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Entries in documentaries (415)

Wednesday
Sep042019

Doc Corner: 'Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles'

By Glenn Dunks

Music documentaries are a dime-a-dozen these days, and musicals have been a Hollywood staple for as long as there has been sound to go alongside the flickering images of movies. But it hadn’t really dawned on me until I watched Max Lewkowicz’s Fiddler: A Miracle of Miracles that documentaries about Broadway shows are surprisingly rare.

Among this rare subgenre The Best Worst Thing That Ever Could Have Happened will probably find a lasting cultural place thanks to Richard Linklaker’s latest long-form cinematic folly of Merrily We Roll Along. It's a surprise that Show Business: The Road to Broadway has not already become a staple thanks to its amazing line-up of big Broadway hitters. There are also shows like  Every Little Step, The Heat is On: The Making of Miss Saigon and Life After Tomorrow, which offer a glimpse back stage to what it is like to put on a Broadway show. But I can’t actually recall a documentary that took a single show like Lewkowicz does with Fiddler on The Roof and examine it all the way from its inception through to its lasting legacy. Perhaps it will inspire some more – I certainly hope so, for A Miracle of Miracles is a delight of a documentary that educated me and made me into a bigger fan of the show...

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Wednesday
Aug282019

Doc Corner: 'Vision Portraits' and 'Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins'

By Glenn Dunks

Aware that people with vision impairments may likely read this review, I have included accessable captions underneath the images. In my day job I regularly have to work to accessibility guidelines and I think it's something we should all think about.

I’m not going to lie. There really isn’t all that much connecting the two films I’m going to talk about today other than they’re both being released around the same time and I wanted to give them some attention. And, truly, what are we even doing here if we can’t throw a wee bit of love to movies that would otherwise go completely under the radar?

Film poster for Vision Portraits showing Rodney Evans' face against colourful lights that are out of focus.I have no doubt that Raise Hell: The Life & Times of Molly Ivins will find an appreciative audience. She was, after all, a famous writer with dedicated fans right up to her death in 2007. I am less convinced that Rodney Evans’ delicate and partly autobiographic Vision Portraits would manage the same. It’s small, you see. Small in the sense that it doesn’t call attention to itself. Small in the sense that it tells its story with grace and humanism and allows its audience to depart with a mind full of contemplation. It is a morsel of a documentary (it is 78 minutes long), but one that should open its viewers to ideas that it would otherwise likely have little reason to consider.

Evans’ film is certainly the most interesting of the pair thematically and stylistically...

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Wednesday
Aug212019

Doc Corner: 'Cold Case Hammarskjöld'

By Glenn Dunks

Sometimes a movie can turn you off in such an extreme fashion that it almost becomes interesting. Almost. Underlined and in bold for effect. After all, I don’t want to give the false impression that Cold Case Hammarskjöld is in any way a movie that you should watch. Lord knows, my reaction to this smug and smarmy directorial ego trip and non-fiction lark was violently negative, and while I admit that there’s something striking about a documentary that so callously appears to mock its subject and audience, Danish director Mads Brügger can’t spin it into a film that I enjoyed the experience of watching.

It’s also, sadly, completely of the moment. It’s themes of international intervention and conspiracy are probably the sort of thing that will no doubt appeal to certain audiences who can't help looking over at the metaphorical grassy knoll. But this story of (possible) intrigue, (maybe) scandal, and even (potential) AIDS warfare (!!!) is treated with none of the acute seriousness that it (probably) deserves...

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Wednesday
Aug142019

Doc Corner: 'What You Gonna Do When the World's on Fire?'

By Glenn Dunks

The streets of New Orleans are the setting for US-based Italian-born Roberto Minervini’s latest examination of the American south. If nothing else, his newest documentary sports the year’s best title. It’s a title that asks a question that many of us have probably asked ourselves, from seats of privilege. 

The title actually comes from a slave-era spiritual, which only further highlights the tragic ways that African Americans have been inflicted by the force of racism across all of its forms for centuries. The contemporary age of Trump is sadly not unique and so there is a particular irony to be found in the answer to the titular question. For many the answer is whatever they need to do to get by. Whether that be protest, go to work, trawl the streets for teenage kicks, or rehearse for Mardi Gras. For most without the agency of privilege, when the world is on fire it’s just a struggle to not get burnt...

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Wednesday
Aug142019

Soundtracking: Documentary Now! - "Original Cast Album: Co-op"

by Chris Feil

In the recent weeks of losing both Hal Prince and D.A. Pennebaker, my mind naturally went to Original Cast Album: Company. As Pennebaker’s enduring documentary short detailing the backstage business of recording one of Prince’s peak creations, it provides moments worth obsessing over for Broadway obsessives and otherwise. So it feels serendipitously timed to celebrate them both that Documentary Now! arrived at the film in its most recent season. After all, sometimes the greatest tribute is parody.

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Sunday
Aug042019

D.A. Pennebaker

by Glenn Dunks

D.A. Pennebaker, aka Donn Alan, the legend of documentary who famously captured the growing counter culture music scene, American presidents and a particularly memorable Original Cast Recording, died this weekend at age 94.

Like many of his contemporaries who are today regarded as among the most influential of the form like Albert Maysles and Frederick Wiseman, Pennebaker was never really embraced by the Academy. He was nominated alongside his wife and frequent collaborator Chris Hegedus in 1994 for The War Room about the 1992 presidential campaign for Bill Clinton, but was eventually awarded an honorary statue in 2013 for his undeniably immense contribution to film...

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