Wednesday, December 23, 2009

BBC let's YOU edit a documentary

Attention all editors, directors, filmmakers, film lovers and people with too much time on your hands; the BBC wants you. No, they're not going to hire you (not yet anyway), but they are offering you probably the coolest opportunity I've heard of in years.

From the BBC: "For the first time ever, uncut video for a BBC documentary series, is online NOW for YOU to download and re-edit. Cut it, clip it, mash it, animate it, make fun of it if you like. It's free to use. And you can enter our competition."

That's right. Free, professionally produced footage is just being handed over to you to do with as you will. Better yet, you can win fame and fortune just by being a creative freeloader! I'm going to go ahead and label this my Christmas gift to all of you. Enjoy.

Head on over to their "Digital Revolution" site to download to content and begin editing. Trust me, whether you love the BBC, hate the BBC, or just want to hone your editing chops, this is the perfect opportunity to have professional produced material fall into your lap. But remember, as Spiderman's Uncle once said: "with great power, comes great responsibility."

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The IRA finds religion on Channel 4

Before the troubles in the Middle East became the hot topic of the Western Hemisphere, there were the bloody disputes in Northern Ireland. Now I'm not going to try and recap hundreds of years of hostility in a single column, so if you don't know, I'd recommend reading Thomas Hachey's The Irish Experience: A Concise History (FYI: it's not a short read, but it's well balanced and detailed).

In the meantime, for those who are aware of conflict in Northern Ireland, you'll be as surprised as I am to hear that Channel 4 has asked Gerry Adams (the Sinn Fein leader and suspected IRA member) will lead a documentary exploring who the real Jesus is. Why is that interesting? Let's just say there are some who would argue Adams urged more people to violence than to faith.

There are already many people opposed to this idea because of Adam's background and notoriety among both factions, but Channel 4 has an interesting perspective on his inclusion: "This film will offer an insight into how a man so strongly associated first with conflict and then with peace in Northern Ireland, has reconciled his religion with the decisions he has taken in his life."

Adams' documentary is just one episode in a seven part series called The Bible: A History. Including other contributors like Conservative MP Ann Widdecombe and former BBC correspondent Rageh Omaar, Channel 4 hopes using a wide range of voices perspectives will paint an unusual and engaging view of the Bible.

Personally, with the right direction, this could be a fascinating subject and I'm excited to see how it turns out.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Five fascinating and festive documentaries

At the risk of offending non-Santa followers, we did a little scrounging and came up with some Christmas documentaries worth watching. We had to sift through layers and layers of rather dull films, said a few 'bah humbugs' along the way, and ultimately came up with the top five you see below. They are in no particular order and we are always willing to listen when we've left off a film or two, so see what made the cut and write us back if you disagree!

A Hollywood Christmas – Ever wondered why Christmas films were so popular? I mean what’s the deal with Hollywood’s obsession of capturing the ‘meaning of Christmas’? Well hold onto your doubts because this is the documentary for you. Though 15 years old and obviously a little dated, this is a great resource to introduce you to the wide world of Christmas filmmaking.

Christmas Unwrapped: The History of Christmas – Yes, Christmas is chock full of traditions, from carols to decorated trees, but where did these rituals come from? Well you asked, and the History Channel answered. This enlightening program looks at the origins of the Western world's most popular Christmas traditions: whether it’s the significance of December 25th and its relationship to winter solstice or the enchanting legend of Santa Claus or even Prince Albert's unveiling of the Christmas tree in 1841. This documentary has all the festive facts you could possible want.

Road Trip for Ralphie
– Everyone loves A Christmas Story almost as much as they love it’s a wonderful life. Of course, there are those crazy people who love it a little too much: this is their story. If you can endure the constant “I’m 8 years old and I just opened the best Christmas present ever” expressions that are plastered on these two road trippers, then you’ll be able to see and appreciate this modern classic from a different perspective.

Rock and a Heart Place – for over 15 years, Tim McLoone has organized holiday music events in soup kitchens, homeless shelters and nursing homes, but shortly after the September 11th tragedy of 2001, he ambitiously arranged for 400 New Jersey musicians to perform 50 shows in 30 days. So sit back and relax as this inspirational documentary follows McLoone and his team as they face the daunting task of setting up shows and traveling 5,000 miles to pull off their "Holiday Express."

10,000 points of light – a little known Christmas documentary with a cult like following (seriously, they’re on Facebook!). This 25 minute film follows a southern family in suburbia that takes their light (and Elvis) displays seriously presenting the public with a odd, bright display for all to see. Good luck finding it though, this documentary is about as rare as they come.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Theatrical Releases

Every Friday we update you all with the week's theatrical documentary releases. Now, this is not a perfect process as our beloved genre prefers the rolling/limited release schedule instead of a big nationwide or international-wide release. So apologies if a film isn't out in your area or if you are a filmmaker and we missed the boat on announcing your documentary's big day (if that is the case, please let us know and we'll correct the mistake).

Now, with that introduction out of the way, here's this weekend's releases with their current rating on the amazing website

NoBody's Perfect- (no rating provided) Winner of 2009 Lola (German Film Award for Best Documentary), and a contender for 2009 Academy Award selection for Best Documentary, "Nobody's Perfect" follows filmmaker Niko von Glasow, whose short arms identify him as a grown-up “child of Thalidomide”. This film documents his search for eleven other people affected by Thalidomide, to join him in posing naked for a book of photographs. With humour and a surprising lightness of touch, "Nobody’s Perfect" is a portrait of twelve extraordinary characters, from childhood to today. These are people who have gotten used to furtive glances from passers-by, but now they have to stand completely unprotected in front of a camera, and look at their own bodies in a new light. (

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Best documentaries of the decade!

As 2009 comes to an end, everyone, everywhere, is coming up with their own personal "best of the decade" lists. Now while our lovely website drags its heels on the issue (seriously, we have a list for everything else!), the brave souls over at Cinematical have created a thoroughly in depth look at the best documentaries of the decade.

Now, it's not a straight list like something you'll find on this site, but rather a breakdown of all the different documentary genres out there. It's obviously a very personal list, but it's hard to argue with their opinions (though I'd personally put some of their 'runner's up' as winners in certain categories).

But this story isn't about our site's list, it's about Cinematical's. So check out their Best Documentaries of the Decade and feel free to post your impressions here.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Sundance Film's Announced

While most of us are focused on the end of year holidays, there are some gearing up for the early festival season and there's no bigger film festival in the early months than the Sundance Film Festival starting in January. This is one of the few times independent films get the pop culture treatment and with its rich history, it's no surprise how many film story to enter the festival.

Bur your not here for the films that almost made it, your here to find out which ones will be premiering in Park City Utah in late January. Well you don't have to wait any longer as the festival unveiled their full slate of films, including 17 U.S. documentaries and 13 international documentaries.

After looking at the list, I must say, it's quite impressive (though was their ever any doubt?). Every single film is a world premier and the subjects range from well publicized news stories (Pat Tillman to Benazir Bhutto to Jack Abramoff), to migrant workers in China to female karate kids in Iran. So don't take my word for it, head on over to the Sundance Film Festival website and check out which films will be on display. And if you're able to, buy yourself a festival pass so you can be the first to catch these wonderful documentaries.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

'Waiting For Armageddon' Trailer

The documentary team of Kate Davis, Franco Sacchi and David Heilbroner most recent film is of Biblical proportions. Their film Waiting for Armageddon focuses on the Evangelical Christian community's belief in the Biblical prophecies of Rapture and Armageddon.

Obviously, these are two subjects outsiders find of great concern because whether you believe such notions are insane or worth discussing, you can't help but feel the impact these beliefs have on the rest of society.

Waiting for Armageddon tries to understand these beliefs through interviews with Christians, Zionists and Jewish practitioners. The trailer carries a very somber tone, but this may very well be a film that sparks an interesting debate.

The film has already appeared in a few smaller film festivals so don't catch yourself waiting for this one. Go to the film's website, watch the trailer and learn how you can view the film for yourself.

Monday, December 14, 2009

50 Free Documentaries!

The good people over at Online pointed me to their recent article on the top 50 documentaries you can watch for free online. Now usually when the words "free" and "documentary" are used in the same sentence it means a list of rejected History channel films that serve as better torture instruments then enjoyable movies, but this list is surprisingly good.

Admittedly it ignores some fabulous films over at, but it's hard to ignore a list that includes major documentary films like Bowling for Columbine, The Fog of War, The Road to Guantanamo, 11th Hour, Maxed Out, Super Size Me and a whole slew of other notables. Frankly, this isn't just a great list of free documentaries, but a great list of must see documentaries.

