WE ♥ DOCS
Back to Sundance we go for another year of discovery. What's on the line-up this year? Out of the 120+ films showing at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival, I've chosen 10 that I'm looking forward to seeing the most. To keep things well balanced, I've chosen 5 feature films and 5 documentaries from the line-up. There are so many films playing at the fest, and so many I'll end up seeing (30+), that this is a quick list to get everyone acquainted with some of the work premiering in 2017 (and why I'm so excited for these). From docs about free speech and doping, to features about life after death. Nothing like watching movies in the mountains.
"The story of the negro in America, is the story of America." Magnolia has unveiled a full theatrical trailer for the documentary I Am Not Your Negro, about the life & legacy of James Baldwin. This doc is being heralded as one of the best of 2016, even though it's just hitting theaters coming up this February. The film focuses on the book "Remember This House", that Baldwin never finished. Haitian filmmaker Raoul Peck envisions a finished version of the book - a "radical narration" about race in America, through the lives and deaths of three of Baldwin's friends: Martin Luther King Jr., Medgar Evers and Malcolm X. The doc uses his original words to tell the harrowing story of race in modern America, and it's one of the finest docs you'll see. Relevant, important, intelligent, and inspiring. I can't recommend this film enough - it's a must watch.
"That's what's good about losing your memory - there's so many surprises." HBO has unveiled a trailer for the documentary Bright Lights, telling the story of the success and fame of Carrie Fisher and her mother Debbie Reynolds. This doc actually premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last year with an appearance by Carrie Fisher, but in "light of the recent and unexpected deaths", has taken on a whole new meaning and purpose - to solidify their legacy. The film is described as an "intimate portrait of Hollywood royalty in all its eccentricity", featuring extensive verite footage and vintage family films. From the looks of it, this will be an emotional yet inspiring look at the lives of two people who were some of the greatest entertainers in history.
"I think sometimes geniuses are by default lonely and isolated." HBO has debuted an official trailer for the documentary Becoming Warren Buffett, telling the life story of billionaire Warren Buffett, owner of Berkshire Hathaway, who's famous for being one of the wealthiest people alive. "With unprecedented access to Buffett's day-to-day personal life, the film tells the improbable story of how an ambitious, humble, numbers-obsessed boy from Nebraska—who still lives in Omaha—became one of the richest, most-respected men in the world." I'm curious about this, but as always I wonder if the filmmakers are too close to Buffett, telling his story in a glamorized way and never lifting up the rug to see what might be hiding underneath.
"They are a distinct part of everyone's life." Oscilloscope has unveiled a trailer for the documentary Kedi, a story about the many stray cats living in/around Istanbul, Turkey. If you've ever been there, you've probably encountered a few of these furry friends roaming the streets. There are hundreds of thousands of them in the city, however this film profiles (and follows) seven of them specifically. Described as "a sophisticated take on your typical cat video", this film should both "dazzle and educate" animal lovers of all ages. Kedi is the name of one of the cats they profile, and the rest of them are introduced in this trailer. This definitely does look charming, and it looks much better than your typical cat movie (see: Nine Lives). Worth watching.
Pickle is a peculiar, amusing, quirky, entertaining short unlike anything else you've seen before. Made by Amy Nicholson, a New York-based filmmaker of docs and other projects, the short features her parents, Tom & Debbie Nicholson, who are dedicated caretakers of various odd creatures that "suffer from unusual medical conditions". The short film explores the "human capacity to care for all creatures throughout their sometimes greatly protracted lives until their occasionally sudden and unfortunate deaths." Pickle was a fish that couldn't swim; they also cared for an obese chicken, a cat with a heart condition, a non-buoyant goose, and a paraplegic possum. This unusual but heartfelt short deserves a small piece of your time. Watch below.
"I haven't felt that magic has ever let me down." I've always been a fan of magic since I was a kid, and I love going to shows, even still as an adult. Magicians: Life in the Impossible is a documentary about the lives of professional magicians, and how hard it is and how dedicated they have to be. We've seen quite a few movies about magicians recently (between Now You See Me and The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) but it's nice to actually see a story about the real people, the real men and women who make us all believe in magic. One could say this doc almost looks like Hoop Dreams for magicians, following four different performers as they try to establish themselves in the entertainment industry. Fellow magic lover Peter from SlashFilm says this doc is worth watching and it's already out on VOD, so give this a look and let us know what you think.
"To believe in the boogeyman isn't that hard… And they believed it was real." HBO has debuted an official trailer for the documentary Beware the Slenderman, about the myth of the Slenderman which resulted in two young girls trying to murder one of their friends to see if he was real. Does anyone know this story already? It's a true story, at least the part about the two delusional girls who believed in this myth, and the internet helped fuel their fascination with him. This doc seems to examine the before and after, looking at how it happened and what the myth of the Slenderman means, how it's even possible that something like this created online can seem so real in the minds of these two girls. This looks fascinating, and quite freaky.
"The Science is Clear. The Future is Not." Good news, documentary fans! National Geographic has released the full-length version of the documentary Before the Flood (watch the trailer), produced by and starring Leonardo DiCpario, online on YouTube for free. Completely free! In fact, if you mention the hashtag #BeforeTheFlood online, they'll even donate money to different wildlife conservation organizations. It also features a fantastic score composed by Mogwai, Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross, + Gustavo Santaolalla (you can buy the album here). I had the chance to watch this recently and I thought it was a superb doc, inspiring and encouraging. I've seen pretty much every single recent doc about climate change and the environment, and this is one of the best. Really. Not only is DiCaprio honest and entertaining, he's hopeful about our future - as long as we all come together and recognize we need to change. Just watch! Link below.
"On the edge of civilization, her mind will be tested, her strength will be challeged, and her spirit will take her on the adventure of a lifetime." Sony Classics has debuted a second trailer for the documentary The Eagle Huntress, directed by Otto Bell, one of my favorite docs out of the Sundance Film Festival this year. The doc follows the story of a young teenage girl in Mongolia named Aisholpan, living in the mountains with her family, who becomes the first ever female "Eagle Hunter" in over 2,000 years male dominance in their culture. I totally fell for this documentary when I first saw it at Sundance, and I've been hoping that Sony Classics will throw their weight behind it and help it find an audience in US theaters. This new trailer is not as good as the first one, as it has some overly-dramatic voiceover that is a bit distracting, but give it a shot.
"If a few hillbillies get killed in the name of progress, so be it." Abramorama has released an official trailer for a powerful documentary titled Blood on the Mountain, a brutally honest look at the environmental and economic injustice and corporate control in West Virginia and its effect on all American workers. The film is made by the same filmmakers behind Coal Country, and is described as a searing and impassioned examination of the struggles of hard-working, misunderstood people. It's about how the coal industry has evolved to become so bad in West Virginia, that it's exploiting and controlling citizens, without any chance for them to speak up. "If our government won’t hold them responsible, who will? We will." This looks good.
"How many other people have been through this?" FilmRise has debuted a trailer for the documentary The Bad Kids, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival to quite a bit of buzz earlier this year. The doc has also played at True/False and Hot Docs, which I'm mentioning only to show it's worthy of attention. The Bad Kids is about a group of teachers at a Mojave Desert high school who take an unconventional approach to improve the lives of their struggling students. It's a powerful film about recognizing there are alternatives to helping educate at risk teens other than giving up on them or locking them up. From the trailer, this looks like one of the most important docs all year - and I'm definitely interested in watching it. Get a look below.