Canberra has two special features lined up across two cinemas this weekend. Screening at Dendy Canberra and Palace Electric Cinemas are two stimulating docos brimming with educative enticement for the cultured capital.
Acclaimed documentarian, guru and Where’s Wally? look-alike Louis Theroux’s newest documentary Heroin Town is a searing exposé of Huntington, West Virginia, a town in the grips of America’s opiate crisis. Fuelled by the far-reaching tentacles of the pharmaceutical-industrial complex plaguing the USA, Huntington retains the ignominy of a fatal overdose rate 13 times the national average. Statistically, heroin now claims more lives in the US than car accidents or gun crime.
Those familiar with Theroux may also recall his confronting 2009 documentary The City Addicted to Crystal Meth about another US city in the throes of drug abuse – Fresno, California.
Born in Singapore, Theroux has covered all manner of things by way of his endearingly soft yet direct and no-frills approach. His subject matter includes but is not limited to: law and disorder, drugs, pornography, Nazis, Zionists, autism, dementia, paedophiles – you name it. To that end, his face is currently commonplace on ABC/ABC2 through welcome programming of previous works including A Place for Paedophiles, The Ultra Zionists, Miami Megajail, Twilight of the Pornstars, LA Stories, Extreme Love – Autism/Dementia, and By Reason of Insanity, just to name a few.
His most recent local cinema release, My Scientology Movie (2015), screened at Palace Electric Cinemas and kicking off tonight, the cinema will again be showcasing his latest work. Heroin Town is actually part one of Theroux’s newest triptych entitled Dark States which investigates three American cities and the human crises endemic to each – opioid and heroin addiction in Huntington, sex trafficking in Houston, and murder in Milwaukee.
Also screening this weekend is another perhaps more pleasant documentary which showcases an artist who not only influenced Van Gogh (Loving Vincent is out this week at Palace Electric), Monet, and other Impressionists, but is also the father of modern manga and the “only painter with his own emoji”.
Perfectly timed with the legend still fresh in mind, The British Museum Presents: Hokusai coincides with the recent wrap-up of the Hokusai Exhibition at the NGV (National Gallery of Victoria) in Melbourne just last month.
Katsushika Hokusai (1760 – 1849), was a Japanese artist, ukiyo-e painter and printmaker of the Edo period. This innovative documentary introduced by walking-talking-art-encyclopedia Andrew Graham Dixon, known for The Art of Spain (2008), The Art of America (2011), and most recently The Art of France (2017), focuses on Hokusai’s life and work in Edo (modern-day Tokyo). This is the first UK biography of Japan’s most iconic artist. Using ground-breaking close-ups and revolutionary 8K Ultra-HD video technology, it allows audiences to intimately inspect the British Museum Exhibition, Hokusai: beyond the Great Wave.
Hokusai’s quest for perfection in his craft was endless, and akin to the modern-day sushi-sage (think Jiro Dreams of Sushi) or the bespoke beauty of a Bento-box, finding serenity and artistic resonance in the everyday is an enduring quality which very much persists in Japanese society and enterprise.
If you didn’t get a chance to head along to the NGV exhibition, or if you have ever pondered the provenance of the striking mural at Lazy Su in Braddon (The Great Wave of Kanagawa), this is a perfect springboard to explore the oeuvre of an artist who produced much more than the ubiquity of his singular most famous work would suggest.