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Documentaries Blog

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Picking Your Favorite Documentaries

Friday May 16, 2014

Here are reviews of documentaries listed in alphabetical order from A to C (with more letters soon to be added). Check out the titles. Let us know which are your favorites! And are there any others you highly recommend to be included on the list?

Movie Review: 'The E-Team' is a Real Life A Team!

Monday May 12, 2014

In The E-Team, filmmakers Katy Chevigny and Ross Kauffman follow heroic Human Rights Watch activists as they covertly enter regional conflict zones in Syria and Libya, risking life and limb to investigate and report on ongoing human rights atrocities to the wide world.

Their goal is to call forth international intervention to stop further violations and bring perpetrators to justice.

The documentary is a real life thriller, with huge social consciousness. Read my full review.

(PHOTO: 'E-Team' Poster Art. Courtesy Big Mouth Productions)

'Under The Electric Sky' is More Than Surround Sound!

Wednesday May 7, 2014

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Under the Electric Sky, the 3D music documentary about the 2013 Electric Dance Carnival, promises you more than surround sound. Visual effects are designed to make you feel like you're actually at the Las Vegas event, which gathered some 350,000 spirited fans for electric music's biggest party to date. Part of the film's promise to fans is that they can host their own screening of the 3D spectacular at their local theater. Want to join in? Read more...

(Photo: Under The Electric Sky still. Courtesy Focus Features)

Behold The Documentary Studio System!

Sunday May 4, 2014

Documentaries are considered to be independent films, made outside the Hollywood studio system.

Relatively few documentaries wear the Warner Brothers, Universal, Columbia, Fox, Disney or Radius/Weinstein label, although most studios now have departments that produce, finance and/or distribute nonfiction films.

It's fairly clear that documentaries made with studio funding and/or distribution don't really qualify as independent films.

But can all of the nonfiction films made outside the studio system really be considered as independent?

In many cases, the answer is no. Read more...

(PHOTOS: Hot Docs 2014 Pitch Forum. Courtesy Hot Docs.)

'Point and Shoot' Wins Best Documentary Award At Tribeca Film Festival

Sunday April 27, 2014
Point and Shoot, filmmaker Marshall Curry's fascinating profile of 'freedom fighter' Matt VanDyke and his exploits in Libya, has one the juried award for Best Documentary at the 2014 Tribeca Film Festival, where the film premiered on April 19. The film is next to be seen at Hot Docs in Toronto and then elsewhere on the festival circuit, hopefully leading up to a well-deserved theatrical release. Read my full review.

POV's @docuqueen is NYC's new Movies Czarina

Sunday April 20, 2014

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has named Cynthia Lopez (@docuqueen) as the new commissioner to head the city's Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting, replacing Katherine Oliver, who held the appointed position during the Michael Bloomberg administration.

Before her appointment as NYC's Movies Czarina, Lopez served as executive vice president and co-executive producer of PBS' highly acclaimed and successful POV documentaries enterprise.

At POV, Lopez was responsible for programming, community engagement, digital strategies, overall strategic growth and all aspects of the organization's development. During her tenure, POV was recognized with numerous awards and last year was among the 13 nonprofits worldwide to receive a $1 million MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions.

Lopez has long been a guiding light and mainstay of support in NYC's documentaries community. The doc world's response to her appointment has been uniformly enthusiastic.

As the Office of Film, Theatre & Broadcasting Commissioner, Lopez will deal with narrative as well as documentary production in NYC, and will be responsible for developing and growing all aspects of the movie and television industry in the city.

Currently NYC averages 200 films -- ranging from studio blockbusters to low-budget indies and documentaries -- shot in within the five boroughs annually, and 29 television series are based in the Big Apple, employing an estimated 130,000 New Yorkers in behind the scenes film and TV production jobs. There are no available stats on what percentages of those numbers relate specifically to documentaries, but the documentary community is hopeful that Lopez's appointment as de Blasio's Movies Czarina will promote an even more doc-friendly environment in NYC,

(PHOTO: Cynthia Lopez. Courtesy POV)

Weekend Watching: On Library Shelves April 11-13, 2014

Saturday April 12, 2014

Always a good source for fine documentary fare, your local library's shelves are stacked with DVDs that you can borrow and watch for free!

