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.