Monday, August 22, 2011

Trailer: Born and Bred

Whether it's Rocky, The Fighter, Million Dollar Baby or any number of other similar films, it's hard to deny the power of a good boxing flick. Sure the actual boxing industry has taken a turn for the worse in recent years, but that doesn't stop American audiences from enjoying the story of a fighter (both in and out of the ring).

Justin Frimmer makes his directorial debut with his own boxing film: Born and Bred. His documentary takes a unique twist on the old fighters tale by following children as they learn the ropes. And if you think it's going to be all light and fluffy, think again, I doubt I've seen more broken noses in a film trailer since... well... you don't see many broken noses, except in Frimmer's film.

So if you are looking to glimpse at the future of boxing or you just want another great boxing film to enjoy, head over to Born and Bred's official site: Catch the trailer and see when it will be available at a theater near you.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

SIlverdocs... award winners!

Yesterday I mentioned my favorites from Silverdocs, but of course, my word is not the official word, and frankly, it doesn't really count. Yesterday though, the festival announced its winners and DocFilmOnline would be remiss not to share those with you, so without further adieu:

Sterling Award for Best US Feature - Our School, directed by Mona Nicoara and Miruna Coco-Cozma.

- Special Jury Mention - The Bully Project, directed by Lee Hirsch.

- Special Jury Mention - When The Drum Is Beating ,directed by Whitney Dow.

Sterling Award for Best World Feature - Family Instinct, directed by Andris Gauja.

- Special Jury Mention - Position Among The Stars, directed by Leonard Retel Helmrich.

Sterling Award for Best Short Film - Guanape Sur, directed by János Richter

- Special Jury Mention - Still Here, directed by Alex Camilleri.

Cinematic Vision Award - Life In A Day, directed by Kevin MacDonald.

WGA Documentary Screenplay Award - The Loving Story, written by Nancy Buirski and Susie Ruth Powell.

Audience Award for Best Feature - Donor Unknown, directed by Jerry Rothwell.

Audience Award for Best Short Film - Mr. Happy Man, directed by Matt Morris.

The festival juries consisted of:

  • Sterling US Feature Jury: Claire Aguilar, Programming VP, Independent Television Service; Chico Colvard, Filmmaker (Family Affair); Shannon Kelley, Head of Public Programs for the UCLA Film and Television Archive.
  • Sterling World Feature Jury: Sean Farnel, former Programming Director, Hot Docs; Eugene Hernandez, Director of Digital Strategy, Film Society of Lincoln Center; Karina Longworth, Editor, LA Weekly.
  • Sterling Short Film Jury: Sadie Tillery, Programming Director, Full Frame; Eva Weber, Filmmaker (Steel Homes); José Rodriquez, Program Associate, Tribeca Film Institute.

Monday, June 27, 2011

SIlverdocs... wrap up

So a few personal issues cut the week long festivities short, but I can't help but be pleased with the part of Silverdocs I was able to experience. Now admittedly, there were too many good documentaries and too little time to see everything I hoped to see, but of the ones I watched I was quite impressed.

But enough gushing from me, you want to know which films are worth seeing, right? Well, of course we'll have reviews of each and every film as soon as they can be posted, but in the meantime, here is the list of films I saw in order of favorite to least favorite. Now, as I mentioned, the documentaries were so good, even the ones toward the bottom of this list are worth seeing. So while they are ranked, know that I really wouldn't hesitate to recommend any of them.
  • Miss Representation - I never would have expected feminism to be so enthralling... and educational.
  • Jiro Dreams of Sushi - Beautifully shot with mouthwatering images of delicious sushi.
  • Fire on Babylon - A last minute whim turned out to be a gem of the festival. Cricket fans rejoice!
  • Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest - Fans will love it and newbie's will wish they were cool enough to already be fans.
  • At the Edge of Russia - A coming of age tale where everything is meaningless.
  • The Loving Story - It's more romance than political history, but this is still worth seeing.
  • The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975 - A compelling premise uses some odd stylistic choices, that limit it potential.
  • Sound it Out - A simple film of obsession music lovers can truly support.
  • The First Movie - A bit too artsy for some, yet this will still make you smile.
  • The Price of Sex - A tough pill to swallow, but worth reflecting on.
  • When the Drum is Beating - A unique idea that failed to meet high expectations.
  • The Night Watchman - A great idea with some good sequences, but never comes together in any meaningful way.

Friday, June 24, 2011

SIlverdocs... Day 3

Just when Silverdocs couldn't top itself with great film selections, Day 3 rolls around and we're left blown away. The films were so good we really couldn't pick a clear favorite for the day so we just decided to highlight the five films in a brief and enjoyable way.

Sound It Out - Ever want to know what a real life High Fidelity character looks/sounds/acts like? Well definitely check out this low budget but high quality documentary to get your local record shop fix.

At The Edge of Russia - It's like a coming of age story... but only if the coming of age story feels completely meaningless. Siberia may be the backdrop for this film, but the characters carry the beauty and humor audiences will love.

The Loving Story - Stories of love and political strife are blended beautifully together in this documentary. You'll leave feeling inspired about the change they caused, but it's the love story that will leave you all warm and fuzzy inside.

Jiro Dreams of Sushi - Some of the most beautiful footage seen all festival. Yes, you'll leave wanting Sushi, but you'll also love the characters- especially Jiro, who is both unrelenting and hard, but also warm and surprisingly hilarious.

The Black Power Mixtape - A well pieced montage of the African American struggle in the U.S. between 1967 and 1975. It's less about the facts and more about the viewpoint (specifically the Swedes who filmed the events) and it's a great piece of historical narrative most will enjoy.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

SIlverdocs... Day 2

Another day and still more great films at the Silverdocs Festival here in Silver Spring, Maryland.

The favorite from the day two screenings was definitely Jennifer Siebel Newson's Missrepresentation. This look at women's portrayal in media wasn't just full of great research and interviews, it was highly stylized and (dare I say?) entertaining. There are plenty of comparison's to an Alex Gibney documentary here and that is certainly not a bad thing. So unless you truly hate women, I suggest checking out Missrepresentation as soon as possible, it's engaging, informative and totally worth the price to screen.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

SIlverdocs... Day 1

The first day we were able to catch three pretty good films, but the night cap was Michael Rapaport's Beats Rhymes & Life: The Travels Of A Tribe Called Quest, a documentary about A Tribe Called Quest. This is Rapaport's first directorial debut, but his love for the band and the hip hop genre comes through quite clearly. If you are a hip hop fan or just looking for a good film to get you grooving, definitely check this documentary out. It's certainly not perfect and it's not a mere love fest for the band, but it is everything you'd hope for in covering early 90s hip hop.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Silverdocs begins!

DFO is in Washington D.C. this week for the Silverdocs Film Festival (ok, technically, the festival is in Silver Springs, Maryland, but than you non East-Coasters would be all confused and I'd have to explain that it's near D.C. and then we'd be wasting time explaining directions to the festival instead of just talking about it).

This week will be full of numerous documentaries (many we are quite excited about) so if you are in the D.C. area, definitely take some time to enjoy this wonderful festival. If you aren't able to make it, well that's why we're here. We'll provide you with daily updates of our favorite films and (of course) reviews of all the films we were able to see.

So get ready for a documentary overload!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Princess Diana documentary shocks Cannes Festival

The Cannes Film Festival is one of the largest and most renown festivals in the world, and with so many movies fighting for attention, it's a bit of a surprise that a documentary by a little known actor/director is getting as much focus as Unlawful Killing seems to be creating.

Then again, not many films feature a 'conspiracy theory' and shocking photos of the death of the once beloved Princess Diana.

For those repulsed by the notion of showing such a documentary (and there are plenty who feel this way), it's important to note the film is not on the festival's official program. According to TIME's Richard Corliss, a Cannes veteran of 40 years, "Any producer can rent a screening room and show movies in the Cannes marketplace; that's how pornographic movies 'played Cannes' in the 1970s."

