Category Archives: Recommendations

89th Oscars: Best Documentary Feature Nominees

i-_am_not_your_-negroThe Best Documentary Feature Oscar finalists were announced this morning, together with all the other categories – the entire list of nominees has been posted by the Academy here. The documentaries are listed below. Congratulations to all the nominees – which were all on the DOC NYC Short List, and include two Sundance alums! – and good luck on Sunday, February 26!

13TH

FIRE AT SEA

I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO

LIFE, ANIMATED

OJ: MADE IN AMERICA

Congrats also to the Documentary Shorts nominees:
EXTREMIS
4.1 MILES
JOE’S VIOLIN (produced by DOC NYC’s Raphaela Neihausen)
WATANI: MY HOMELAND
THE WHITE HELMETS

In addition, a documentary figures in the Best Music (Original Song) race, via “The Empty Chair,” featured in JIM:THE JAMES FOLEY STORY.

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Special Note: w(n)td & 2017 Sundance

sundance 2017The 2017 Sundance Film Festival kicks off tonight, Thursday, January 19, and runs through Sunday, January 29. Because of my responsibilities as a Programming Associate for the festival, w(n)td will be on hiatus for the event’s duration – regular daily weekday posting will not resume until Monday, January 30.

Follow me on Twitter, to keep up with Sundance, and also follow my Sundance 2017 Twitter list to experience the festival through the eyes of this year’s filmmakers.

To catch up with Sundance doc programming, here are links to my series of 2017 Sundance documentary profiles, divided by festival section:

US Documentary Competition
questCASTING JONBENET

CHASING CORAL

CITY OF GHOSTS

DINA

DOLORES

THE FORCE

ICARUS

THE NEW RADICAL

NOBODY SPEAK: HULK HOGAN, GAWKER AND TRIALS OF A FREE PRESS

QUEST: THE FURY AND THE SOUND (pictured)

STEP

STRONG ISLAND

TROPHY

UNREST

WATER & POWER: A CALIFORNIA HEIST

WHOSE STREETS?

 

World Cinema Documentary Competition
in loco parentisTHE GOOD POSTMAN

IN LOCO PARENTIS (pictured)

IT’S NOT YET DARK

JOSHUA: TEENAGER VS SUPERPOWER

LAST MEN IN ALEPPO

MACHINES

MOTHERLAND

PLASTIC CHINA

RUMBLE: THE INDIANS WHO ROCKED THE WORLD

TOKYO IDOLS

WINNIE

THE WORKERS CUP

 

Documentary Premieres
legion of brothers500 YEARS

BENDING THE ARC

CRIES FROM SYRIA

GIVE ME FUTURE

AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER

LEGION OF BROTHERS (pictured)

LONG STRANGE TRIP

OKLAHOMA CITY

RANCHER, FARMER, FISHERMAN

TAKE EVERY WAVE: THE LIFE OF LAIRD HAMILTON

TELL THEM WE ARE RISING: THE STORY OF BLACK COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES

THIS IS EVERYTHING: GIGI GORGEOUS

TRUMPED: INSIDE THE GREATEST POLITICAL UPSET OF ALL TIME

UNTITLED BUENA VISTA SOCIAL CLUB DOCUMENTARY

 

New Frontier
did you wonder18 BLACK GIRLS / BOYS AGES 1-18 WHO HAVE ARRIVED AT THE SINGULARITY AND ARE THUS SPIRITUAL MACHINES: $X IN AN EDITION OF $97 QUADRILLION

DID YOU WONDER WHO FIRED THE GUN? (pictured)

WORLD WITHOUT END (NO REPORTED INCIDENTS)

 

 

Midnight
78/5278/52

 

 

 

 

 

Kids
mars generationTHE MARS GENERATION

 

 

 

 

 

Spotlight
look and seeLOOK AND SEE: A PORTRAIT OF WENDELL BERRY

 

 

 

 

 

Special Events

time kalief browderABSTRACT: THE ART OF DESIGN

THE HISTORY OF COMEDY

HOT GIRLS WANTED: TURNED ON

RISE

TIME: THE KALIEF BROWDER STORY (pictured)

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In Theatres: BEHEMOTH

behemoths_stillComing to theatres next Friday, January 27:
BEHEMOTH

Director:
Zhao Liang

Premiere:
Venice 2015

Select Festivals:
IDFA, New Directors/New Films, Dubai, True/False, DocAviv, Moscow, Sheffield, Melbourne, Stockholm, Hong Kong, Istanbul

About:
A poetic meditation on the environmental impact of China’s rapid economic development.

