Telluride 2014: Documentary Overview

TFF41_Poster_ChristianMarclay©TellurideFilmFestivalBeginning today, Friday, August 29, and running through Monday, September 1, the 41st edition of the Telluride Film Festival offering attendees their first look at what are typically among the upcoming Awards season contenders, many of them heading to Toronto next week, and to the New York Film Festival at the end of next month. Continuing the festival’s tradition of surprise and anticipation, the line-up for this year’s edition was not announced until yesterday, with a full list and descriptions available through their program guide. Below, I present a brief rundown of some of the nonfiction selections this year, by my count numbering 36 feature documentaries. Continue reading

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On DVD: AMERICAN PROMISE

american promiseComing to DVD this coming Tuesday, September 2: AMERICAN PROMISE

Joe Brewster and Michèle Stephenson’s twelve-year chronicle of African American education had its premiere at Sundance last year, where it won a special jury award. Screenings followed at the New York Film Festival, Full Frame, Hot Springs, Montclair, Pan African, and DokuFest, among many more.

My pre-Sundance profile of the doc may be found here.

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On TV: AFTER TILLER

after tillerComing to PBS’s POV this coming Monday, September 1: AFTER TILLER

Lana Wilson and Martha Shane’s intimate portrait of women’s health providers debuted at Sundance last year. It went on to screen at Hot Docs, Seattle, Sheffield, True/False, AFI Docs, and Full Frame, among many others.

I profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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In Theatres: THE NAKED ROOM

naked roomComing to NYC’s Anthology Film Archives tomorrow, Friday, August 29: THE NAKED ROOM

Nuria Ibáñez’s raw exploration of troubled children had its world premiere at Mexico’s FICUNAM last year. It went on to screen at DocsDF, Ambulante, Morelia, BAFICI, Thessaloniki Doc, Hola Mexico, and Rendezvous with Madness.

Taking place entirely within a single room – a hospital’s pediatric psychologist’s office – Ibáñez’s deceptively uncomplicated film hones in on the faces of young girls and boys as they are coaxed to reveal a host of debilitating concerns, from mental illness to the aftermath of sexual abuse. Responding to an offscreen therapist, and the occasional comments from their parents, the young subjects lay bare personal trauma, struggling to articulate what would be difficult even for adults. Taking a simple yet rigorous formalistic approach, Ibáñez forces the viewer to confront her subjects on their own level for the duration of the film, in the process offering validation and empathy for their pain.

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In Theatres: THROUGH A LENS DARKLY

through a lensComing to NYC’s Film Forum today, Wednesday, August 27: THROUGH A LENS DARKLY: BLACK PHOTOGRAPHERS AND THE EMERGENCE OF A PEOPLE

Thomas Allen Harris’ exploration of black self-representation premiered at Sundance earlier this year. It has also screened at Berlin, Santa Barbara, Montclair, Pan African, Atlanta, Boston LGBT, Frameline, and Open City Docs, among several others.

My pre-Sundance doc profile may be found here.

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Venice 2014: Documentary Overview

253705-venice-film-fest-71stThe grandfather of all film events, the Venice International Film Festival, enters its eighth decade as its 71st edition begins tonight, Wednesday, August 27. Running through Saturday, September 6, the Biennale will present over 100 features between its official selection and two autonomous simultaneously presented events, offering attending industry a sneak peek at a number of titles that will almost certainly generate awards attention by the end of the year. Among these are just over 20 new documentaries, many of which I’ll highlight below: Continue reading

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On DVD: PROJECT WILD THING

Project Wild ThingComing to DVD today, Tuesday, August 26: PROJECT WILD THING

David Bond’s crusade to reconnect kids with nature had its world premiere at Sheffield last year. The film has gone on to screen at SF Green, One World, Cork, and Cambridge.

Taking on the role of both filmmaker and on-screen guide a la Morgan Spurlock, Bond, discouraged by the realization of how much time children now spend in front of screens, cheekily appoints himself the marketing director for Nature and sets out on a public campaign to get Britain’s kids back outdoors. Consulting with marketers, brand strategists, and publicity firms, he concocts several schemes aimed to combat childhood obesity and instill imagination. Ultimately, in a hokey, manufactured manner, he “realizes” that he can’t boil down Nature into a sellable brand, and, even worse, that he’s been neglecting his own kids in the zeal of his campaign, so he sets out to expose them to the pleasures of playing outside one-on-one. While a likeable enough film, the preciousness of its approach crosses the line into annoying territory more than once, undercutting its ultimate message.

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