But even with this fact, it's impressive that a little known film would garner such media attention amidst the usual blockbuster heavyweights. The question now is, will anyone see it, and if so, will it receive any distribution to worldwide audiences?

Head on over to TIME's website to read more about Unlawful Killing and the stir it's causing.

Friday, May 6, 2011

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

Forks Over Knives - (rating - 80%) examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. (

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Tribecca Film Fest Winners

Though it ended a few days ago, we're just now getting to the big winners from the recent Tribeca Film Festival. For documentaries, Tribeca is the Sundance of the East- the genre isn't featured, but it still draws audience attention anyway. Below is the list of the award winners, but head to Tribeca's website to learn more about (and even watch) these wonderful films:

Best Documentary Feature: Bombay Beach
Jury Comments: “Our unanimous award for the film’s beauty, lyricism, empathy and invention.”

Best Editing in a Documentary Feature: Semper Fi: Always Faithful
Jury Comments: “The film skillfully weaves journalistic investigation with emotional personal narrative.

Best New Documentary Director: Like Water
Jury Comments: “The film opens up a violent world in an unexpected way through its sensitive and seamless portrayal of its complex hero, ultimate fighter Anderson Silva.”

Special Jury Mention: Give Up Tomorrow
Jury Comments: “A powerful work of investigative journalism. We honor the filmmakers' six years of hard work in illustrating how a society can clash with justice, and the impact on an individual life. Everyone should see this film.”

Best Documentary Short: Incident in New Baghdad
Jury Comments: “The winner is a film that bravely explores the residual effects of experiencing trauma in war in a truthful and fearless manner. Using a mixture of archival and current material, this timely film is the story of one man’s struggle to reconcile war, his place in it, and the legacy he will pass on to his children.”

Special Jury Mention: Guru
Jury Comments: “Congratulations to a film that started in one direction and ended up going in another. This unexpected journey was well crafted and followed a unique character for whom we were rooting.”

Monday, May 2, 2011

Discovery Channel to air documentary on Bin Laden's death

Quickly jumping at the chance to show its documentary prowess, the Discovery Channel announced earlier today that it will premier a one hour documentary on the operation that killed Osama bin Laden.

Currently titled Killing Bin Laden, the special will provide a detailed account (at times, second-by-second!) of the operation- from the time the intelligence was gathered in 2010 through the burial of bin Laden at sea.

How are they able to create a special in just a matter of days you might ask? Well Discovery is utilizing a global team of local reporters, fixers and cameras on the ground in Abbottabad, Pakistan to quickly gather all the necessary information and interviews. And don't worry, the company promises a thorough investigation into many of the questions we are all wondering: How many special ops forces were involved? From where did they deploy? How was facial recognition used to identify bin Laden? Why was one of the helicopters abandoned and destroyed?

The special will air Sunday, May 15 at 10PM on the Discovery Channel, so go ahead and set your DVRs accordingly.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Trailer: How to Live Forever

Who hasn't dreamed of living forever- and feel physically, emotionally and spiritually strong in the process? Well, even if you don't, director Mark Wexler does and he's brought a camera along to record his quest for truth. The truth to strive for: how do we live forever? Is there a set way and is it worth it?

Of course, the story would be quite dry unless some unusual and engaging characters were involved and Wexler seems to have found a good chunk of them just waiting to share their opinions. Don't believe me? Head on over to the film's official site to see a trailer and learn more about How to Live Forever.

The documentary is set to release in mid May.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Hot Docs Fest begins April 28th

Canada, you're documentary festivals have begun!

Though this site features the US festivals prominently, it's hard to deny that the Canadians have a good thing going. Hot Docs is one of the more respected festivals in the world and its focus on international and independent features is quite impressive. But fear not 'Hollywood movie fan', just because it is 'independent' doesn't mean it's bad. In fact, there are plenty of features that have received praise from other festivals.

So if you live in Canada or have plenty of frequent flier miles and free time, head on over to to see what most of us doc lovers already know: Hot Docs has a great thing going.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Trailer: The Arbor

In what will go down as the most bizarre documentary trailer of the year, Clio Barnard's The Arbor will certainly pique your interest... especially if you love unconventional films.

The plot for The Arbor sounds simple enough, a story following a woman as she retraces the life of her long deceased mother and renown British playwright, Andrea Dunbar. But the execution is anything but normal- mixing real life footage with reenactments. I won't spoil the trailer, but it's quite clear this is a film wanting to make you think and feel exactly everything faced by the characters on screen.

Will it work? Head on over to to judge the first glimpse yourself. Though it is currently only scheduled for a release at Tribeca and other film festivals, there's a chance it'll be brought to theaters in the near future.

Friday, April 22, 2011

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

African Cats - (rating - 68%) An epic true story set against the backdrop of one of the wildest places on Earth, African Cats captures the real-life love, humor and determination of the majestic kings of the savanna. The story features Mara, an endearing lion cub who strives to grow up with her mother's strength, spirit and wisdom; Sita, a fearless cheetah and single mother of five mischievous newborns; and Fang, a proud leader of the pride who must defend his family from a once banished lion. An awe-inspiring adventure blending family bonds with the power and cunning of the wild. (

POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold - (rating - 74%) Filmmaker Morgan Spurlock examines the world of product placement, marketing and advertising by making a film entirely financed by product placement and advertising. These days, it seems like you can't even walk down the street without someone trying to sell you something. It's gotten to the point where practically the entire American experience is brought to us by some corporation. In this comical exploration and thorough exploitation of Morgan Spurlock, using his integrity as currency to sell out to the highest bidder. Spurlock will shine the definitive light on our branded future as he tries to create the Iron Man of documentaries, the first ever docbuster! (

Dumbstruck - (rating - 59%) The film focuses on five 'vents': Dylan, a shy 13-year-old who dreams of being a professional but whose dad prefers football; Kim, a former Miss Ohio beauty queen, who yearns to 'make it' on the cruise ship circuit; Dan, a successful cruise ship performer whose wife may divorce him when he comes ashore; Terry, who, after 22 years of struggle in Corsicana, Texas, finds himself on NBC's America's Got Talent with a chance to win $1 million; and Wilma -- all six-foot-five of her -- who brings her dummies to Walmart and 'entertains' in senior homes. With its heart firmly planted on its polyester sleeve, Dumbstruck takes the American dream sideways and never loses its way. (

What on Earth? - (no rating provided) What on Earth? chronicles Suzanne Taylor's interactions with a lively community of visionary artists, scientists, philosophers, geometers, educators and farmers who have been profoundly touched by the crop circle phenomenon, one of the greatest mysteries of our time, and who gather every summer in southern England to engage with it. Filled with stunning circle imagery, it presents evidence that the circles come from elsewhere and speculations about how accepting that -- which is hampered by our scientific materialistic worldview -- could help us think as a planet to solve the pressing problems that challenge us now. (

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Tribeca Film Fest Kicks Off

The 2011 Tribeca Film Festival kicks off it's 11 day run this week and while there are films from all genres, there is quite a lengthy list of documentaries at the event. In fact, including shorts, there are nearly 60 films playing within our beloved genre!

If you are in the New York area or you're just curious to see what's screening, head on over to to check out the list. Of course, if you are not able to attend the festival, you can always go through your cable provider to see some of the films on demand. Seriously, how cool is that!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Photojournalist/filmmaker Tim Hetherington killed in Libya

It is with a heavy heart that I pass the word along of Tim Hetherington's death. The photojournalist was killed while covering the civil war in Misrata, Libya today (details are still being sorted out).

Hetherington found acclaim for his Oscar nominated documentary Restrepo, but he was much more than this to so many people. I only know him largely because of this work so I encourage everyone to search the news articles and read the posts so many colleagues, friends and perhaps family members have written. While death happens everyday, Hetherington's strikes a bit closer to home for journalists out in the field.

