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.