A List of Documentaries Opening in Theaters in May, 2012
- First Position - Directed by Bess Kargman - The documentary follows six extremely talented and dedicated young dancers -- aged nine to 19 -- as they prepare to perform before the judges at the Youth America Grand Prix, an annual ballet competition that awards scholarships and can launch winners into careers as professional ballet dancers. The film takes you into the rehearsal halls, studios and the kids' homes, giving you rare access and an unusual perspective on the world of ballet. All of the film's principal subjects are dedicated in their resolve to become principal dancers. And, as with other documentaries that chronicle competitions between aspiring kids -- Racing Dreams and Louder Than A Bomb come immediately to mind -- you wind up rooting for a favorite. You experience the joy of those who win and the disappointment of those who don't. And, you are inspired by the resolve and ability that makes all these kids winners.
- Last Call At The Oasis - Directed by Jessica Yu - Drawing upon an A-list of environmental activists -- including Erin Brockovich-Ellis, among others -- Jessica Yu presents a powerful call to action to conserve the world's rapidly diminishing fresh water supply. With a compelling compilation of comments by the experts intercut with exquisitely shot footage of Earth's rivers, lakes and waterfalls and images showing the consequences of pollution and drought around the world, the film establishes in no uncertain terms that there must be revisions in the ways fresh water is used -- squandered, really -- by agricultural and industrial interests, before it is too late. Even if you've already been made aware of the fresh water crisis by other documentaries such as Water Wars: and FLOW: For Love of Water -- or other reliable sources, Last Call At The Oasis will activate you to step up to the cause.
- Patience: After Sebald - Directed by Grant Gee - In this intriguing literary documentary, filmmaker Grant Gee takes an unusual, highly creative approach to exploring the work of W G Sebald's The Rings of Saturn, a novel set on the coast of County Suffolk, England. Gee films the locations visited in the novel, and mixes his contemporary footage with archival photos (some of which were actually taken by Sebald), plus maps and graphics and scholarly commentaries from scholars on camera and in voice over narration evoke the area's rich history and expand upon the novel's various themes. The result is a moody, poetic and provocative study of what is a moody, poetic and provocative literary work. Even if you are unfamiliar with Sebald's writing, this masterful cinematic expression will fascinate you -- and perhaps spur you to enjoy and investigate the original that inspired it.
- Portrait of Wally - Directed by Andrew Shea - Fine art, history and courtroom drama intersect in this documentary about a painting, Portrait of Wally, by artist Egon Schiele. The legendary painting of Shiele's mistress was part of the famous Vienna-based Leopold Art Collection, and was on loan to New York's Museum of Modern Art as part of a special Leopold Collection exhibit, when it was claimed by the heirs of Lea Bondi, a Viennese art dealer from whom the painting had been 'appropriated' by the Nazis during World War II. Bondi, a personal friend of Schiele's, spent the remainder of her life trying to get the painting back. When her heirs initiated a law suit to prevent the Museum of Modern Art from returning the painting to Vienna and to establish their rightful ownership, the case became a cause celebre among Holocaust survivors and others whose lives had been torn apart by the Nazis. In chronicling the law case, the film also provides a fascinating profile of the lives of Schiele, Wally and Lea Bondi, and of Vienna's cultural ambiance pre-World War II. As is The Rape of Europa, this art history documentary is a stunning reminder of the long lasting and still heavy effects of the Nazi onslaught. It is also a startling revelation about the politics, economics and rampant conflicts of interest represented in the art world, which spills over into the realm of international diplomacy. In case you don't know the outcome of the case, there will be no spoilers here -- but know that there is a resolution that doesn't really put an end to questions raised by the Nazi's theft of fine art and other valuables from victims across the face of Europe.
- Indie Game: The Movie - Directed by Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky - A fascinating and intimate profile of four independent games developers who are incessantly, obsessively seeking to create new and meaningful virtual thrills for the millions of potential fans for their projects. Their talents are exceptional, their commitment extraordinary. Filmmakers Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky introduce key players and shed light on the game industry in an insightful and entertaining way. This is a film that will appeal to all who like digital games, and to those who've never been attracted to them but wonder what the fuss is all about. Actually, as we see in the film, it's about artistry, tech savvy and having something personal to express.
- Mansome - Directed by Morgan Spurlock - Another superficial study from the market savvy Spurlock, this one focusing on men's facial and body hair and the sometimes odd array of products they used to groom themselves. Hefty graphics and celebrity appearances, including those by the film's executive producers, Jason Bateman and Will Arnett, whose shared experiences at a day spa form the skeletal structure of the film, are added to impress the audience and give some star shine to this slick slight of substance shell of a film.