As I said, there are countless stories already posted with much more depth and eloquence then I could ever muster, but I will always remember him as the man who covered war by looking at the people- both soldiers and civilians- from beginning to end. I met Hetherington when he premiered Restrepo last year. The conversation was quite brief and I'm sure he forgot me two seconds after I walked away, but I will remember him for his film and his earnest desire to make a war documentary that was apolitical. Restrepo had something for everyone, but it was always for the soldiers he covered. Their strengths and weaknesses, passions and flaws- nearly all of their humanity was on display. Because of this it has become and will be the quintessential war film in my eyes.

Hetherington recently released a short that premiered at Full Frame titled 'Diary' about how physically, mentally and emotionally difficulty it is jumping in and out of war zones. It is with great regret that I wasn't able to catch this film and see one last look at a man who captured the big picture of events one photo at a time.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Full Frame: DocFilm's top picks

Yesterday we detailed the winners of this year's Full Frame awards, and while those were some excellent films, we feel they left out some great documentaries. So below are our top five (and why!):

1) Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles - Jon Foy makes me sick. The first time director not only manages to create a fascinating documentary with a great story, he also taught himself how to compose music so he could create arguably the best score I've heard in a documentary in years.
2) Buck - Cindy Meehl will be hard pressed to find a more interesting and engaging character than the one she's found for her first film. Buck Brannaman is not only the most likable documentary figure since Steve Wiebe in King of Kong, but he also had to overcame a dark past to get to the caring man we see on film today.
3) Project Nim - James Marsh takes his storytelling to a different realm with this monkey related tale. Though it is much more serious than a Curious George story, Marsh finds time to highlight the absurd characters Nim encounters and keeps audiences engaged.
4) Page One: Inside the New York Times - Andrew Rossi's film isn't about fawning over the newspaper (though it does give a favorable opinion), instead immersing itself to highlight new and growing issues within print media. It won't provide any answers, but will certainly spur discussion.
5) Square Grouper: Godfathers of Ganja - Billy Corben covers all things Miami, and his most recent drug film continues to demonstrate his talent for fleshing out unique characters. Effortlessly packing three stories into one documentary is enough proof of his talent, but having you enthralled with each tale places him on a whole different level.

Monday, April 18, 2011

DocFilm returns from Full Frame

We apologize for the lack of news updates last week, but we have a good excuse- the dog ate our homework? No. There was no news? No. Oh! We were at the over wonderful Full Frame Film Festival in Durham, NC.

The documentary only festival brings plenty of firepower to their four day event and we will recap our favorites from the 15 films we were able to see. In the meantime, while you may have missed it this year, check out the website to learn about the award winners listed below:

· The Anne Dellinger Grand Jury Award was presented to Scenes of a Crime, directed by Grover Babcock and Blue Hadaegh.

· The Full Frame Jury Award for Best Short was given to One Night in Kernersville, directed by Rodrigo Dorfman.

· Buck, directed by Cindy Meehl, received the Full Frame Audience Award.

· The Center For Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award was given to How to Die in Oregon, directed by Peter D. Richardson.

· The Center for Documentary Studies Filmmaker Award Jury also presented a Special Jury Award to The Interrupters, directed by Steve James.

· Pit No. 8 (Auk nr 8), directed by Marianna Kaat, was awarded the Charles E. Guggenheim Emerging Artist Award.

· We Still Live Here, directed by Anne Makepeace, received the Full Frame Inspiration Award.

· The Full Frame President’s Awards was presented to the Caretaker for the Lord, directed by Jane McAllister.

· How to Die in Oregon, directed by Peter D. Richardson, received The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights.

· The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights Jury also presented an Honorable Mention to The Last Mountain, directed by Bill Haney.

· The Nicholas School Environmental Award was presented to Pit No. 8 (Auk nr 8), directed by Marianna Kaat.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Trailer: Square Grouper

Billy Corben has made some fine documentaries about the drug trade and he's clearly decided to keep to this specific genre of films with his latest release Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganja. The story centers on Everglades City, a small Florida town that turned from fishing to drug smuggling in the 70s and 80s. Corben manages to find unbelievable characters for his films and Square Grouper looks to have those in bunches. But if you need any more reasons to see this documentary, definitely check out the film's website. Square Grouper will release nationwide on DVD next week (including Netflix and other Video On Demand services).

Monday, April 11, 2011

Trailer: Armadillo

By now I'm sure most of you are sick or Afghanistan war related documentaries (seen clearly in Restrepo losing out on an Oscar award it rightfully deserved). However, I hope you keep an open mind about Janus Metz Pedersen's Armadillo.

The Danish filmmaker followed a platoon of soldiers from his country for a year, and used the footage to create a (what seems to be) impressive visual display of the soldiers' lives. If you need more convincing, think Restrepo meets Gasland with a hint of Errol Morris.

And if you need even more convincing, head to the to see catch the trailer for the film. It might be a bit 'art house' for some audiences, but this still looks too good to pass up. A limited release is set for later this month so keep an eye out for it at your local theaters.

Friday, April 8, 2011

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

American: The Bill Hicks Story - (rating - 75%) 15 years after his death, Bill Hicks is now more popular than ever, and is widely seen as one of the best comedian of the modern era. However, in America, where he challenged institutions and accepted ways of thinking, he suffered censorship and was never truly recognized by a wide audience. In the country which enshrines freedom of speech in its constitution his story is truly about what it means to be an American. (

Born to be Wild - (rating - 96%)
an inspired story of love, dedication and the remarkable bond between humans and animals. This film documents orphaned orangutans and elephants and the extraordinary people who rescue and raise them-saving endangered species one life at a time. Stunningly captured in IMAX 3D, Born to be Wild is a heartwarming adventure transporting moviegoers into the lush rain forests of Borneo with world-renowned primatologist Dr. Birute Galdikas, and across the rugged Kenyan savanna with celebrated elephant authority Dame Daphne Sheldrick, as they and their teams rescue, rehabilitate and return these incredible animals back to the wild. (

Monday, April 4, 2011

Trailer: Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon

I know absolutely nothing about the Kings of Leon other than they make darn good music. Normally I don't post stories about band documentaries but when a story tries to transcend a mere 'public relations' release for die hard fans I try to at least take note.

Talihina Sky: The Story of Kings of Leon appears to be a documentary to pursue. Covering the band's struggles between their past religious upbringing and current rock and roll lifestyle, the film gives every impression of being an introspective and reflective work any audience can appreciate.

But if you don't believe me, head on over to Vimeo's website where a trailer has been posted. And if that doesn't convince you, check out the documentary when it releases at the Tribeca film festival later this month.