If you have some time on your hands and no money to spend, what better way to waste your day then watching a few of these documentaries?

Head on over to Online to see the complete list with links!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oprah Winfrey turns to Documentaries

Leave it to Oprah to really push the documentary genre to the mainstream public (face it, she has so many followers in the US she puts Barack Obama to shame). In what I would call a surprise announcement and bold move, the Oprah Winfrey Network (OWN) will develop a monthly documentary film club when it launches in 2011.

Following a similar stratagey that has made her book club so successful, OWN's documentary film club will not only involve films airing on the channel, but will also include an online community and exclusive video content at Even more impressive is a selection of the films will be featured in special theatrical screenings across the country and involve live panel discussions.

OWN CEO Christina Norman says, "OWN's commitment to Self-Discovery provides the ideal platform to elevate documentary films and the real, compelling stories they tell."

If you're worried this will mean more sappy or shallow documentaries geared towards stay at home mom's, think again. OWN is partnering with ro*co Productions to find films for the network. That means documentary powerhouses like Street Fight, No End in Sight, The Weather Underground, What Would Jesus Buy and countless others will potentially be in the mix. That's a wonderful lineup and should have documentary fans everywhere salivating.

"Partnering with ro*co Productions, OWN will deliver the very best documentaries to our audience and give them ways to connect through stories that move them," says Norman.


Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Soderbergh Documentary Premiering at Slamdance

Steven Soderbergh, ever the lover of indie films and new ways of putting films into the public's hands, will unveil his latest work at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, Utah (don't confuse it with Sundance... it's different). Not one to dabble in documentaries too frequently, this film actually sounds like it could be a major success considering the way it's made.

The film, titled And Everything is Going Fine, plays out almost as if it's a diary of the late writer and performer Spaulding Gray. Admittedly, not exactly a house hold name, Soderbergh's choice to only use Gray's voice (no other narration or interviews) sounds like this could be the next best documentary since Errol Morris' The Fog of War.

Personally, I'm a fan of Soderbergh and by continuing to promote independent work and film outlets he has become a huge fan of the Slamdance Film Festival (a festival that highlights and promotes the true independent artist).

If you are suddenly interested in attending Slamdance, I'd hurry and buy your tickets as the festival (and Soderbergh's premier) take place January 23rd.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Anvil! Grabs IDA Documentary Award

Let this be a lesson to you all: if you protest loud enough and long enough, you will ultimately get what you want. After failing to make the Oscar shortlist for best feature length documentary, Sacha Gervasi's Anvil! The Story of Anvil has found itself on every major award show's nominee list and has now officially won the International Documentary Association's best documentary award.

In fact, Anvil! won two awards at the IDA award show this past weekend, also nabbing the best Music Documentary Award. The film about two aging Canadian heavy metal rockers trying to make it big has become somewhat of an instant cult-hit as critical and populous praise continues to grow. (If you don't know anything about the film, you can read our entire review here)

The other major award featured this past weekend by the IDA goes to Salt (directed by Michael Angus and Murray Fredericks) for best short documentary. This film focuses on the arid landscape of Lake Eyre in South Australia. The other awards were announced prior to the ceremony and were listed here last week, but in case you want to see the full recap, head on over to the IDA website.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Theatrical Releases

Every Friday we update you all with the week's theatrical documentary releases. Now, this is not a perfect process as our beloved genre prefers the rolling/limited release schedule instead of a big nationwide or international-wide release. So apologies if a film isn't out in your area or if you are a filmmaker and we missed the boat on announcing your documentary's big day (if that is the case, please let us know and we'll correct the mistake).

Now, with that introduction out of the way, here's this weekend's releases with their current rating on the amazing website

Big River Man- (91% rating) In February 2007 Martin Strel began an insane attempt to be the first person to swim the entire length of the world's most dangerous river, the mighty Amazon. Martin is an endurance swimmer from Slovenia, who swims rivers - the Mississippi, the Danube and the Yangtze to date - to highlight their pollution to the world. Martin is also a rather overweight, horseburger loving Slovenian in his fifties who drinks two bottles of red wine a day... even when swimming. (

Loot - (60% rating) A feature-length Documentary following two WWII veterans and their guide across the globe in search of their buried wartime treasures. During WWII, Darrel was stationed in Europe, Andrew was fighting in the Philippines. In the chaos of combat, each stole valuable treasures and hid them overseas before returning to civilian life in America. Sixty years later, back in America, neither man seems remorseful about their war crimes. Both want to recover the treasures they perceive as their own. They don't know each other but they both happen to know Lance, an inventor, used-car salesman, and amateur treasure-hunter, who, against all odds and better judgment, attempts to help them find their lost looted goods. (

Until the Light Takes Us - (40% rating) A feature length documentary about black metal: an ideological movement/music genre comprised of metal musicians, murderers, church-burners, and suicide victims. The film examines the birth and explosive arc of black metal through the eyes of the scene’s leaders, who tried to change the world using music and symbolic acts of violence. Three men lead the scene: one is dead, one’s in jail for killing him and inciting a wave of church arson, and one continues to release albums in the genre they created. The musicians blur the line between music, art, activism and terror, and successful visual artists (including Harmony Korine, who makes a cameo) are now recontextualizing it as contemporary art in galleries and museums around the world. Part (post)modern art movement, part terrorist movement, and part rock scene, the film tells a story unlike any other. (

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Sundance Documentary Competition Announced

This is the week of nominees and lists of films in competition, so continuing that trend Sundance's announced their accepted submissions for their famed film festival. The documentary competition will feature 16 films (narrowed from a field of 862!) and every single one will be a world premiere.

If that's not enough to wet your appetite Leon Gast (When We Were Kings) Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room, Taxi to the Darkside) and Davis Guggenheim (An Inconvenient Truth, It Might Get Loud) have submissions at the festival. The documentary list is below, but head on over to Sundance's website for a full breakdown of all their lineups.

Bhutto (Directors: Jessica Hernandez and Johnny O'Hara; Screenwriter: Johnny O'Hara)—A riveting journey through the life and work of recently assassinated Benazir Bhutto, former Pakistani prime minister and a polarizing figure in the Muslim world.

CASINO JACK & The United States of Money (Director: Alex Gibney)—A probing investigation into the lies, greed and corruption surrounding D.C. super-lobbyist Jack Abramoff and his cronies.

Family Affair (Director: Chico Colvard)—An uncompromising documentary that examines resilience, survival and the capacity to accommodate a parent's past crimes in order to satisfy the longing for family.

Freedom Riders (Director: Stanley Nelson)—The story behind a courageous band of civil rights activists called the Freedom Riders who in 1961 creatively challenged segregation in the American South.

Gas Land (Director: Josh Fox)—A cross-country odyssey uncovers toxic streams, dying livestock, flammable sinks and weakening health among rural citizens on the front lines of the natural gas drilling craze.

I’m Pat _______ Tillman (Director: Amir Bar-Lev)—The story of professional football star and decorated U.S. soldier Pat Tillman, whose family takes on the U.S. government when their beloved son dies in a "friendly fire" incident in Afghanistan in 2004.

Jean-Michel Basquiat: The Radiant Child (Director: Tamra Davis)—The story of artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, whose work defined, electrified and challenged an era, and whose untimely death at age 27 has made him a cultural icon.

Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (Directors: Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg)—A rare, brutally honest glimpse into the comedic process and private dramas of legendary comedian and pop icon Joan Rivers as she fights tooth and nail to keep her American dream alive.

Lucky (Director: Jeffrey Blitz)—The story of what happens when ordinary people hit the lottery jackpot.

My Perestroika (Director: Robin Hessman)—My Perestroika follows five ordinary Russians living in extraordinary times — from their sheltered Soviet childhood, to the collapse of the Soviet Union during their teenage years, to the constantly shifting political landscape of post-Soviet Russia. Together, these childhood classmates paint a complex picture of the dreams and disillusionments of those raised behind the Iron Curtain.

The Oath (Director: Laura Poitras)— Filmed in Yemen, The Oath tells the story of two men whose fateful encounter in 1996 set them on a course of events that led them to Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, 9/11, Guantanamo, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Restrepo (Directors: Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington)—Sebastian Junger and Tim Hetherington's year dug in with the Second Platoon in one of Afghanistan's most strategically crucial valleys reveals extraordinary insight into the surreal combination of back breaking labor, deadly firefights, and camaraderie as the soldiers painfully push back the Taliban.

A Small Act (Director: Jennifer Arnold)—A young Kenyan’s life changes dramatically when his education is sponsored by a Swedish stranger. Years later, he founds his own scholarship program to replicate the kindness he once received.

