Thursday, September 16, 2010

Ken Burns returns to baseball

Did you see Ken Burn's 1994 documentary series Baseball and think, "I feel like I need more?" Well if you did, you're a freak who needs a social life (19 hours and you want more?!?) . But, while your social life may be lacking your need for more baseball can now be quenched!

Burns returns to baseball to fill in the gaps between 1994 and today in a four hour (2- 2 hour segments) examination of America's past time- appropriately titled The 10th Inning (because Lord knows this history lesson is well into extra innings). The film premieres September 28th and 29th at 8pm (EST) on PBS.

Head on over to PBS' website to learn more about the film and catch a trailer for what will undoubtedly be yet another award winning piece from Burns.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Silverdocs - Saturday recap

The final day for Silverdocs (Sunday has films, but none will be seen by this writer) turned out to be short but sweet. Two excellent documentaries finished up the festival and they are certainly worth the price of admission:

Into Eternity - as artful a film as you could imagine in this investigation of a permanent solution to dealing with nuclear waste. Though it might come off as pretentious at times, it does an excellent job helping audiences fully comprehend just how long 100,000 years actually is (that's the amount of time it takes for the waste to no longer be harmful to humans).

The Tillman Story - why would a story about one soldier's death be so interesting? Well it's a story of government cover ups and lies in order to generate war propaganda. It's a great documentary from an established filmmaker and is worth watching whether you know the story or not.


Stay tuned for a full festival wrap up in the coming days!

Silverdocs - Friday recap

Friday at Silverdocs will now be known as 'European Day', as it turned into a day of four films from the continent. Not surprisingly, each and everyone was very well made. Let's dissect:

Living Room of a Nation - a documentary with no real message or theme, but to show the lives of the people they record. Perhaps that sounds boring, but this ode to daily life is as simple and charming as its characters.

Woman with 5 Elephants - a film about a woman who translates Russian literature into German may sound dull, but what it lacks in entertainment it makes up for in intimacy and sincerity.

Men Who Swim - easily the most enjoyable documentary of the festival. Men's synchronized swimming sounds like the perfect subject to ridicule but watching characters as bizarre and enjoyable as the sport, it's hard not to ponder joining your own team as well.

Steam of Life - saunas and men pouring out their souls, that is the premise of this documentary and it works perfectly. Equal parts touching and humorous, it's hard not to appreciate this honest reflection of Finish society.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Silverdocs - Thursday recap

Thursday will now be called 'roller coaster day', for that was the film experience of Silver Docs yesterday. I'm talking specifically about the films. And the great thing about roller coasters is how they leave you wanting more:

The Kids Grow Up - a surprisingly touching documentary that will surely have more impact and meaning on the parents of recent graduates. It isn't a perfectly made film, but neither was Father of the Bride - and I loved Father of the Bride.

Barbershop Punk - what is neither a barber, nor a punk? Better question, what is neither entertaining nor insightful? It's an overly harsh criticism of the film, but this documentary was the low point of the festival so far.

Budrus - The best film of the festival (so far) is not about Boutros Boutros-Ghalli (admit it, you thought it was for a second). No, this touching and empowering documentary follows one Palestinian village as it uses nonviolence to stop the Israeli wall from destroying their land.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Silverdocs - Wednesday recap

Wednesday didn't quite live up to the pleasant surprises of Tuesday, but it was certainly a day full of interesting and provocative films. It also featured a misstep that forced me to miss Davis Guggenheim's newest film Waiting for Superman. Yes, miscommunication resulted in missing one of the major films of the festival, but not to worry the error lead me to a surprising little world premier! That's what's great about festivals, even when someone screws up, you still win!

But enough rambling about schedules, a brief highlight of the Wednesday films:

Goodbye, How Are you? - a totally unique and clever attempt at highlighting a satirical aphorism movement in Serbia. It's not your usual documentary and it'll definitely divide audiences into those that love it and those that don't.

South of the Border - Oliver Stone brings his pro-Hugo Chavez rhetoric to the forefront in this film praising the Venezuelan President and other like minded (i.e. U.S. bashing) leaders. It's a film that tries to erase the negative caricatures of these leaders with overly positive ones, but there are plenty who will appreciate Stone's work.

My So Called Enemy - A world premier that still needs some polishing (the director claims editing ended at 2 am the day of the event), but certainly worth seeing. It appeals to idealists who want peace throughout the world and to realists who believe everyday life makes idealism a complicated and unattainable goal.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Silverdocs - Tuesday recap

The opening night festivities behind me, it was time to get into the meat of the Silverdocs festival and let me tell you, it was a surprise. Of all the days, the first day was (in my opinion) considered the weakest (or most likely to produce a bad film or two), but I must say each and every film turned out to be a real gem. So here's a quick recap:

La Isla (Archives of Tragedy) - The film has a few missteps and odd choices, but if you come into it with some background on the history of Guatemala, you'll find a very good documentary.

War Don Don - Does 'justice' truly help a society recently marred in civil war? That is the question brilliantly dissected in this case study that asks audiences to reexamine the legitimacy and helpfulness of the UN special courts.

Holy Wars - A bold and enlightened film that desperately tries not to judge its fundamentalist characters. Though it's possible to interpret the filmmakers taking a side in the debate, it's hard to deny this is based more on the characters then the direction - which includes narration to mitigate those feelings.


Odd factoid of the day - two of the three films ended with a rap song about the subject matter. I don't know why, but I found that odd.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Silverdocs kicks off in Washington D.C.

The week long documentary smorgasbord known as Silverdocs kicked off with a bang last night with the world premier of Freakonomics and DocFilm Online is here to bring you daily coverage of the event, plus reviews of all the films we are able to see.

If you are in the D.C. area you should definitely check out the event (hosted at the AFI theater in Silver Spring, Maryland). If you aren't within reasonable driving vicinity (and I'll leave that judgement call to you), then check out our daily recaps!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Chevron takes 'Crude' filmmaker to court

Joe Berlinger's film Crude is supposed to be a hard hitting but even handed look at the oil industry, but it seems one company isn't content with the documentary's message. Chevron has a lawsuit in a New York district court dealing specifically with accusations Texaco, now owned by Chevron, polluted the Amazon rain forest in Ecuador.

The company won a major victory earlier this week as the judge in the case ordered Berlinger to turn over hundreds of hours of unused footage. Chevron's lawyers argued the footage would show misconduct by Berlinger and his team. For their part, Berlinger’s lawyers argued his work should be protected under reporter’s privilege, and though the judge agrees with this point, he ruled it could be outweighed if the material was “likely relevant” to the case and not confidential.

This case is certainly interesting and it will definitely have an impact on future filmmakers looking to create investigative pieces. Stay tuned!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Baby animals are beyond adorable

So I've been having a bad week. Correction, I've been having a bad month (I'm sure you all noticed a lack of reviews). I'm not going to vent here because that would be turning Documentary Film Online into a cheap, personal blog and ruin the whole thing for all you documentary lovers. But I bring up my bad month for one sole reason: Disney's latest animal documentary totally tipped the scales for this being an awesome month.

Simply titled African Cats, the film continues Disney's latest trend of showing the familial aspects of animals set against the harsh backdrop of nature. This time though, instead of following sea creatures, their crews follow a pack of lions and cheetahs as their mom's raise cute kittens into fierce predators.

Admittedly, this will probably be another March of the Penguins clone, but honestly, does anyone mind? Plus, did I mention it has kittens? KITTENS! I mean, I'm excited already.

Unfortunately, the film doesn't come out until April of next year. In the meantime, if you need a good 'awww' moment or just want to feel one of those cheesy, cliched happy moments, head on over to www.disney.go.com/disneynature/africancats/ to get your fill.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Joaquin Phoenix's fall is documentary film's gain?

Joaquin Phoenix was arguably one of the brightest actors of the modern era and his sudden decision to abandon the craft for a rap career was downright sad in many people's eyes. In fact, I'm fairly certain nearly every film fan wondered "what the heck is he thinking?" immediately after hearing of his decision. Adding to the confusion is his practical disappearance from the public limelight (especially after a Youtube video of him rapping and an odd encounter on Letterman).

Thankfully, the documentary gods smiled favorably on us befuddled masses and granted fellow actor Casey Affleck a front row seat to Phoenix's post-acting life. Casey, who is married to Joaquin's sister, used the opportunity to film the very same question we all were thinking and create the documentary I'm Still Here: The Lost Year Of Joaquin Phoenix.

In an interview with ABC, Casey says, "He said he didn't want to act any more, he wanted to try doing music, and that, right there, says something's going to happen... I had no idea what exactly was going to happen and all that would unfold and every day I spent with him on this journey.

"It ended up being more and more fascinating, more and more things happened that were both in the public spectacle and a very private internal implosion that I got to witness. It made for this unbelievable, one-of-a-kind movie."

Now, some still contend the whole thing is an elaborate hoax, but if it is, the dude is pulling off a prank no other celebrity has ever managed to play on society. The film is currently seeking a distributor but I doubt it will take long for some company to pick up the rights to a subject every modern movie fan wants addressed.

How do you feel? Would you want to see this documentary? Post below!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Rush wins Tribeca Film Festival

Scot McFadyen and Sam Dunn's Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage took the Tribeca Film Festival by storm and won the coveted Heineken Audience Award Winner. The documentary beat out the fictional film Snowmen, the documentary Arias With A Twist: The Docufantasy, plus numerous others in what festival officials called a fierce competition.

McFadyen and Dunn have made several fan favorite rock films in the past so its no surprise they win the award here. Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage is a comprehensive look at the Canadian band Rush's entire history, from their early days in Toronto to the present day, four decades after forming.

Head on over to http://www.tribecafilm.com/festival/ to learn more about the other festival awards or http://www.rushbeyondthelightedstage.com/ to get all the details on McFadyen and Dunn's latest project.

Friday, April 30, 2010

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 Rottentomatoes.com:


Dirty Hands: The Art & Crimes of David Choe - (no rating provided) Director Harry Kim spent eight tumultuous years following a young near-schizophrenic street artist, David Choe, who devises numerous criminal schemes that make it possible for him to hitchhike across the globe. Choe skirts the legal constraints of society to “freely” create his art. His nonchalant law-breaking style lands him in jail several times, leading to his eventual demise in solitary confinement in a Tokyo prison cell. He resurfaces with a radically religious agenda and returns home with hope to overcome his criminal temptations and repair his severed relationships. The filmmaker (who has been friends with Choe since they met at the Korean-American teenage summer camp in 1990) captures the complexity of David’s life though a collage work of archived childhood home videos, still photographs, intimate artwork, animation, and eight years of footage shot on the road with the artist. (Rottentomatoes.com)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

ESPN 30 for 30 Refresh

All you sports fans should already be engrossed in ESPNs 30 for 30 documentary film series, but in case you have been hiding under a rock, there is still time to catch plenty of films. The series is the brain child of Bill Simmons, aka The Sports Guy, who wanted the sports network to start telling better stories.

If you are an ESPN fan, you know and love Simmons' writing and if you are a documentary fan you should be thrilled he appreciates the genre as much as anyone. Need proof? Simmons writes, "I love documentaries. The goal of a well-written piece and a well-done documentary is fundamentally the same: you pick a story that hasn’t been fully explored yet, you throw yourself into it and you make it sing."

Probably the best summary for how to make a great documentary and that's all I need to be excited for ESPN's 30 for 30 series- even before looking at the stories or directors hired. Make no mistake, ESPN went all out and recruited some of the best talent possible- not only because they are great filmmakers and storytellers, but because they are passionate about the stories they are developing.

Head over to http://30for30.espn.com/ to see which films have yet to premier as well as learn where you can buy previously aired stories. Make sure to read Simmons' article first. It'll remind you why you love documentaries.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Hot Docs Film Festival Begins Tomorrow!


The documentary film festival circuit is in full swing and Canada's Hot Docs Festival is ready to add to our beloved genre starting tomorrow. Featuring nearly 200 documentaries from April 29th to May 9th, documentary fans will surely be impressed by this year's line-up.

Whether its new releases (Babies), classics (Fog of War, American Movie), or even great films you might have missed at previous festivals, if you love documentaries, this is a great festival to investigate.

Check out the list of films over at http://www.hotdocs.ca/ then purchase your plane ticket to Toronto so you can attend this delightful 11 day event.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Trailer: 8: The Mormon Proposition

Reed Cowen's documentary 8: The Mormon Proposition has been making the film festival rounds and seems to have built up enough steam to turn out a theatrical run. There is now a trailer up over at Apple.com/trailers and it's worth checking out, especially if you are interested in the subject.

8: The Mormon Proposition focuses on California's Proposition 8 and the battle the Mormon Church waged to block gay marriage in the state. Cowen takes an antagonistic approach to their campaign and uses interviews, recorded messages and news stories to prove his point.

The documentary will release on June 18th, so head over to Apple.com to watch the trailer and learn more about the film and where it will be playing.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking

Leave it to the Discovery Channel to play ball with the big boys. The network's most recent series Into the Universe with Stephen Hawking allows audiences to investigate the universe through the eyes of one of the smartest people in the world. Divided into three hour long segments, it will cover aliens, time travel and, well, everything else. So unless your Stephen Hawking himself, you'll probably come away learning something new.

The series has already garnered a relative amount of attention because of some of Hawking's comments, including his belief our world should not try and contact alien lifeforms that may treat us like a conquered colony. Of course even pro-alien audiences will appreciate hearing complex theories explained in a simpler manner (and with entertaining visuals to boot!).

Into the Universe has already been airing in the United States and will be premiering over in the UK early next month. So check your local listings to learn more!

Friday, April 23, 2010

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 Rottentomatoes.com:


Oceans - (80% rating) Nearly three-quarters of the Earth’s surface is covered by water and Oceans boldly chronicles the mysteries that lie beneath. Directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud dive deep into the very waters that sustain all of mankind—exploring the harsh reality and the amazing creatures that live within. Narrated by Pierce Brosnan and featuring spectacular never-before-seen imagery captured by the latest underwater technologies, Oceans offers an unprecedented look beneath the sea in a powerful motion picture. (Rottentomatoes.com)

Behind the Burly Q - (77% rating) the behind-the-scenes stories of the men and women of burlesque as told by the performers themselves. For the first time ever, the performers from the golden age of burlesque relate their heartbreaking, triumphant stories of life on the road performing in the burly circuit. Many were ashamed of their past and had never talked about their experiences. Just as many had never been asked. Amongst those interviewed were former musicians, strippers, novelty acts, club owners, funny men and women, authors and historians assembled together for the first time ever to tell you just what really happened in a burlesque show. (Rottentomatoes.com)

Best Worst Movie - (92% rating) the acclaimed feature length documentary that takes us on an off-beat journey into the undisputed worst movie in cinematic history: Troll 2. In 1989, when an Italian filmmaker and unwitting Utah actors shot the ultra-low budget horror film, Troll 2, they had no idea that twenty years later they would be celebrated worldwide for their legendary ineptitude. Two decades later, the film’s now-grown-up child star (Michael Paul Stephenson) unravels the improbable, heartfelt story of the Alabama dentist-turned-cult movie icon and the Italian filmmaker who come to terms with this genuine, internationally revered cinematic failure. (Rottentomatoes.com)

One Peace at a Time - (No rating provided) Building on critical and audience acclaim for his film, Nobelity, Turk Pipkin is continuing his global journey of knowledge and action with the feature film, One Peace at a Time. While Nobelity deals with global problems, One Peace at a Time will focus on specific solutions. The goal is to create a virtual roadmap to a better future. One Peace at a Time is an opportunity for individuals, businesses and foundations to reach out and change the world. (Rottentomatoes.com)

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Trailer: The Oath

A documentary about Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard and driver doesn't exactly sound like a film with 'market appeal' here in the United States, but a quick read of the summary for Laura Poitras' The Oath makes it sound like a fascinating investigation into a complex situation.