Friday, April 1, 2011

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 Elephant in the Living Room - (rating - 100%) Winner of four Best Documentary Awards, The Elephant in the Living Room explores the controversial American subculture of raising the deadliest and most exotic animals on earth as common household pets. The story follows the journey of two men at the heart of the issue. One, Tim Harrison, an Ohio police officer whose friend was killed by an exotic pet, and the other, Terry Brumfield, a big-hearted man who struggles to keep two pet African lions that he loves like his own family. ( Circo - (rating 100%) Set in the cinematically rich milieu of a century-old traveling circus in rural Mexico, Circo follows the family-run "Circo Mexico" as they struggle to stay together despite mounting debt, dwindling audiences, and a simmering family conflict. The hardscrabble founders, the Ponce family, have lived and performed on the back roads of Mexico since the 19th century. Tino, the ringmaster, is driven by his dream to lead his parents' circus to greater success. He corrals the energy of his whole family, including his parents, his brother and his four young children, towards this singular goal. But his wife Ivonne is determined to make a change. Feeling exploited by her in-laws, she longs to return her kids to a childhood lost to laboring in the circus. Through an intricately woven story of a marriage in trouble and of a century-old family tradition that hangs in the balance, Circo asks: To whom and to what should we ultimately owe our allegiances? ( Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead - (rating 50%) The film follows the reboot mission of its filmmaker, Joe Cross. One hundred pounds overweight, loaded up on steroids and suffering from a debilitating autoimmune disease, Cross is at the end of his rope. With doctors and conventional medicines unable to provide a solution, Joe turns to the only option left: the body's ability to heal itself. He trades in the junk food and hits the road with juicer and generator in tow, vowing only to drink fresh fruit and vegetable juice for the next 60 days. Across 3,000 miles Joe has one goal in mind: To get off his pills and get healthy. Part road trip, part self-help manifesto, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead defies the traditional documentary format to present an unconventional and uplifting story of two men from different worlds who each realize that the only person who can save them is themselves. ( Wretches and Jabbers - (rating 60%) Directed by Academy Award winner Gerardine Wurzburg (Educating Peter), Wretches & Jabberers follows two men with autism, Tracy Thresher and Larry Bissonnette, who embark on a global quest to change attitudes about disability and intelligence. Determined to put a new face on autism, the men travel to Sri Lanka, Japan and Finland, where at each stop they challenge public attitudes about autism and issue a hopeful message to reconsider competency. ( To Catch a Dollar: Muhammad Yunus Banks on America - (no rating provided) Professor Muhammad Yunus never wanted to be a banker and he certainly never imagined winning the Nobel Peace Prize. Yet his quest to help the working poor invest in themselves led to both. Known as the father of microcredit, Yunus spent years developing the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh, and in 1983 it became a fully licensed bank with a twist-it was owned by its borrowers-mainly poor women, and its mission was to eradicate poverty, not make a profit. Grameen is now in 38 countries and has made over 100 million microcredit loans. As the U.S. credit market crumbled and the giant banks of Wall Street faltered one by one, Grameen put 500 potential female borrowers into groups of five, with loans of up to $3,000 dispersed for small business ideas that each group had developed. To Catch a Dollar follows the journey of two borrowers and their Grameen group manager and the enormous life changes they each undergo. (

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ken Burns Civil War documentary to re-air

If you know documentaries, then you probably know Ken Burns... and if you know Ken Burns, then you definitely know his iconic documentary on the American Civil War. Originally released back in 1990, this slow moving, but thorough film is considered the quintessential work on time period.

Now, Ken Burns: Civil War is well over twenty years old and many younger documentary lovers haven't seen this yet (you'll notice a current lack of a review on this site), and PBS knows this. So to remedy the issue, they are re-releasing the film starting this Sunday. Stretching through Thursday in two hour chunks, it might seem like quite the effort to sit through, but if you can find the time, I suggest tuning in.

Head on over to the PBS website to learn more.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Charges could be filed against documentary subjects

In a somewhat tragic turn of events, Police officials from Shelby, Ohio indicated they were considering pressing charges against the subjects of the documentary Heroin in the Heartland. The film aired on the Oprah Winfry Network last week and provided an in-depth look at drug use in the small Ohio community. The charges are a result of the film showing participants actually buying and using illegal drugs. Because of this, Shelby's police chief said he is recommending the county prosecutor press charges against those seen in the show. My personal opinion is it would be a shame to charge these people, not because what they did wasn't wrong (illegal is illegal) but because they clearly risked a great deal just getting on camera to tell their story. Documentary filmmakers need honesty from their subjects, and this would definitely cause people to think twice about letting filmmakers get close.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Festival Scope = amazing idea

You ever hear of an awesome film festival in another country and wish you could be there to see the films? Are you a director and wish your feature could be viewed by more than just the handful of audience members catching the one festival screening you have?

Well now there is hope! Festival Scope is an awesome site that works in conjunction with film festivals around the world to stream films to site members. Currently you have to receive approval from the site to get access, but this is a great idea that hopefully is opened to the public in the near future.

We've already seen how Netflix and Hulu have helped usher documentaries to audiences worldwide and the next logical jump would be to bring the film festivals to the fans.

Head on over to to learn more and try and gain access.

Friday, March 25, 2011

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

Queen of the Sun - (rating - 83%) In 1923, Rudolf Steiner, an Austrian scientist, philosopher & social innovator, predicted that in 80 to 100 years honeybees would collapse. Now, beekeepers around the United States and all over the world are reporting an incredible loss of honeybees, a phenomenon deemed "Colony Collapse Disorder." This "pandemic" is indicated by bees disappearing in mass numbers from their hives with no clear single explanation. The queen is there, honey is there, but the bees are gone. Queen of the Sun investigates the long-term causes behind the dire global bee crisis through the eyes of biodynamic beekeepers, commercial beekeepers, scientists and philosophers. Together they take us on a journey through the catastrophic disappearance of bees and into the mysterious world of the beehive. The film unveils 10,000 years of beekeeping, illuminating the deep link between humans and bees and how that historic and sacred relationship has been lost due to highly mechanized industrial practices. (

My Perestroika - (rating - 83%) When the USSR broke apart in 1991, a generation of young people faced a new realm of possibilities. An intimate epic about the extraordinary lives of this last Soviet generation, Robin Hessman's documentary tells the stories of five Moscow schoolmates who were brought up behind the Iron Curtain, witnessed the joy and confusion of glasnost, and reached adulthood right as the world changed around them. Through candid first-person testimony, revealing verité footage, and vintage home movies, Hessman reveals a Russia rarely ever seen on film, where people are frank about their lives and forthcoming about their country. Engaging, funny, and positively inspiring, in My Perestroika politics is personal, honesty overshadows ideology, and history progresses one day, one life at a time. (

Thunder Soul - (no rating provided) Straight out of a high school in Texas, the electrifying Kashmere Stage Band was the brainchild of gifted music teacher Conrad Johnson. Johnson's dynamic arrangements transformed the idea of the high school band, and brought his students worldwide recognition. That success changed not just their lives, but the fortune of their whole community. As one spectator remarked, "They were on fire." He was right -- they still are. (

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Documentary filmmaker Richard Leacock passes away

Richard Leacock, one of the forefathers of cinema verite, passed away Wednesday at the age of 89.

Leacock was known for his cinematography work on Primary, a documentary following John F. Kennedy's presidential campaign. But probably more importantly, he figured out a way to sync recorded audio and video - a key limitation to capturing quality audio outside studios. As a result, filmmakers were able to capture real life with all the wondrous sounds we are now so accustomed to in the documentary world.

Leacock may not be a household name, but he certainly influenced all the household names that came after him. Documentary film fans owe him a great deal of respect and this site in particular mourns the loss.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Trailer: Greatest Movie Ever Sold

I love me some Morgan Spurlock, so the trailer for his most recent film has made me quite giddy. Already featured at Sundance and SXSW, The Greatest Movie Ever Sold is primed to keep the Spurlock firmly in the spotlight as the documentary genre's most entertaining directors.

After you watch the trailer, head on over to the film's official website to learn more about the documentary. The Greatest Movie Ever Sold follows Spurlock as he investigates product placement in American culture by making a film funded solely by product placement and advertisements. It's set for a limited release April 22nd.

Friday, March 18, 2011

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

Bill Cunningham New York
- (rating - 92%) - "We all get dressed for Bill," says Vogue editrix Anna Wintour. The "Bill" in question is New York Times photographer Bill Cunningham. For decades, this Schwinn-riding cultural anthropologist has been obsessively and inventively chronicling fashion trends and high society charity soirées for the Times Style section in his columns "On the Street" and "Evening Hours." Documenting uptown fixtures (Wintour, Tom Wolfe, Brooke Astor, David Rockefeller-who all appear in the film), downtown eccentrics and everyone in between, Cunningham's enormous body of work is more reliable than any catwalk as an expression of time, place and individual flair. In turn, Bill Cunningham New York is a delicate, funny and often poignant portrait of a dedicated artist whose only wealth is his own humanity and unassuming grace. (

Nostalgia for the Light - (rating - 100%) - Director Patricio Guzmán (The Battle of Chile, The Pinochet Case) travels 10,000 feet above sea level to the driest place on earth, the Atacama Desert, where atop the mountains astronomers from all over the world gather to observe the stars. The Atacama is also a place where the harsh heat of the sun keeps human remains intact: those of Pre-Columbian mummies; 19th century explorers and miners; and the remains of political prisoners, from the 1973 military coup. So while astronomers examine the most distant and oldest galaxies, at the foot of the mountains, women, surviving relatives of the disappeared whose bodies were dumped here, search, even after twenty-five years, for the remains of their loved ones, to reclaim their families' histories. (

Thursday, March 17, 2011

South by Southwest spotlights great documentaries

Yesterday we shed light on a few of the many documentaries airing at the South By Southwest film festival the past several days. Well today, is taking a more general look at the awesome documentaries unveiled at this year's event. And while we hate to tell you to head to another site, we must say, the article is a good one (especially if you love documentaries).

Head on over to to read why the SXSW film festival is proving our beloved documentary genre is hitting its stride.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

South by Southwest Films

So most people know 'South by Southwest' as one of the great American music festivals in the country (especially if you are a fan of more independent artists). But you may not know SXSW also has a pretty expansive film festival as well.

Now again, the number of films (especially documentaries) screening are almost too numerous to discuss here, however, to wet your appetite we'll list the 8 selections chosen for the Documentary Feature Competition. Each of the following films are a world premier (they were also chosen out of a field of over 800 submissions!).

Definitely head to the SWSW website to learn more about these films and countless others.

Better This World
Directors: Katie Galloway & Kelly Duane de la Vega
Two boyhood friends from Midland, Texas cross a line that radically changes their lives. The result: eight homemade bombs, multiple domestic terrorism charges and a high stakes entrapment defense hinging on a controversial FBI informant. (World Premiere)

The City Dark
Director: Ian Cheney
The film chronicles the disappearance of darkness, following astronomers, cancer researchers, ecologists and philosophers in a quest to understand what is lost in the glare of city lights. (World Premiere)

Director: Tristan Patterson
Killer Films presents the transmissions of a lost kid, falling in love, in the suburbs of Fullerton, California. Featuring skateboarding, the usual drugs, and stray glimpses of unusual beauty. (World Premiere)

Directors: Michael Tucker & Petra Epperlein
A documentary about the art and sport of fighting: a microcosm of life, a physical manifestation of that other brutal contest called the American Dream. (World Premiere)

Kumaré (U.S.A/India)
Director: Vikram Gandhi
A documentary about a man who impersonates a wise Indian Guru and builds a following in Arizona. (World Premiere)

Directors: Don Argott & Demian Fenton
The film follows middle-aged rocker Bobby Liebling, lead singer of the cult hard rock/heavy metal band Pentagram, as he leaves his parents' basement in search of the life he never lived. (World Premiere)

A Matter of Taste
Director: Sally Rowe
Considered a rising star of haute cuisine, Paul Liebrandt found his career stalled in New York’s austere environment post 9/11. Paul struggles over the next decade as he tries to make his way back to the top. (World Premiere)

Where Soldiers Come From
Director: Heather Courtney
From a snowy small town in Northern Michigan to the mountains of Afghanistan and back, the film follows the four-year journey of childhood friends and their town, forever changed by a faraway war. (World Premiere)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tony Blair's Faith Shorts Film Festival

According to CNN, Tony Blair is continuing last year's "Faith Shorts" film contest, after the former UK Prime Minister was impressed with the response from youth all over the world.

Though it's not entirely a documentary related story, it's great to see how his foundation ( is encouraging people to get into film even if they don't have the 'proper equipment' most competitions demand.

Again, according to CNN, "The foundation will accept not only movies made with professional equipment, but even ones shot with cell phones, judging each film based on the equipment available to the filmmaker. And young people who have an idea but no equipment at all can apply to the foundation to win a portable video camera to make their film."

Only 14-to-18-year olds can submit films, but there are three categories to choose from: family, action, or musical movie. The deadline is July 1st, so head on over to the foundations website to learn more, because it could mean winning a trip to London to see your film premiered at BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) and the chance to make a film with a professional crew!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Best of True/False Film Fest?

The year has barely begun and I already have a major regret: not going to the True/False Film Festival in Columbia, Missouri. The non-competitive festival has quickly become one of the more prominent documentary festivals in the United States- serving as a nice relaxing arena for viewing excellent/quirky documentaries.

With over 40 films (some of which premiered at Sundance, IDFA, or other prominent festivals), it's impossible to go into any depth about all these films (head to if you feel the need to explore though), but Indiewire has opted to write a list of their favorites.

The South by Southwest film/music festival begins this Friday, but in the meantime, you might want to see what Indiewire is saying about the films from True/False, as they will inevitably make their way to a festival (or theater) near you.

Friday, March 4, 2011

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

Sons of Perdition- (rating - 100%) - An inside look at polygamist teens who have become religious refugees in mainstream America. An inside look at polygamist teens who have become religious refugees in mainstream America. (

Inside Job gets DVD release

Did you miss out on Charles Ferguson's Oscar winning documentary? Well fear not! Sony Pictures Classics recently announced Inside Job will be released on DVD and Blu-Ray on March 8th!

If you missed out on the other Oscar nominees, here's a breakdown of when you can buy them:

- Exit Through the Gift Shop: Available now for DVD and digital download, March 8th for Blu-Ray
- Gasland: Available now on DVD
- Restrepo: Available now on DVD and Blu-Ray
- Waste Land: Set for March 15th release

So there you go. By the middle of this month you could own all five Academy Award nominated documentaries, and if there ever was a year to do that, now's the time.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Inside Job wins best Doc feature!

Charles Ferguson's 2nd feature length documentary, Inside Job, earned him an Oscar Sunday night. His win helps push him onto the level of one of the best current documentary directors of the past few years- joining Alex Gibney as Oscar stalwarts for their ability to take complex (and otherwise boring) concepts and making them appealing to audiences worldwide.

Now, my previous posts ranked Inside Job as the worst of the Oscar nominees, and I stand by that, but I'm not surprised by the victory (and think it is a film worth seeing). This was a year of excellent documentaries and Ferguson separated himself from the pack (in the eyes of the Academy) by quickly creating a film on a complex subject while it was still relevant (a lesson he must have learned from 2007's No End in Sight).

For those upset Exit Through the Gift Shop didn't win despite large popular support, fear not, Banksy was a new director and he shouldn't be upset with a mere nomination in a year when 10 other films could have easily made the cut. If you haven't seen Inside Job, I recommend checking out our review, then renting it for yourself. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to Ferguson's next project.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Documentary Oscar Predictions!

There are two ways to predict the Oscars: what you think should win, and what you think needs to win. The Academy Awards are by nature a bit political and sometimes that results in the best films not always winning. This is not to knock the awards, it's a simple fact that must be understood in making Oscar predictions. So with that in mind, we are making two lists: one ranking the documentaries that will most likely win, and one ranking our favorites of the nominees. So read the lists and tell us your thoughts below!

Documentaries (in order of most likely to win):
1) Exit Through the Gift Shop - This is the odds on favorite to win for numerous reasons. Not only is it a solid film, it fits the Academy's desire to go with unique subjects that appeal to the suddenly new and outspoken movement of nontraditional documentary lovers. Man on Wire and the Cove both received an extra push into victory because of this group (possibly created after King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters was snubbed in 2007). Bansky's film isn't on their level, but it still could pull out a win as the Academy tries to keep this category fresh and interesting in the public eye.
2) Gasland - Josh Fox' film probably wouldn't have this great a chance of winning if it wasn't for recent press coverage as natural gas companies have tried to stifle the film's nomination. It's number two because Fox's relentless attitude to get his film out there, plus it's timely subject on alternative fuels may be enough to pull off an upset.
3) Inside Job - Charles Ferguson is two for two in documentaries with Oscar nominations. That counts for something, and with timely subject matter it would be no surprise to see this win.
4) Restrepo - Though brilliantly directed and receiving rave reviews from everyone who has seen it, Restrepo will suffer from "just another Afghan/Iraq war documentary" syndrome. It's the best film on the list, but won't win because of this public mindset.
5) Waste Land - A well crafted and beautiful film, but few have seen it and those who only read the summary may not be able to grasp its beauty. In the eyes of the Academy, the nomination is more then enough recognition.