Smash His Camera (Director: Leon Gast)—Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis sued him, and Marlon Brando broke his jaw. The story of notorious, reviled paparazzo Ron Galella opens a Pandora's Box of issues from right to privacy, freedom of the press and the ever-growing vortex of celebrity worship.

12th & Delaware (Directors: Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing)—The abortion battle continues to rage in unexpected ways on an unassuming corner in America.

Waiting for Superman (Director: Davis Guggenheim)—Waiting for Superman examines the crisis of public education in the United States through multiple interlocking stories—from a handful of students and their families whose futures hang in the balance, to the educators and reformers trying to find real and lasting solutions within a dysfunctional system.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Spirit Awards: Documentary Nominees

Sticking with the recent theme of Award Show Nominees, the Spirit Awards (Sponsored by the Independent Film Channel), announced their list of potential winners recently. The unique catch with the Spirit Awards is their focus on the smaller and more independent film world: i.e. the perfect place to judge documentaries fairly.

This year's nominee's for best documentary are:
- Which Way Home by Rebecca Cammisa
- October Country by Michael Palmieri and Donal Mosher
- More Than a Game by Kristopher Belman
- Food Inc. by Robert Kenner
- Anvil! The Story of Anvil by Sacha Gervasi

The Spirit Awards show isn't until early March, but let the speculating begin. The fan favorite is obviously Anvil! The Story of Anvil, but don't sleep on More Than a Game which does too many things right to be ignored entirely.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Who needs the Oscars? IDA Awards Announced!

Like a soothing aloe on burned skin, the International Documentary Association recently released a few of the winners from their yearly award show to quell the recent rage documentary film fans have had over The Academy Award selection process. The IDA's award show isn't until this Friday, so the big winners won't be announced till then, but in the meantime here's the list of smaller category winners to wet your appetite.

In the category carrying the most popular features, Anvil! The Story of Anvil beat out fellow contenders It Might Get Loud and Soundtrack for a Revolution (as well as three other nominees) to be named best music documentary.

The Continuing Series Award went to PBS' P.O.V. series while the Sundance Channel's Architecture School (a six-part series following a group of students at Tulane's School of Architecture) won in the best Limited Series category.

If you're into health issues, Garbage Dreams (the story of three teenage boys growing up in the outskirts of Cairo) won the newly added IDA/Humanitas Award and The Final Inch (which follows health workers in some of India's poorest neighborhoods) received this year's IDA/Pare Lorentz Award

There are a few other winners announced, but the big story is who won the best documentary feature and best documentary short awards. Those winners won't be unveiled until Friday, but the list of nominees is as follows:

Feature Documentary Nominees
- Afghan Star by Havana Marking
- Anvil! The Story of Anvil by Sacha Gervasi
- Diary of a Times Square Thief by Klaas Bense
- Food, Inc. by Robert Kenner
- Mugabe and the White African by Lucy Bailey, Andrew Thompson

Short Documentary Nominees
- The Delian Mode by Kara Blake
- Salt by Michael Angus, Murray Fredericks
- Sari's Mother by James Longley
- The Solitary Life of Cranes by Eva Weber

Our site will recap the Award show winners next week, so stay tuned here to know which documentaries you should be watching.

Monday, November 30, 2009

"This is It" DVD out in January

Sony Pictures recently announced This Is It will be released on DVD January 26th. The documentary, following Michael Jackson during his final rehearsals before passing away, has already grossed over $70 million.

The DVD includes two documentaries, Staging the Return: Beyond the Show and Staging the Return: The Adventure Begins, and highlight Jackson as he prepared for the concerts. I'm not quite sure if that means this is an extended cut or alternate rethinking of the theatrical film, but hopefully more details will be announced soon.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Oh My God Documentary

It seems the documentary world took this Thanksgiving week off as there are no new theatrical documentary releases to tell you about. So instead, we're going to highlight the trailer for Oh My God. Directed by Peter Rodgar, this film started its (limited) theatrical run earlier this month, but is actually just gearing up now for a wider release.

Despite it's cheesy, almost mocking title, Oh My God follows Rodgar around as he asks people from all over the world one simple question: what is God? As fascinating as the answers will be though, the stunning visuals appear to be the reason everyone should see this documentary.

But don't take my word for it, head on over to the film's website to watch the trailer, learn a little bit about the film and see when/if it is playing in your hometown.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Various Music Doc news

There seems to be a few bits of news on upcoming music related documentaries, so we decided to just throw them into one news article:

Lil' Wayne a lil' angry over documentary release - Last year the rapper Lil' Wayne allowed a film crew to follow him on his tour, and the result was a documentary that received some praise at Sundance Film Festival this year. Surprisingly though, as the film gears up for distribution, Lil Wayne sued to block it's release, apparently upset that he did not have the final word on edits. A judge ruled in favor of the film, but it's clear tensions still reign. Check out CNN for more on this story.

Beatles Documentary reveals studio sessions - The History Channel will air at 10 PM tonight The Beatles on Record, a film that takes audiences into the process of making the legendary Abbey Road album. Using both studio footage, pictures and even audio, audiences should get a clear and personal view of one of the greatest bands coming together to make one of the greatest albums. Sounds like the recipe for success. Head on over to Wired to read more about this potentially great little film.

Cowell produces Susan Boyle documentary - And so it begins, the singing sensation of last year's Britain's got talent finally has her first CD released and will now be featured in a documentary as well. The film, titled I Dreamed a Dream: the Susan Boyle Story, will be released sometime next month and will probably be hitting DVD shelves soon afterwards to capitalize on the woman's insanely popular vocals. Alas, If you haven't bought her CD yet, you're probably out of luck.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tea Party Documentary's Hilarious Trailer

Anyone living in the U.S. is aware of the ongoing debates between liberals and conservatives on the numerous issues facing the nation. The most recent grass roots campaign (or at least recent campaign with a large media following) has involved conservatives sparking "tea party" rallies across the country. Because of the coverage they've been getting, it was only a matter of time before a documentary followed these individuals.

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your position), someone forgot to tell the filmmakers how to make a film that's both interesting and inviting. For one, the title is called "Tea Party: The Documentary Film"- even the bland Al Gore knew his film's title needed a catchy phrase to hook people in. And secondly (and definitely worse), the trailer for this film truly begs the question: "is this a joke?"

Now, I feel bad criticizing the work people put in to defend their cause, but I have to admit this trailer honestly looks like something a comedy group would make. It is, I believe, serious though. So, with that in mind, I hope there was a little more thought put into the feature then the trailer.

Think I'm exaggerating? Watch the trailer and tell us your thoughts!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Oscar Short List Creates Controversy

This website has been on record multiple times complaining about past Academy Award snubs for our beloved documentaries, but it seems this is the year the 'scandal' surrounding the 'best documentary' feature has reached fever pitch in the entertainment world.

After the Academy announced this year's short list of 15 documentaries up for best feature, countless irate articles have been written. And the rage isn't limited to the blogs as the New York Times, LA Times and Entertainment Weekly have all posted articles expressing the opinions of the upset masses.

With no real star power on hand (i.e. nominated) to quell the rage, it will be interesting to see how this anger proceeds. Tyson director James Toback in particular seems to be leading the muckraking, while Michael Moore and the creators behind It Might Get Loud, Good Hair and Anvil are all making more guarded reactions to the way nominations play out.

Will this die out like past complaints about the documentary selection process, or will we see a change in the system? I personally hope for the latter, because it's hard for anyone to take the documentary genre seriously when its best works are being ignored by major award shows.

Read the articles from the NY Times, LA Times and Entertainment Weekly and then post your thoughts below!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Theatrical Releases

Every Friday we update you all with the week's theatrical documentary releases. Now, this is not a perfect process as our beloved genre prefers the rolling/limited release schedule instead of a big nationwide or international-wide release. So apologies if a film isn't out in your area, or if you are a filmmaker and we missed the boat on announcing your documentary's big day (if that is the case, please let us know and we'll correct the mistake).

Now, with that introduction out of the way, here's this weekend's releases with their current rating on the amazing website

Defamation - (100% rating) What is anti-Semitism today, two generations after the Holocaust? In his continuing exploration of modern Israeli life, director Yoav Shamir travels the world in search of the most modern manifestations of the “oldest hatred", and comes up with some startling answers. The film questions our perceptions and terminology when an event proclaimed by some as anti-Semitic is described by others as legitimate criticism of Israel’s government policies. The film walks along the boundary between anti-Zionism, rejecting the notion of a Jewish State, and anti-Semitism, rejecting Jews. Is the former being used to excuse the latter? And is there a difference between today’s anti-Semitism and plain old racism that is affecting all minorities? (

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Oscar 'Short List' Unveiled

The Academy Awards recently announced their list of 15 films in the Documentary Feature category. This list will be presented to the entire Academy which will then vote and narrow the selections down to the handful receiving an official 'nomination' to the awards show in March.

