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

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. (

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. (

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. (

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 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)