Documentaries (in order of our favorites):
1) Restrepo - No other film touches this duel directed documentary: either in scope or execution. Stripping all politics away, they manage to present a group of men just fighting for... well various reasons. It is intense, emotional and extremely powerful. It's a shame people try to twist this into a political film, because it's not. It's about war, and about the men sent to fight.
2) Gasland - Fox takes a simple idea and turns it into something both activist oriented and personal. He doesn't necessarily have an answer (his film is almost a lament), but he's also not Michael Moore-esque- condemning anyone who stands in his way. Though it is certainly biased, it's unique style helps separate it from the pack.
3) Waste Land - As beautiful and touching a film as you can hope for. If you haven't seen this, you may be wondering what all the hype is about, but if you have, you are definitely wondering why this isn't the odds on favorite. Sometimes a director finds a great story with great characters; Waste Land fits that bill.
4) Exit Through the Gift Shop - There's a bit too much hype surrounding Banksy's film. It's very good, but not nearly as amazing as some people make it out to be. It is original and certainly brings out Banksy's talent for holding an audience's attention, but in a year stacked with great documentaries, it shouldn't be winning an Oscar.
5) Inside Job - Ferguson has cemented himself as a talented director able to flesh out details in an engaging way. Unfortunately, his 2007 film is much better then this 2010 effort (which comes off a bit too angry). It's only a matter of time before he receives an Oscar though (see Alex Gibney).

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Helvetica/Objectified director wants your money

Gary Hustwit has already directed two well known design films in Helvetica and Objectified, and now he's looking to finish his third documentary, Urbanized. There's just one problem, he needs money- specifically yours. Unlike most documentaries that seek production companies or various grants to fund their projects, Hustwit is trying to keep his project self-funded. This means individuals can pitch in and donate directly to the cause.

Hustwit isn't the first filmmaker to use the wonderful fundraising site Kickstarter, but he's certainly one of the more famous ones. In our current economy, this innovation is probably the best thing going for filmmakers as grants are few and far between and are quite time consuming anyway.

If you are a design fan, head on over to Kickstarter to donate to his cause. There's an added bonus of little gifts for each level of donation (a mere $35 gets you a DVD copy of the film). Or just head over there to learn more about his upcoming film.

According to Hustwit, "Urbanized looks at the issues and strategies behind urban design, featuring some of the world's foremost architects, planners, policymakers, builders, and thinkers."

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Trailer: Circo

Who doesn't love the circus? For kids it's full of wonder and excitement, for adults it's witnessing nostalgia and creativity. Sure, it's slightly creepy, but the truth is even the negative aspects of a circus draw us to it. So it's no surprise I was instantly hooked when Aaron Schock announced he was directing a documentary about a century old traveling circus in Mexico.

The trailer for Circo is even more impressive then I'd expect and this appears to have a chance to win over the hearts of audiences worldwide. The story of a family torn between carrying on the father's dream of continuing in his parent's footsteps or protecting their kids from working long hours in a failing business is captivating enough. Combine this with the stunning visuals and you have a documentary worth praising.

Circo will begin hitting U.S. theaters this spring, so head on over to their website to learn more about the film and to catch the trailer for this excellent looking film.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Banksy hits the streets before Oscars

The ever reclusive but world famous street artist Banksy took to the Los Angeles streets Saturday in what would appear to be a marketing campaign for a best documentary award at the Academy Awards (our round up to come sometime this week!). Ok, it's not a marketing campaign, but it's still cool to see he lets a city know when he has arrived.

Spreading numerous graffiti art around the city, Banksy let the city know he has graced their city for the award show. For those not lucky enough to see the art in person before it was taken down, head over to his official site to see some photos (

The real question for Banksy fans is if he will make an appearance or not. Few have seen his face and the Academy recently announced they will not let him accept the award in costume. Needless to say, for one of the few times in the award show's history, the documentary genre is the talk of the festival thanks to this always intriguing artist.

Check out our reviews section to read our reviews of each Oscar nominated film.

Friday, February 18, 2011

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

I Am - (rating - 67%) - A prismatic and probing exploration of our world, what's wrong with it, and what we can do to make it better. This is Tom Shadyac's first foray into non-fiction following a career as one of Hollywood's leading comedy practitioners, with such successful titles as "Ace Ventura," "Liar Liar," and "Bruce Almighty" to his credit. I AM recounts what happened to the filmmaker after a cycling accident left him incapacitated, possibly for good. Though he ultimately recovered, he emerged a changed man. Disillusioned with life on the A-list, he sold his house, moved to a mobile home community, and decided to start life anew. Armed with nothing but his innate curiosity and a camera crew, Shadyac embarks upon a journey to discover how he as an individual, and we as a race, can improve the way we live. (Rottentomatoes)

The Last Lion - (rating - 87%) - From the lush wetlands of Botswana's Okavango Delta comes the suspense-filled tale of a determined lioness ready to try anything - and willing to risk... From the lush wetlands of Botswana's Okavango Delta comes the suspense-filled tale of a determined lioness ready to try anything - and willing to risk everything - to keep her family alive. Follow the epic journey of a lioness named Ma di Tau ("Mother of Lions") as she battles to protect her cubs against a daunting onslaught of enemies in order to ensure their survival. The gripping real-life saga of Ma di Tau, her cubs, the buffalo, and the rival pride unfolds inside a stark reality: Lions are vanishing from the wild. In the last 50 years, lion populations have plummeted from 450,000 to as few as 20,000. Dereck and Beverly Joubert weave their dramatic storytelling and breathtaking, up-close footage around a resonating question: Are Ma di Tau and her young to be among the last lions? Or will we as humans, having seen how tough, courageous and poignant their lives in the wild are, be moved to make a difference? (Rottentomatoes)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Documentarian discovers 3D Nazi films

Were the Nazi's the first people to experiment in 3D film making way back in 1936? It sounds too far fetched to be true, but Australian director Philippe Mora actually found two half hour black and white propaganda films while developing his latest documentary.

According to Mora, the movies were called 'raum films' (or 'space films' for us English speakers) so they probably went ignored by film historians until now (because, let's face it, the History Channel and their love for Nazi related stories would have aired something on this if they had known). Mora is convinced there are even more vintage 3D movies out there and he plans to use the material for a 3D section of his documentary (currently the working title is How the Third Reich Was Recorded).

Head to to read more on this story.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Battle brews over Gasland

In a rather odd move, the Energy for Depth group (which represents oil and gas producers) recently submitted a letter to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences arguing Gasland shouldn't be eligible for an Oscar for best documentary. Their reasoning: it's not accurate.

Regardless of the fact the Academy could care less what non-members think about their nominees and have no desire to play the role of fact checker (fiction and nonfiction films alike get blasted every year for alleged inaccuracies), it seems Gasland has ruffled quite a few feathers to cause controversy to linger well after its initial release.

This is not unusual with 'whistleblower' documentaries. Michael Moore is notorious for inciting backlash from the industries he attacks and An Inconvenient Truth had its fair share of rebuttals. But unlike those more successful films, John Fox's Gasland is but a mere blip- earning less theatrical sales then a one night screening of a Saw film.

What's more impressive is that this ongoing campaign to discredit Fox's film has only helped it gain steam. The director released a 39 page document last summer to challenge any discrediting reports and has since gone on a mission to screen his film for Congressional members and citizens in countless cities.

