Piano Olympics, Art Projects Turned Obsession, and War-Fractured Families | Real Reels

This month’s must-see documentaries include a swindling scheme turned psychological thrill ride, a behind-the-scenes look at a high-stakes piano competition, and a heartbreaking account of a family imploding in the face of war.

The Book of Harth. 62 min. MVD Visual. 2022. DVD UPC 6013714116. $19.99.

What started on a whim has turned into a 20-year conceptual art piece, with David Greg Harth collecting signatures from thousands of celebrities and cultural figures. The twist? They are signing a Bible. The best element of Pierre Guillet’s film is the footage of people Harth approaches to sign his Bible. Some haphazardly sign it, some are baffled or curious about signing it, and some refuse to sign it, wary of writing in a sacred book. In this account of the project, Harth and other art folks talk about the artwork loftily, as an intersection of art, celebrity, and religion, but as with a lot of conceptual art, viewers will have to decide for themselves what to make of it. VERDICT An art project involving celebrity interactions turns into a decades-long obsession.

Four Daughters. 107 min. Kino Lorber. In Arabic w/English subtitles. 2023. DVD UPC 3832926502. $19.99.

Recently nominated for a Best Documentary Oscar, Kaouther Ben Hania’s film is a multilayered look at a family’s splintering in Tunisia when two of their four daughters disappear to fight alongside the Islamic State in Libya. Powerful, disturbing, and complicated, it’s an incredibly intimate work that utilizes both actors and real people to retell the story of the events that ripped this family apart. The actors and the film-within-a-film structure take some getting used to, but by the end, they are nearly invisible and easily forgotten as the story delves into darker terrain, particularly the emergence of the Islamic State at the start of the 21st century. VERDICT An account of one family’s heartbreaking implosion. Riveting.

Mister Organ. 95 min. Drafthouse Films. 2022. DVD UPC 1013494577. $25.99.

Starting in 2016 in Auckland, New Zealand, where there’s a scheme to swindle cash from people who mistakenly park their cars in the wrong spot, David Farrier’s film turns from quirky to bizarre as it goes down a rabbit hole trying to decipher the actions of one man: Michael Organ. One eccentric character appears after another as Farrier’s link to the Organ becomes more prominent (featuring lawsuits and veiled threats to the filmmaker’s life). When the shadowy Organ becomes a key element in the film, the documentary grows even weirder. VERDICT A strange psychological thrill ride that combines crime and character study.

Pianoforte. 93 min. Greenwich Entertainment. In English, Polish, Mandarin, Russian & Italian w/English subtitles. 2023. DVD UPC 3832926526. $19.99.

Every five years in Warsaw, there is a Chopin competition, celebrating the famed Polish composer, that’s open to young pianists from around the world. Jakub Piatek’s documentary follows participants as they compete in the 21-day event. The film focuses on the high-pressure, stressful situations the musicians face in this “Olympics of piano,” as they try to avoid elimination from the competition and vie to launch their careers by winning top prize. The film focuses more on behind-the-scenes action than on the stage itself, with many lovely moments captured before the razor-wire tension of the actual performances. The film displays beautiful music, youthful personalities, heartbreak, and elation from talented artists. VERDICT Combines intense competition sequences and classical music into a thrilling “who will win?” genre documentary.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing