UP CLOSE AND PERSONAL
Every year, the Sher Institute holds an online contest to give away a free In Vitro Fertilization procedure; Amanda Micheli’s documentary tracks one year’s contestants, following its winners as well as two runners-up who decide to go ahead with the procedure. As documentary, it’s a touch pedestrian – there are stretches that play like a really well-produced infomercial for the procedure in general and the Sher Institute in particular. That said, there’s no denying the emotional potency of these stories, and our attachment to the people telling them. It’s a slight movie, and doesn’t quite pull together to a sturdy conclusion, but you certainly feel for these people and the roller coaster they’re riding.
BEST OF THE FEST (RUNNER-UP)
Betting on Zero
Maybe Scientology is just on the mind lately, between My Scientology Movie and The Invitation and the fumes of Going Clear, but it’s very hard to watch the footage of Herbalife’s epic conventions, celebrity endorsements, and slick PR materials and not think its participants must be in some kind of cult. They’re not, but they may as well be; according to Bill Ackman, the divisive head fund manager on a multi-year crusade to short their stock, it’s a pyramid scheme, with a habit of targeting immigrants, low-income communities, and other vulnerable Americans. Director Ted Braun tells Ackman’s story against the backdrop of what is to be his “death blow” presentation, finally closing the case against the multi-billion dollar company; the film is, at times, a bit much (particularly in terms of length and its manipulative score), but it’s undeniably thorough and affecting – particularly when Braun arrives at its central conflict, which comes down to betting on the morality of Wall Street. Which, you know…