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.