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.