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Even a doc about Arabian horses can be controversial.

Even a doc about Arabian horses can be controversial. (photo)

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Some documentarians specialize in controversy, so much so that news of them can start to seem a little routine. (Michael Moore made someone angry? Do tell!) Then there are other filmmakers, less well-known, who just can’t catch a break even when they’re trying to keep their heads down.

Such is the case with Jo Franklin, who’s been making documentaries for 30 years and is now encountering her latest stumbling block: the Saudi Arabian government wants to destroy all copies of her documentary about Arabian horses. No, really.

The movie in question is “A Gift From The Desert: The Arabian Horse,” an hour-long doc that’s about pretty much what it sounds like. Franklin filmed in Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kentucky. According to Franklin, there’s two main reasons for the Saudi government’s displeasure. First, the movie shows female horse riders, a hot-button issue as the kingdom continues to internally hash out its stance on women’s rights. Second: King Abdullah’s stable has an Irish vet and a head trainer who’s British, and foreign workers are problematic.

The real surprise here, though, is that the Saudi government really doesn’t trust Franklin, who’s in way done as much for the Arab world as any TV documentarian. In 1980, Franklin was working on her three-part documentary for PBS “Saudi Arabia” when all diplomatic hell broke loose over “Death of a Princess,” a doc about the execution of an adulterous woman, in which interview transcripts were filmed.

06172010_death.jpgThe political consequences were off the charts: amongst other fall-out, restrictions were placed on visas for British businessman, Concorde flights were blocked from Saudi airspace, and Mobil placed a hilariously disingenuous ad in the New York Times claiming that the company cared just because they were interested in the moral issues at stake (“We believe that if a free society is to survive, we must openly and candidly discuss these issue”) — not because they were, like, worried about access to oil.

Franklin, though, went ahead and finished her film, which the AP deemed “a fascinating look at an ancient and, until recently, closed [country], hurtled within the last half-century into a modern world.”

She went on to make a series on “The Oil Countries” and then — most controversially — another PBS doc called “Days of Rage,” about the Palestinian intifada uprising that began in 1987 that, among other things, was called “orchestrated Palestinian propaganda.” (That link contains more acid political flashbacks than you can handle.)

So what does Franklin do? She makes a documentary about horses — and now she’s an enemy of Saudi Arabia! Some people just can’t win. It’s a hard-knock life for documentarians, but come on. Equestrian fans just don’t care and no one else will pick up on this as a talking point besides the usual Breitbart folks. And this time they’ll have a real point.

[Photos: “A Gift From The Desert: The Arabian Horse,” SeaCastle, 2010; “Death of a Princess,” ITV, 1980]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.