Category Archives: Overviews

New York Film Festival 2016: Documentary Overview

1437138_1280x720The 54th annual New York Film Festival opens this Friday, September 30, and runs through Sunday, October 16. As has been the case in recent years, nonfiction has been embraced by the event’s programmers in contrast to its historical neglect, with documentaries making up nearly half of the more than fifty offered new feature films. Particularly notable is the selection of Ava DuVernay’s exploration of mass incarceration in America, 13TH, as NYFF’s Opening Night Film – the first time a documentary has claimed that coveted slot, and one of two docs in the program’s Main Slate. A sampling of other nonfiction follows below. Continue reading

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Toronto 2016: Documentary Overview

tiffThis week will see the film industry descend on the Toronto International Film Festival, which begins its fifth decade this Thursday, September 8. Once again, the event will turn the spotlight on over 280 new and recent feature films, in addition to shorts, retrospectives, television, and panels. Nearly 60 documentary or hybrid feature films are on offer, including numerous world premieres as well as buzzed about titles just fresh from Venice or Telluride berths. The following offers some highlights of this year’s impressive roster: Continue reading

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Telluride 2016: Documentary Overview

telluride_film_festival_posterServing as a bellweather for the upcoming awards season and a celebration of the love of film, the annual Telluride Film Festival kicks off today, Friday, September 2. Keeping with tradition, the beloved event’s lineup was just revealed yesterday, and is now available online via its program guide. Through its wrap on Monday, September 5, the 43rd edition will showcase nearly 40 new and recent features, with nonfiction representing more than half its offerings. Among these are the following:

chasingtrane_03Twelve documentary programs are included in the main slate, Show. These include: Errol Morris’ THE B-SIDE: ELSA DORFMAN’S PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY, about the celebrated oversized Polaroid photographer and her work; Werner Herzog’s INTO THE INFERNO, which follows the work of a leading volcanologist; Angus Macqueen’s THE END OF EDEN, about the impact of modern civilization on a hitherto undisturbed remote Brazilian tribe; Kief Davidson and Richard Ladkani’s THE IVORY GAME, on attempts to protect African elephants from poachers; Ryan Suffern’s FINDING OSCAR, which follows the forensic detective work to discover what happened to the survivors of a brutal Guatemalan massacre; Doug Nichol’s CALIFORNIA TYPEWRITER, a love letter to a typewriter repair store and to those who still cherish the not-quite obsolete writing implement; and John Scheinfeld’s CHASING TRANE (pictured), on the legendary John Coltrane.

beautiesofthenight_01Additional nonfiction appears in sections devoted to films about films and tributes to filmmakers and performers, Backlot and Frontlot/Backlot. Among these are María José Cuevas’ BEAUTIES OF THE NIGHT (pictured), a portrait of aging Mexican showgirls; Janus Køster-Rasmussen’s COOL CATS, a portrait of American jazz musicians in Denmark after jazz fell from favor in America; and Steven Okazaki’s MIFUNE: THE LAST SAMURAI, a celebration of the Japanese actor best known for his classic collaborations with Akira Kurosawa.

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Venice 2016: Documentary Overview

Venezia-73-legiurieThis Wednesday, August 31 kicks off the 73rd Venice Film Festival, which runs until Sunday, September 10. Positioned at the start of Fall, the oldest film fest in the world is once again being eyed as a launchpad for awards season hopefuls, together with Telluride and Toronto. Among its more than a hundred feature offerings are nearly three dozen new feature documentaries, spread throughout most of its programming sections and in the autonomous Venice Days lineup:

dawson cityThe competitive sections remain overwhelmingly fiction-focused, with only two works of nonfiction represented in Venezia 73 – Terrence Malick’s VOYAGE OF TIME: LIFE’S JOURNEY and Massimo D’Anolfi and Martina Parenti’s elemental “visual sympathy,” SPIRA MIRABILIS – and three in the innovation-oriented Orizzonti: Bill Morrison’s excavation of a long-lost cache of early films, DAWSON CITY: FROZEN TIME (pictured); Wang Bing’s look at the challenges for migrants in East China, BITTER MONEY; and Federica Di Giacomo’s modern-day exorcism profile, LIBERAMI.

austerlitzThere’s more parity in the Out of Competition strand, with docs making up nearly half of the 19 features, including: Sergei Loznitsa’s AUSTERLITZ (pictured), a meditation on Holocaust memorials as tourist attractions; Ulrich Seidl’s SAFARI, which follows European tourists on African hunting safaris; Charlie Siskel’s AMERICAN ANARCHIST, about the haunted writer of THE ANARCHIST COOKBOOK; Kasper Collin’s I CALLED HIM MORGAN, on a noted jazz musician who was shot by his wife during a performance; and Bruno Chiaravalloti, Claudio Jampaglia, and Benedetta Argentieri’s OUR WAR, a profile of three Westerners battling ISIS alongside embattled Kurdish fighters.

