An Annotated List of Documentaries Opening in Theaters During December, 2012
- The Big Fix (limited release) - Directed by Joshua Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell - This investigative documentary about the devastating BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico reveals the extent to which corporate negligence and government corruption underscored the impactful ecological disaster resulting from the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in April, 2010. Peter Fonda, Amy Smart and director Joshua Tickell appear in the film.
- Tchoupitoulas (limited release) - Directed by Bill Ross and Turner Ross - Filmmaking brothers Bill and Turner Ross follow three young African-American brothers -- the Zanders boys -- as they hop aboard a ferry from their rural home and head for a night on the town in New Orleans' French Quarter, where they randomly encounter street musicians and clowns, wander in to music clubs, strip joints and pizza parlors, and poke around on an abandoned ship. The Turner brothers intimately capture the wide-eyed wonder of the Zanders boys on camera, and use recordings of their ongoing observational banter as voice over narration to construct an impressionistic and lyrical portrait of youth, youthful aspirations and exuberance. Read my full review.
- Wagner & Me (limited release) - Directed by Patrick McGrady - This music documentary takes you backstage at the Bayreuth Festival, the annual celebration of the work of composer Richard Wagner. Actor, writer and music buff Stephen Fry is the 'Me' in the film's title. Appearing as the lead character on screen, Fry acts as a guide, sharing his sophisticated yet almost childishly enthusiastic exploration of the environments in which Wagner lived and worked, gushing over the opportunity to play a familiar chord on the piano Steinway built for Wagner, revealing many facts and some of the intimacies of the controversial composer's temperament and lifestyle, and expressing his concerns over Wagner's expressed antisemitism. Fry interviews Wagner experts and musicians, but the documentary is really as much about his own appreciation, impressions and interpretations as it is about Wagner and his compositions. One of the film's strongest points is its sound track, a fabulous compilation of excerpts recorded from live performances along with demonstrative clips from well known Wagner interpreters. The film is a good primer on Wagner, but will also please Wagner cognoscenti and delight fans of Stephen Fry. Read my full review.
- Waiting for Lightening (limited release) - Directed by Jacob Rosenberg - This biodoc and tribute to the ongoing career and super feats of pro skateboarder Danny Way presents a thorough and sympathetic grounding on how his hard knocks childhood compelled and propelled this champion athlete to soar beyond fear and physical limitations to accomplish the impossible -- leaping over the Great Wall in China, for example. A terrific compilation of footage of Way's outstanding performances, along with commentary that explains just how difficult and dangerous they were. Terrifying crashes are chronicled, too. Danny Way is a phenom, and the film does him proud.
- Lost Angels: Skid Row Is My Home (limited release) - Directed by Thomas Q. Napper - Shot on Skid Row in Los Angeles, which has one of the largest populations of homeless people in the United States, filmmaker Thomas Q. Napper's documentary follows eight people who are working together to create viable lives for themselves within an environment that's plagued by poverty, drug and alcohol abuse, hopelessness and desperation. They are accomplished individuals -- scholars, lawyers, musicians, athletes and other professionals -- whose lives have been impacted by urban gentrification and job layoffs, by changes in the mental health care system and the increasing criminalization of homeless people. With the support of advocates for the homeless, they're changing their circumstances and making a difference in the lives of others. Actress Catherine Keener narrates this compelling, inspiring true story about human strength of spirit./li>
- Saving America's Horses: A Nation Betrayed - Directed by Katia Louise - Filmmaker Katia Louise, who also heads the Wild For Life Foundation, focuses on the economic, environmental, public health, and ethical issues surrounding the illegal slaughter in America of wild and domestic horses for their meat, which is shipped to and sold in Europe. Presenting a broad and balanced spectrum of opinion through her interviews with veterinarians, trainers, policymakers and celebrity horsemen, including Paul Sorvino and Willie Nelson, among others, Louise creates a compelling case for the complete shut down of the unregulated slaughter by showing the environmental damage it does, and the horrific suffering it causes the animals. The film is sometimes painful to watch, so be judicious about bringing young kids to see it.
- Honor Flight - Directed by Dan Hayes - The film chronicles a day in the life of some Wisconsin folk who ban together to send a group of local World War II veterans -- aged 83 to 97 -- to visit the National World War II Memorial in Washington, DC, and honor fallen colleagues at Arlington National Cemetery. The flight takes off 4:30 AM and returns at 8:30 PM, and for many of the veterans, it's the trip of a lifetime. Throughout the day, the veterans recount their various war experiences and share the wisdom that comes with age. Honor Flight also honors them for the contributions they made during World War II. Note that this is a very patriotic and somewhat sentimental film, and it has a huge following. Its premier screening at Milwaukee's Miller Stadium attracted more than 28,400 audience members, breaking the Guinness World Record for the largest film screening to date. It is a touching tribute to the veterans, and to the folk who work hard to make their special day possible.
- The Loving Story (limited release) - Directed by Nancy Buirski - Filmmaker Nancy Buirski's The Loving Story sheds light on America's turbulent Civil Rights era by focusing on the case of Mildred and Richard Loving, an interracial couple whose love and commitment to each other gave them the strength and courage to challenge separatist laws and, with the help of two young lawyers, win the landmark Supreme Court decision that banned prohibition of interracial marriage, and changed the course of America's social and political history.
- West of Memphis (limited release) - Directed by Amy Berg - In West of Memphis, filmmaker Amy Berg sheds light on new evidence in the infamous West Memphis, Arkansas. The case was covered with depth and passion in Paradise Lost, a trilogy of documentaries that were actually instrumental in freeing the three imprisoned men -- one from death row -- who'd spent 20 years in prison. The story of the West Memphis Three isn't over yet. Beautifully shot and brilliantly edited, Berg's documentary points a finger at the man who most likely murdered three boy scouts, one of whom was his stepson. A fascinating film, whether you've seen Paradise Lost (now available on DVD) or not. Read my full review