WE ♥ DOCS
"If you've gone as far as him, how do you challenge yourself?" Netflix has debuted an official trailer for the documentary Sky Ladder: The Art of Cai Guo-Qiang, profiling the life and work of Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang. As you will see in this trailer, his art is based around fireworks and explosives, and he was hired to arrange the fireworks at the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. His latest project is an attempt to build a "sky ladder" out of fireworks, which this documentary covers in addition to examining his life and influences. "If you're Cai Guo-Qiang, you continue to chase the ambitious dream that has eluded you for 20 years—Sky Ladder—a 1,650 foot ladder of fire climbing into the skies, connecting heaven and earth." This doc might be worth seeing just for all the stunning footage of his fireworks. Enjoy.
"We've known about this for decades… Paradise that has been degraded and destroyed. We're knowingly doing this. I just want to know how far we've gone, and if there's anything we can do to stop it." National Geographic has unveiled the first official trailer for the environmental documentary Before the Flood, produced by and starring Leonardo DiCaprio, directed by Fisher Stevens. A staunch environmentalist and activist, DiCaprio travels the world conducting interviews, meeting with heads of state, and exploring the various lands of the world to address the global crisis of climate change. The doc presents a look at how climate change affects our environment and what society can do prevent the demise of endangered species, ecosystems and native communities across the planet. We've seen many, many climate docs recently, but I hope one of these really grabs people and wakes them up, because we all need to change - and change now.
"Are you all ready?!" Netflix has unveiled a full-length trailer for the concert doc Justin Timberlake and The Tennessee Kids, profiling the latest tour from the famed musician/singer. Directed by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Jonathan Demme, the film follows Justin Timberlake as he performs on the road with his Tennessee Kids band and bevy of talented dancers. This looks like it might be crazy fun and will get you dancing in the aisles. The doc just premiered at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month, and earned rave reviews from critics who were quick to point out that it's much better than your average concert doc. One glowing review states: "the sheer spectacle that Demme has captured will be almost impossible to fully appreciate when watched at home… but it's an exuberant thrill on the big screen." Certainly looks that way.
"Powerful, at times shocking, but also intensely human." Kino Lorber has debuted the official US trailer for an award-winning documentary called Fire at Sea, or Fuocoammare, from Italy about the migrant crisis affecting Europe, the Middle East and Africa. The doc won the Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and has played at numerous other film festivals including Telluride, Toronto and New York (coming up). The film is set on an island off the coast of Italy called Lampedusa, one of the places many migrants and refugees crossing the Mediterranean by boat end up. Fire at Sea was also just selected by Italy as their official entry to the Academy Awards this year, a strong push for this doc to get even more attention. I recently had the chance to see it and wrote that it's a "slow burn, but builds to a bonfire." Highly recommended for doc fans.
"As long as nothing interrupts that serenity, then there's nothing more magical." Gravitas Ventures has debuted a trailer for a documentary titled Don't Look Down, profiling the early 1980's publicity stunt by Richard Branson in an attempt to bring attention to his newly launched Virgin Airlines. Branson decided to hop in a hot air balloon and fly across the Atlantic Ocean, something that has never been done before and is considered dangerous even by other experienced balloonists. "The real story of this incredible adventure has never been told, and using intimate interviews with Branson and the team, never seen before archive (including footage from inside the balloon, shot in real time)." It looks quite thrilling and fascinating. Enjoy.
"What you see on the news is a story 150 years in the making." Netflix has debuted the first trailer for the documentary title The 13th, or just 13th, directed by fillmmaker Ava DuVernary in secret over the last few years. It presents an in-depth look at the prison system and how it reveals the nation's history of racial inequality. The title refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads: "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist." This looks like it's going to be hard-hitting and provocative, and hopefully will cause changes. DuVernary commented that "this film was made as an answer to my own questions about how and why we have become the most incarcerated nation in the world, how and why we regard some of our citizens as innately criminal, and how and why good people allow this injustice to happen generation after generation."
