Monday, August 22, 2011
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: http://www.bornandbredmovie.com. Catch the trailer and see when it will be available at a theater near you.
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
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
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
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
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
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Wednesday, May 11, 2011
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
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. (Rottentomatoes.com)
Tuesday, May 3, 2011
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
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
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
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 www.hotdocs.ca to see what most of us doc lovers already know: Hot Docs has a great thing going.
Monday, April 25, 2011
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 Apple.com/trailers 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
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. (Rottentomatoes.com)
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! (Rottentomatoes.com)
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. (Rottentomatoes.com)
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. (Rottentomatoes.com)
Thursday, April 21, 2011
If you are in the New York area or you're just curious to see what's screening, head on over to tribecafilm.com 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
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
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
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
Monday, April 11, 2011
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 Apple.com/trailers 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
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. (Rottentomatoes.com)
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. (Rottentomatoes.com)
Monday, April 4, 2011
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
Thursday, March 31, 2011
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
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
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 festivalscope.com to learn more and try and gain access.
Friday, March 25, 2011
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. (Rottentomatoes.com)
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. (Rottentomatoes.com)
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. (Rottentomatoes.com)
Thursday, March 24, 2011
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
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
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. (Rottentomatoes.com)
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. (Rottentomatoes.com)
Thursday, March 17, 2011
Head on over to austin360.com to read why the SXSW film festival is proving our beloved documentary genre is hitting its stride.
Wednesday, March 16, 2011
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)
Director: Vikram Gandhi
A documentary about a man who impersonates a wise Indian Guru and builds a following in Arizona. (World Premiere)
LAST DAYS HERE
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
Though it's not entirely a documentary related story, it's great to see how his foundation (http://www.tonyblairfaithfoundation.org/) 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
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 truefalse.org 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
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. (Rottentomatoes.com)
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
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
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
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
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
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 (http://www.banksy.co.uk/outdoors/outusa/horizontal_1.htm).
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
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
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 variety.com to read more on this story.
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
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
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
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
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
Shocked that you are just discovering this information out now? I know I am. So head on over to www.topsecretrosies.com 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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).