The trailer itself is captivating and will make you want to see this documentary. Unfortunately, it appears The Oath is currently only slated for appearances at film festivals, but hopefully that changes for all of us interested in a film that will spark debate.

Head on over to http://www.theoathmovie.com/ to see the trailer for yourself and read more about The Oath and why it's worth seeing.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Haikus Abound over Palin-Discovery Series

So if you've been keeping up with your documentary news, you're well aware Sarah Palin signed a contract with Discovery Communications to host an 8-part series on Alaska. Environmentalists and those of the more liberal persuasion immediately voiced their complaints over the decision, believing Palin to be less than ideal for promoting the beautiful Alaskan wilderness.

Fearing they would get lost amongst all the uproar, the Friends of the Earth organization decided to break away from the angry emails and protesters- asking their supporters to send in haikus expressing their outrage (Ok, technically the short poems are called senryus, but as an American I'm entitled to simplify complex cultural practices into something I already know).

The site took the top ten submissions and are now asking people to vote for their favorites before they send the entire compilation (said to be in the thousands) to the Discovery Communications headquarters.

Can all forms of protests be submitted in this way from now on?




Editors note: here at Documentary Film Online we try to avoid political tit-for-tat because we are trying to appeal to documentary film fans across the entire political spectrum. However, every once in awhile, there's a story so good it just can't be ignored. This was definitely one of those stories.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Trailer: 180° South: Conquerors of the Useless

Ever seen a trailer for a film and simultaneously wonder what the heck is going on and be fully convinced you had to see it no matter what? Admit it, you can't forget the first time you saw the Matrix trailer: when you had no clue what it was about, but just knew you had to see it.

Well Chris Malloy 's upcoming documentary 180° South: Conquerors of the Useless sorta fits that bill. No, Keanu Reeves doesn't make an appearance flashing kung fu moves (I don't think), but this is certainly a film I'm not entirely sure I can explain, I just know I want to see it.

Here's what I can tell you about Malloy 's documentary: it follows Yvon Chouinard, Doug Tompkins, Jeff Johnson and their motley crew as they journey to Patagonia. The group is chock full of hippie adventurists and looks like a South American rendition of Into the Wild... only with a more positive ending.

So if you're one of those men or women who secretly desire to run off into the woods and just live off the land, I suggest heading over to http://www.180south.com/ and learn about this film and the cast of characters involved.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Tribeca 2010 Film Guide

For you New York City documentary fans (or those willing to travel to the Big Apple for a great film festival), it's probably wise to start investigating what movies you want to see during the Tribeca Film Festival. I mean, for Pete's sake the festival begins in 3 days!

But don't panic, there's plenty of time and information at http://www.tribecafilm.com to help answer all your questions. Though the festival isn't exclusively for documentaries, it does offer some excellent films for our beloved genre.

I suggest checking all the films out for yourself, but some personal recommendations are:
- The Two Escobars - drug cartels, murder and soccer... hmm, one of these is not like the others
- Thieves By Law - think Eastern Promises, but in real life.
- Freetime Machos - rugby meets the Bad News Bears.

There, by only selecting three I fully angered and ignored numerous other awesome documentaries playing at the festival. But again, why listen to my opinion? Head on over to http://www.tribecafilm.com and see the complete list of wonderful films that will be playing.

Friday, April 16, 2010

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 Rottentomatoes.com:


The Cartel - (78% rating) The Cartel shows us our educational system like we've never seen it before. Behind every dropout factory, we discover, lurks a powerful, entrenched, and self-serving cartel. But The Cartel doesn't just describe the problem. Balancing local storylines against interviews with education experts, The Cartel explores what dedicated parents, committed teachers, clear-eyed officials, and tireless reformers are doing to make our schools better for our kids. Putting a human face on the harm done by the educational cartel, The Cartel takes us beyond the statistics, generalizations, and abstractions that typically frame our debates about education—and draws an unequivocal bottom line: If we care about our children's futures, we must insist upon far-reaching and immediate reform. (Rottentomatoes.com)

Exit Through the Gift Shop - (100% rating) Banksy is a graffiti artist with a global reputation whose work can be seen on walls from post-hurricane New Orleans to the separation barrier on the Palestinian West Bank. Fiercely guarding his anonymity to avoid prosecution, Banksy has so far resisted all attempts to be captured on film. Exit Through the Gift Shop tells the incredible true story of how an eccentric French shop keeper turned documentary maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner – with spectacular results. (Rottentomatoes.com)

Nobody's Perfect - (67% rating) Filmmaker Niko von Glasow, whose short arms identify him as a grown-up “child of Thalidomide”, documents in this film 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. (Rottentomatoes.com)

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo!

Doesn't that title make you want to scream "Godzilla!" No? Well clearly you don't understand good cinema. Those monster films were classic, timeless pieces.

Regrettably though, there are no actual giant monsters destroying cities for our documentary filmmakers to capture (does using the word 'regrettable' make me sound heartless?). And though I'm sure someone will make a documentary about the impact of the Godzilla films and monster classics, Beetle Queen Conquers Tokyo has nothing to do with that subject matter.

Jessica Oreck's documentary is actually about exploring the mystery and development of Japan’s obsession with bugs. The film appears to be quite unusual and reminds me a lot of Manda Bala in its approach. As the film's website says, "Using insects like an anthropologist’s toolkit, the film uncovers Japanese philosophies that will shift Westerners’ perspectives on nature, beauty, life, and even the seemingly mundane realities of their day—to—day routines."

I'm kind of impressed with this approach and I'm hoping it delivers something remarkable. If you're curious, head over to www.beetlequeen.com to learn more about the film and check out the trailer.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Werner Herzog in 3-D!

As if Werner Herzog needed another reason to feel good about himself and his career, it seems the filmmaker has decided his next project will be in 3-D, making it probably the first non-concert related documentary to attempt the feat.

Herzog's film will focus on the Cave of Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc in Southern France, a recently discovered treasure containing the earliest known cave paintings (dating back at least 30,000 years). More impressive than his 3-D venture is the access he's been given to the site, which has refused any visitors except scientists because of the fragile nature of the cave. Just how exclusive is this cave? There are rumors the renown filmmaker was only granted three hours to film inside!

But I digress, with the 3-D craze sweeping Hollywood, it was only a matter of time before a director tried to include it in the documentary genre, so I'm actually quite glad Herzog will be the first to attempt it. Say what you want about the man, but he is not into exploitation filmmaking or cheesy gimmicks so his careful hand should turn a 3-D idea into something really worthwhile (and no, the Hannah Montanah 3-D Concert does not qualify as 'quality filmmaking').

Head over to the Guardian to watch a few videos of Herzog talking about the project. Then tell us what you think: are you excited about this film? Will this project work in Herzog's hands? Discuss!

Monday, April 12, 2010

DocFilms' Best of Full Frame Film Festival

I'd probably put more weight on the actual awards we listed earlier today, but here's a list of DocFilm's five personal favorite films of the Full Frame Film Festival (whew, that's a lot of 'f-words'):

Wasteland - there was a lengthy standing ovation from the entire crowd. For the record, that pretty much never happens.
Restrepo - apolitical, but certainly powerful. Think of it as a real life, more emotional Hurt Locker.
Waking Sleeping Beauty - I love Disney movies. Deal with it.
The Poot - the inner film nerd in me was dizzy with giddiness at the end. It's just chock-full of cool visuals and sounds.
Surviving Hitler: A Love Story- Hollywood is on notice: this NEEDS to be recognized (it's also the perfect date movie... and I'm not joking)

Full Frame Film Festival Winners

Well I just returned from the Full Frame Film Festival and I must say I was quite impressed with the entire event. Great films, great crowds and great organizers. For all you American documentary fans, I highly suggest making the pilgrimage to Durham, North Carolina next year.

