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.