The list:
“The Beaches of Agnes,” Agnès Varda, director (Cine-Tamaris)
“Burma VJ,” Anders Østergaard, director (Magic Hour Films)
“The Cove,” Louie Psihoyos, director (Oceanic Preservation Society)
“Every Little Step,” James D. Stern and Adam Del Deo, directors (Endgame Entertainment)
“Facing Ali,” Pete McCormack, director (Network Films Inc.)
“Food, Inc.,” Robert Kenner, director (Robert Kenner Films)
“Garbage Dreams,” Mai Iskander, director (Iskander Films, Inc.)
“Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders,” Mark N. Hopkins, director (Red Floor Pictures LLC)
“The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers,” Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith, directors (Kovno Communications)
“Mugabe and the White African,” Andrew Thompson and Lucy Bailey, directors (Arturi Films Limited)
“Sergio,” Greg Barker, director (Passion Pictures and Silverbridge Productions)
“Soundtrack for a Revolution,” Bill Guttentag and Dan Sturman, directors (Freedom Song Productions)
“Under Our Skin,” Andy Abrahams Wilson, director (Open Eye Pictures)
“Valentino The Last Emperor,” Matt Tyrnauer, director (Acolyte Films)
“Which Way Home,” Rebecca Cammisa, director (Mr. Mudd)

As stated in the past, the documentary film category is notorious for snubbing some excellent films in the process of selecting a winner and this year is no different. Four films come to mind in this year's controversy with Tyson, It Might Get Loud, Anvil: the Story of Anvil and (the biggest shocker) Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story all failing to make the list. Though few consider any of these films worthy of actually winning, it's surprising the committee would leave off some of the genre's biggest names. And with last year's winner Man on Wire generating so much positive buzz outside the normal documentary circles, one wonders if this year will be a major setback.

What are your thoughts? Post them below!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Theatrical Releases

Every Friday we will update you all with the week's theatrical documentary releases. Now, this will not be a perfect process as our beloved genre prefers the limited release schedule instead of a big nationwide or international-wide release. So apologies if a film isn't out in your area, or if you are a filmmaker and we missed the boat on announcing your documentary's big day (if that is the case, please let us know as we try to refine and hone this weekly post).

Now, with that introduction out of the way, here's this weekend's releases with their current rating on the amazing website

The End of Poverty? - (50% rating) Global poverty did not just happen. It began with military conquest, slavery and colonization that resulted in the seizure of land, minerals and forced labor. Today, the problem persists because of unfair debt, trade and tax policies -- in other words, wealthy countries taking advantage of poor, developing countries. Narrated by Martin Sheen and directed by Philippe Diaz, The End of Poverty? explains how today's financial crisis is a direct consequence of these unchallenged policies that have lasted centuries. Consider that 20% of the planet's population uses 80% of its resources and consumes 30% more than the planet can regenerate. At this rate, to maintain our lifestyle means more and more people will sink below the poverty line. Can we really end poverty within our current economic system? Think again. (

Four Seasons Lodge - (70% rating) New York Times journalist Andrew Jacobs directs this documentary about a summer colony of Holocaust survivors. Partially shot by legendary documentarian Albert Maysles, Four Seasons Lodge looks at the last time these people gather together to discuss their past and present, revealing moments of both sadness and humor. The decision to close the community evokes a variety of emotions from its longtime seasonal residents, but their shared history unites them even as they disagree about the lodge’s future. (

The Good Soldier- (78% rating) The Good Soldier follows the journeys of five combat veterans from different generations of American wars as they sign up, go into battle, and eventually change their minds about what it means to be a good soldier. The Good Soldier reveals how soldiers simultaneously grapple with their duty and their own humanity. The veterans tell of their alien surroundings, their connection to their comrades, and the ghastliness of their reality. (

The Hand of Fatima - (no rating available) A double portrait of a rock critic and his favorite band. Robert Palmer was America’s pre-eminent music writer, best known for his book Deep Blues and his work for the NY Times. The Master Musicians of Jajouka are a hereditary Moroccan brotherhood who play music older than history, but have also jammed with Ornette Coleman and Sonic Youth. Using Robert Palmer’s writing about the band as her guide, Palmer’s daughter Augusta set out for Morocco in 2005 hoping to find out what happened when her father first met the Master Musicians of Jajouka on assignment for Rolling Stone in 1971. (

Oh My God - (0 % rating) Hugh Jackman, Ringo Starr, Seal, and a number of other celebrities and regular people offer their views on God in this documentary. Oh My God features opinions from people of a variety of religious persuasions, including atheists, Muslims, Hindus, and Christians. Director Peter Rodger traveled to almost two dozen countries in his quest to discover what people around the world think about God in all his or her forms. (

Ten9Eight Shoot for the Moon - (33% rating)
This is the compelling question behind award-winning filmmaker Mary Mazzio’s newest project Ten9Eight, a thought provoking film which tells the inspirational stories of several inner city teens (of differing race, religion and ethnicity) from Harlem to Compton and all points in between, as they compete in an annual business plan competition run by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE). (

William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe - (75% rating)
The late civil rights attorney William Kunstler was one of the most famous and controversial lawyers of the 20th century. He represented civil rights and anti-war activists, as well as accused terrorists and murders. In William Kunstler: Disturbing the Universe, filmmakers Emily and Sarah Kunstler explore their father's life, from middle-class family man, to movement lawyer, to the most hated lawyer in America. (

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Trailer- As Seen Through These Eyes

The Holocaust and the lives lost during World War 2 is not an event most societies are ready to forgot and it seems every year a new documentary is released covering some topic from that era. For those looking for a WW2 film that has something more to offer audiences, As Seen Through These Eyes takes a unique more artistic approach to the Holocaust.

Directed by Hilary Helstein and narrated by Maya Angelou, As Seen Through These Eyes reveals the stories of artists armed with the tools and talents at their disposal to make a stand against Fascism. The film seems to be following this new wave of artistic and non-traditional documentary styles, and by featuring the poetic talents of the great Maya Angelou, I doubt it will disappoint.

But why are you taking my word for it? Head on over to the film's website to read more about the film, watch a trailer and see when it will be playing at a theater near you.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Doc to Air on PBS in Honor of Veterans Day

With all the talk of potentially sending more U.S. troops to Afghanistan, the recent attack at Fort Hood and the ongoing conflicts in both Iraq and Afghanistan, it's safe to say military members need a little encouragement. For that they have Veterans Day and PBS is specifically celebrating troops tonight with the release of their latest documentary, The Way We Get By.

Directed by Aron Gaudet and Gita Pullapilly, the film follows a volunteer group that has greeted each and every troop flight at Maine's Bangor International Airport since 2003. Though it's not on the current troops exactly, these elderly veterans know what returning troops need most: a friendly smile and a look of understanding.

At the very least, this should be a film not focused on politics or the pain of war, but the beginnings of healing; and that alone should make this a documentary worth watching.

Head to PBS for more details and showtimes.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

American Casino Trailer

I discovered the documentary American Casino because I thought it was a cross between American Gangster and Casino (both good fictional films in their own rights). Directed by Leslie Cockburn, this is not about gangsters or the Vegas lights, instead, it deals with the mortgage system: specifically the sub-prime loans that nearly destroyed most of our economic system. I know that sounds dry and boring, but it's not!

After watching the trailer, I'm actually fascinated with American Casino. It seems to hold a lot of the same virtues No End in Sight and Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room posses. By that I mean it takes a relatively dry, complex subject material and turns it into an easily accessible and fascinating experience.

The feature length film is already opening in some theaters around the country so head on over to the film's website to watch the trailer and learn a little bit more about this potentially great documentary.

Monday, November 9, 2009

15th Anniversary of Hoop Dreams

Steve James' groundbreaking work Hoop Dreams first hit theaters 15 years ago. And, though its anniversary was last week, as I tell my girlfriend, it's never too late to acknowledge a good thing.

As many of you know, Hoop Dreams is one of the quintessential films of the documentary genre and deserves to be watched by any and everyone. The story follows two inner city Chicago kids (Arthur Agee and William Gates) as they enter high school with the dream of making it into the NBA. But, this is not a basketball story, it's the story of growing up, facing challenges and heartaches and finding peace and satisfaction in life.