Prominent on my neighborhood New York Public Library St. Agnes Branch this weekend are:

  • Buck -Directed by Cindy Meehl, the bio doc follows Buck Brannigan, otherwise known as 'the original horsewhisperer,' who trains testy horses and their intimidated owners how to ride in harmony. A great film for the seasonal change, when everyone's eager to get outdoors and ride!
  • Inside Job - Directed by Charles Ferguson, the film is an in depth investigation about the financial crisis of 2008, why it came about and its ongoing impact on the world's economies. An interesting watch while you prepare for this year's income tax filing deadline.
  • Racing Dreams - Directed by Marshall Curry, the film follows talented youngsters as they compete on the go-kart circuit, racing to kickstart their careers as NASCAR drivers Great for watching with kids.

Enjoy!

'Art of The Real' - New Series @ Lincoln Center Film Society Redefines 'Documentary'

Wednesday April 9, 2014

As always, the Film Society at Lincoln Center is ahead of the crowd...this time with a cutting edge program of nonfiction films.

The FSLC's new annual "Art of the Real" series is a nonfiction showcase founded on the most expansive possible view of documentary film.

The inaugural edition, set for April 11 - 26, features new work from around the world alongside retrospective selections by both known and unjustly forgotten filmmakers. Lofty!

According to FSLC's promotional material, the series "is a platform for filmmakers and artists who have given us a wider view of nonfiction cinema and at the same time brought the form full circle, back to its early, boundary-pushing days."

Curated by Dennis Lim and Rachel Rakes, this year's "The Art of the Real" will present 36 documentaries by an international roster of filmmakers who forge new approaches to production, use unusual storytelling techniques and inventive styles. Altogether, the films are deemed by the programmers to expand traditional definitions of documentary filmmaking -- whatever those definitions may be.

The only "Art of the Real" 2014 film I've seen thus far is Sweetgrass, which was one of my favorite documentaries of 2010. Actually, it might be one of my favorite documentaries of all time.

But I'd have to say that I find the film so engaging because it is -- as I see it -- pure observational cinema of the most traditional kind. It is beautifully filmed, clear in its intent, complete in its presentation of characters and story, without emotion-influencing music or mind-bending graphic embellishments. Whether you call its style traditional or experimental, it conveys the truth about its characters, their concerns and their way of life. It is a cinematic poem of reality. You can read my full review.

I guess that does make it rare and envelope-pushing. Maybe it's Sweetgrass that's the documentary that brings "the form full circle, back to its early, boundary-pushing days."

Actually, I think Sweetgrass has greater authenticity than many of those early documentaries --many of which were, as is widely known, staged -- at least in part.

Anyway, Sweetgrass is a must see, and this is a great opportunity to enjoy its magnificence on the big screen.

The "Art of the Real" series is particular interesting and cutting edge because by giving a platform to films representing a wide variety of documentary documentary styles and production approaches, it informs the general public that nonfiction filmmaking is not just one genre, but many, and it invites the general public to enter into a discussion that's currently hot and heavy within the documentary filmmaking community.

It will be very interesting to see how this particular selection of filmmakers establish their truths.

For the full program, and to order tickets, visit the FSLC Website.

(PHOTO: A still from 'Sweetgrass'.' Courtesy Cinema Guild.)

'My Neighbor, My Killer' Streams on MUBI to Mark the 20th Anniversary of The Rwandan Genocide

Monday April 7, 2014

Monday, April 7, 2014 marks the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. On this day, memorials will be held in Kigali and elsewhere around the world to mourn the loss of humanity during the viciously inhumane rampage of killing in which militant Hutus that took the lives of 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus throughout Rwanda during a period of 100 days in 1994. This heinous period in the history of human civilization must never been forgotten.

Nor will it be, thanks in good measure to the work of filmmaker Anne Aghion, whose documentary, My Neighbor My Killer, brings awareness about the Rwandan genocide to audiences around the world. To mark the 20th anniversary of the ethnic killings, My Neighbor, My Killer will be available to stream worldwide on MUBI for 30 days beginning April 7.

In many ways, My Neighbor, My Killer sets standards for genocide documentaries. It has had unusual social and political impact in Rwanda and around the world, expecially in countries and among people who've experienced genocide For both its historic importance and its cinematic excellence, this documentary is a must see.

Read my full review, my commentary about the film's extraordinary impact and my exclusive interview with filmmaker Anne Aghion.

Celebrate Spring Things with Documentaries!

Sunday April 6, 2014

Spring break. Spring sports. Spring Gardening. Spring Fashion. Horse Racing. Anticipating the end of the school year. These springtime concerns are all the subjects of intriguing documentaries. Celebrate the change of seasons by watching the films on this curated list of documentaries about Spring things. Read more...

(PHOTO: Still from 'The First Saturday in May.' Courtesy of the Hennegan Brothers).

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