I don't know if Gasland is wholly accurate (I tend to side with it though) but I do know this: it's an excellent film, and from a purely filmmaker standpoint, it deserves to be considered for best documentary of the year. I also know this: trying to discredit a documentary filmmaker who just spent countless hours researching and investigating a subject is like poking a sleeping lion - you just don't do it.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Doc winners at the Grammy's

I bet you thought there was no place for a documentary at the Grammy Award shows. Well you're wrong! In its bizarre way of honoring music related documentaries, the Grammy's host a specific category called "Best Long Form Music Video". Yes, I know everyone knows a documentary is not a music video, but I guess it helps trick people into paying attention, and as long as they are honoring great films, I don't care what they call it.

This year's winner? When You're Strange by Tom Dicillo. The documentary highlighting the career of the Doors beat out some other celebrated music docs like Rush: Beyond the Lighted Streets and Under Great White Northern Lights. Other nominees included The Greatest Ears in Town: The Arif Mardin Story and No Distance Left to Run.

Friday, February 11, 2011

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

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never- (rating - 65%) - Justin Bieber: Never Say Never is the inspiring true story and rare inside look at the rise of Justin from street performer in the small town of Stratford, Ontario to internet phenomenon to global super star culminating with a dream sold out show at the famed Madison Square Garden in 3-D. (Rottentomatoes)

Carbon Nation - (rating - 63%) - Carbon Nation is a feature length documentary about climate change SOLUTIONS. Even if you doubt the severity of the impact of climate change or just don't buy it at all, this is a compelling and relevant film that illustrates how SOLUTIONS to climate change also address other social, economic and national security issues. (Rottentomatoes)

Vidal Sassoon: The Movie - (no rating provided) - This first-time, deeply intimate look into the life of Vidal Sassoon, from his early days in an orphanage, to his time as a soldier, his beginnings on Bond Street, and ultimately, the revolution he caused, which continues to this day. Vidal Sassoon The Movie features unprecedented access to Vidal, candid interviews with former staff, family members, reporters and historians. Together they explore the life and legacy of the most influential hairdresser in the world, whose influence far outreaches the industry he changed forever. (Rottentomatoes)

Orgasm, Inc. - (rating - 89%) - Liz Canner's shocking yet entertaining documentary Orgasm, Inc. explores the strange science of female pleasure, and in the process reveals the often warped mentality of our pharmaceutical and medical industries. Upbeat, engaging, enlightening, and provocative, Orgasm, Inc. will change the way you think about sex. (Rottentomatoes)

Certifiably Jonathan - (rating - 17%) - Jonathan Winters, 85-year-old comic genius, is a gifted painter. A famous critic believes Jonathan is "the missing link between Miro and Dali" and convinces the Museum of Modern Art to give Jonathan a show-but only if he paints three new paintings. Jonathan launches into a painting frenzy but disaster strikes when his favorite painting is stolen, causing him to lose his sense of humor (He claims that a witch doctor trapped him in a bathroom and sucked the humor from his body.) Without his sense of humor Jonathan cannot paint. About to lose his big show, Jonathan tries everything to get back his humor. With the help of a shrink, a new age healer, a séance with the Arquettes, Robin Williams, Sarah Silverman, Howie Mandel, Nora Dunn, Ryan Stiles, Gary Owens and others, Jonathan sets out on a quest to get his mojo back. (Rottentomatoes)

The Sky Turns - (rating - 100%) - Mercedes Alvarez was three years old when, in the late 1960s, her parents left La Aldea, a village in the barren Northern Spanish Soria region. She was the last child born in La Aldea. Now, only fourteen people live there, a last dying generation. Soon this village, like so many other rural communities all over the world, will be deserted and will probably disappear from the map. Alvarez returns for the first time to her ancestral home and makes a stunning film about memory and the terrifying passing of time. (Rottentomatoes)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Acadamy Awards to Banksy: No Shenanigans

Since when did the Academy Awards fall under the jurisdiction of uptight puritans?

It seems Academy president Tom Sherak and executive director Bruce Davis are so worried about any potential Banksy stunt or disguise that they've asked only producer Jamie D'Cruz to appear on stage- don't worry, Banksy still gets his statue.

Frankly, I can understand a show producers fear of suddenly having mass confusion over some clever artistic appearance. But here's two reasons why it's a bad decision: 1) if Banksy's Exit Through the Gift Shop wins best documentary, it means people are fond of his shenanigans, so why not include them in the presentation? 2) Our best moments of the Academy Awards are of people doing things against the Oscars' rigid system (Adrien Brody, Roberto Benigni), so why prevent that? It's a rating boon during a stretch of the award show most people ignore (sorry fellow doc fans, it's true).

But there, I've spoken my peace. What do you think? Post your thoughts below!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

A documentary about super computers during World War 2?

Seriously, this isn't some sort of weird science fiction story. Before there were hi tech computers calculating our every needs (ok, in my case whims), people had to solve elaborate equations themselves. Back during World War 2, that meant using insane math skills to develop ballistics tables for weapons. And while the men may have fired the weapons, women stepped in to fill the crucial mathematician roles needed to design the tables. But these brainiac women didn't stop there, they put their mathematical knowledge to good use, helping design the first electric computer!

Shocked that you are just discovering this information out now? I know I am. So head on over to to learn more about this recently finished film that will shed light on this part of American history. Or just go to Netflix and watch it instantly now!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Michael Moore Sues Weinsteins

That's right. Michael Moore is suing the dude's that brought you the Matrix and and a whole slew of other less impressive films.

The Hollywood Reporter broke the story of Moore's lawsuit which claims Harvey and Bob Weinstein (along with their Fellowship Adventure Group) cheated him out of at least $2.7 million dollars. According to the suit, the two sides agreed to split the profits of Moore's 2004 Fahrenheit 9/11 50-50.

This is quite a story considering the Weinsteins have been behind most of his major theatrical films.

The whole story in all its complexity is over at The Hollywood Reporter, but my question is, will Moore make a film about this? Come on, you know you'd be curious to get a first person perspective of how lawsuits play out.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Home documentary rivals beauty of Planet Earth series

I love, absolutely love, the Planet Earth series. So when I say Yann Arthus-Bertrand's aerial perspective of our planet is as breathtaking as the BBC/Discovery Channel series, I hope you take me seriously.

Don't take my word for it though, head on over to the official website, where you can catch a trailer, buy an accompanying book, see what theaters it's playing at (lucky New York) or even watch the entire film for free (how awesome is that!).

With a more activist minded approach, Home weaves together gorgeous visuals of nature and industry to remind audiences of the changes society needs to make. This is Arthus-Bertrand's second climate change film, but this one has the support of Luc Besson (of Leon and Le Femme Nikita fame) and Glenn Close- two more reasons to see this visually stunning film.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Sundance Film: An African Election

Director: Jarreth Merz

Summary: In a world plagued by stolen elections, secret government agendas, and a renewed interest in the exploitation of African natural resources, what value does democracy offer, particularly in the tumultuous region of West Africa? For Ghana, a nation that has been Africa’s barometer of political stability, democracy may mean the difference between peace and prosperity—and murderous chaos under military coup.
An African Election is a remarkable documentary that grants viewers unprecedented access to the anatomy of Ghana’s 2008 presidential elections. Capturing the intrigue of electioneering, the intensity of the vote-counting process, and the mood of the countrymen whose fate lies precariously in the balance, director Jarreth Merz’s coverage unfolds with all the tension of a political thriller, revealing the emotions, passions, and ethical decisions that both threaten—and maintain—the integrity of the democratic process. An African Election illuminates a beacon of hope for Africa and for the value and vitality of democracy today.

Excitement scale (1-10): 10 – The summary for Jarreth Merz’ film will hook many, but it’s the trailer that will really get people excited. This appears to be an excellent film that captures both the history and the tension of the 2008 presidential election in Ghana.