My praises for the festival aside, there were some excellent films screened over the course of four days but only a few could receive the festival awards. Announced on Sunday, the Full Frame Awards are:

Anne Dellinger Grand Jury AwardEnemies of the People directed by Rob Lemkin, Thet Sambath
Special Jury Prize– The Oath directed by Laura Poitras
Special Jury Prize– Restrepo directed by Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger

- Full Frame Jury Award for Best ShortThe Poot directed by Elham Asadi

- Full Frame Audience AwardWaste Land directed by Lucy Walker

- Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker AwardMy Perestroika directed by Robin Hessman
(This award honors a documentary artist whose work is a potential catalyst for education and change)

- The Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist AwardEnemies of the People directed by Rob Lemkin, Thet Sambath
Honorable Mention – Restrepo directed by Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger
(This prize honors a first-time documentary feature director)

- Full Frame Inspiration AwardSurviving Hitler: A Love Story directed by John-Keith Wasson
Honorable Mention – Summer Pasture directed by Lynn True, Nelson Walker
(the film that best exemplifies the value and relevance of world religions and spirituality)

- The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights12th & Delaware directed by Heidi Ewing, Rachel Grady
Honorable Mention – Dirty Business: ‘Clean Coal’ and the Battle for Our Energy Future directed by Peter Bull
(the film that addresses a significant human rights issue in the United States.)

- Full Frame President’s AwardBook of Miri directed by Katrine Philp
(Aimed at recognizing up-and-coming filmmakers, this prize is awarded to the best student film)

Friday, April 9, 2010

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 Rottentomatoes.com:


It Came From Kuchar – (80% rating) Long before YouTube, there were the outrageous, no-budget movies of underground, filmmaking twins George and Mike Kuchar. George and Mike grew up in the Bronx in the 1950’s. At the age of twelve, they became obsessed with Hollywood melodramas and began making their own homespun melodramas with their aunt’s 8mm camera. In the early 1960’s, alongside Andy Warhol, the Kuchar brothers shaped the New York underground film scene. Known as the “8mm Mozarts”, their films were noticeably different than other underground films of the time. They were wildly funny, but also human and vulnerable. It Came From Kuchar interweaves the brothers’ lives, their admirers, a history of underground film and a “greatest hits” of Kuchar clips into a mesmerizing stream of consciousness tale.(Rottentomatoes.com)

When You’re Strange – (57 % rating) When You’re Strange uncovers historic and previously unseen footage of the illustrious rock quartet and provides new insight into the revolutionary impact of its music and legacy. Directed by award-winning writer/director Tom DiCillo and narrated by Johnny Depp, the film is a riveting account of the band’s history. The film reveals an intimate perspective on the creative chemistry between drummer John Densmore, guitarist Robby Krieger, keyboardist Ray Manzarek and singer Jim Morrison — four brilliant artists who made The Doors one of America’s most iconic and influential rock bands. Using footage shot between the band’s 1965 formation and Morrison’s 1971 death, When You’re Strange follows the band from the corridors of UCLA’s film school, where Manzarek and Morrison met, to the stages of sold-out arenas.(Rottentomatoes.com)

Fresh - (no rating provided) is more than a film, it is a reflection of a rising movement of people and communities across America who are re-inventing our food system. Fresh celebrates the food architects who offer a practical vision of a new food paradigm and consumer access to it. Encouraging individuals to take matters into their own hands, Fresh is a guide that empowers people to take an array of actions as energetic as planting urban gardens and creating warm composts from food waste, and as simple as buying locally-grown products and preserving or freezing seasonal produce to eat later in the year. (Rottentomatoes.com)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

NYC's new documentary festival

Your cries of pain and suffering have been heard New York City! Your pleas have been answered! Finally, a new documentary film festival is coming to the Big Apple! Huzzah!

All kidding aside, I’m actually quite excited for this new festival. Opening November 3rd and running till November 7th, the appropriately titled Doc NYC is already gearing up to make a big splash in the festival world. It probably won’t rival the U.S.’ big three (True/False, Full Frame and SilverDocs), but this could be exactly what filmmakers and fans want- a major documentary film festival at the end of the year.

The whole event will be hosted at the IFC Center in Manhattan and features the team behind the weekly Stranger than Fiction series hosted at the same venue. Interestingly enough, the inaugural year won’t feature an open submission process, so I’m curious to see what ends up screening at the festival.

If you’re curious, head on over to Doc NYC’s website for more information including information about the advisory board and when festival passes go on sale (hint: August).

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Trailer: Phyllis and Harold

I'm just going to quote the official website for an explanation of the upcoming documentary Phyllis and Harold:

"Phyllis and Harold is an astoundingly frank journey through a disastrous 59-year marriage. Drawing on a lifetime of her family's home movies and interviews made over 12 years, filmmaker Cindy Kleine mixes reportage, cinema verité and animation to uncover family secrets and tell a story that could not be shown publicly as long as her father was still alive. Phyllis and Harold delves into the mystery of time passing, the nature of living a life, and the challenges of losing those we love. But it is also a loving, funny exposé on the sins of suburbia. Imagine Bergman’s Scenes From a Marriage seen through the prism of I Love Lucy."

The film has been making the rounds at smaller festivals but might gain a nice little theatrical run if big name directors like Ken Burns continue to praise it. Head on over the website to watch the trailer and learn more about the film.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Freakonomics the movie!

Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s (seriously, they couldn’t agree on the spelling of their first name? It’s beyond confusing to make sure you have the right spelling with the right person. Geez!) book Freakonomics has been out for nearly five years now and more or less continues to cause worldwide debate and intrigue with their ideas. I would dare say it’s the most influential book of the new millennium if it wasn’t for, you know, the Harry Potter and Twilight

But what does their book have to do with documentaries? Well it seems some wise producer decided to take the book’s idea, hire a bunch of highly regarded directors and make a documentary about Levitt and Dubner's opinions. Freakonomics (the movie!) will premier at the Tribecca Film Festival at the end of this month followed by a theatrical release later in the year.

For those of you curious enough, the film hired Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room; Taxi to the Dark Side), Morgan Spurlock(Super Size Me), Eugene Jarecki (Why We Fight) and Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady(Jesus Camp) to direct portions of the film with Seth Gordon (The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters) piecing together the entire documentary.Raise your hand if you’re excited!


Editor’s note: no longer able to write due to overwhelming excitement (i.e. both hands currently raised).

Monday, April 5, 2010

Trailer: Casino Jack and the United States of Money

Alex Gibney is back to doing what he does best: covering major political and financial scandals (yes, I know he won an Oscar for Taxi to the Dark Side, but I enjoyed Enron so much more, deal with it). I'm sure most of you already know about his upcoming film Casino Jack and the United States of Money, but in case you need more proof to see this film there's now a trailer posted over at Apple.com/trailers.

The trailer looks spectacular and I personally couldn't be more excited for its May 7th release date.

If you're not aware, Casino Jack covers former Washington super lobbyist Jack Abramoff from the beginning of his career to his ultimate imprisonment. It might sound boring, but Gibney is known for turning thousands of pages of documents into the most fascinating and enthralling stories imaginable. Don't miss this one!

