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In the documentary film You Don't Need Feet to Dance, directed by Alan Govenar, African immigrant Sidiki Conde, having lost the use of his legs to polio at fourteen, balances his career as a performing artist with the almost insurmountable obstacles of life in New York City, from his fifth-floor walk up apartment in the East village, down the stairs with his hands and navigating in his wheelchair through Manhattan onto buses and into the subway.
Sidiki struggles to cope with his disability and to earn a decent living, but he still manages to teach workshops for disabled kids, busk on the street, rehearse with his musical group, bicycle with his hands, and prepare for a baby naming ceremony, where he plays djembe drums, sings, and dances on his hands.
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The Beat Hotel, a new film by Documentary Arts, goes deep into the legacy of the American Beats in Paris during the heady years between 1957 and 1963, when Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso fled the obscenity trials in the United States surrounding the publication of Ginsbergs poem Howl. They took refuge in a cheap no-name hotel they had heard about at 9, Rue Git le Coeur and were soon joined by William Burroughs, Ian Somerville, Brion Gysin, and others from England and elsewhere in Europe, seeking out the freedom that the Latin Quarter of Paris might provide.
The Beat Hotel, as it came to be called, was a sanctuary of creativity, but was also, as British photographer Harold Chapman recalls, an entire community of complete oddballs, bizarre, strange people, poets, writers, artists, musicians, pimps, prostitutes, policemen, and everybody you could imagine. And in this environment, Burroughs finished his controversial book Naked Lunch; Ian Somerville and Brion Gysin invented the Dream Machine; Corso wrote some of his greatest poems; and Harold Norse, in his own cut-up experiments, wrote the novella, aptly called The Beat Hotel.
The film tracks down Harold Chapman in the small seaside town of Deal in Kent England. Chapmans photographs are iconic of a time and place when Ginsberg, Orlovsky, Corso, Burroughs, Gysin, Somerville and Norse were just beginning to establish themselves on the international scene. Chapman lived in the attic of the hotel, and according to Ginsberg didnt say a word for two years because he wanted to be invisible and to document the scene as it actually happened.
In the film, Chapmans photographs and stylized dramatic recreations of his stories meld with the recollections of Elliot Rudie, a Scottish artist, whose drawings of his time in the hotel offer a poignant and sometimes humorous counterpoint. The memories of Chapman and Rudie interweave with the insights of French artist Jean-Jacques Lebel, author Barry Miles, Danish filmmaker Lars Movin, and the first hand accounts of Oliver Harris, Regina Weinrich, Patrick Amie, Eddie Woods, and 95 year old George Whitman, among others, to evoke a portrait of Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso and the oddities of the Beat Hotel that is at once unexpected and revealing.
"Serving Second Chances" chronicles efforts to provide survival resources and opportunities for homeless and at risk people to start a new life.
Intertwined in the day-to-day operations of The Stewpot, the film focuses on three of its clients and their deeply personal struggles to stabilize their lives: Gerald Williams, a musician whose crack addiction ruined his career; Alisa Flores, a victim of an abusive relationship; and Velietta Dickens Rogers, a rape survivor who contracted AIDS.
"Serving Second Chances" is a compelling story of loss, hope, desperation, and redemption that is at once disturbing and inspiring.