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Entries in documentaries (307)

Tuesday
Oct102017

Doc Corner: 'The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson'

by Glenn Dunks

It is sadly just a matter of fact that women of colour rarely get documentaries made about them without tragedy informing their very existence. “Death” is even right there at the start of the title for David France’s new film about one such pioneering person. And indeed, the mystery surrounding Marsha P. Johnson’s death is what acts as the central spine of his The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson as one activist, Victoria Cruz, sets about solving the mystery of the death of another activist 25 years ago.

But like the literal meaning behind the title of France’s last film, the Oscar-nominated masterwork How to Survive a Plague, this new film is also about “life” and surviving and ultimately acts as a testament to Johnson’s tenacity and pure force-of-nature attitude in the face of adversity – a tired cliché of a phrase that is nonetheless truly warranted here...

Click to read more ...

Friday
Oct062017

NYFF: "Spielberg" the Documentary

by Jason Adams

Before there was Hitchcock, before there was Michael Haneke and Todd Solondz and the Davids Cronenberg and Lynch, before Almodovar and Assayas and Campion herself, there was Steven Spielberg. A Jewish kid from the suburbs of Arizona who threw a malfunctioning shark robot into the Pacific Ocean and changed the movie business, he was My Guy. I saw Jurassic Park twelve times in the theater in the Summer of 1993 - I read my first Pauline Kael review for him. Steven Spielberg changed the movie business and his movie business changed my life.

Spielberg the documentary, on the other hand, isn't changing any business any time soon...

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Oct052017

DOC NYC Announce Their 15 Oscar Potentials

by Glenn Dunks

Every year the mammoth New York based documentary film festival DOC NYC announces a program of films titled the “Short List”. These are films they describe as "[feeling] like worthy contenders for the Oscar short list based on festival accolades, reviews, box office”, culled from a longer list by means of “evaluating what titles appear to have momentum.”

The DOC NYC festival casts a very wide net for their selections with an annual line-up including films that have already screened in theatrical release or on television. Because of this, they’re able to claim to have played the last six winners of the Best Documentary Oscar. And in the four years since they began the Short List, the only Oscar nominee to not feature in the Short List program is Virunga. It’s an impressive statistic if not a somewhat deflating one knowing that this year’s nominees are likely somewhere to be found in this list of 15. But that's the Oscar prognastication game for you and we all love to play along so it's worth mentioning.

THE FINAL YEAR (Greg Barker)

There’s still about two months until the Academy release their own shortlist of 15 from the estimated 130 titles that will be submitted. But for now, let’s take a look at what DOC NYC are hedging their bets on...

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Tuesday
Oct032017

Doc Corner: Laura Poitras' Risky Business

By Glenn Dunks

There is a knack to watching Laura Poitras’ latest film, Risk, her first as a director since winning the Academy Award for Citizenfour. And it’s not being abreast of the life and controversies of its on-screen subject, Julian Assange. Although that certainly helps to a point, his journey felt to be of little consequence to me in regards to how I ultimately felt about the movie. The film is messy and often perplexing, no better personified by an utterly surreal and bizarre sequence with Lady Gaga that is not kind to either of its participants.

Rather, the key to Risk’s success is to not view the film as about Assange at all, but rather  Poitras herself. Sure, the WikiLeaks co-founder is front and centre in the film, and documenting him was the modus operandi, but as a documentary subject he’s often far less interesting than the people that orbit him. I am not unaware that I am cutting Poitras an awful lot of slack here...

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Tuesday
Sep262017

Doc Corner: 'Gaga: Five Foot Two' Does the Lady a Disservice

by Glenn Dunks

Lady Gaga can be a great musician, it’s true. But the new documentary about her, Gaga: Five Foot Two, would make anybody unfamiliar with her question why. The film follows a year with the singer as she records her latest album, Joanne (admission: I’m not a fan), and prepares for the big stage of the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Yet something about this film lingers as ever so slightly off.

Part of the problem with Chris Moukarbel’s film is that it’s never quite verite. The camera is never just a fly on the wall to Gaga’s world, but instead a witness to events that lack authenticity...

 

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Sunday
Sep242017

NYFF: Faces Places

by Murtada

Agnes Varda, recently named one of 2017's Honorary Oscar recipients, retuns to cinemas very soon. Her latest documentary is Faces Places or Visages Villages - sounds more delicious in French, n'est pas? It's Varda's collaboration with visual artist JR to celebrate the power of images. For that it was the perfect confection to see first at NYFF. The two artists set out on a journey inside France, finding farmers, miners, dock workers and others to document and preserve in the places in which they reside and work. They don’t have a plan, they just go where luck takes them or as Varda puts it:

Chance has always been my best assistant.

Varda and JR operate their own separate cameras, but they were also recorded in their travels by multiple other cameras in both still and moving images. What we get is a delightful mix of the histories and stories of the people they meet, JR’s eccentricities (he never takes off his small rounded sunglasses), plus Varda’s grapple with her mortality (she’s 88 and has problems with her eyesight). A joy from start to finish. It’s worth the price of admission just for recreating the running in the Louvre scene from Godard’s Bande A Part (1964), with Varda’s age adding poignancy and exuberance.

Grade: B+

Faces Places screens at the New York Film Festival on October 1st and 2nd. It will be out in limited release on October 6th. On November 11th, she will be awarded the Honorary Oscar at the annual Governor's Awards in Los Angeles.
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