Friday, April 2, 2010

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 Rottentomatoes.com:


The Sun Behind the Clouds – (88% rating) updates the struggle for Tibetan independence, focusing upon the March 2008 demonstration against Chinese rule, the largest ever since the 1959 take-over of that nation. The Dalai Lama, living in exile in Northern India, is interviewed extensively and given the opportunity to explicate his “middle way,” a compromise position he has to date been unsuccessful in getting the Chinese to accept. Supporters of Tibetan independence who are devoted to the Dalai Lama, but who nonetheless feel “the middle way” is an ineffective solution, appear in the film, detailing their more militant position.(Rottentomatoes.com)

Breath Made Visible: Anna Halprin – (no rating provided) the first feature length film about the life and career of Anna Halprin, the American dance pioneer who has helped redefine our notion of modern art with her belief in dance's power to teach, heal, and transform at all ages of life. This cinematic portrait blends recent interviews with counterparts such as the late Merce Cunningham, archival footage, including her establishment of the first multiracial dance company in the U.S., and excerpts of current performances such as “Parades and Changes” at the Georges Pompidou Center in Paris, to weave a stunning, inspiring account of one of the most important cultural icons in modern dance. (Rottentomatoes.com)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Doc News Bits of the Day

There are a few short but sweet documentary news nuggets out there today so lets dive into them:

Part of the team behind Oscar winning sensation The Cove isn't wasting time getting back into the documentary genre in one of the broadest reaching projects I can recall. Fisher Stevens and Mark Monroe are partnering with former NBC Universal co-chairman Ben Silverman to develop a documentary on decision making. Sounds a bit to 'metaphysical' right? Well the idea actually might work as the group will send 20 cameras to follow 20 people across the globe (from a man on death row to a wealthy home buying couple) who are all making life altering decisions in a single day. Sure it's a crazy idea, but crazy sometimes turns out awesome!

In the "more likely to be awesome than the previous story" news, the great/bizarre director Michel Gondry has taken time away from his Hollywood path to turn the camera on his own family in his documentary The Thorn in the Heart. If there is one thing the documentary genre needs, it's the inventiveness of Gondry and his imagination is in full effect in this personal narrative. There is a trailer posted on Youtube and I must say it just might be a 'must see' for film fans everywhere.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Trailer: Babies

Probably the highlight of my day came with watching the trailer for the upcoming documentary Babies. The trailer for this delightful little film will just brighten your day as it is filled with baby images to warm the heart while Sufjan Stevens plays throughout.

If you want specifics, this visually impressive documentary from director Thomas Balmès follows four babies around the world for one year (from Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco and Tokyo). Babies captures the earliest stages (from birth on!) of life that are both unique and universal to us all.

Seriously, it's about babies. Check it out! Babies hits theaters in early May.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

8 Billion Lives worth watching

One of the coolest websites I've seen in the past several weeks is called 8 Billion Lives. It has an extremely simple but fascinating idea: "8 Billion Lives is a platform for short documentary films. Each film features a day in the life of a real person."

Better yet, they want everyone to be their filmmakers. How cool is that?!? Seriously, go grab a camera shoot your best friend Dave who you swear everyone should be friends with, slap together some cuts and dissolves and bam! Your work could be on this website. Sweet!

Of course, if you're not into film-making, just film-observing, you can always head to http://www.8billionlives.com and watch the shorts already posted. It's a great way to waste five minutes... an hour... a day... to be honest, the combination of films and director biographies makes this an addicting website for documentary fans everywhere.

So stop reading and head over to http://www.8billionlives.com then tell us what's your favorite film!



An unrelated but equally wonderful site: http://futurestates.tv/episodes/plastic-bag. It's a film about a plastic bag on a quest and it's narrated by Werner Herzog. Do I need to continue?

Monday, March 29, 2010

DirectTV signs the Documentary Channel

Sweet news for all you documentary fans with a satellite dish. The Documentary Channel, the first and only channel dedicated to airing documentaries 24 hours a day 7 days a week, will be added to DirectTV's channel line up. This more than doubles the number of potential viewers as the Documentary Channel is already on the smaller, but just as enjoyable Dish Network.

For those who don't know about this great channel, it's "the USA's first 24-hour television network exclusively devoted to documentary films and the independent documentary filmmaker, providing viewers with round-the-clock opportunities to see fascinating, eclectic and award-winning documentary films of all lengths and genres." In addition to films, the website is also a great resource for upcoming festivals and a great place to buy DVDs of the films you love.

See, that's pretty awesome! If you have DirectTV check out Channel 263 beginning March 31. Or if you want to learn more, head over to http://www.documentarychannel.com.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Doc News Round Up

So this week's theatrical releases were quite few in number (only one?!?) so I felt the need to give you all a quick look at what's going on in the documentary world.

First up, for you political junkies Sarah Palin will star in a new eight part documentary series about Alaska. The bright and shining face of the state (was that Emory student who died in the wood's the previous face of Alaska?) has been shopping the project around to major networks before Discovery Communications (owns the Discovery Channel, TLC, etc) bought the rights. According to Peter Liguori, Discovery’s chief operating officer, the series (titled Sarah Palin’s Alaska) promises to "reveal Alaska’s powerful beauty as it has never been filmed, and as told by one of the state’s proudest daughters."

In a totally different news direction, HBO's Hard Knocks NFL training camp documentary has selected the New York Jets for its five-week series. It will be the fourth consecutive season Hard Knocks has profiled a team during training camp: the Chiefs (2007), Cowboys (2008) and Bengals (2009) were previously showcased. If you're a Jets fan or just interested in what running a lot in the hot sun looks like, tune into HBO in August.

In the "receiving positive buzz from local reviews" showcase, Sweetgrass (directed by Ilisa Barbash and Lucien Castaing-Taylor) appears to be garnering quite the praise from critics. Personally, this is a surprise considering it's a film about sheep herding in Montana and carries precisely zero narration, but clearly there's something enchantingly beautiful with this documentary. If you get a chance, be sure to check it out!

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 Rottentomatoes.com:


Dancing Across Borders – (33% rating) A new feature documentary which chronicles the intimate and triumphant story of Sokvannara Sar who was discovered by Anne Bass on a trip to Angkor Wat, Cambodia, in 2000 and brought to the ballet stage in America. A longtime patron of dance in the U.S., Bass arranged for Sy to visit New York and audition for the prestigious School of the American Ballet (SAB). What unfolds in Dancing Across Borders is a tentative negotiation between Sy and the world of American ballet and culture—from the serene countryside of Southeast Asia to the halls of SAB, to the stage of the Pacific Northwest Ballet in Seattle. The film follows Sy’s unusual development as a dancer and offers a remarkable behind-the-scenes look into the world of American ballet. At its heart, Dancing Across Borders is an extraordinary story of growth, adaptation, and belonging as well as of the development of talent and the mastery of an art form.(Rottentomatoes.com)

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Trailer: An Inconvenient Tax

So April 15th is near and as an American I'm struggling through my taxes to make sure I don't, you know, get thrown in jail for tax evasion. While taking a break I found a trailer for the upcoming documentary An Inconvenient Tax.

Now, I know what you're thinking, the Flat Tax people are at it again. But political documentaries are a chance for groups to argue their beliefs and as long as they do it coherently and (because I'm a child) entertainingly, I'm all for it. Plus, how often do you get to see both Noam Chomsky and Neal Boortz agree on something?

Admittedly, a film about the tax code sounds quite boring so it'll be interesting to see how director Christopher Marshall can pull it off. Then again, Marshall's previous documentary explored the phenomenon of PEZ collecting, so I'm gonna give him a shot. Plus, in a move of sheer marketing genius, An Inconvenient Tax will premier nationwide on April 15th- the day taxes are due (Note: I actually chuckled when I saw this).

Head on over to http://aninconvenienttax.com to see a trailer and learn more about the film. And don't be afraid to post your comments about the upcoming film below!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Hot Docs lineup announced!

