Anyone who has lost a loved one knows that in the weeks and months that follow, after the most intense spasms of grief have subsided, that the question of how exactly to remember that person remains. It’s a tremendous question that has no universal answer, that everybody and every family must find for themselves. And it’s this question that sits at the heart of “306 Hollywood,” an experimental documentary that attempts to both craft a vivid portrait of a grandmother through the treasure trove that was her house and to reconcile with what it means to lose someone you love. And despite its tendency to lean upon self-serious reimaginings, it is nonetheless an engaging and tenderly drawn film that is likely to resonate with anyone who has had to do the tireless work of sorting through an estate of a family member.
Inevitably, families fall apart. Not all of them out of malice or spite, but more because of time and growth. At the very core of raising a family is the idea that someday you will watch your children leave you, and this, of course, will upend the very thing you have been trying to hold together for so many years. But what happens when that upending moment comes early, when the eldest on his way out the door is only 16 years old, but the opportunity he’s granted is once in a lifetime? This is the question at the heart of “Loveling,” a small-scale family drama from Brazil that suffers under the weight of its lack of narrative ambition and uneven quality, despite the revelatory performances at its core.
In the year since the cultural shift ignited by the 2016 election, there have already been a handful of films that have taken on the ongoing war in Syria and the refugee crisis it has sparked. (Two of them — “City of Ghosts” and “Last Men In Aleppo” — made our list of the best docs of 2017.) These films, which are often painful to watch, let alone to capture on film, paint a shocking picture of pain and suffering while simultaneously indicting the global community for its failure to act (or even sustain interest). Taken together as a body of work they draw a portrait that spans from the origins of the devastating war, to the ruins of once-great cities, to the harrowing journeys that hundreds of thousands of families have made across seas and mountains and borders all in the name of safety. But what happens when a family finds itself, after years in a refugee camp, finally on its way to America? To the land of freedom and opportunity? What’s it like to finally make it? Alexandra Shiva tackles these questions in her new documentary “This Is Home,” but the answers she offers are anything but comforting.