Category Archives: Documentary

Sundance 2015: Additional Programming Announced

ad_34504873_9f4e6961aeb34e6e_webThe 2015 Sundance Film Festival has just announced a number of additional selections to the Premieres, Special Events, and New Frontier sections, while also revealing the lineups for Sundance Kids and this year’s From the Collection retrospective screening. The new programming may be found here.

Previously announced: US and World Cinema Documentary and Dramatic Competitions and NEXT; Spotlight, Park City at Midnight, and New Frontier; Premieres, Documentary Premieres, and Special Events; and Shorts.

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On DVD: LEVITATED MASS

Levitated-Mass-Key-Image-580x300Coming to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, December 16: LEVITATED MASS

Doug Pray’s record of the installation of Michael Heizer’s titular sculpture premiered at the Los Angeles Film Festival last year. Its festival circuit also included DOC NYC, Florida, Cleveland, Napa Valley, and Martha’s Vineyard.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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Special Screening: THE THROWAWAYS

throwawaysComing to NYC’s Maysles Cinema today, Friday, December 12: THE THROWAWAYS

Ira McKinley and Bhawin Suchak’s personal exploration of African American inner-city life premiered at the Rated SR Film Festival this Spring. It has also screened at Film Columbia, New Hampshire, Harlem, the Finger Lakes, and the Catskills, among others.

When McKinley was a teenager, his father was killed by police. As an adult, he became addicted to crack and served time for robbery. When he was released, he found himself unable to find work with a felony conviction on his record, and became homeless. Determined to better himself, he pursued film production training via a public access television station and later used those skills to in turn teach youth how to make films themselves at an Albany community center. Witnessing firsthand the problems facing people in his African American community, often at the hands of local law enforcement, and without sufficient intervention or interest by politicians, McKinley began documenting their experience. This story forms the core of his film, co-directed with Suchak, which locates racially biased, systemic mass incarceration as the root cause of the troubles facing not only his community, but African American communities throughout the country. McKinley’s film is strongest when it concentrates on the community activist’s own history, but becomes weaker when it broadens out to try to tackle the larger challenges facing Albany’s African American neighborhoods. Still, in light of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, the themes of the film, and its exposure of the New Jim Crow in American society, are sadly all too topical, with McKinley’s attempt to bear witness to its impact carrying power.

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In Theatres: MAIDAN

maidanComing to theatres this Friday, December 12: MAIDAN

Sergei Loznitsa’s front line chronicle of the Ukrainian protests made its world premiere at Cannes this May. It has screened extensively since, including berths at Toronto, London, Karlovy Vary, Vancouver, DOK Leipzig, Zurich, Sarajevo, and IDFA, among others.

Filmed between December 2013 and February 2014, as hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians gathered at the historic, titular square to demand their country align with the European Union, Loznitsa’s rigorously formalist portrait documents the mood of the crowd as the situation shifts from righteous euphoria to embattled revolution. Composed of a series of static, widescreen shots, the film foregrounds the idea of mass protest – there are no individuals here, no cutaways to interviews, no identification of protest leaders – as the business of revolution is carried out, from the logistics of distributing food and other supplies to the camaraderie-building singing of songs. While Loznitsa resists providing much in the way of context, allowing diegetic announcements to provide the scene setting, the audience soon enough makes sense of what is transpiring around them. As time passes, and the government bans the protest, the mood changes, with altercations taking place between protestors and armed police, tear gas fired at the cameraman, necessitating the camera’s only real movement as it captures the commotion and concern. While its initial slow-moving pace may tax some viewers’ patience, the film’s ability to envelop its audience within the unfolding revolution proves to have quite the impact, making this a memorable entry in the recent spate of protest documentaries that have emerged in the wake of such events as Occupy and the Arab Spring.

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In Theatres: WE ARE THE GIANT

we are the giantComing to theatres tomorrow, Friday, December 12: WE ARE THE GIANT

Greg Barker’s portrait of Arab Spring activists made its bow at Sundance this year. It has gone on to screen at Nantucket, Hot Docs, IDFA, Heartland, Docuwest, Hawaii, and AFI Docs, among others.

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

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On Cable: DINOSAUR 13

dinosaur 13Coming to CNN tomorrow, Thursday, December 11: DINOSAUR 13

Todd Miller’s look at a custody battle over fossil remains had its world premiere at Sundance this year. Other fest engagements have included Traverse City, Sydney, Melbourne, and its local setting of the Black Hills. After a theatrical and VOD release, the film now makes its broadcast debut.

I previously profiled the doc before Sundance here.

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On VOD: ONE ROGUE REPORTER

one rougeComing to VOD today, Tuesday, December 9: ONE ROGUE REPORTER

Rich Peppiatt and Tom Jenkinson’s turnabout on tabloid journalism debuted at Sheffield this past Summer. It has also screened at Leeds and the East End film fests, in addition to other British venues. FilmBuff now releases the doc on VOD platforms including iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu, Xbox, Google Play, and Blinkbox.

As a reporter for UK tabloid The Daily Star, Peppiatt found himself in all sorts of dubious and degrading situations while on the hunt for a story, causing him to question his career path. When his resignation from the paper -which included charges of Islamophobia by its editors – went viral, he turned to comedy to further expose the truth behind the sensationalism of the Fourth Estate. Adapting his one-man show into a documentary project, he sets out to turn the tables on Britain’s tabloid editors, using their own tactics on them, from invasion of privacy to fabricating wild suppositions and passing them off as fact. It’s an intriguing premise, but both Peppiatt’s prank execution and filmmaking approach fall far short of their mark. Adopting an everyman Morgan Spurlock schtick as he too-chattily narrates the hour-long project, and a page from Michael Moore’s brand of on-screen confrontations, Peppiatt engages in inconsequential silliness such as dropping off sex toys on an editor’s doorstep or papering a car with rumor-mongering headlines while dressed like a cartoonish journalist in a trenchcoat. On the plus side, the overarching idea, echoed through a nice use of classic film clips – that journalism should be a noble profession with editors holding themselves, and their papers to higher standards – is a worthwhile one. However, while serious issues are at its core – mostly discussed by talking heads that range from more respected journalists like The Guardian‘s Owen Jones to Hugh Grant and Steve Coogan, celebs who’ve spoken out against tabloids – the film as a whole comes off as very juvenile and very UK specific, which is a shame.

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