Though I would love to go on and on about Hoop Dreams, I will trust my review is enough of a summary of personal conclusions. And if you want some outside insight into the documentary, look know further than the Chicago Tribune, which presented an interesting look at the film in an article released last week by Roger Ebert.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Theatrical Releases

Every Friday we will update you all with the week's theatrical documentary releases. Now, this will not be a perfect process as our beloved genre prefers the limited release schedule instead of a big nationwide or international-wide release. So apologies if a film isn't out in your area, or if you are a filmmaker and we missed the boat on announcing your documentary's big day (if that is the case, please let us know as we try to refine and hone this weekly post).

Now, with that introduction out of the way, here's this weekend's releases with their current rating on the amazing website

Collapse - (88% rating) Americans generally like to hear good news. They like to believe that a new President will right old wrongs, that clean energy will replace dirty oil, and that fresh thinking will set the economy straight. But is anyone prepared for the worst? Michael Ruppert is a former Los Angeles police officer turned independent reporter, he predicted the current financial crisis in his self-published newsletter “From the Wilderness”. Sitting in a room that looks like a bunker, Ruppert recounts his career as a radical thinker and spells out the crises he sees ahead. Listening to his rapid flow of opinions, the viewer is likely to question some of the rhetoric as paranoid or deluded; and to sway back and forth on what to make of the extremism. The film also serves as a portrait of a loner. Over the years, Ruppert has stood up for what he believes in spite of fierce opposition. He candidly describes the sacrifices and motivators in his life. Clearly, he believes that a dose of bad news can do some good. (

La Danse - (100% rating) - In Wiseman’s 38th film John Davey’s camera roams the vast Palais Garnier, an opulent 19th century pile of a building: from its crystal chandelier-laden corridors to its labyrinthine underground chambers, from its light-filled rehearsal studios to its luxurious theater replete with 2,200 scarlet velvet seats and Marc Chagall ceiling. La Danse devotes most of its time to watching impossibly beautiful young men and rehearsing the choreography of Mats Ek, Wayne McGregor, Rudolf Nureyev and Pina Bausch. For balletomanes and the curious alike, La Danse serves up a scrumptious meal of delectable moments, one more glorious than the next, made even more precious by their ephemeral nature. (

Thursday, November 5, 2009

'Visual Acoustics' trailer

Frank Lloyd Wright, Richard Neutra, John Lautner and Frank Gehry, they are just some of the many great modernist architects of the 1930s. And while their works are stunning, you can make a strong case that it was the photographs of Julius Shulman that immortalized them.

And if you don't believe me, you should check out the new film Visual Acoustics. Narrated by Dustin Hoffmon, this documentary honors the life and career of Shulman. Visual Acoustics appears to be both a testament to modern architecture and a celebration of the gregarious man who chronicled it with his unforgettable images

Check out the trailer over at the film's main website.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Obama... The Movie!

So by now, if you're not of a more liberal mindset, you're probably more than sick of the U.S.' current president. You don't like his jerk-off name, you don't like his jerk-off face, you don't like his jerk-off behavior, and you don't like him (to quote from a great scene in the Big Lebowski). Unfortunately for those who feel that way, the man will still be in office for another 3+ years and, probably even worse, he now has a feature length documentary on him airing on HBO Tuesday night.

Filmmakers Alicia Sams and Amy Rice' documentary By the People: The Election of Barack Obama follows the then-presidential hopeful as he campaigns for office. The two were inspired by Obama's speech to the Democratic National Convention in 2004, and with the help of actor Edward Norton (and no, the randomness of his involvement doe snot go unnoticed) were able to get unprecedented access for the entire campaign.

Now obviously, I doubt few anti-Obamaites will be watching the film on Tuesday, but before you go blasting this as another example of the media love fest for the president, it's important to note that the both Bill Clinton and George W. Bush also had feature length films about their campaigns (and both were ultimately positive in their representation!).

Check out the Associated Press' website for a pretty in depth article on the film or check out the HBO site for more info (like what time it will be airing in your area).

Friday, October 30, 2009

Theatrical Releases

Every Friday we will update you all with the week's theatrical documentary releases. Now, this will not be a perfect process as our beloved genre prefers the limited release schedule instead of a big nationwide or international-wide release. So apologies if a film isn't out in your area, or if you are a filmmaker and we missed the boat on announcing your documentary's big day (if that is the case, please let us know as we try to refine and hone this weekly post).

Now, with that introduction out of the way, here's this weekend's releases with their current rating on the amazing website

Michael Jackson's This Is It - (80% rating) Michael Jackson's This is It will offer Jackson fans and music lovers worldwide a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the performer as he developed, created and rehearsed for his sold-out concerts that would have taken place beginning this summer in London's O2 Arena. Chronicling the months from April through June, 2009, the film draws from more than one hundred hours of behind-the-scenes footage, featuring Jackson rehearsing a number of his songs for the show. (

Labor Day- (no rating available) - Two-time Oscar nominee Glenn Silber captures the exuberance and urgency of the 2008 Election in his feature documentary. Labor Day follows a group that played a pivotal role in helping to elect Barack Obama: the SEIU (Service Employees International Union (SEIU), the nation’s fastest-growing labor union, with more than two million members. Labor Day is a chronicle of this union’s engagement and mobilization to ensure a Democratic victory in 2008. (

You Cannot Start Without Me: Valery Gergiev, Maestro - (no rating available) - Directed by Academy Award winner Allan Miller, this film offers viewers an intimate look into the demanding life of Valery Gergiev, widely acclaimed as one of the leading conductors of our time. This rich musical film offers rare insight into the talent, training and concentration required of a great conductor and reveals how Gergiev combines an impossible international conducting schedule with his job as Director of the legendary Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg. (

Thursday, October 29, 2009

IDA Honors Errol Morris

The International Documentary Association will honor filmmaker Errol Morris with its 2009 Life Achievement Award at its annual awards show. Plain and simple, anyone who doesn't know Morris doesn't truly know the documentary genre. Whether it's winning an Oscar for The Fog of War, freeing wrongfully accused criminals in The Thing Blue Line or developing one of the most touching films ever made in Gates of Heaven, Morris has set himself apart from the general pack of filmmakers. So, it is good to see one of our favorite directors receive this honor.

Hosted by Ira Glass (host and producer of This American Life), the 25th annual IDA Awards will occur on December 4th in Los Angeles. The group will also honor producer, director and writer Nicolas Noxon with it's Pioneer Award and Attorney/independent film advocate Michael Donaldson with its Amicus Award (an award that "acknowledg[ing] the friends of the documentary who have contributed significantly to our industry").

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder"

Normally, I would breeze by such headlines as seen above, but knowing that Vincent Bugliosi (a pretty darn good prosecutor and three time New York Times bestselling author) is the man behind such headlines caused me to pass some information along to you all.

Bugliosi's novel, The Prosecution of George W. Bush for Murder, is already a bestseller and he's now hoping to capitalize on its success to reach a larger audience by turning it into a documentary. Scheduled to be released sometime in February of next year, it's only a matter of time before this story is picked up by mainstream media, so head on over to the film's website and watch the trailer (it's a whopping 9 minutes, so make yourself a bag of popcorn beforehand).

It's obvious from the title that Bugliosi is making a pretty defiant and antagonistic stand against the United States' most recent president, so it will be interesting to see where moderate Americans stand on the issue. A film like this can either draw hoards of audiences into theaters, or it can alienate so many people that it fails to influence even a single person. Personally, my political feelings totally aside, I'm leaning towards the latter after watching their 9 minute overproduced trailer. Then again, some of the research mentioned is quite intriguing.

Expect more on this film as its release date draws near.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Until The Light Takes Us Trailer

I remember watching Sam Dunn and Scot McFadyen's Metal: A Headbanger's Journey as they covered the heavy metal bands from Norway. Though only a small part of the film, these rockers definitely became the most memorable portion of the documentary. In the early 1990s, they were accused of several murders, church burnings and other sadistic acts, and they're legend quickly grew into European Satan worshipers- taking sadism to a whole new level.

As odd as it sounds, I remember wishing to learn more about this group and how one isolated country could produce such violence from a music scene. After several years, there is finally a film dedicated to unearthing these Norwegian rockers' stories. Until the Light Takes Us tells the story of the small musical genre known as Black Metal. Obviously a controversial subject, from the trailer it seems directors Aaron Aites and Audrey Ewell appear more interested in painting a portrait of the individuals then lambasting them as pure evil.

