The Film Experience™ was created by Nathaniel R

 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | instagram | letterboxd | deviantart 


Powered by Squarespace
Comment Fun

We're Thankful For... !


"Thank you to all the contributors & commentors for teaching me about movies!" - Andrew

"This is such a wonderful list for how full it is of cinematic joy, not just the everything of Carol..." - Ben1283

"Yes to all of this!! :)!" -Squasher88


Keep TFE Strong



Your suscription dimes make an enormous difference to The Film Experience in terms of stability and budget to dream bigger. Consider...

I ♥ The Film Experience


For those who can't commit to a dime a day, consider a one time donation for an article or a series you are glad you didn't have to live without.

What'cha Looking For?

Entries in documentaries (155)


Amy, Marlon, Janis and Kurt's Documentaries Raise Ethical Questions

Glenn here. As the world of documentary filmmaking grows and grows, biography docs are among the most popular and easiest to sell. This pre-sold name-brand familiarity makes them more desirable to financiers, producers, directors, distributors, exhibitors, festivals, and ultimately audiences. It’s hardly surprising that of the Academy’s 124-strong long-list (to be narrowed to 15 any day now) at least 20 cover the life of a famous person in the public eye. And if you want to stretch the parameters to include institutions such as National Lampoon, Saturday Night Live, Tower Records, The Black Panthers, The Bolshoi Theatre etc, the number balloons. They are also among the highest profile submissions, too, with names like Nina Simone, Evel Kenievel and Chris Farley simply standing out more than geo-politics, homophobia in the Middle East, or Cambodian rock and roll.

This sub-category of documentary were once considered more frivolous and less serious, but have recently begun to win Oscar attention with titles such as Exit through the Gift Shop, Man on Wire, and even Wim Wenders’ Pina and Salt of the Earth. As a result, ethical questions about this kind of documentary filmmaking are rising up. I know it doesn't sound sexy, but bear with me for Amy Winehouse, Marlon Brando, and other luminaries after the jump....

Click to read more ...


PGA Documentary Nominations: Are They Actually Bad Luck for Oscar?

Precursor awards are like microwave popcorn. It takes a second for the bag to heat up and then things really start popping. Today the Producers Guild of America named their nominees for Theatrical Documentary Features. The Producers Guild Award winners will be presented on Saturday, January 23, 2016 in Los Angeles. 

Documentary Feature Nominees

The only one of these titles I hadn't personally heard of before today was Something Better to Come, a poverty-doc about children living on a gabarge dump in Moscow. More on what this list does and doesn't mean for Oscar after the jump...

Click to read more ...


Oscar Updates: Doc, Shorts, and Animation Charts

The Academy branches have been furiously screening all sort of less heralded fare of late. Tim already talked us through the animated shorts and I'm most intrigued by the Chilean allegory about a bear ripped from his circus life and a film about Russian astronauts. But there's more to uncover!

Heads up that we've updated that shorts, animation, and documentary section of our famed Oscar Charts. Click over and read up on the fascinating competitions.

As with all things Oscar, the shorts categories do get more attention than they once did many moons ago -- particularly with that mini theatrical tour of the nominated films each year --  but it's still not much.

Live Action Shorts
This year we've got barbers shaving cartel leaders, interpreters delivering babies, nuns interrupted, little boys in big wars, father and daughter visits gone awry, and much more in the Live Action shorts category. There's even a title with Q'Orianka Kilcher from The New World (!!!) and Vincent Kartheiser from Mad Men in the mix called Winter Light that bills itself as a "revisionist Western thriller". The ten finalists are quite a mix of types with thrillers, comedies, dramas, war films, and westerns accounted for.

Documentary Shorts
This tends to be the category most likely to trigger massive depressive episodes and this year is no exception: war, ebola, war, honor killings, war, The Holocaust, rape, and did I mention war? I personally can't even deal. Not this particular season.

Animated Features
This category continues to feel sewn up for Inside Out but the real drama is "how many nominees will we get?" since there's less films eligible than usual. If they still go with five, do you think Peanuts can surprise?

Documentary Features
I've been grilling members of the documentary branch over cocktails and light h'ors doeuvres at various parties of late. One charming older gentleman even pulled out a handwritten list of his favorites to read from only to pocket it again as if to torture me from suspense. High profile competitors (Amy, Going Clear, The Look of Silence, Best of Enemies) definitely have fans. Not that that means anything as this branch often surprises with both their finalist list and what gets shut out so nothing can be called "safe". But if something is safe maybe it's Cartel Land which has been name-checked with great frequency. Random shoutouts abound including Iris, Winter's on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom, Where to Invade Next, and Meru. Sadly I haven't heard one mention of friskier / weirder critical darlings like The Wolfpack or Laurie Anderson's Heart of a Dog.

