Thursday, June 25, 2009

Cute Old Couple Hoards Art

The summer is all about loving life and reminding yourself why you should appreciate every little moment. And with that focus in mind, I present you the trailer for Herb and Dorathy. Directed by Megumi Sasaki, this humble little film follows Herbert Vogel, a postal clerk, and Dorothy Vogel, a librarian. The two managed to build one of the most important contemporary art collections in history with very modest means. These two compiled a serious art collection too, grabbing over 2,000 pieces over thirty years. Needless to say, their apartment was nearly bursting with art before the two donated their entire collection to the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.

If you think that story could really warm your heart (and it should you insensitive jerks), head on over to apple to watch the trailer and prepare yourself for a nice, wholesome summer documentary.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Harvard Beats Yale 29-29

I'm feeling in a sports mood today after watching the U.S. National team trounce the Spaniards in the Confederation's Cup earlier today (take that men who steal our women with your accents and dance moves!).  Unfortunately, there aren't any documentaries about football/soccer coming out, so I'll just have to talk about the next best thing: American Football.

If you head on over to Apple, you'll notice a trailer for a film titled Harvard Beats Yale 29-29.  Now I know that score sounds like it would be a tie, but evidently rules were different back in the good ol' days of college football (1968).  The documentary blends archival footage with interviews from players who participated in this bizarre game.

I've heard a lot about this documentary, but never seen it released anywhere (despite a release date that occurred earlier this year).  None-the-less, this looks like a fun, forget the troubles of steroid driven sports type film (and in Spain's case, the pain of coming one game short of a record unbeaten streak).  Since it's theater release date has already passed, make sure to check NetFlix or your other video rental service to know when you can watch it at home.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Muslims turn to rap

This is a last minute story, but I couldn't ignore it.  Tonight, on PBS' Point of View Documentary series, the film New Muslim Cool premieres nationwide.  The 90 minute piece follows Puerto Rican-American rapper Hamza Perez as he tries to live his life as an ex-felon turned Muslim.

Though the obvious issues of trying to be Muslim in post 9/11 United States will certainly be a topic of discussion, I'm hoping Jennifer Maytorena Taylor's documentary focuses on the unusual combination of a rapper-Muslim.  Yes, there are plenty of rappers who say they follow the teachings and practices of Malcolm X, but I think it would be an engaging story to see a Muslim man who is working to raise a religious community also try to carry a career as a rapper.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have many doubts about New Muslim Cool.  What I do have, is high expectations, and if you are as interested in this film as I am, check it out on PBS tonight.  If you miss the premier, don't worry, PBS is committed to replaying documentaries over multiple weeks, so head over to the film's website to see when you can view it next.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Networks air documentaries on Iran

In the midst of all the turmoil and protests resulting from the recent Iranian election, it's easy to forget that this week also marks the anniversary of a historical moment in that country's history: the 30th anniversary of the overthrow of the Shah and the establishment of an Islamic republic. However, this week both HBO and the National Geographic Channel are highlighting the nation with three different documentaries.

The best historical analysis of the U.S.-Iranian relationship most likely can be found on National Geographic. The British documentary “Iran and the West” airs tonight (Monday) at 8 pm. It's a two hour film that provides a detailed history of the past 31 years and includes interviews with President Jimmy Carter, from the Ayatollah Khomeini’s closest adviser and others that were closely involved in all the decisions from this period. Though I haven't seen it, it seems like a pretty even handed discussion of this rather tumultuous period and should be a great introduction for anyone who doesn't know a lot about the recent history.

HBO on the other hand is taking a more niche approach in the documentaries they air. The two films set for this week include The Queen and I and Be Like Others. The Queen and I is the portrait of an exiled documentarian who grew disillusioned with the ayatollah’s heavy-handed regime and becomes friends with the shah’s widow. It airs at 1:30am on Tuesday and at 2 pm on June 29. Both on HBO 2.

Be Like Others details Iran's bizarre but theoretically correct treatment of gay people: encouraging sex changes (which are sanctioned under Islam... homosexuality is not however). It airs at 7 pm on Wednesday on HBO2.

Both films most likely do not view Iran in a positive light, but they are certainly interesting case studies. So if you are interested in learning more about Iran, now seems like a great time to tune into the documentary world to get your fix.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Michael Moore's latest documentary

After patiently waiting what seemed like ages, finally, I can now proudly say the great Michael Moore's newest film has a trailer (no title, but it does have a trailer... err, sort of). The documentary, titled "Untitled Michael Moore Project", has a "teaser" up over at with the notorious director looking to take on those involved in the recent economic meltdown. Currently, his film is slated for a nationwide release date in early October.

Now, whether or not you agree with the man, Moore has become the face of political-documentaries (if not the entire documentary genre) and has three of the top six highest-grossing documentaries of all time to his credit. Frankly, if you enjoy documentaries, you can't ignore the man, because as Mugatu from Zoolander would say: "he's so hot right now."

Ok, personally, Moore's previous films remind me more of flings I know I'll regret but still let happen anyway (you know what I'm talking about: the cute but crazy girl with anger management issues... or the handsome guy who says he's single and only wears a wedding ring as a joke). None-the-less, the guy makes great satire pieces and he looks to keep that up with this latest documentary. Will it be great? Who knows. But will it cause controversy and an endless stream of banter between pundits from both sides of the political aisle? Most definitely. Political activists... start your blogging!

Documentary causes Dole to go Bananas

The Los Angeles Film Festival is currently in full swing, but Swedish filmmaker Fredrik Gertten's film Bananas! finds itself battling a major controversy even before it premiers. Just a few days ago a judge declared Gertten's main character, Los Angeles attorney Juan J. Dominguez, a fraud for recruiting plaintiffs to lie. The accusation follows shortly after Dominguez won a $1.5 million settlement for the purported workers of Dole.

Bananas! is a feature length documentary that follows Nicaraguan workers who claim pesticides used on Dole banana plantations in the 1970s made them sterile. The judge presiding over the case says Dominguez recruited men to pretend they had been banana workers and to make false allegations against Dole. These men were even given fake work histories and told what it would have been like to work on a plantation at that time.

Now, because of these accusations, Dole representatives want Gertten to reflect the new information in his already completed documentary or face a defamation lawsuit. As you can assume, the Swedish filmmaker rejects such demands based on free speech. "I haven't seen any fraud. If I saw it, I would publish it," he said. "This film is valid. I hope Dole will understand it is a legitimate piece of work. ... I believe in freedom of speech and telling the story as I saw it."

For its part, the LA Film Festival has pulled the documentary from its prize categories and instead are using it to open a discussion about the perils of wrapping up production before a story has reached its conclusion. For more on the story, jump to the Associated Press for a detailed breakdown of the situation.