The result is a documentary I wouldn't recommend to the faint of heart, but the trailer is so well done I can't help but instantly add it to my 'must watch' list. Until the Light Takes Us opens in limited theaters in late November, so catch the trailer either at the film's website or at

Monday, October 26, 2009

PBS Revisits 'The Depression'

If there's one thing Americans don't want to hear more about is our current economic woes.  So PBS is respecting their wishes and instead is focusing on the economic depression of the 1930s with a five part documentary series appropriately titled The 1930s.

The interesting twist to the series is that four of the five films have aired before, but this is the first time they have been compiled into a single series.  Most people may find this lazy, but I actually think it's an interesting twist that allows PBS to turn individual films into a combined experience that should allow viewers to think about the Great Depression in different ways.  Perhaps even, remind them of issues they are facing today.

The series kicks off tonight at 9pm with The Crash of 1929, followed by the series' lone new film Civilian Conservation Corps on November 2.  Hoover Dam, Surviving the Dustbowl and Seabiscuit (the documentary, not the feature film) air the following Mondays.

Check out the article on USA Today's website for a more in depth summary, or head on over to PBS' American Experience website to get some better details.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Theatrical Releases 10/23

Every Friday we will update you all with the week's theatrical documentary releases. Now, this will not be a perfect process as our beloved genre prefers the limited release schedule instead of a big nationwide or international-wide release. So apologies if a film isn't out in your area, or if you are a filmmaker and we missed the boat on announcing your documentary's big day (if that is the case, please let us know as we try to refine and hone this weekly post).

Now, with that introduction out of the way, here's this weekend's releases with their current rating on the amazing website

Act of God - (no rating available) This documentary from Manufactured Landscapes director Jennifer Baichwal examines the effects of lightning strikes beyond just the physical. Act of God incorporates interviews with individuals who have been struck by lightning--including writer Paul Auster and musical improviser Fred Frith--and have had their perception changed by the event. (

Killing Kasztner- (60% rating) - To an even greater degree than Oskar Schindler, Dr. Israel Kasztner played a key role in saving the lives of well over 1,000 Jews from the Holocaust. However, a fascinating and deeply sad irony lies buried in the differences between the men's stories: Schindler was a Nazi party member who manipulated the Gestapo to save individuals, and he died a veritable hero. Meanwhile, Kasztner was a Jew who bargained with Adolf Eichmann for the salvation of the 1,600 (whom he shuttled off to Switzerland on a train), and was not ultimately laurelled as a hero, but branded a traitor by his own people. This occurred largely because the notion of bargaining with the Nazis struck many as morally unacceptable. (

Thursday, October 22, 2009

CNN's Latino in America Series

If you missed it, CNN premiered half of it's two part documentary titled Latino in America last night. This is the third installment in a series of documentaries of which the first two were titled Black in America. The previous two were highly regarded so it shouldn't come as a shock that this latest installment is quite engaging as well.

If you happened to miss it, don't fear, CNN is known for re-airing specials multiple times so check your local listings to see when it airs next. You can also head to the documentary's website for exclusive clips, open forums and other extra tidbits you might miss otherwise.

And if you are a Fox News, MSNBC, BBC or other 24 hour news network lover... my apologies for promoting another network.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Ten9Eight: Shoot For the Moon Trailer

Let's face it, if you don't know it by now, you should realize I'm a sucker for inspirational stories. There's something about seeing someone overcome all odds to achieve success that just warms my soul.

With that in mind, coming across Maggie Mazzio's latest documentary Ten9Eight: Shoot For the Moon definitely falls into that category of overcoming obstacles. And it's not just one person either, it's several students rising up to grab the success they believe they deserve. The film follows several inner city teens (of different backgrounds, religion and ethnicity) from across the United States as they compete in an annual business plan competition run by the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE).

So if you want your day to feel a little brighter, head on over to the film's website to watch the trailer. Ten9Eight: Shoot For the Moon will hit theaters starting in mid November.

Monday, October 19, 2009

'Schmatta' Turns Recession into a History Lesson

The recent worldwide recession has numerous filmmakers turning their cameras towards the economic systems that may or may not have contributed to our current dire straits. But while many are covering the 'why', documentarian Marc Levin is using the crisis as a starting point, not a destination. His most recent film, Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags, investigates New York's once-powerful garment trade before economics shifted production of 95% of U.S.-sold apparel overseas.

Admittedly, Levin's film sounds a little boring. But learning that the garment industry back in the 1950s was New York City's biggest employer makes you wonder how things changed so drastically. More importantly (for non-New York natives), it stands as a potential reflection as to why most of the U.S.' major industries now find themselves outsourced to foreign countries.

No, it most likely won't be the scathing investigation Michael Moore would desire, but considering Levin lost a relative to a major sweatshop fire, I doubt it will be all sunshine and roses either. Plus, with the powerful HBO Films helping develop the feature, it's sure to keep you engaged.

If you are interested, Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags airs tonight on HBO.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Theatrical Releases

Every Friday we will update you all with the week's theatrical documentary releases. Now, this will not be a perfect process as our beloved genre prefers the limited release schedule instead of a big nationwide or international-wide release. So apologies if a film isn't out in your area, or if you are a filmmaker and we missed the boat on announcing your documentary's big day (if that is the case, please let us know as we try to refine and hone this weekly post).

Now, with that introduction out of the way, here's this weekend's releases with their current rating on the amazing website

Food Beware: The French Organic Revolution - (70% rating) - For the first time ever, our children are growing up less healthy than their parents. As the rate of cancer and childhood obesity climbs ever upward each year, we must ask ourselves, why is this happening? Food Beware takes a look at a small village in the mountains of France, where the town's mayor has declared that the school lunchroom will serve mostly local food, grown by organic methods. Featuring interviews with children, parents, teachers, health care workers, journalists, farmers, elected officials, scientists and researchers, we learn about challenges and rewards of their stand - the abuses of industry as well as the practical solutions at hand (

One Fast Move or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur - (no rating provided) - In 1957, on the heels of the triumphant debut of his groundbreaking novel, On The Road, Jack Kerouac was a literary rock star. But along with sudden fame and media hype came his unraveling, and by 1960, Kerouac was a jaded cynic, tortured by self-doubt, addiction and depression. Desperate for spiritual salvation and solitude, he secretly retreats to a cabin in the Big Sur woods. But his plan is foiled by his own inner demons, and what ensues that summer becomes the basis for Kerouac’s gritty novel, Big Sur. The film takes viewers on an unflinching look at the compelling events the book is based on. The story unfolds in three ways: through the narrative arc of Kerouac’s prose (voiced by John Ventimiglia); through first-hand accounts and recollections of Kerouac’s contemporaries; by the interpretations and reflections of writers, poets, actors and musicians who have been deeply influenced by Kerouac’s unique gifts (

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Monty Python Documentary?!?!

Thank you to NPR for highlighting this great upcoming series.

And luckily for all you American audiences with premium cable channels, beginning this Sunday (October 18th), the IFC (Independent Film Channel) will present a six night, six-hour documentary titled Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyers Cut). This newest film is timed to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the groundbreaking British TV series and comedy troupe and gawd am I excited!

This new documentary is chock full of interviews with all the surviving members, footage from their movies, TV series and Broadway shows and, most importantly, full of the odd humor we've all come to know and love. Let's face it, this comedy group can't help but mock the documentary form.. even just a little.

Though I haven't seen the documentary yet, I can point out that each individual hour sports hilarious titles like "The Not-So-Interesting Beginnings" and "The Much Funnier Second Episode". And each hour has its own theme song- sung with increased frustration over the familiarity of the material and how endless the documentary is.

But why are you taking my word for anything. Head on over to NPR to read the brilliant description or check out IFC' website to learn more about when it will air in your area.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Trailer: Not Evil, Just Wrong

Well we've had our Michael Moore documentary rebuttals and with more and more conservative activists realizing the power of documentary films, it's about time a rebuttal to An Inconvenient Truth came out. Not Evil, Just Wrong, is that anti-Gore film.

Phelim McAleer's film has a trailer up on it's site and is quickly positioning itself to attract an audience base. I'll be honest, I'm a bit intrigued by this film, but am worried (based solely on the trailer) that it may not have as many facts prepared as some would like. Then again, my doubts have been proven wrong many times before.

McAleer has already made headlines with his recent verbal confrontation with Al Gore. So to say this once unknown documentary has created some buzz is a bit of an understatement. But, as we've seen, conservatives don't rally around films as much as liberals so it will be interesting to see how Not Evil, Just Wrong fares (especially when it's by passing theaters and going direct-to-download format). The film becomes available in less than 5 days, so I'd definitely jump at the trailer if this sounds interesting to you.

