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.