Hot Docs, Canada's very own documentary film festival, is North America's largest documentary festival running for 11 days and presenting over 170 films. I hate to use the cliche "this is the Mecca..." for anything, but by golly this is the Mecca for documentary film lovers!

Now, I originally wanted to list every film screening at Hot Docs, but I figured most of you would lose interest about 25 summaries in (trust me, I would). Thankfully, the festival has a special category featuring the premier documentaries for this year (appropriately titled "Special Presentations"), so I'll just wet your appetite with this list and if you want to learn more, head to www.hotdocs.ca. (Note: all summaries are from the Hot Docs website.)

Hot Docs runs from April 29 - May 9 in the fabulous city of Toronto. Tickets and passes are available so book now!

12th & Delaware - In Fort Pierce, Florida, a pro-life centre opens up directly across from an abortion clinic, igniting America’s most uncompromising war in unexpected ways. 12th & Delaware delivers unprecedented access to behind the frontlines and to the women caught in the crossfire.

And Everything Is Going Fine - Meticulously crafted entirely from archive footage, Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh’s And Everything is Going Fine is a poignant final monologue for his long-time friend and collaborator, the late theatre artist and master storyteller Spalding Gray.

Babies - A visually stunning and joyful chronicle of the lives of four of the world’s newest human inhabitants - in Mongolia, Namibia, San Francisco, and Tokyo - from first breath to first steps, on a journey at once universal and amazingly original.

Bhutto - Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto’s remarkable life and last days are exquisitely unraveled in this epic biographic documentary. Featuring exclusive interviews with the Bhutto family, this riveting portrait is as bold as the controversial figure herself.

Budrus - Through peaceful protest and skillful leadership, one man heroically struggles for 10 months to protect his small Palestinian village from being arbitrarily divided by an Israeli-built barrier in this gripping and inspirational tale.

Casino Jack and the United States of Money - Oscar-winning director Alex Gibney delivers a powerful essay on the dysfunctional processes of the U.S. political system, told through the scandalous story of lobbyist-turned-convicted-fraudster Jack Abramoff.

Enemies of the People - On his 10-year journey to reveal the truth about the Cambodian genocide, journalist Thet Sambath attempts to come to terms with the loss of his family by befriending Pol Pot’s enigmatic lieutenant in this Sundance prize winner.

Farewell - Through stunning archival footage and intimate journal entries, Lady Grace Drummond-Hay’s exhilarating yet tumultuous journey around the world is recreated, revealing her experiences as the only female passenger on board the 1929 maiden voyage of the Graf Zeppelin.

Joan Rivers - A Piece Of Work - Can we talk? Joan Rivers may be the butt of as many jokes as she tells. Outrageously funny and brutally honest, like the raunchy comedienne herself, this all-access exposé peels back her nipped 'n tucked public mask with surprising results.

Kings of Pastry - Sixteen top chefs, three intense days, and one chance at France’s top pastry honour the Meilleur Ouvrier de France. Frosting flies as documentary legends D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus serve up this epic battle for sweet victory. Bon appétit!

Neighbors - Architecture, history, and a diverse cast of international characters star in this stunningly shot journey through the once-opulent homes and abandoned gardens of Cairo's bygone colonial elite, creating a powerful allegory of contemporary Egypt.

Nénette - A captivating study of an enigmatic animal and our relationship to her, Nénette asks us what we can learn from an orangutan, and what she can teach us about ourselves.

RUSH: Beyond The Lighted Stage - Canada's greatest rock band, the revered and iconic Rush, get the musical bio they deserve: a hard-driving, immensely engaging, heavy on the hits chronicle of the world's most popular cult band.

Secrets of the Tribe - Academic bickering has never been as luridly scandalous as between the anthropologists studying the Yanomami, an isolated tribe in the Amazon basin. Jaw-dropping ethical breaches leave generational scars on the world's last "pure" society.

Seltzer Works - In the early 1900s, thousands of seltzer deliverymen criss-crossed the nation, schlepping heavy glass bottles of fizzy water to millions of thirsty customers. The siphon machines at Gomberg Seltzer Works don’t turn like they used to, but third-generation seltzer filler Kenny Gomberg is fending off the supermarket seltzer takeover, honouring the simple drink’s place in history.

Space Tourists - This Sundance award winner deftly probes the new space race - space tourism - and all its ramifications for those on left on the ground as it follows an American woman’s $20-million trip aboard a Russian rocket.

Teenage Paparazzo - Who better to expose the world of the paparazzi and star-worship than a celebrity? Actor Adrian Grenier turns the camera onto 13-year-old shooter Austin Visschedyk, and stalks famous friends Alec Baldwin, Matt Damon and Paris Hilton.

The Kids Grow Up - Doug Block focuses his lens on his only child Lucy, now 17, as she leaves home for college in this tender, funny, and endearing exploration of the complexities of modern-day parenting and the hardship of letting go.

The Rainbow Warriors of Waiheke Island - A pioneering group of Greenpeace activists, the crew of the famous ship The Rainbow Warrior, form a community on Waiheke Island, New Zealand. Best described as a "rest home for burnt-out greenies", the friends revisit their legacy of protest.

Time’s Up - For Jan Peters and Marie-Catherine Theiler, looming deadlines, extended to-do lists, and buzzing cell phones form the pressure cooker that is their modern urban life. Upon news of Marie-Catherine’s pregnancy, the two decide it’s time to slow down. Time’s Up is their “experiment in time management.” Seeking out experts from physicists to yoga instructors, they examine with wit and irony the indefinable concept of time.

Waste Land - Already a multiple award winner on the fest circuit, Lucy Walker's transcendent doc follows artist Vik Muniz and his work with pickers of recyclable materials in Brazil’s Jardim Gramacho, the world's largest landfill site.

Monday, March 22, 2010

BBC/Discovery Channel's Life

A few years back the Discovery Channel and BBC teamed up to present one of the most visually impressive series on our planet ever witnessed. I don't need to go into detail about the amazing scope of Planet Earth, but I want you all to remember that great series.

Why? Because the two mega-giants of nature documentaries are at it again with their latest series titled Life. Call it a sequel, call it a a reexamining, heck call it a the second course in one of the best visual feasts ever created! Two of the 11 episodes aired Sunday night (at least here in the states) on the Discovery Channel, and will have one episode airing every Sunday night until April 18th (where they'll slam three episodes into one big nature night).

The series is narrated by Oprah Winfrey and appears to counter the Planet Earth series by dissecting our planet based on biology, not geography, and by providing a more intimate, ground level view of things.

If you have cable/satellite, I really shouldn't be twisting your arm to watch these, so I'm not gonna bother with you. To those of you who don't have cable (or satellite) you better have your system installed by the end of this week, because I haven't heard much chatter of this one hitting the online world anytime soon.