"Everybody was in a state of panic. It was just chaos." Kino Lorber has released a trailer for a documentary titled Tower, retelling the story of the Texas Tower Sniper who killed 16 people and wounded 32 others in 1966. Described as a "hybrid of animation, interviews, and recreations", the film features rotoscoped footage (think Waking Life or A Scanner Darkly) that recreates some of the moments during the shooting. There's also interviews and other footage that has been rotoscoped, making this a bit more unique and different than just another documentary about a tragic event (shooting) in American history. This seems like it might be interesting to see, since we all know the story but there's a completely different feel to this. Take a look.
"A lot of people try to imitate Mifune, but nobody can." Stop and watch this now! The first official trailer has debuted online for a fantastic documentary called Mifune: The Last Samurai, profiling the life and work of Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune. If you're a cinephile you're already very familiar with Mifune - he starred in numerous Akira Kurosawa films including The Seven Samurai, Yojimbo and Rashomon, as well as tons of other classic Japanese films. This doc examines his life work with old footage and photographs and tells his story from the early beginnings of his career, to his falling out with Kurosawa and final roles. Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg are two of the filmmakers who talk about how incredible Mifune was, with more special guests. I caught this film at the Telluride Film Festival and loved it - highly recommended.
"I still keep expecting Dylan to be there. Am I just dreaming all of this?" Abramorama has debuted a trailer for the documentary Newtown, about the town in Connecticut that was devastated by a horrific mass shooting in 2012. The film examines how the town is coping with the tragedy, how they're coming together to heal and move forward, and how hard it has been yet life must go on. It's an impressive doc because of how much open access filmmaker Kim A. Snyder got with the victims, with the families that were affected. She spends time with them learning about how their lives are now, and how much they're still struggling but doing their best to remain hopeful. You will see just how remarkably moving and powerful this doc is below.
"If I'm innocent, it means that everyone's vulnerable… And that's everyone's nightmare." Netflix has debuted one more official trailer for the Amanda Knox documentary, which has earned some rave reviews at the Toronto Film Festival earlier this month. Now with extra buzz and extra attention, the doc is getting a strong push before it hits the streaming service later this month. The documentary focuses on Amanda Knox specifically, the young woman who was accused of killing her roommate in Italy back in 2007. Featuring extensive interviews with her as well as her former co-defendant and ex-boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, Italian prosecutor Giuliano Mignini and Daily Mail reporter Nick Pisa. Which side of the story do you believe? One review from TIFF says that it "makes the case for a larger look at the story it stuffs into a too-short runtime."
"It's becoming harder and harder to kill ’em." Discovery Channel has debuted the first official trailer for Morgan Spurlock's latest documentary titled Rats, and it is indeed about rats, the creepy little (or actually pretty big) vermin that live under our streets, eating our garbage, spreading disease. The doc is premiering in the Midnight Madness section of the Toronto Film Festival this week, which is perfect for this kind of film. While it's based on the book about rats in New York City, Spurlock's doc examines the history of rat infestations in major cities throughout the world. I'm a big fan of Spurlock and his documentaries, and this looks like it's going to be freaky and fun. Thankfully as viewers we won't have to get anywhere near any rats, but be prepared there are some seriously disgusting shots in this. But I still want to see it - looks fascinating.
"He would talk about his hitmen, he would talk about how he could have people hurt or killed." Showtime has debuted a trailer for the documentary Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee, from director Nanette Burstein, which is playing at the Toronto Film Festival now. You probably remember hearing about this story - John McAfee, founder of the popular anti-virus software that bears his name, was accused of murdering his ex-pat neighbor in Belize in late 2012. He escaped the country and was eventually deported back to the United States, but never charged. The doc examines the story and the wild side of McAfee, and reviews from TIFF indicate that this shows he was involved in not one, but two, murders. This looks crazy.