Category Archives: Documentary

On TV: THE FINAL YEAR

Coming to HBO tonight, Monday, May 21:
THE FINAL YEAR

Director:
Greg Barker

Premiere:
Toronto 2017

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, London, IDFA

About:
An inside look at US foreign policy in the last year of the Obama administration.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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In Theatre: THE MOST UNKNOWN

Coming to theatres today, Friday, May 18:
THE MOST UNKNOWN

Director:
Ian Cheney

Premiere:
CPH:DOX 2018

Select Festivals:
Seattle

About:
Nine scientists from diverse disciplines explore unanswered questions.

In this roundelay of scientific discovery, one scientist is introduced to a completely different field by second scientist, who then meets a third, and so on, until a circle is formed by the film’s nine participants. Along the way, each has a chance to (too briefly) explain their area of research – geobiology, quantum physics, cognitive psychology, astrobiology, astronomy, etc – and the unknowns which drive their curiosity, often spurring the neophyte into eureka moments of connectivity and understanding. By design, Cheney’s project is a survey, which makes it both a frequently intriguing but also at times frustrating watch – just as quickly as a concept or experiment might capture the viewer’s attention, it gives way in favor of a fresh encounter with the next thinker in the chain. Still, the film reminds us of the fruitfulness and necessity of curiosity, exploration, and not believing one already knows it all.

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In Theatre: SAVING BRINTON

Coming to theatres today, Friday, May 18:
SAVING BRINTON

Directors:
Andrew Sherburne and Tommy Haines

Premiere:
AFI Docs 2017

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Rotterdam, Thessaloniki Doc, Jeonju, BAFICI, Big Sky Doc, Hot Springs Doc, RiverRun, Julien Dubuque, Ashland, St Louis, Flyway, Anchorage

About:
A fascinating excavation of early film history and showmanship.

I previously wrote about the film for DOC NYC’s program, saying:
Years ago, local Iowa historian and eccentric collector Michael Zahs chanced upon a cache of early films and cinema memorabilia belonging to Frank Brinton, a showman who brought moving pictures to America’s heartland in the earliest years of the art form. Discovering that the collection includes rare treasures, including a lost Georges Méliès short, Zahs sets out on a mission to restore and preserve not only this work, but the fascinating legacy of Brinton himself.

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Seattle 2018: Documentary Overview

Festival:
The 44th Seattle International Film Festival

Dates:
May 17-June 10

About:
The largest and most attended festival in the US offers audiences approximately 65 feature docs among a lineup presenting more than 400 features and shorts. Continue reading

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On TV: BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY

Coming to PBS’s American Masters tomorrow, Friday, May 18:
BOMBSHELL: THE HEDY LAMARR STORY

Director:
Alexandra Dean

Premiere:
Tribeca 2017

Select Festivals:
Nantucket, Jerusalem, Vancouver, Woodstock, Adelaide

About:
The story of the glamorous Hollywood actress, focused on her groundbreaking work as an inventor.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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Docaviv 2018 Overview

Festival:
The 20th anniversary Docaviv: The Tel Aviv International Documentary Film Festival

Dates:
May 17-26

About:
The Tel Aviv nonfiction event closes out its second decade with approximately 90 new and recent features. Continue reading

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On DVD: ON PUTIN’S BLACKLIST

New to DVD this week:
ON PUTIN’S BLACKLIST

Director:
Boris Ivanov

Premiere:
Vancouver 2017

About:
An investigation of Russia’s foreign adoption ban and what it reveals about the nation’s broader international politics.

Ivanov’s film begins as an exploration of the complicated nature of international adoptions of Russian children, only to note how the ban of this practice ends up disrupting the plans of several families and the potentially bright futures of countless Russian orphans. Ivanov suggests a larger, more insidious, and wholly politically-motivated reason for the ban and how it is reflective of the new Cold War: Putin’s desire to undercut America’s global dominance. In this case, the ban is connected to homophobic rhetoric, anti-gay laws, and the persecution of LGBT people in Russia, and involves countries that recognize same-sex marriage. But the film continues to broaden out further and further, away from the ostensible focus on adoption to draw in by now quite familiar stories of further abuses of power and human decency by the state, including attacks on NGOs, artists like Pussy Riot, and pretty much anyone else who doesn’t tow the xenophobic, jingoistic party line. The result is a very messy, unfocused project that seems to aspire to a political critique but isn’t able to properly juggle the massive topic in a sensible or satisfying manner.

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