Friday, March 19, 2010

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 Rottentomatoes.com:

Hubble 3D– (78% rating) Through the power of IMAX® 3D, “Hubble 3D,” narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, takes moviegoers on an unprecedented voyage through distant galaxies to explore the grandeur and mystery of our celestial surroundings. Experience never-before-seen 3D flights through the farthest reaches of the universe, and accompany spacewalking astronauts on some of the most difficult and important endeavors in NASA’s history.(Rottentomatoes.com)

Kimjongilia – (60% rating) For sixty years, North Koreans have been governed by a totalitarian regime that controls all information entering and leaving the country. For Kim Jong Il’s 46th birthday, a hybrid red begonia named kimjongilia was created, symbolizing wisdom, love, justice, and peace. The film draws its name from the rarefied flower and reveals the extraordinary stories told by survivors of North Korea’s vast prison camps, of devastating famine, and of every kind of repression. Their experiences are interspersed with archival footage of North Korean propaganda films and original scenes that illuminate the contours of daily life for a people whose every action is monitored and whose every thought could bring official retribution. Along with the survivors’ stories, Kimjongilia examines the mass illusion possible under totalitarianism and the human rights abuses required to maintain that illusion.(Rottentomatoes.com)

Neil Young Trunk Show– (93% rating) Jonathan Demme gives us some Neil Young musical and spiritual soul. Young on a stage full of personal icons: alone in the center of a circle of his beloved acoustic guitars; in the midst of stellar musicians Ben Keith, Ralph Molina, Rick Rosas, Pegi Young and Anthony “Sweet Pea” Crawford, plus an onstage painter portrayed by Eric Johnson. There are delicately offered acoustic numbers like “Sad Movies” and “Mexico”; mesmerizing electric travelogues into the artist’s psyche (“No Hidden Path”); searing, chaotic anthems including “Like a Hurricane” and “Cinnamon Girl”; and rarely performed pieces like “Kansas” and “Ambulance Blues” that provide glimpses of Young’s less public persona. In addition to his distinctively blistering and plaintive guitar, Neil draws deep melancholy from an old piano and pats it on the side after like a beloved old dog. He sings his heart out again and again. It is a collection for the ages.(Rottentomatoes.com)

See What I'm Saying– (No rating provided) follows the journeys of four deaf entertainers through a single year as their stories intertwine and cumulate in some of the largest events of their lives. Bob, a drummer in the world’s only deaf rock band Beethoven’s Nightmare, produces the largest show in the band’s 30 year history; CJ, a comic known around the deaf world but unknown to hearing people fights to cross over to mainstream audiences by producing the first international sign language theatre festival in Los Angeles; Robert, a brilliant actor who teaches at Juilliard struggles to survive when he becomes homeless; and TL, a hard of hearing singer is caught between two worlds when she produces her first CD “Not Deaf Enough.”(Rottentomatoes.com)

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Conan O'Brien to make documentary!

If you miss those moments where former late night talk show host Conan O'Brien bashed NBC for it's inability to understand good humor, be prepared to laugh again. The red-headed, lanky comedian will likely have a documentary crew follow him during “The Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour."

According to MTV.com, "this is to be a documentary feature, probably to be distributed to cinemas, which implies we'll get a whole behind-the-scenes look at the tour, hopefully with lots of Coco's signature Elvis impersonations, and maybe some background into its cause."

The tour goes through July so it probably won't be released until late Fall at the the extreme earliest. But if you miss the guy that much, you should just follow his twitter posts.

Head over to MTV.com to learn more details (though to be honest, there really isn't much else to say).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Trailer: The Human Experience

Do you ever watch the news and just get a little depressed about the state of our world? It's easy to get dragged down by all the world crises around us, and worse, you can feel the call to pull yourself away from the rest of society in order to protect what's left of you to protect.

Thankfully (like spring on the horizon) a new documentary titled The Human Experience comes to remind us that there is in fact hope. And judging by the trailer for Charles Kinnane's film, there are plenty of reasons to not shut yourself off from the world- that joy can be found in even the most desperate of places.

The Human Experience follows two brothers as they travel the world: living with the homeless on the streets of New York City, the orphans and disabled children of Peru and the abandoned lepers in the forests of Ghana. What they discover changes them forever as the brothers are awakened to the beauty and resilience of the human spirit.

The Human Experience is already showing in select areas, but should hit theaters in early April. So what are you waiting for? Check out a film that may actually brighten your day!



Note: the trailer is quite unintentionally cheesy (perhaps even cliched), but I still can't wait to see this.

Monday, March 15, 2010

South by Southwest Doc Lineup

Admittedly, this article is a bit late seeing as how the South by Southwest (or SXSW for the cool, blogger types) film festival started Friday night. But, never late then never. And let's face it, if you didn't know the films by now, you probably weren't planning to attend the coolest festival west of the Mississippi anyway (note: still not sure what the coolest festival east of the Mississippi is, but that's an issue for another day).

SXSW is known for it's music, but the Austin based festival actually sports a decent array of independent films as well. So if you're looking to stump/impress your film snob friends who only prefer the obscure, take a look at these documentaries (almost all are World Premieres!):

American Grindhouse - (Director: Elijah Drenner) The feature-length documentary American Grindhouse explores the hidden history of the American Exploitation Film. The movie digs deep into this often overlooked category of U.S. cinema and unearths the shameless and occasionally shocking origins of this popular entertainment. Exploitation Cinema has left an indelible mark on American culture, and this informative and amusing documentary proves that its principles--and popularity--endure to this day.

Greenlit - (Director: Miranda Bailey) Greenlit chronicles the efforts of the indie film The River Why starring Zach Gilford as the filmmakers attempt to "go green." Film producer Miranda Bailey decides to follow the process and learn more about why that is necessary, how much it costs and what going "green" means as an environmental consultant, is brought on to the film. Both entertaining and humorous, the film is filled with compelling and important facts about film making and sustainability and shows that Kermit was right- it ain't easy bein' green.

Haynesville: A Nation's Relentless Hunt for Energy - (Director: Gregory Kallenberg) Haynesville follows the discovery of the United States' largest natural gas find, the ensuing boom's effect on three peoples' lives and the potential impact of the vast amount of energy on the nation's energy future.

Hood To Coast - (Director: Christoph Baaden) Hood to Coast follows four unlikely teams on their epic journey to conquer the world's largest relay race. Winning isn't everything in a documentary that takes a celebratory look at personal motivation and attempting the extraordinary.

Lemmy - (Director: Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski) This documentary delves into the personal and public lives of heavy metal icon and Motörhead frontman Lemmy Kilmister. Nearly three years in the making, and featuring appearances by such friends/peers as Metallica, Dave Grohl, Billy Bob Thornton and pro wrestler Triple H, the film follows Kilmister from his Hollywood bedroom to the hockey arenas of Scandinavia and Russia.

No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson - (Director: Steve James) Steve James returns to his hometown of Hampton, Virginia to examine the 1993 bowling alley brawl that landed Allen Iverson, the nation’s top high-school basketball player, in jail and divided the community along racial lines.

One Night in Vegas - (Director: Reggie Rock Bythewood) On the evening of September 7, 1996, Mike Tyson attempted to regain the WBA title in Vegas. Sitting ringside was his friend Tupac Shakur. This ESPN Films documentary tells not only the story of that infamous night but of their remarkable friendship.

The People vs. George Lucas - (Director: Alexandre O. Philippe) A no-holds-barred cultural examination of the conflicted dynamic between George Lucas and his fans over the past three decades.

Richard Garriott - Man on a Mission - (Director: Mike Woolf) Last year Richard Garriott became the first son of an astronaut to go to space, but this is no millionaire’s joy ride, he pioneered private space travel to make his dream come true: from his training in Russia to his launch in Kazahkstan to the dramatic, never before seen footage inside the capsule during fiery re-entry, this is a historic moment in human space travel.

The Ride - (Director: Meredith Danluck) A journey into the heart of America through the rough and tumble, rock and roll world of bull riding Cowboys.

SATURDAY NIGHT - (Director: James Franco) With unprecedented access to the behind the scenes process of the writers, actors and producers, Franco and his crew document what it takes to create one full episode of Saturday Night Live.

The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights - (Director: Emmett Malloy) A visual and emotional feature length film documenting The White Stripes making their way through Canada and culminating with their 10th anniversary show in Nova Scotia. The film documents the band playing shows all over Canada; from local bowling alleys, to city buses, and onward to the legendary Savoy Theater for the 10th Anniversary show.

Beijing Taxi - (Director: Miao Wang) Through a humanistic lens, Beijing Taxi vividly portrays China undergoing a profound transformational arch in an era of Olympic transitions. The intimate lives of three cabbies connect a morphing cityscape and a lyrical journey through fragments of a society riding the bumpy roads to modernization.

