WE ♥ DOCS
"This shot carries a memory within it." Kino Lorber has debuted a trailer for the documentary called Jia Zhangke, A Guy From Fenyang, directed by Walter Salles, taking a look at the life of famed Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke. It looks like a fantastic documentary with some incredible footage of Jia Zhangke in China, and all over the world. Salles last directed the Jack Kerouac adaptation On the Road, but returns to docs to make this stunning feature on another very talented filmmaker/storyteller - Jia Zhangke, of films like A Touch of Sin, Mountains May Depart, Still Life, 24 City, The World and many others. This is a rather beautiful trailer with some poetic imagery, it really makes me want to see this documentary. Watch below.
"He had a million ideas! And had a huge influence on the course of popular culture." Amazon and Gland Power Films + Cartuna present the full official trailer for the documentary NUTS!, from filmmaker Penny Lane. This totally wacky, almost unbelievable true story documentary examines the life of a person named John R. Brinkley, one of the most impressive snake oil salesmen in US history, who made his fortune by surgically attaching goat testicles to men to cure impotence. It was all BS and this amazing doc turns it into an even more entertaining story by hand-animating half of it, as well as presenting bits of archival footage and interviews. Brinkley goes on to run a radio station and come up with all kinds of crazy ideas. Have at it.
"We wanted something different…" Are you ready for this? FilmRise Releasing has debuted the first trailer for a documentary called Holy Hell, from director Will Allen, profiling twenty years inside a religious cult called The Buddhafield. The doc premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year to much acclaim as it truly does include over twenty years of footage, since Allen joined the cult fresh out of school and became their official videographer. I saw the doc at Sundance and it's one of the most definitive inside looks at how a cult works, featuring interviews with many ex-members and so much remarkable footage. If you're at all curious, or intrigued, or baffled by any of this, I highly recommend catching this doc when it open this May.
"Are you somebody I'm supposed to know?" Sundance Selects has debuted the first official trailer for Josh Kriegman & Elyse Steinberg's documentary Weiner, which won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at the Sundance Film Festival this year. The doc is an "examination of disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner's mayoral campaign and the landscape of today's political landscape." I heard rave reviews from many of my friends while at Sundance, meaning it's more than just a story about Anthony Weiner and has much more to say about what's going on with politics. This is a great trailer - the kind that shows you just enough, pulls you in, makes you curious about seeing the entire film. Looking forward to catching this.
Happy Earth Day! To celebrate the occasion, I wanted to feature a trailer for a documentary about climate change and what we can do to save this big, beautiful planet we all live on. Time to Choose is the latest documentary from Oscar-winning filmmaker Charles Ferguson (of Inside Job, which won Best Doc in 2010; No End in Sight) and it focuses on the many people around the world actually coming up with and implementing creative solutions to the climate problem. It's a fantastic doc that I highly recommend. "We hope that when audiences see this film, they will see the tragedy unfolding, the urgency of stopping it, and all the remarkable and innovative ways we are using to build a sustainable, prosperous future for Earth."
"Being a director is being a watcher. We have a lot of egos in the room, and you have to sort of watch how they interact with each other." Get a load of this! A24 has debuted a trailer for the documentary De Palma, from directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow profiling filmmaking Brian De Palma, who has made plenty of memorable movies between Mission Impossible, Carrie, Scarface and Blow Out. This new doc examines his entire career and the way he pushed back against the values of Hollywood at the time he was making films early in his career. It first premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year to mostly positive reviews, even though it seems they only have one long interview with De Palma in one location. For anyone who loves filmmakers or the art of making movies, this is a must see documentary. Get your first look below.
One of the most talented, influential, and iconoclastic filmmakers of all time, Brian De Palma's career started in the 60s and has included such acclaimed and diverse films as Carrie, Dressed to Kill, Blow Out, Scarface, The Untouchables, Carlito’s Way, and Mission: Impossible. Take a look at the new poster for the new documentary about filmmaker Brian De Palma, titled simply just De Palma, from directors Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow. The film premiered at the Venice Film Festival last year to glowing reviews from critics and was picked up by A24 for release this year. They've put out the first poster which features artistic imagery of De Palma and some of the iconic scenes from his films outside the window next to him.