See the charts


'Sherpa' and 'Only the Dead' Capture the Escalation of Tragedy

Glenn here to discuss two Australian films on Oscar's documentary long list.

Jennifer Peedom’s Sherpa began life as an otherwise unassuming documentary about a man most people would never get to know. If the production of this Australian-made documentary about Mount Everest’s most revered guide had continued as planned, it would have no doubt been an informative and satisfying portrait of Phurba Tashi and his people – the Sherpa are an ethnic group – as well as their quiet village life in the mountains of Nepal.

But the production didn't go as planned...

Click to read more ...


Ballet 422 & A Ballerina’s Tale

Manuel here talking about two documentaries about the New York City ballet scene.

Ballet 422 follows Justin Peck, the youngest ever choreographer tapped with creating a ballet for the New York City Ballet. As a behind-the-scenes look at how a ballet piece is put together, from choosing a musical piece to deciding what color the costumes should be, the Jody Lee Lipes film is illuminating. The film, available on Netflix already, mines all of Peck’s whose nervousness in the run-up to the debut of his ballet for all the drama it’s worth, though the more fascinating moments of the doc come courtesy of the grueling rehearsal process that’s peppered throughout. More interesting, perhaps, is the latent argument for contemporaneity and youthfulness that characterizes the decision to choose up-and-comer Peck for this prestigious honor, but in making a film about dance, it makes sense that those larger cultural conversations are kept in the background rather than taking center stage.

A Ballerina's Tale has loftier goals. Currently playing in select cities, the film follows ballet superstar Misty Copeland. Nelson George’s doc is at both a look at the effects of the punishing art of ballet dancing on Copeland, as well as a living document of the systemic and institutional biases that the first black ballerina to be promoted to principal dancer in ABT's 75-year history, has had to deal with on a daily basis. It is a testament to Copeland’s commitment to honoring those that came before her, that what would easily (and in many ways still is) a vanity project that enshrines her as a central part of African-American cultural history, A Ballerina’s Tale spends most of its running time contextualizing Copeland’s own rise to fame and the way she’s used her platform to advocate for a more diverse vision of ballet, one that moves beyond the relatively recent post-Balanchine history of ballet as overrun with prepubescent, waif-like white ballerinas.

Ballet 422 and A Ballerina's Tale, (the former on the hunt for the Documentary Oscar), make a great double feature on an art that’s clearly struggling with how to appeal and mirror its modern audiences. Any TFE readers who are also ballet aficionados care to weigh in?


IDA Nominations Honor Amy, Kurt, Nina and Marlon

Glenn here. The nominations and specialty category winners were announced today for the 31st International Documentary Association Awards. It's a line-up heavy on artist portraits, Ukraine, and films heavy on the use of archive footage. Last year's IDA list featured three eventual Oscar nominees (Finding Vivian Maier, Salt of the Earth and the winner of both Citizenfour), but other years since 2010 the number has only been two. Except 2011 when the IDA people went way off course (in the best possible way) and awarded Patricio Guzman's Nostalgia for the Light with no eventual Oscar nominees in their list (Guzman's The Pearl Button didn't find favor from them this year, though).

I see no reason why this year won't follow that ratio status quo. But firstly let's take a look at the nominees.


  • Amy
  • The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution
  • Listen to Me Marlon
  • The Look of Silence
  • The Russian Woodpecker
  • What Happened, Miss Simone?

I am extremely pleased to see the excellent Russian Woodpecker cited here. If Oscar could pay attention to that superb examination of paranoia amid the Ukrainian revolution then I would be more than ecstatic. And if you have the chance to see it then do yourself a favour. But what about the rest...

Click to read more ...


Trailers for Short Oscar finalists

AMPAS has selected 10 documentary shorts from their undoubtedly long (unpublished that we know of) eligibility list to compete for the 5 nominations in the category. For those who are unaware the short film race at the Oscars each year can be a hodgepodge of years (no release dates apply obviously) because the shorts qualify for the competition by winning prizes at Oscar-qualifying festivals around the world. (The short film categories are often as international as the Foreign Language Film Award.) And the festival journey can be a long one for tiny low profile films. 

Doc trailers after the jump and a few Animated shorts, too...

Click to read more ...