Taking a more experimental approach than his past work, the social issue documentarian exposes the ecological and human costs of industry through unsettling tableaux of destroyed landscapes set to Dante’s THE DIVINE COMEDY. Using visually impactful images of the stark borders between verdant fields and neighboring desolation, the filmmaker demonstrates the devastation wrought by dangerous coal mining practices. Occasionally, he inserts naked figures within these hellscapes, but these unnecessary stylistic flourishes carry far less weight than images of miners and their families suffering from their toxic work. While its attempt to merge nonfiction with video art is not always successful, the film’s imagery proves disturbingly memorable.

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In Theatres: THE AGE OF CONSEQUENCES

key-image-the-age-of-consequences-pf-pictures-mike-mcsweeney-copyComing to theatres next Friday, January 27:
THE AGE OF CONSEQUENCES

Director:
Jared P Scott

Premiere:
Hot Docs 2016

Select Festivals:
DOC NYC, Sheffield, Telluride Mountainfilm, Antenna Doc, Waimea Ocean Festival, Wild & Scenic

About:
Global unrest viewed through the lens of climate change.

I previously wrote about the film for DOC NYC, saying:
Taking an eye-opening approach to climate change, Scott’s film reframes concern for the environment into a question of international security. Viewed by the US military and security experts as a “threat multiplier” for instability, climate change is repositioned at the heart of current global unrest. Droughts and floods lead to food shortages, conflict over resources and mass displacement. Will the world succumb to these cascading disasters or take steps to prevent them?

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On TV: RACHEL CARSON

rachel carsonComing to PBS’s American Experience this coming Tuesday, January 24:
RACHEL CARSON

Director:
Michelle Ferrari

Premiere:
American Experience (January 2017)

About:
A portrait of the woman whose writing popularized the environmental movement.

Rachel Carson was a marine biologist working for the US Fish and Wildlife Services when she began to combine her lifelong love of writing with an interest in making science accessible, penning articles for the likes of READER’S DIGEST. Eventually, she transitioned to becoming a full-time author, after her second book, THE SEA AROUND US, became a best-seller and National Book Award Winner. While this and the other books in her sea trilogy changed the way readers viewed the oceans and the life they sustained, Carson affected the most significant change in public perception with SILENT SPRING, her 1962 book exposing the hidden dangers of pesticides like DDT, which had been unquestioningly embraced by the US government since WWII as part of a shortsighted view of “better living through chemistry.” Ferrari hews close to the standard American Experience format in this illuminating if conventionally constructed profile, reviewing her subject’s accomplishments through narration as well as talking head commentary from Carson biographers. The film also relates Carson’s pseudo-lesbian relationship with Dorothy Freeman and her struggle with cancer which claimed the author’s life less than two years after her groundbreaking book’s publication, which remains a cornerstone of environmental awareness to this day.

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On VOD: RESET

1237700_large_reset_original_1New to VOD this week:
RESET

Directors:
Thierry Demaizière and Alban Teurlai

Premiere:
French TV 2015

Select Festivals:
Tribeca, Sydney, Jerusalem, Melbourne, IDFA, Seattle, Vancouver

About:
A new director aims to shake up the Paris Opera Ballet.

I previously wrote about the doc here.

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Slamdance 2017: Documentary Overview

slamdanceThe 23rd edition of the Slamdance Film Festival runs this Friday, January 20 through next Thursday, January 26. The event offers just over two dozen features to compete with its higher-profile neighbor, Sundance, among them the below ten doc features:

the-children-send-their-regards-program-film-still-02_600Making their world premiere are: Cullen Hoback’s WHAT LIES UPSTREAM, following the filmmaker’s investigation into drinking water contamination; Stephen Richardson’s BOGALUSA CHARM, a portrait of a Louisiana charm school; Patricia Josefine Marchart’s THE CHILDREN SEND THEIR REGARDS (pictured), about now adult victims of clergy sexual abuse; Scott Drucker and Yu Gu’s WHO IS ARTHUR CHU?, a profile of a JEOPARDY winner-turned-cultural critic; Michael Rubenstone’s ON THE SLY: IN SEARCH OF THE FAMILY STONE, about the filmmaker’s ill-fated quest to track down the reclusive musician; and Stefan Avalos’ STRAD STYLE, which follows a man’s attempt to reproduce a Stradivari violin.

the_modern_jungle-5x7-3_600Charles Fairbanks and Saul Kak’s look at indigenous Oaxacan lives, THE MODERN JUNGLE (pictured), makes its North American premiere at the festival. US premieres include Matteo Borgardt’s YOU NEVER HAD IT: AN EVENING WITH BUKOWSKI, which repurposes a lost interview into a new portrait of the writer; and Pete Gleeson’s HOTEL COOLGARDIE, which follows the latest in a string of new young female bartenders in an Australian mining town. Finally, the festival also screens DOC NYC alum SUPERGIRL, Jesse Auritt’s portrait of an Orthodox Jewish teenage powerlifting champion.

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