Monday, October 12, 2009

PBS/BBC - 4 part series "Latin Music USA"

Ask any non-Hispanic American what he or she knows about Latin music and they'll probably exhaust their knowledge in two short phrases: La Bamba and Salsa. And it's true, outside of its community, the rich heritage and influence of Latin music is rarely given proper respect. That is until now.

The BBC and PBS have combined on a joint venture to air a 4 part documentary series titled Latin Music USA. Filmmakers Elizabeth Deane and Adriana Bosch are the main influences behind this series that attempts to make mainstream audiences more aware of Latin culture, specifically its music.

The series not only highlights the history of Latin music, but also how it has influenced major bands from the Rolling Stones to the Beatles to even Smokey Robinson & the Miracles. More interestingly is how this music has been influenced since coming to America, including how German polka bands in Texas influenced one particular singer.

The series begins tonight on most PBS stations (no known BBC programing that I can find, sorry Brits!) and should be quite engaging. And, at an hour a piece, should be easily accessible to those with a rather hectic weekday lifestyle.

The New York Times has a great article about the series and its filmmakers, but if you want the facts, head on over to PBS' website.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Theatrical Releases

Every Friday we will update you all with the week's theatrical documentary releases. Now, this will not be a perfect process as our beloved genre prefers the limited release schedule instead of a big nationwide or international-wide release. So apologies if a film isn't out in your area, or if you are a filmmaker and we missed the boat on announcing your documentary's big day (if that is the case, please let us know as we try to refine and hone this weekly post).

Now, with that introduction out of the way, here's this weekend's releases with their current rating on the amazing website

Good Hair - (92% rating) - In the movie School Daze, Spike Lee staged a dance number in which two bands of African-American college students debated the merits of "Straight and Nappy" hair in song, and now comedian Chris Rock and filmmaker Jeff Stilson have extended the conversation to a full-length film in this witty documentary with serious undertones. Rock says he was inspired to make the film when his young daughter asked him, "Daddy, how come I don't have good hair?" and he and Stilson examine black America's obsession with their hair (

Yes Men Fix The World - (82% rating) - Andy Bichlbaum and Mike Bonanno are two guys who just can't take "no" for an answer. They have an unusual hobby: posing as top executives of corporations they hate. Armed with nothing but thrift-store suits, the Yes Men lie their way into business conferences and parody their corporate targets in ever more extreme ways - basically doing everything that they can to wake up their audiences to the danger of letting greed run our world (

The Heretics - (No rating provided) - The Heretics reveals the inside story of Heresies, a feminist art collective that was at the epicenter of the 1970s art world in lower Manhattan. Director Braderman, who joined the group in 1971 after moving to New York to become a filmmaker, charts the collective’s story for the first time in a feature-length film or video, revealing its pivotal role in the “second wave” of the Women’s Movement (

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Trailer: Act of God

Though I'm sure I've already mentioned this film, I'm just so blown away by the idea that I need to mention it again. Director Jennifer Baichwal's most recent documentary, Act of God, has one hell of a trailer posted over at and it's hard not to think her film could be up for an Oscar.

Short and sweet, Act of God is a documentary about the metaphysical effects of being struck by lightning. Exploring seven stories from around the world, it raises and responds to questions about chance, fate and the meaning in life.

Baichwal's film hits theaters at the end of this month, so plan your Halloween activities around this documentary, because you certainly want to miss this visually impressive display. If you're having doubts, head on over to to peak at the trailer.

Brazilian Film Portrays the Heart of Rio's Violence

Rio's annual film festival is happening this week and one of the more intriguing documentaries debuted this past Sunday. Dancing with the Devil follows the lives of three men caught up in the Brazilian city's violence: drug lord, a police officer and an evangelical pastor.

British Oscar-winning documentary director Jon Blair (Anne Frank Remembered) followed these men for a year to create an intimate and honest look at the drugs and violence that plague Rio. Obviously, a film on this subject is not exactly what the city hoped for after learning they will be the host of the 2016 Olympics, but this documentary may transcend merely finger pointing. After all, Blair was able to gain the trust of drug smugglers and gang members (who actually let him film their faces).

Outside of Blair, I really know very little about this film, but the scenes described by Reuters and the quotes taken from the movie definitely pique my interest. Hopefully, Blair has plans to release Dancing with the Devil worldwide. Read the full article over at Yahoo and you'll be just as interested as I am.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

'Good Hair' Nets Chris Rock a Major Lawsuit

It's only a few days before Chris Rock's documentary Good Hair hits theaters nationwide, but the producer/writer/narrator isn't celebrating much after being hit with a $5 million lawsuit.

Regina Kimball is a documentary filmmaker who released her own hair film, My Nappy Roots, in 2006. According to her, Chris Rock's documentary copies several scenes and ideas from hers- specifically the scenes dealing with hair export to India, the Jheri Curl controversy and the toxicity of chemicals used in hair relaxing treatments. Additionally, it seems both Rock and Kimball claim they were inspired to make their movies because of their daughters' questions about their own hair.

With these similarities and Kimball's accusations that Rock and others viewed her documentary before working on their own, it seems the lawsuit has some legitimate weight to it. Ultimately, these things will work themselves out in court, but this is certainly not the type of press HBO Films wanted right before a major release.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Love the Beast Trailer

Recently reviewed by one of our newest writers, Eric Bana's documentary, Love the Beast, now has a trailer over at It's definitely worth a watch. Who knows, you may love it as much as our writer!

In case you're a little confused, Love the Beast follows Eric Bana as he explores the meaning of a 25-year-long relationship with his first car, “The Beast”. Filmed over 2 years, this is partly for grease monkeys and partly for those who place their stock in family and friends.

So head on over to to see what your missing and then check out the review to really get excited about one of this year's surprise documentaries.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Prince of Pop Doc Sells Out

To no one's real surprise, Michael Jackson can still sell out a show. According to the AP, Tickets for the advanced screening of the music documentary Michael Jackson: This Is It sold out within a few hours in Los Angeles.

The advanced screening will take place on October 27th (one day before it opens nationwide) at LA's new Regal Cinemas Stadium 14- which is using the premier for it's grand opening. Thankfully, for us non-LA/more patient types, tickets are still available nationwide. But I have a strong feeling that will change in the near future, so book it on over to Ticketmaster or your local theater to get the hottest documentary tickets around.

For those of you living in a cave, This Is It is directed by Kenny Ortega and draws on hundreds of hours of footage of The Prince of Pop as he prepared for a series of concerts in London. Jackson died on June 25th.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Theatrical Releases

Every Friday we now plan to start updating you all with each week's theatrical releases of documentaries. Now, this will not be a perfect process as our beloved genre prefers the limited release schedule instead of a big nationwide or international-wide release. So apologies if a film isn't out in your area, or if you are a filmmaker and we missed the boat on announcing your documentary's big day (if that is the case, please let us know as we try to refine and hone this weekly post).

Now, with that introduction out of the way, here's this weekend's releases with their current rating on the amazing website

Capitalism: A Love Story - (73% positive rating) - Plenty of excitement, and controversy, is sure to surround this film from decorated documentarian Michael Moore. This timely film addresses what caused the financial crisis that stopped the world in 2008. Capitalism: A Love Story finds Moore criticizing the government bailout of privately held businesses (

Providence Effect - (56% positive rating) - Paul J. Adams III, an African-American man with activist roots in the 1960’s civil rights movement moved to Chicago to form a not-for-profit independent school. That was over 30 years ago. Since then, 100% of Providence St. Mel graduates have been accepted to college, half of them, during the last seven years, to first tier and Ivy League colleges and universities. The Providence Effect traces the school’s development from a struggling shoe-string budget dream into a school and a method of teaching that produces not only inspired students, but parents, teachers and administrators dedicated to settling for nothing less than the highest expectations (

In Search Of Beethoven - (91% positive rating) - Award-winning filmmaker Phil Grabsky and Seventh Art Productions are back in theaters with a new feature-length biographical film about the life of Ludwig van Beethoven. In Search of Beethoven takes a comprehensive look at the composer’s life through historical research and Beethoven’s biography and letters, but with the emphasis always on the performance, and interpretation, of Beethoven’s music (

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Walt & El Grupo Trailer

What an awesome title.  Seriously.  Bravo.  Yes, I know if you read the summary the title basically writes itself, but be honest: how many of you found your interest piqued just by reading Walt & El Grupo?  Alas, it is not a buddy-cop movie in the vein of Turner and Hooch, but then again, I'm a firm believer in true stories out shining fictional ones.