along for the rideDocumentary’s primary home at Venice, like at Cannes, is in the Classics sidebar, where films about filmmaking appear alongside restored classics. Among the docs here are: Jon Nguyen, Olivia Neergaard-Holm, and Rick Barnes’ DAVID LYNCH: THE ART LIFE, wherein the celebrated filmmaker discusses his artistic practice and history; Nick Ebeling’s ALONG FOR THE RIDE (pictured), an overview of Dennis Hopper’s career via his enigmatic, ever-present friend; Claire Simon’s LE CONCOURS, an intimate look at the admission process of the pre-eminent Paris film school, La Femis; and Michael Palm’s CINEMA FUTURES, about the impact on archives of cinema’s digital transition.

francaRounding out the official selection, Cinema nel Giardino offers local fare, including Francesco Carrozzini’s FRANCA: CHAOS AND CREATION (pictured), a portrait of the director’s mother, Italian Vogue‘s editor-in-chief; and Michele Santoro’s ROBINÙ, a profile of young Mafia heads; while one documentary appears in the festival’s Final Cut in Venice works-in-progress program, Soudade Kaadan’s OBSCURE.

Luomo-che-non-cambiò-la-storia-1-1024x781Of the two autonomously programmed sidebars, International Critics’ Week again includes no nonfiction, while Venice Days offers seven works of its 22 feature selections, including both opening and closing selections: Andreas Dalsgaard and Obaidah Zytoon’s THE WAR SHOW, a personal chronicle of Syria’s descent into civil war; and Paola Piacenza’s THE WAR WITHIN, which follows a war correspondent back to the Syrian jail where he was held for five months. Among the other docs presented are Thierry Demaiziere and Alban Teurlai’s ROCCO, a profile of legendary Italian porn star Rocco Siffredi; and Enrico Caria’s L’UOMO CHE NON CAMBIÒ LA STORIA (pictured), about an anti-Fascist Italian professor who plotted to kill Mussolini and Hitler.

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Sarajevo 2016: Documentary Overview

cfdb0c44d6883de8540b8e66e2e30d97_XLToday, Friday, August 12 kicks off the 22nd Sarajevo Film Festival, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s premier cinema event. Running through Saturday, August 20, the festival presents over 100 new features, among them nearly 40 works of nonfiction.

four passportsThe Documentary Competition, focused on work from the Balkans, includes such titles as: Mladen Kovacevic’s WALL OF DEATH, AND ALL THAT, a melancholy portrait of a motorcycle stunt-riding Serbian grandmother; Berke Bas and Melis Birder’s BAGLAR, about a Kurdish basketball team; Đorđe Čenić and Hermann Peseckas’ DOWN THERE, an autobiographical look back at Yugoslavian guest workers in Austria; Siniša Vidović’s KORIDA, an exploration of Bosnian bullfights; Mihajlo Jevtic’s FOUR PASSPORTS (pictured), a personal reflection on national identity and leaving home; and Tarik Hodžić’s SCREAM FOR ME SARAJEVO, which focuses on a music concert held against the odds in the midst of the siege of the capital – the latter also the subject of out of competition title THE SIEGE, by Rémy Ourdan and Patrick Chauvel.

sarajevo-rosesAmong the other nonfiction offerings elsewhere in the program are several titles in the national cinema showcase BH Film, including: Damir Pirić’s ROCK ‘N’ WAR… OR JUST BECAUSE IT’S FRIDAY, which details the importance of the wartime music scene in Bosnia; Roger M Richards’ SARAJEVO ROSES (pictured), a two decade long portrait of Sarajevo residents before, during, and after the war; Hari Šečić’s SEARCHING FOR HOME, a portrait of a Srebrenica survivor living as a refugee in the US; and Benjamin Dizdarević’s CUT, about a man on a mission to share his love of 35mm film.

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Dokufest 2016 Overview

DokuFest-2016-bannerKosovo’s 15th annual Dokufest launches today in Prizren, Friday, August 5 and continues through Saturday, August 13. The respected event will once again present a well-curated collection of some of the most interesting work that has popped up at other international events over the course of the past year, offering local audiences a chance to sample work in various thematic strands including environmental, human rights, and music docs, among others.

eva rasOf particular note are the offerings in the Balkan Dox competition, representing nonfiction work from the region. Included here are: Mathieu Jouffre’s DRUMS OF RESISTANCE, which recounts the response to the banning of Albanian education during the waning days of Yugoslavia; Elton Baxhaku and Eriona Çami’s SELITA, a look at efforts to stop the displacement of Roma by a highway construction project; Maria Averina’s FROM CREMONA TO CREMONA, following a violin factory worker as he dreams of visiting the Italian site of the world’s finest violins; Igor Grubić’s MONUMENT, which looks at the destruction of anti-fascist monuments during a time of hyper nationalism; André Gil Mata’s HOW I FELL IN LOVE WITH EVA RAS (pictured), which filters Yugoslavian history through a woman’s projection of old films; Ivan Mandić’s YOURS TRULY, SEXYMAJA, about an infamous sexworker blogger who was rumoured to not exist; and Roland Sejko’s THE AWAITING, a meditation on Albanian history through the lens of religion.

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Locarno 2016: Documentary Overview

Film-Festival-Locarno-2016Tomorrow, Wednesday, August 3 sees the opening of the 69th annual Locarno Film Festival, which this year will offer nearly 100 new and recent features over the course of its run, which ends on Sunday, August 13. About a third of these are nonfiction or hybrid projects, with some highlights noted below: Continue reading

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