I Will Not Bow Down to Genocide.” A younger folkie, Holly Near, was also on hand, hamming along with Fonda in a parody of “Carolina Morning” that began, “Nothing could be finer than to be in Indochina …”Context is crucial. Vivian Gornick, who covered the tour for the Village Voice, reported that “the F.T.A. was surrounded, wherever it went, by agents of the C.I.D., the O.S.I., the C.I.A., the local police.” After military authorities became frightened, “‘riot conditions’ were declared.” Indeed, “F.T.A.” documents antiwar demonstrations staged by civilians in Okinawa and at Subic Bay in the Philippines. The latter was singled out in the New York Times critic Roger Greenspun’s review as the movie’s high point.Greenspun thought “F.T.A.” failed to capture the spirit of the stage shows. Perhaps, but however chaotic and self-righteous, the movie is a genuine, powerful and even stirring expression of the antipathy engendered by a war that — as the author Thomas Powers recently wrote — “refused to be won, or lost, or understood” and scarred the psyches of those who lived through it.F.T.A.Opens in virtual cinemas through Kino Marquee starting March 5.AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More

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    Six Great Movies About Presidents

    #masthead-section-label, #masthead-bar-one { display: none }What to WatchBest Movies on NetflixBest of Disney PlusBest of Amazon PrimeBest Netflix DocumentariesNew on NetflixAdvertisementContinue reading the main storySupported byContinue reading the main storySix Great Movies About PresidentsIf you’re looking for some escapism, these films are a good reminder that democracy works.Daniel Day-Lewis took an Oscar-winning turn as President Abraham Lincoln in the 2012 film “Lincoln.”Credit…DreamWorks Pictures and 20th Century FoxJan. 16, 2021When a new president is inaugurated, it’s traditionally an occasion for pageantry and pomp, showcasing the splendor of Washington and reminding the country and the world of the United States’ democratic promise: that power ultimately rests in the will of the people. As we head into these ceremonies next week, it’s a good time to let these movies remind us that the mechanisms of American politics and the institution of the presidency — at their best and worst — have endured for centuries.These six entertaining films are about real and fictional presidents, and are set against the backdrop and complicated culture of our nation’s capital.‘Lincoln’The director Steven Spielberg and the screenwriter Tony Kushner take an unusual approach to telling the story of one of America’s most beloved presidents, focusing mostly on the first months of Abraham Lincoln’s second term, when he cajoled a reluctant Congress into passing a constitutional amendment to abolish slavery. Daniel Day-Lewis gives an Oscar-winning performance as Lincoln, capturing the man’s gentle good humor and shrewd — sometimes ruthless — political instincts. The “Lincoln” creative team make the figures from history books look and feel like real people, with complex personalities and motives.Watch it on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube[Read The New York Times review.]‘Thirteen Days’The title of this film refers to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, when the Soviet deployment of nuclear weapons not far from the Florida coast pitted John F. Kennedy and his inner circle against both the Russians and their own Joint Chiefs of Staff. The outcome of this story is well-known. (Spoiler alert: The missiles were removed and a potential catastrophe was averted.) But the director Roger Donaldson and the screenwriter David Self still successfully dramatize the tension and paranoia brewing when Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood), his brother Robert (Steven Culp) and his adviser Kenneth O’Donnell (Kevin Costner) scrambled to out-negotiate their rivals.Watch it on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube[Read The New York Times review.]‘Seven Days in May’The characters in this jittery 1964 thriller are fictional, but the situation — particularly of late — feels all too real. Kirk Douglas plays a Marine colonel who suspects that a hawkish Air Force general (Burt Lancaster) is organizing a coup against a pacifist president (Frederic March). The director John Frankenheimer (who two years earlier made the similarly pulse-pounding “The Manchurian Candidate”) and the screenwriter Rod Serling adapt a novel by Charles W. Bailey II and Fletcher Knebel into an offbeat war movie, where the soldiers fight in boardrooms instead of battlefields, attacking using clandestine meetings and phone calls.Watch it on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube[Read The New York Times review.]‘All the President’s Men’Richard Nixon is at the center of this newspaper drama, even though he mostly stays offscreen. Based on Carl Bernstein’s and Bob Woodward’s account of how they investigated the Watergate scandal for The Washington Post, this film conveys the day-to-day business of gossip, leaks and social networking in the nation’s capital. But it’s also a rousing story about how citizens and journalists can serve as a check on the executive branch, whenever presidents and their staff start imperiously ignoring or bulldozing over federal laws.Watch it on HBO Max, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube[Read The New York Times review.]‘Dave’One big appeal of movies about presidents is the chance to see how the leader of the free world lives. In this 1993 comedy “Dave,” Kevin Kline plays an ordinary guy who looks just like the president. When the White House staff asks him to pose as POTUS while the real one recovers from a stroke, Dave soon finds himself embroiled in a plot involving scandal, chicanery and romance. What makes this picture so delightful is Kline’s endearingly upbeat performance as someone who genuinely enjoys the privileges of the presidency — from the perks of the White House to the power to improve people’s lives.Watch it on Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube[Read The New York Times review.]‘The American President’The screenwriter Aaron Sorkin has a knack for creating charismatic and inspiring politicians, as seen in his hit TV series, “The West Wing.” In this 1995 romantic drama, Michael Douglas plays the title character, a Bill Clinton-like centrist Democrat prone to push for popular legislation rather than taking controversial stands. Sorkin’s story (directed by Rob Reiner) is mostly about the widowed president’s love affair with an environmental lobbyist played by Annette Bening. But the movie also imagines an idealized Washington, where the right speech at the right time can change minds and perhaps save a nation.Watch it on Netflix, Amazon Prime, Apple TV, Google Play, Vudu, YouTube[Read The New York Times review.]AdvertisementContinue reading the main story More