› S2BY Director Boots Riley
› Leigh Whannell of Upgrade
› The Rider Director Chloe Zhao
› Bing Liu of Minding the Gap
› Petra Volpe of Divine Order
› Filmmaker Denis Villeneuve
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Listen to the Newest Episode of The First Word Podcast:
"50 years in the making…" Neon and CNN Films have released the first teaser trailer for a new documentary titled simply Apollo 11, from doc director Todd Douglas Miller (Gahanna Bill, Dinosaur 13). This feature film is made up entirely of never-before-seen large-format film footage of the Apollo 11 mission to the Moon. Here's to hoping this will get a full-format IMAX release, because yes please. Neon announced the news coinciding with the 49th anniversary of the 1969 landing on the Moon (they landed on July 20th, 1969) by mission commander Neil Armstrong and pilot Buzz Aldrin. This is also most definitely a tie-in with Damien Chazelle's new film First Man, about Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 mission, though there's no mention in the press release (different studios, makes sense). I'm a big space nerd - can't wait to see more from this.
"Music was my medicine. It just blew up so quickly…" Abramorama has released the first official US trailer for a documentary titled Matangi/Maya/M.I.A., a profile of the badass Sri Lankan singer / songwriter / rapper / musician / artist / activist known as M.I.A. Her real name is Mathangi "Maya" Arulpragasam, and this deeply personal film takes us into her life, her childhood, her upbringing, and her story as she becomes famous around the world, and encounters resistance when she starts speaking out against issues that are dear to her. This premiered at the Sundance and Berlin Film Festivals this year, where I first saw it. I wrote in my glowing review: "this seems like a film that is another music documentary about a pop star and her rise to fame and fortune and glory. But it's anything but that. It's actually a much more personal, intimate story of a young woman who wants to bring attention to and raise awareness about very dire problems in the world, and injustices, and do so using the power of the microphone." This is definitely a worth watching doc.
"When I think of Lynyrd Skynyrd, I just think of an outrageously fun time." Showtime has debuted the first official trailer for Lynyrd Skynyrd: If I Leave Here Tomorrow, an extensive documentary about the American rock band, from doc filmmaker Stephen Kijak (Scott Walker: 30 Century Man, Stones in Exile, Jaco, We Are X). This first premiered at the SXSW Film Festival this year, and also played at the Cleveland Film Festival. Featuring rare interviews and never-before-seen archival footage, Lynyrd Skynyrd: If I Leave Here Tomorrow takes viewers on a trip through the history, myth and legend of one of the most iconic American rock bands. The film examines their entire history and success, as well as their tragic ending when a plane crash in 1977 killed three band members and three other passengers, including founding member and lead singer Ronnie Van Zant. Another fascinating, comprehensive rock doc about a classic band. Enjoy.
"Don't confuse this Facebook thing with who you really are." STX Ent. has debuted the first official trailer for a comedy titled Second Act, the latest feature film from veteran comedy director Peter Segal (Tommy Boy, Anger Management, 50 First Dates, The Longest Yard, Get Smart, Grudge Match). Second Act is about a big box store worker named Maya, played by Jennifer Lopez, who reinvents her life and her life-story and shows Madison Avenue what street smarts can do. My eyes are rolling already just reading this description. Just wait until you see the footage in the trailer, oh yes, it's even worse. The cast includes Milo Ventimiglia, Vanessa Hudgens, Leah Remini, Charlyne Yi, Freddie Stroma, Treat Williams, Dave Foley, and Larry Miller. This is definitely not for me, but maybe some others will perhaps enjoy it.
"His influence in the North is unimaginable." CJ Entertainment has just released a new full-length official trailer for a political thriller titled The Spy Gone North, which first premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the Midnight section earlier this summer. If you're into political thrillers, this is definitely a must see. The latest from Korean filmmaker Yoon Jong-bin (The Unforgiven, Kundo: Age of the Rampant), the double agent film follows a South Korean spy who infiltrates the North to obtain intelligence on the country's nuclear weapons plans in the mid-1990s. This stars Hwang Jung-min, Lee Sung-min, Cho Jin-woong, and Ju Ji-hoon. The new trailer is as intense and compelling as the first teaser previously, but with even more clarity. This seems like such a sneaky, complex noir thriller and I'm very curious to check it out myself.
