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Staff & contributors

On the one hand, How to Blow Up a Pipeline is a tense thriller—an excellently set-up heist that makes you wonder, until the end, whether the low-budget operation succeeds or not. On the other hand, it’s a thoughtful rumination on the evil and influence of Big Oil, which despite its relentless destruction of environments and communities, continues to run scot-free. 

Together, these parts make for a powerful, nerve-racking film about both the danger and necessity of eco-terrorism—a radical act that is impressively humanized and spared from caricature here. How to Blow Up a Pipeline's themes may be big and its means explosive, but its rich characterizations of the young activists ground it into a relatable reality. One is dying due to toxins released by the nearby plant, another is forced to give up his property to make way for the construction of a pipeline. All are tired of the fruitlessness of government promises and peaceful protests. Rousing and relevant, there's never been a more timelier film than this. 

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

Actor: Ariela Barer, Brian Landis Folkins, Calhoun Koenig, Christopher Hagen, Clint Obenchain, Forrest Goodluck, Giancarlo Beltran, Grayson Berry, Irene Bedard, Jake Weary, Jasper Keen, Jayme Lawson, Kim S. Monti, Kristine Froseth, Loren Anthony, Lukas Gage, Marcus Scribner, Mark Dalton, Mary Kay Riley, Melissa Chambers, Mike Miller, Paris Peterson, Sam Quinn, Sarah Minnich, Sasha Lane, Travis Hammer

Director: Daniel Goldhaber

Rating: R

For people having difficulty bearing a child, artificial insemination is one way to go for parenthood, but going to sperm banks can be expensive, shrouded with too much anonymity, and have had many incidents of malpractice. Some people would rather take things into their own hands. Spermworld explores the journeys of three different internet sperm donors, who meet with hopeful parents. It can be awkward, even when the donors are fairly ordinary guys with fairly decent motives, but the way director Lance Oppenheim approaches the community is disarmingly human, acknowledging the strange quirks that come with the donation, but also the interesting parental desires human beings do have.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Ari Nagel, Atasha Peña Clay, Rachel Stanley, Steve Walker, Tyree Kelly

Director: Lance Oppenheim

Rating: R

By all outward appearances, The Villages—a massive and manicured retirement community in Florida—looks like it does offer paradise to its aging residents, as promised. The list of activities is endless, the seniors are all partnered up. “It’s like going back to college,” as one of them puts it, where people from all over the country come together to create a new life with each other. 

But of course, nothing comes that easy, not even death. Some Kind of Heaven follows certain residents (and one committed trespasser) as they grapple with the slipperiness of fulfillment in their later years. It gets very eerie when the film's bleak messages are contrasted with the home's vibrant Floridian colors and the residents' plastered smiles. But the eeriness adds to the overall intrigue and pull of the documentary. Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan) co-produces this fascinating film.

Genre: Documentary, Drama

Director: Lance Oppenheim