But I digress... the film follows Walt Disney and a group of hand selected artists as they travel around South America on a good will tour for the United States way back in 1941.  It's a story I've never heard, though it does put a little perspective  on why those who don't see the U.S. in a favorable light generally use images of Mickey Mouse in their protests.  Either way, as long as Disney company avoided white-washing this documentary I believe it could actually be a quirky little film (and that's a good thing).

Don't believe me? Well check out the trailer for Walt & El Grupo over at Apple.  It's already out in theaters in very select cities, but keep an eye out for it as it spreads around the country in the coming weeks.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Documentary Standards Needed?

With all the latest controversy surrounding documentary films (the Supreme Court case involving the anti-Hilary Clinton film, Dole suing a filmmaker for intentionally leaving out necessary findings, etc), there is definitely a growing buzz among the documentary world about the need for standards, or even regulations.

Now, obviously, regulating an industry that, at its core, is of a grassroots basis, could be a conflict of interest, but before you strike up the debate, you should read some interesting research done by American University’s Center for Social Media. It's rather long and perhaps even drab, but for those truly interested in the industry, it is definitely worth the read.

As the report says, "Documentary filmmakers identified themselves as creative artists for whom ethical behavior is at the core of their projects. At a time when there is unprecedented financial pressure on makers to lower costs and increase productivity, filmmakers reported that they routinely found themselves in situations where they needed to balance ethical responsibilities against practical considerations."

Whether your a filmmaker, producer, student, professor or just an avid fan of documentaries, I can easily say this is something to be read and definitely debated. I'd like to hear your thoughts too, so feel free to post your reactions.

Friday, September 4, 2009

French Filmmaker Murdered

Longtime journalist and documentary filmmaker Christian Poveda was found murdered this past week by local police in El Salvador. He had been shot in the head. Already his death has been decried by the country's ministers as an investigation is well under way.

Poveda may not be a well known director throughout the world, but his work has won respect and recognition in various festivals. His most recent documentary La Vida Loca highlighted the violent gang members sent back to El Salvador after serving time in U.S. prisons. Not just exclusively a filmmaker, Poveda spent his 30 year career working for various news outlets, including Time and Newsweek magazines.

The Associated Press has a brief but interesting article on the murder, Poveda's career and even a few quotes from the man in connection with the El Salvador gangs. Certainly his death is a tragedy, especially as he appeared to be a fearless investigator for truth. La Vida Loca was already completed and I personally hope his work is featured in more festivals as a tribute to the man and to the stories he uncovered.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Limited Run for MJ's Documentary

Director Kenny Ortega's documentary on the final days of Michael Jackson's life is now set to hit theaters October 28th (two days earlier than previously announced). Sony Pictures announced the change and the surprise two-week limited run right before the weekend. Tickets for those eager to catch the opportunity will be released September 27th.

Titled This is It (after the name of Michael Jackson's planned concert series), the documentary will use select behind-the-scenes footage to detail the legendary singer's final month or so. There is also a rumor that some of the footage will be available in 3-D (which just might make this the first 3-D documentary ever). Ortega took on the role of director after originally working with Jackson as the concert's choreographer.

The choice for a limited release is beyond me, but it's Sony's film and I'm sure they plan to squeeze as much out of the hundreds of hours of footage they have as possible. Head over to the New York Times or US Magazine for a few more details on this documentary.

(It also wouldn't hurt to start praying that this isn't just a money making ploy...)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Stone's Secret History

Legendary director Oliver Stone is known just as well for his successful films (Wall Street, Platoon, Born on the 4th of July) as he is for his failures (W, Nixon, JFK), so it is with great trepidation that I bring news to you of his recently announced documentary series airing on Showtime sometime next year.

Reuters reports that Stone will be producing (and most likely directing) a 10 part documentary series about unknown but influential moments in U.S. history. According to Reuters, "topics for this new [series] will range from the reasons behind the Cold War with the Soviet Union, U.S. President Harry Truman's decision to drop the atomic bomb on Japan, and changes in America's global role since the fall of Communism."

While this sounds like a potentially fascinating documentary series there are two red flags to be aware of: 1) Oliver Stone has on occasion 'filled in the blanks' of history to create a more interesting story; 2) Showtime, while certainly improving it's original programming, is not close to the level of HBO and I wonder how such a major project fell into their laps.

All that said, I'm still curious to see this series as I'm a firm believer that when Oliver Stone is on his game, he's one of the best directors of his time.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Another Director Leaves Marley

Bad news for Bob Marley enthusiasts, it seems director Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs, Neil Young: Heart of Gold) is parting ways with the upcoming documentary Marley. According to the NY Post, producer Steve Bing was unimpressed with the first round of editing and most likely asked the talented director to leave the project. Demme is the second director to leave Marley after the originally attached Martin Scorsese left due to scheduling conflicts.

Marley is still scheduled for a February 6th release date (the anniversary of the Jamaican musicians birthday), but there now seems to be a huge void in the production team that Bing may have a difficult time replacing. Yes, a documentary on such a renown musician should easily attract top talent, but having two high profile directors leave the project might indicate a lack of artistic expression. Granted, this is all my personal opinion and I'm truly hoping whoever ultimately is attached to the project can live up to the expectations I once had for a Scorsese/Demme film.

Head over to the NY Post to read the whole story.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Gibney's Health Care Bill

As the battle for health care rages throughout the United States, Oscar-Award winning director Alex Gibney has decided to drop in his two cents worth.  No, he's not speaking at a town hall meeting, nor is he introducing a legislative bill.  Instead, he's doing what every filmmaker does when he feels there needs to be a change: he makes a documentary.

Money Driven Medicine is not necessarily a film choosing one side of the health care debate, or the other, but it is the about director's desire to see some sort of change.  Based off award wining journalist, Maggie Mahar's book of the same name, the film uses countless interviews with doctors (not ordinary citizens) to state their case. Gibney told the Chicago Tribune, "We went out and photographed a lot of doctors and, indeed, doctors who had opted out of the system to become spokespeople for a new idea, to say, 'You know what? Our system is not the best in the world.'"

Both Gibney and Mahar have hit the media tour touting the new film (including a recent interview on Nightline), so it is safe to say their film could be released in the near future.  However, the distributor for Money Driven Medicine (Newsreel) seems quite mum on a potential theatrical run at the moment. Let's hope that changes as a health care reform film may be quite topical as the debate rages throughout the country.

Head on over to the film's current website or ABC News for more on Money Driven Medicine.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

John Hughes Documentary

So it's gotten to the point that whenever a celebrity dies, I expect a documentary to be made about them.  Sony is putting together a film on Michael Jackson using previously unused footage, Billy Mays suddenly finds himself in a reality TV series and now it seems the late John Hughes is getting the documentary treatment after his recent death.

Canadian based Alliance Films recently purchased the distribution rights for Matt Austin-Sadowski's documentary, Don't You Forget About Me.  The documentary is the actor's (famous for such roles as the Green Power Ranger) quest to seek out the then-reclusive writer- director that inspired him to enter the profession.  Interviews include Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Mia Sara and others- though sadly Hughes' starlet Molly Ringwald refused to participate.

I've yet to find a specific release date for Don't You Forget About Me (which incidentally, is a great 80's song too), but head on over to Variety for more information.  And if you are unsure who John Hughes is, do yourself a favor and rent Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, or Planes, Trains and Automobiles- just three of the many great films he either wrote or directed.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Doc Rock with Your Socks Off

Later this week marks the 30th Anniversary of Woodstock and the first recorded proof of a hippie-stoner actually organizing something. With anniversary events and 'best of' lists coming out left and right this week, we couldn't help but admire Bob Tremblay (from the Daily News Tribune) and his attempt to list the top rock documentaries of all time. And in true "Barry from High Fidelity" fashion, he's listed his top ten in alphabetical order.

Head on over to the Daily News Tribune to read the complete article and Tremblay's justification for his picks then come back here and let us know what your list would include.

side note: does anyone else just love the 'intellectual battles' the gang from High Fidelity waged on screen? Because I sure do.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Chris Rock's Hair Gets a Theatrical Run

The Sundance Film Festival documentaries are finally (emphasis on finally) lining up theatrical runs and the latest one happens to star comedian Chris Rock.  His film, titled Good Hair, is directed by Jeff Stilson and examines hair culture in the black community.

You might think this documentary is a frivolous waste of an audience's time, but investigate Chris Rock's reasons for making this film and you'll see why this could be one of those great documentaries that makes you laugh and think at the same time.  It also helps that it happened to win Special Jury prize in the U.S. documentary category at Sundance.

Good Hair hits a limited amount of theaters in early October.  In the meantime, head over to Punchline Magazine to see a trailer.