In Theatres: OUR MAN IN TEHRAN

10 Dec 1978, Tehran, Iran --- Original caption: Tehran, Iran:  Demonstrators carry photo of Ayatollah Khomeini during anti-shah demonstration. --- Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

10 Dec 1978, Tehran, Iran — Original caption: Tehran, Iran: Demonstrators carry photo of Ayatollah Khomeini during anti-shah demonstration. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Coming to theatres today, Friday, May 15: OUR MAN IN TEHRAN

Drew Taylor and Larry Weinstein’s corrective to ARGO’s factual looseness debuted at Toronto in 2013. It went on to screen at Thessaloniki Doc, Full Frame, Newport Beach, and Galway, among others.

I previously included the doc in my Toronto coverage here.

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Seattle 2015: Documentary Overview

imagesOne of the world’s lengthiest film events, the Seattle International Film Festival kicks off three weeks of programming tonight, Thursday, May 14. More than 72 new and recent documentary features will screen through the wrap up of the festival’s 41st edition on Sunday, June 7. While the bulk of these represents standout selections culled from the recent line-ups of other notable events, from Toronto and Berlin to Sundance and SXSW, Seattle also showcases a number of less familiar and some brand new titles as well. The following primarily focuses on these: Continue reading

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In Theatres: ONE CUT, ONE LIFE

onecutonelifeblogphotoComing to theatres today, Wednesday, May 13: ONE CUT, ONE LIFE

Lucia Small and Ed Pincus’ personal meditation on mortality and collaboration made its bow at Full Frame last year. Its fest circuit has included IFF Boston, Woods Hole, Torino, and the New York Film Festival, among others.

Within a short span of time, two of filmmaker Lucia Small’s close friends die violent, unexpected deaths, and she learns that her one-time filmmaking partner, Ed Pincus, has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Pincus, a pioneering figure in American nonfiction, had long ago retired from the craft to a quiet life with his wife Jane and his flower farm in Vermont. His previous collaboration with Small, 2007’s THE AXE IN THE ATTIC, brought him back to filmmaking, but put a strain on their friendship. Faced with his mortality and her friends’ recent deaths – and Jane’s objections – the duo decides to reunite on a new first-person project that instead celebrates life. Doubling as an examination of their fraught partnership and the tensions of the documentary/subject relationship, their intimate, sometimes (purposely) uncomfortable, film becomes a way for both participants to take charge of their respective traumas, and, if not heal them, at least make their peace.

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On DVD: A YEAR IN CHAMPAGNE

champagne_sd2Coming to DVD today, Tuesday, May 12: A YEAR IN CHAMPAGNE

David Kennard’s made its world premiere at Santa Barbara last year. Other fests included Palm Beach, Minneapolis-St Paul, Newport Beach, Hawaii, and Portland. The film was released theatrically and on VOD in March.

The second in a proposed trilogy on wines, Kennard’s film brings viewers to France’s Champagne region to present a cursory look at wine-making over the course of four seasons, beginning in Spring 2012. Of primary concern to the different families of vintners profiled here is the weather, which can wreak havoc with the grape harvest and potentially ruin an entire vintage. While the season starts off warm, rain and cold soon take hold, calling into question the grapevines ability to produce, and necessitating extreme measures like crop spraying to fend off mildew, insects, and rot. While a significant portion of the crop has been lost, the remaining grapes, while small, prove of excellent quality, allowing the workmanlike film to move on to demonstrate the next basic steps in the wine-making process, checking in with different Champagne producers to get a glimpse of the harvest, the pressing, the fermentation, and the careful consideration of how to blend the different grapes to produce the next vintage. Throughout, Kennard narrates in a cheeky, irritating manner which matches the superficiality of the film and makes it far better suited to small screens.

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Cannes 2015: Documentary Overview

imgres-1Tomorrow, Wednesday, May 13, sees the launch of the 68th edition of Cannes, the most prestigious film festival in the world – at least for fiction films. Once again, the event’s organizers, as well as those of the concurrent independently-run events, Directors’ Fortnight and International Critics’ Week, barely acknowledge that nonfiction is capable of more than just inside baseball film biographies. Out of 54 features in the Official Selection, there are merely two documentaries, both out of competition. None are in Un Certain Regard or the Special Screenings sections, and instead, as usual, shore up the retrospective and cinephilic Cannes Classics sidebar. Between the independent events, there is only one doc, in Directors’ Fortnight, with none appearing in International Critics’ Week. A rundown of all of these follows: Continue reading

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On DVD: 180 DAYS: HARTSVILLE

180-days-hartsvilleComing to DVD tomorrow, Tuesday, May 12: 180 DAYS: HARTSVILLE

Jacquie Jones and Gerald McLaurin’s indepth look at a South Carolina school year debuted on PBS this Spring.

I previously wrote about the doc upon its broadcast here.

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On Cable: THOUGHT CRIMES: THE CASE OF THE CANNIBAL COP

150505-thought-crimes-cop-photo-1024Coming to HBO tonight, Monday, May 11: THOUGHT CRIMES: THE CASE OF THE CANNIBAL COP

Erin Lee Carr’s exploration of an Internet fantasy turned nightmare debuted last month at Tribeca. It went on to screen at Hot Docs and Montclair before its broadcast premiere.

After work, NYPD officer Gilberto Valle would return to the home he shared with his wife Kathleen and baby daughter and unwind online for several hours. Growing suspicious, Kathleen eventually installed spyware, and discovered her husband’s secret: His time on the web was devoted to exploring disturbing, violent fantasies involving kidnapping, rape, and cannibalism. Feeling endangered, and concerned that he was planning to follow through on his dark thoughts, she left Valle and reported his actions to the authorities. The ensuing arrest and trial resulted in a media circus, turning the public against the so-called “Cannibal Cop,” who was convicted not only of the illegal use of police databases, but, more chillingly, of conspiring to kidnap and eat women. Carr, with the cooperation of Valle and his parents, goes beyond the sensationalistic headlines to uncover how a man was prosecuted for his fantasies, as gruesome as they might be. Interviews with journalists, psychologists, attorneys, and jurors navigate the complex and fascinating case, parsing its ethical implications for the US legal system.

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