Sundance Film: The Bengali Detective

Director: Philip Cox

Summary: In response to police corruption, the private detective business has become increasingly common in India. The Bengali Detective follows the life of detective Rajesh Ji, who, along with his ragtag team of assistants, investigates cases ranging from counterfeit hair products to a brutal triple murder. When Rajesh is not sleuthing, he has big dreams of competing on a televised national talent show, so he and his detective gang form a dance troupe—which must be seen to be believed—and rehearse for their big audition.
Set in chaotic Kolkata, formerly known as Calcutta, the film is shot with atmosphere and immediacy, complementing the mystery and suspense of the investigations. Director Philip Cox finds a riveting subject in Rajesh. He’s all at once a showman, a dedicated husband, and a humanitarian. The Bengali Detective is a layered, wildly entertaining film: a poignant profile of a delightful character, a gripping detective narrative, and a detailed look at the middle class in contemporary India.

Excitement Scale (1-10): 6 – Though I’m always a fan of quirky characters, a poor trailer a lack of recognition from the Sundance awards and relatively new documentary director limit the overall excitement.

Sundance Film: The Black Power Mixtape1967–1975

Director: Göran Hugo Olsson 2011

Summary: From 1967 to 1975, fueled by curiosity and naïveté, Swedish journalists traversed the Atlantic Ocean to film the black power movement in America. The Black Power Mixtape 1967–1975 mobilizes a treasure trove of 16mm material, which languished in a basement for 30 years, into an irresistible mosaic of images, music, and narration to chronicle the movement’s evolution. Mesmerizing footage of Stokely Carmichael, Bobby Seale, Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis, and Eldridge Cleaver, as well as Black Panther activities, are peppered with B-roll footage of black America. These scenes take on a fresh, global angle through the outsider perspective of the Swedish lens.
Meanwhile, penetrating commentaries from artists and activists influenced by the struggle—like Harry Belafonte, Sonia Sanchez, Talib Kweli, Erykah Badu, and Professor Robin D. G. Kelley—riff on the range of radical ideas and strategies for liberation. Their insights and the vibrancy of the unearthed footage render the black power movement startlingly immediate and profoundly relevant.

Excitement Scale (1-10): 8 – Though I’m not always big on Swedish filmmakers (and Olsson hasn’t had too much success with audiences in the past), this documentary certainly sounds intriguing. Its scope is large, but winning an editing award at Sundance should hint at Olsson’s ability to keep his film focused.

Sundance Film: Family Portrait in Black and White

Director: Julia Ivanova 2011

Summary: In a Ukrainian village, big-hearted, formidable Olga Nenya single-handedly raises 23 foster children. Sixteen are the biracial offspring of visiting African students and Ukrainian women, who, living in a country of blue-eyed blondes that’s racked with endemic racism, often see no choice but to abandon their babies. And that’s where Olga comes in.
Family Portrait in Black and White charts the rhythms of Olga’s hectic household, rife with rambunctious kids and goats. As diverse dramas unfold among the brood—a high-schooler struggling to transcend his plight through education, a boy longing to reunite with his Ugandan father, and a child courted for Italian adoption—Olga reveals herself to be loving and protective, but also narrow-minded and controlling. A product of communist ideology, she favors collective duty over individual freedom. It’s this philosophy that gives the orphans the rich sense of belonging they ache for, as well as cause for rebellion and distrust, in this lyrical, sometimes gut-wrenching tale about the meaning of “Mama,” “family,” and “nation.”

Excitement Scale (1-10): 4 – I actually think the subjects of the film could be fascinating, but Julia Ivanova has uncovered intriguing stories before without yielding strong audience support.

Sundance Film: The Flaw

Director: David Sington

Summary: The Flaw makes one thing clear from the outset—there was nothing simple about the U.S. financial collapse of 2007. Within minutes, experts had identified plenty of culprits: market failure, a credit culture, a wage crisis, a debt crisis, and upward redistribution of income. That’s economic shorthand for fasten your seatbelt.
David Sington’s rigorously constructed analysis of the meltdown, told entirely by economists, brokers, bankers, and borrowers, plays like a financial whodunit. Moving past the usual suspects, it creates a vivid historical context through which to view twentieth-century American capitalism.
Bolstered by graphics and animation (ironically plucked from postwar cartoons extolling free markets) the film renders complex ideas digestible and argues that capitalism has changed in the last 30 years—and not for the better. Once sold on consumer power through borrowing and a higher standard of living, we realize we bought into a lie. The Flaw has burst the bubble.

Excitement Scale (1-10): 8 – Following on the heels of ‘Inside Job’, Sington’s film may get overlooked by most, but it appears to be every bit as good (and perhaps more focused) than last year’s Oscar nominated film. Sington has an established resume of success and I’m sure it will continue here.

Sundance Film: The Green Wave

Director: Ali Samadi Ahadi

Summary: In early 2009, a new generation of Iranians hoped for change through the upcoming presidential elections. Fueled by youthful exuberance and media technology, a groundswell—the so-called Green Wave—emerged to challenge the status quo, and caused a seismic shift in the political climate. A new brand of revolution seemed to be at hand. All polls predicted challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi would be the country’s next president; however, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the victor, prompting a backlash of unparalleled violence and oppression and a massive surge of human-rights violations that continues today.
In this powerful and urgent documentary, filmmaker Ali Samadi Ahadi integrates animation with live-action footage, testimonials, and posts from courageous Iranian bloggers, who dared to tell the world about the anatomy of the movement and its devastating consequences. The Green Wave is a remarkable portrait of modern political rebellion, an exposé of government-sanctioned violence, and a vision of peace and hope that continued resistance may galvanize a new Iran.

Excitement Scale (1-10): 5 – Ahadi’s documentary promises a lot but it’s hard to tell if it can deliver. I’m currently torn between loving this idea and being underwhelmed by previous films of similar scope. Let’s hope Ahadi takes a cue from Ari Folman’s brilliant Waltz with Bashir.

Sundance Film: Hell and Back Again

Director: Danfung Dennis

Summary: In 2009, U.S. Marines launched a major helicopter assault on a Taliban stronghold in southern Afghanistan. Immediately upon landing, the marines were surrounded by insurgents and attacked from all sides. Embedded in Echo Company, filmmaker Danfung Dennis captures the action with visceral immediacy. As he reveals the devastating impact a Taliban machine-gun bullet has on the life of 25-year-old Sergeant Nathan Harris, Dennis’s film evolves from being a war exposé to becoming a story of one man’s personal apocalypse. From the bloody battlefields of Afghanistan, to his home in North Carolina, Harris struggles to conquer the physical and mental fallout of war. A shell of the man he once was, will Harris ever return to the happy life he shared with his loving wife, Ashley?
Contrasting the horrors of the battlefield with the battle back home, Hell and Back Again is a transcendent film that comes full circle as it lays bare the true cost of war.

Excitement Scale (1-10): 7 – At this point, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have been covered Ad nauseam. Dennis film sounds like a combination of Restrepo and War Tapes, but will it succeed as those did or continue to beat the drum most audience are tired of hearing? A Grand Jury Prize is a good sign.

Sundance Film: Knuckle

Director: Ian Palmer

Summary: Residing in Ireland and parts of the United Kingdom, the Travellers are a traditionally nomadic ethnic group with their own customs and a deep sense of clan pride, despite being interrelated by marriage within their small population. When conflicts arise, arguments are often settled through ritualized, bare-knuckle fighting.
Director Ian Palmer followed members of the Traveller community for 12 years and became privy to a decades-long family feud of Hatfield-McCoy proportions. At the center of the conflict is James, the confident, yet reluctant, defender of the Quinn McDonaghs, who is frequently challenged to fight his cousins, the Joyces. An outsider in a secretive world, Palmer waited years before he began to learn the reasons for the animosity between the rival clans.
Disturbingly raw, yet compulsively engaging, KNUCKLE offers candid access to a rarely seen, brutal world where a cycle of bloody violence seems destined to continue unabated.

Excitement Scale (1-10): 6 – Uncovering a seemingly more serious version of Mickey O’Neil’s character in Snatch, Knuckle has all the makings of a great film: unique subject, harsh conflict and a director dedicated to immersing himself in the story (12 years time!). There are several unknowns still tempering my excitement though (mainly a lack of footage/trailers for non-Sundance audiences to enjoy).