It feels like “Flipside” started as a documentary on jazz photographer Herman Leonard, but Wilcha, who helped produce the influential “This American Life” with Ira Glass, realized there wasn’t enough there when Leonard passed to form a full feature. The film reveals that it was actually the legendary David Milch who asked Wilcha to make a film about Leonard, hoping to inspire him to create more after the filmmaker got relatively stuck in a commercial direction for most of his career. The project leads Wilcha to unearth interviews that never developed into full-fledged projects, including footage of writer Starlee Kine and Milch himself. And it leads to a personal examination of how Wilcha got to where he is in the first place—let’s just say that Mom blames Judd Apatow.
All of this is intercut with the story of a record store named Flipside that Wilcha frequented in his youth. The store is still there, run by someone who has arguably turned it into a museum more than a business venture. And when a competing record store opens across town—yes, I’m serious—it highlights how Flipside is stuck in old patterns. Wilcha’s refreshing and entertaining film highlights how easy that is to do.
Finally, there’s Rachel Ramsay & James Erskine’s sports documentary “Copa 71,” an analysis of the 1971 Women’s World Cup, a heavily attended event that received press worldwide but was intentionally buried by history. You see, FIFA didn’t sanction a Women’s World Cup at the time and was clearly incapable of handling the potential rise of the female version of the most popular sport in the world. Executive produced by Serena and Venus Williams, “Copa 71” should be embarrassing for FIFA, a look at how radically they mishandled what could have been a worldwide turning point for their sport. A half-century later, women’s soccer is now the fastest-growing sport in the world. “Copa 71” makes the case that it should have happened sooner.
How much was the ’71 Cup buried? The film opens with Brandy Chastain, one of history’s most famous soccer players, seeing footage of the event for the first time. Not just that—hearing about it for the first time. How could millions of people have watched an event as athletically impressive and formative for the sport, and then one of the pioneers of its next generation was never even taught about it? Ramsay & Erskine’s film doesn’t answer that question as much as I’d like, focusing instead on the event itself, detailing the rounds of the cup and its MVPs through interviews with the women who played in it. The result is a strong sports documentary that doesn’t ignore the political issues around its subject but doesn’t lean into them as much as a better version could have done. It’s solid and will do very well for a network like ESPN or Netflix, but it’s a bit too formulaic for the talented athletes it profiles and their finally-reclaimed legacies.