"All we can do is kick the first door open." Kick it in and make some noise! First Run Features has debuted an official trailer for a documentary called Unlocking the Cage, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this January and profiles animal rights lawyer Steven Wise and his attempt to make sure all animals are recognized with rights just like humans. Co-directed by Chris Hegedus & D.A. Pennebaker, the film follows Wise around between 2013 and 2015 as he attempts to find any and all "non-human" clients for his campaign to help them establish legal person-hood. This actually looks like a very intriguing and timely film that captures a key moment in history, somewhat like Blackfish and other recent animal activism docs.
As an avid photographer myself, I truly love coming across a documentary that expands my mind about the artistic qualities and emotional power of excellent photography. Along with The Salt of the Earth (about legendary photographer Sebastião Salgado), the documentary Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures is the latest to leave me floored. This utterly inspiring and eye-opening doc examines the (entire) life of Robert Mapplethorpe, a controversial gay photographer whose work was banned from museums in the 90s because it was deemed too obscene. Boy were they wrong. Hearing him talk about his life and then seeing the photos he produced - I couldn't help repeating in my mind, "this guy is a true master of photography." Seriously.
"Sounds like trouble, is what it sounds like." Gravitas Ventures has debuted a trailer for the documentary Fastball, produced by Legendary Pictures and directed by Jonathan Hock, with narration by actor Kevin Costner. The film examines "the magic within the 396 milliseconds it takes a fastball to reach home plate" and focuses on the greatest fastball pitchers in the sport's history, attempting to figure out who threw the fastest pitch. There are appearances by Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan and Derek Jeter, among others. This trailer doesn't reveal everything, and it plays up the angle of "so who threw the fastest pitch? You have to watch to find out the answer!" But it does look pretty good. Any and every baseball fan needs to check this out below.
Do you think what Edward Snowden revealed about the surveillance state is terrifying? Wait until you see this documentary. What documentarian Alex Gibney uncovers in his new documentary Zero Days is incredibly frightening and extremely worrying. But that's his point - he wants to thrown open the doors to these top secret operations and allow the people of this planet to debate and discuss what's happening. Zero Days begins by examining the malware known as Stuxnet, a self-propagating virus that seems to have been written by the NSA specifically to attack centrifuges in Iran. But this is just the tip of the iceberg. From there it presents a case that we've entered the era of cyber warfare, but few people know about what's occurring.
"Most of these systems are relativity easy for a sophisticated hacker to get into." Hot on the heels of the world premiere at the Berlin Film Festival, the first official trailer has debuted online for Alex Gibney's new documentary Zero Days. This time Oscar-winning documentarian Alex Gibney throws the doors wide open on cyber warfare, profiling what he deems the first official cyber attack - the Stuxnet virus that infected computers all over the world, but was designed to specifically attack centrifuges refining nuclear material in Iran. The doc examines the bigger picture of how we've entered an era of a cyber warfare, with governments using tactics like this without anyone even knowing about it. I saw the film this morning at Berlinale and it is frightening and eye-opening, one of the most ambitious docs from Gibney in years. Get a first look below.
We all know that movies can change lives, in small ways and in big ways. But that change is often internal, and it's hard to track exactly how we are affected. The documentary Life, Animated (which premiered at Sundance) is an absolutely wonderful documentary that perfectly captures how one autistic boy learned to communicate and engage with the world through Disney animated movies. It's a triumphant and inspiring story, but it's also a beautiful documentary that features many clips from Disney movies as well as original animation (by Mac Guff). The film is about Owen Suskind, following him as he moves into his own place for the first time in his life. His entire VHS collection of Disney movies is the very first thing he unpacks.
It brought a smile to my face to see Jon Stewart profess his love and great admiration for Norman Lear. The first film I screened on opening night at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival (my 10th year back) was the documentary Norman Lear: Just Another Version of You, about the legendary TV writer/producer Norman Lear. Now 93 years old, he still seems full of life, so happy, and more than willing to tell stories and reflect back on his experiences. It's a delightful, amusing, engaging and very timely documentary that actually examines how much Lear pushed forward against stubborn conservative fears. More than anything, I hope this doc goes on to remind people that creativity and ingenuity can outsmart traditionalist values.