Camp Victory, Afghanistan - (Director: Carol Dysinger) Using almost 300 hours of footage shot over the course of three years, Camp Victory, Afghanistan tells the story of the Afghan officers charged with building a new Afghan National Army and the U.S. National Guardsmen sent to mentor them.

The Canal Street Madam - (Director: Cameron Yates) An FBI raid on Jeanette Maier’s infamous family-run brothel in New Orleans destroyed her livelihood. Stigmatized by felony, fearing recrimination from powerful clients and determined to protect her children, Jeanette sets out to re-invent herself.

Dirty Pictures - (Director: Etienne Sauret) Dirty Pictures is an intimate portrait of the life and work of Dr. Alexander "Sasha" Shulgin, one of the world’s most renowned chemists who is considered by many to be the "Godfather of Psychedelics."

For Once In My Life - (Directors: Jim Bigham and Mark Moormann) The film takes an inspiring journey with a unique band of musicians with the common goal of making and performing music. Their story tells of the fine balancing act of taking on new challenges while living day-to-day with disabilities. This documentary shows what people can do when given a chance.

Marwencol - (Director: Jeff Malmberg) After a vicious attack leaves him brain damaged and broke, Mark Hogancamp seeks recovery in “Marwencol,” a 1/6th-scale World War II-era town he creates in his backyard.

Pelada - (Directors: Luke Boughen, Rebekah Fergusson, Gwendolyn Oxenham and Ryan White) Away from the bright lights and manicured fields, there's another side of soccer. From prisoners in Bolivia to moonshine brewers in Kenya, from freestylers in China to women who play in hijab in Iran, Pelada is the story of the people who play.

War Don Don - (Director: Rebecca Richman Cohen) Prosecutors say Issa Sesay is a war criminal, guilty of crimes against humanity. His defenders say he is a reluctant fighter who protected civilians and played a crucial role in bringing peace. In Sierra Leone, the war is over, but a sensational trial begins.

Friday, March 12, 2010

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 Rottentomatoes.com:


Severe Clear – (67% rating) based on the memoir by First Lieutenant Mike Scotti as well as video footage shot by him and other members of 1st Battalion, 4th Marines on the outset of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Through their cameras we see the raw sounds of war, capturing the harrowing three hundred mile charge to Baghdad through hostile enemy territory. The footage used to create Severe Clear was never shot for the purpose of making a movie. In this digital age of embedded reporters, the film truly strips the barriers between audience and soldier, personalizing the fear, moral conundrum and adrenaline rush of life on the battlefield. Severe Clear offers an unflinching look at the uncertainty, disorder and chaos of war from the remarkable perspective of one Marine.(Rottentomatoes.com)

Tales from the Script – (58% rating) Shane Black (Lethal Weapon), John Carpenter (Halloween), Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption), William Goldman (Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid), Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver), and dozens of other Hollywood screenwriters share penetrating insights and hilarious anecdotes in Peter Hanson's Tales from the Script, the most comprehensive documentary ever made about screenwriting. By analyzing their triumphs and recalling their failures, the participants explain how successful writers develop the skills necessary for toughing out careers in one of the world's most competitive industries. They also reveal the untold stories behind some of the greatest screenplays ever written, describing their adventures with luminaries including Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman, Stanley Kubrick, Joel Silver, Martin Scorsese, and Steven Spielberg.(Rottentomatoes.com)

The White Stripes: Under Great White Northern Lights – (no rating provided) a visual and emotional feature length film documenting The White Stripes making their way through Canada and culminating with their 10th anniversary show in Nova Scotia. The film documents the band playing shows all over Canada; from local bowling alleys, to city buses, and onward to the historic Savoy Theatre for the 10th Anniversary show- a show that turned out to be the longest show the band had ever done on stage together. The film captures intimate moments of Jack and Meg both on and off stage as they travel through some of the most remote parts of the northern Yukon Territory. Along the way, they have some nice casual conversations about their ten years together, fire cannons, play some of their biggest songs together on stage, and even play a "one note show." (Rottentomatoes.com)

Ghost Town - (no rating provided) a tremendously rewarding film that illuminates the alienation and marginalization of the denizens of one of China's countless remote villages. Divided into three parts, this epic documentary brings a compassionate intimacy to its varied cast of characters, bringing audiences face to face with people who were unceremoniously left behind by China's new economy. Zhao displays tremendous compassion and respect for the squatters and other inhabitants of the village, and he patiently teases out the special places and attachments to which they cling. Cleverly structured and beautifully shot, the film is a gratifying, if ultimately heartbreaking, testimonial to the talent and commitment of China's vanguard independent documentary movement.(Rottentomatoes.com)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Full Frame Film Festival line-up

The Full Frame Film Festival is one of the premier "documentary only" festivals in the world and the event is nearly upon us. Between April 8 and 11 over 50 documentaries (!) will be screened in Durham, North Carolina and this website couldn't be more excited to see as many of these films as possible.

If you are curious to see what will be shown, head on over to the Full Frame website to see the list of 51 films and a brief description about each. Pretty much every film on this line up looks amazing, but if you want a list of top ten documentaries we're most excited about, here you go:

12th & Delaware (Directors: Rachel Grady, Heidi Ewing)
Casino Jack and the United States of Money (Director: Alex Gibney)
Restrepo (Directors: Sebastian Junger, Tim Hetherington)
And Everything is Going Fine (Director: Steven Soderbergh)
Kings of Pastry (Directors: Chris Hegedus, DA Pennebaker)
The Last Truck: Closing of a GM Plant (Directors: Steven Bognar, Julia Reichert)
The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Paper (Directors: Judith Ehrlich, Rick Goldsmith)
No Crossover: The Trial of Allen Iverson (Director: Steve James)
Racing Dreams (Director: Marshall Curry)
Videocracy (Director: Erik Gandini)

Tickets and passes are still available for those who want to attend! So head on over to their website now! Trust us, with a line up featuring several U.S. and world premieres and a great showcase for the successful Sundance films, this is certainly a festival worth attending.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Host your own White Stripes documentary!

It's not often that I get pleasantly shocked on two separate times by the same press release, but film distributor/promoter/etc website B-Side Entertainment is proving yet again why it is the most creative and innovative company out there.

The big announcement started with the upcoming release of a new documentary on the White Stripes and their tour through Canada three years ago (titled The White Stripes Under Great White Northern Lights). Not only will this feature footage of packed out arenas, but it will also show the duo playing more intimate shows for anyone lucky enough to be sitting around when they two walk up. Directed by Emmet Malloy, Under Great White Northern Lights looks like an innovate addition to the concert tour genre of documentaries.

But the news doesn't end there. No, B-Side Entertainment is asking any interested film lover to host their own screening of the film! All you have to do is register your event and before you know it, you'll be running your own theater... well sort of.

This isn't the first time B-Side has offered a "host your own screening" deal, but this is easily the largest and most popular film they've included in the program. But, if you aren't willing to invite the neighbors over for a feature flick, don't fret, the DVDs go on sale March 16th- in case you don't like to share your popcorn.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Oscar Recap!

To our great surprise, we actually chose the winner for Best Documentary at the Academy Awards last night. Louie Psihoyos' The Cove brought home the honors and it's hard to argue against it's victory as the film did pretty much everything right. We've talked at length about this fascinating documentary (and you can always check out our review if you really want to learn more), so we won't go into further detail here.

Besides, why talk about a movie when you can hear some juicy gossip! If you watched the award show last night, you noticed a very awkward scene during the speech by documentary short winner Music by Prudence. It turns out the director and producer despise each other and their turbulent past finally caught up with them on stage at the Oscars.

Needless to say, you need to head over to salon.com to hear both sides of the story and to see a clip of the "Kanye West"-like moment from Sunday night. Enjoy!