Venice 2015: Documentary Overview

QSAQEIFZZR88849The world’s oldest film festival, Venice, turns 72 tomorrow, Wednesday, September 2, and runs through Saturday, September 12. While the majority of its hundred-plus lineup focuses on fiction, there’s been a noticeable uptick in nonfiction programming this year between its official selection and the autonomous Venice Days sidebar. Among these offerings are the following:

heart of a dogOf 21 features in Competition, only two are docs: Laurie Anderson’s essay film on love and mortality, HEART OF A DOG (pictured), and Zhao Liang’s meditation on industrialization on modern China, BEHEMOTH. The festival’s discovery section, Orizzonti, which has previously spotlighted numerous works of creative nonfiction, this year only presents one: Renato De Maria’s ITALIAN GANGSTERS, an archival exploration of criminality.

jacksonDocumentaries fare better Out of Competition, making up half of this section, with such works represented as: Frederick Wiseman’s IN JACKSON HEIGHTS (pictured), a portrait of the cultural diverse NYC neighborhood; Gianluca and Massimilano De Serio’s I RICORDI DEL FIUME, a chronicle of the dismantling of a massive Italian shanty town; Sergei Loznitsa’s THE EVENT, which re-examines the end of Soviet rule in Russia; Evgeny Afineevsky’s WINTER ON FIRE, a chronicle of the Ukrainian revolution; Amy Berg’s JANIS, a portrait of the legendary Janis Joplin; and Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow’s DE PALMA, a candid exploration of the director’s long career.

for the loveVenice Classics, an annual sidebar of retrospective work and documentaries about films and filmmakers, offers titles like: Pietra Brettkelly’s A FLICKERING TRUTH, which recounts the efforts to hide Afghanistan’s film archive in the days of the Taliban; Rinku Kalsy’s FOR THE LOVE OF A MAN (pictured), on the intergenerational popularity and fandom of a South Indian actor; as well as appreciations of such figures as Guy Maddin, Jacques Tourneur, Lina Wermüller, Helmut Berger, and Alfredo Bini.

zainabFinal Cut in Venice spotlights several works-in-progress from the Middle East, including Ziad Kalthoum’s ROOSTER OF BEIRUT, about Syrian workers in Lebanon; Tala Hadid’s HOUSE IN THE FIELDS, on a rural community in Morocco; Hakar Abdulqadir’s SEPARATION, about the plight of Kurdish families separated from one another as they flee ISIS; and Kaouther Ben Hania’s ZAINEB HATES THE SNOW (pictured), which follows a Tunisian family as they make a new life in Canada.

innocenceFinally, of the two independently organized sidebars of the festival, International Critics’ Week foregoes nonfiction altogether, while Venice Days offers five titles, including Grant Gee’s INNOCENCE OF MEMORIES: ORHAN PAMUK’S MUSEUM AND ISTANBUL, on a museum created to document a fictional love story.

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In Theatres: THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION

Coming to theatres tomorrow, Wednesday, September 2: THE BLACK PANTHERS: VANGUARD OF THE REVOLUTION

Stanley Nelson’s comprehensive look back at the influential organization had its world premiere at Sundance this year. Its extensive festival circuit has also included San Francisco, Sheffield, Pan African, IFF Boston, AFI Docs, Full Frame, Seattle, Encounters, Cleveland, MoMA’s Documentary Fortnight, DOXA, Sidewalk, and Black Harvest.

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

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On DVD: JFK & LBJ: A TIME FOR GREATNESS

JFKAndLBJ_ATimeForGreatness-crop-321x150Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, September 1: JFK & LBJ: A TIME FOR GREATNESS

Alastair Layzell’s focus on civil rights across two presidencies made its bow at the Annapolis Film Festival this Spring. It made its broadcast debut on PBS last month.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On DVD: DARK STAR: HR GIGER’S WORLD

gigerComing to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, September 1: DARK STAR: HR GIGER’S WORLD

Belinda Sallin’s exploration of the work of the famed artist of the macabre made its bow at Zurich last year. Other fests have included Hong Kong, BAFICI, and Sitges, among others.

I previously wrote about the doc upon its theatrical release here.

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ON DVD: HARLEM STREET SINGER

Harlem-Street-Singer-Key-Image-Photo-by-Alice-Ochs-Getty-Images--580x300Coming to DVD this Friday, September 4: HARLEM STREET SINGER

Trevor Laurence and Simeon Hutner’s portrait of an unsung musician premiered at DOC NYC in 2013. It also screened at St Louis, Leeds, Revelation, and Tallgrass, among others.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On DVD/VOD: BRADDOCK AMERICA

braddockComing to DVD and VOD this coming Monday, September 1: BRADDOCK AMERICA

Jean-Loïc Portron and Gabriella Kessler’s meditation on a vanished industrial town made its premiere at La Rochelle’s Escales Documentaires in 2013. Screenings followed at Cannes, Thessaloniki Doc, Cleveland, Lussas, Nashville, France’s International Environmental, and Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers film fests, among others. In addition to a DVD release, it now comes to VOD via iTunes.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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On VOD: DEEP WEB

deep webComing to VOD this coming Tuesday, September 1: DEEP WEB

Alex Winter’s look at the illicit world of the secret Internet premiered at SXSW earlier this year. Screenings followed at Full Frame, San Francisco, Hot Docs, and Montclair before its broadcast on EPIX. Bond/360 now releases the doc on VOD via iTunes, Google Play, Amazon Instant Video, and VUDU.

I wrote about the film upon its broadcast debut here.

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