"When I first started writing songs they were terrible…" Abramorama & Apple Music have released the first official trailer for a documentary titled Songwriter, a film about the music of popular British musician Ed Sheeran. This film was a last minute addition to the line-up at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year, but it played to dismal reviews and a very muted, forgettable response. "This personal portrait of the British singer-songwriter, filmed by his cousin Murray Cummings, follows this modest performer’s creative process as he writes a new song from scratch that will entrance millions. From an early-morning jam in the garden to the finished song, from the first chord to the honed lyrics." I don't know about everyone else, but it seems a bit too early to be making a doc about Sheeran, doesn't seem like there's too much of his story to share yet.
"Everyone remembers where they were that day – the day of the event." Lionsgate has debuted an official trailer for a strange new supernatural thriller titled I Still See You, adapted from a novel titled "Break My Heart 1,000 Times", which was the film's original title before this newer, simpler one. I Still See You is the latest from filmmaker Scott Speer (Status Update, Midnight Sun) and it has some intriguing things going on, kind of like ghosts but caused by some weird sci-fi event and then the second half of this throws in a few more twists. Bella Thorne stars as Veronica in I Still See You, along with Richard Harmon, Amy Price-Francis, Hugh Dillon, Shaun Benson, Dave Brown, Thomas Elms, Louis Herthum, and Dermot Mulroney. I will say this caught my attention, for sure, I like the sci-fi/horror mix. I'm curious to see more.
"I could seriously be on the verge of having a mental breakdown, but as long as I'm able to go skate, I'm completely fine." Hulu + Magnolia have released the first official trailer for a documentary titled Minding the Gap from director Bing Liu, one of the very best doc films this year. This premiered at the Sundance Film Festival year, where it won a Special Jury Award for Breakthrough Filmmaking; then it went on to play at tons of other film festivals, as shown in one of the title cards in this trailer. "The secret to growing up is that no one really knows what they’re doing. It's in the gap between childhood and adulthood that we find meaning for ourselves." Minding the Gap is about three kids from Illinois, growing up fast and figuring out adult life, all the while cherishing the great freedom of skateboarding. I interviewed Bing Liu at Sundance after seeing the film, and wrote a rave review as well, praising it as "one of the most refreshingly original, engaging docs about growing up in today's America." I cannot recommend this doc enough. Watch below.
"Hey, you don't want us…? We'll do our own thing!" Abramorama is releasing a documentary this summer titled 93Queen, an impressive and engaging profile of an all-female ambulance corps made up of Hasidic Jewish women from the Borough Park neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York. Director Paula Eiselt explains (via Women and Hollywood): "It is a universal story in a very particular setting about what happens when women feel empowered to make progress in their own communities, on their own terms, in order to move those communities forward." Featuring Rachel "Ruchie" Freier and "The Women of Ezras Nashim". They decided to band together and create their own volunteer EMT corps, and this doc tells their inspiring story.
"I used to be like you when I was a kid." Film Movement has debuted a new US trailer for the Zambian film I Am Not a Witch, the second feature from Zambian filmmaker Rungano Nyoni (Nordic Factory). This premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in Directors' Fortnight last year, and went on to play at numerous other festivals including TIFF, Helsinki, London, Mumbai, Busan, Stockholm, and even the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. I Am Not a Witch is about a young girl who is accused of being a witch, and she ends up stuck with a group of other outcast women working in the desert. But as the title says, of course she is not a witch. The film stars Maggie Mulubwa as Shula, along with a vibrant cast of local actors. If you've been hearing about this one, now is your chance to finally catch it when it opens in theaters this September.