WE ♥ DOCS
"You can't imagine what would have happened." Back in 2012, Joshua Oppenheimer delivered the disturbing, unnerving documentary The Act of Killing, which exposed the horrifying mass executions of accused communists in Indonesia and those who are celebrated in their country for perpetrating the crime. Now Oppenheimer is back with a companion documentary called The Look of Silence, which finds a family of survivors learning how their song was murdered, and also who is responsible. This prompts one of them to take action, confront the killers and having them take responsibility for their despicable actions.
Experience a life lived without limits. I LOVE this documentary. No seriously, I really love, love, love it with all my heart (read my perfect review at NYFF last year). Sunshine Superman is a must-see thrillseekers documentary about Carl Boenish, the father of the BASE-jumping movement, the man who started the sport of jumping off of buildings. It's an incredible, heart-wrenching, remarkable story of a man who dared to dream as big as possible, who never let anything scare him, and who truly lived. It's so inspiring because Carl, a goofy lovable character, has such a big heart and really doesn't let anyone get him down, even when they start to claim "this is a crime!" He still has that smile on his face, and he still keeps jumping. Rock on.
"What do you like about living on Earth?" Google Play has just premiered a short 10-minute documentary called EMIC, made in promotion for/and inspired by the sci-fi movie Interstellar and the idea of one day leaving Earth. Google has been working with Paramount on promoting Christopher Nolan's big epic sci-fi movie all along, with virtual websites for screenings during its release last year. Now it's about to hit Blu-ray soon and is out on iTunes now, so Google is putting out its centerpiece video, the final "culmination" of everything they've worked together on. Similar to Life in a Day, it's a doc that explores what life is like on Earth, to create a time capsule-like video to save and take with us when we one day leave Earth. It's actually quite beautifully made from wonderful footage. "This film is intended to go wherever mankind goes next."
After premiering at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, the documentary Misery Loves Comedy, marking the directorial debut of comedian and character actor Kevin Pollak, is arriving this spring. With a cavalcade of comics and actors, from Amy Schumer to Tom Hanks to Judd Apatow to Larry David, all these comedians talk about the craft of being funny, and just what it takes to make it happen. Do comedians have to be miserable to be funny, or is there more to it than that? There's also a quote from yours truly there in the trailer (read my full review here), and it's definitely worth checking out. Watch below!
Right around the time of the Academy Awards, we got a "Sesame Street" parody of Birdman with Caroll Spinney, the man who brings Big Bird to life on the iconic children's television show. Now we have the traile for a documentary called I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story on the way looking at the man who few people know, despite his work as one of the most iconic Muppets of all-time. You may not know, but Spinney is also the voice of Oscar the Grouch, and this doc, which has been on the festival circuit for awhile, chronicles Spinney's life and career starting from life as a child to work with Jim Henson.
Before Jemaine Clement became the star of films like Gentleman Broncos and this year's Sundance selected People, Places & Things and director of What We Do in the Shadows, and before Bret McKenzie became an Oscar-winning songwriter and part of Middle-Earth for Peter Jackson, the duo became famous as the humorous folk duo Flight of the Conchords. And one year before they had their hit show on HBO, they were playing shows at SXSW, and while on their Texas trip, they shot a 45-minute documentary. Of course, it's hilarious, but it's also fascinating to see them with fans before they made it big. Watch now!
"Brother, please jump… if you want to stay alive. If you want to live, jump." A few years back we featured a trailer for an indie documentary called Rising from Ashes, about a Rwandan cycling team. The producers behind that doc are back with their latest project, titled (The World of) The Ghost Fleet being directed by Jeffrey Waldron, about modern day slavery in the Thai fishing industry. The first teaser trailer has launched and it's beautiful, a harrowing look at a shady industry most of us know nothing about. I love the music in the trailer, I love the footage, I admire how chilling it is, and I even love the film's logo. Word is this won't be ready until early 2016, but I'm already anticipating it and hope to bring attention to it as they finish up.
After giving R&B pop superstar Rihanna a pivotal role in his ridiculous action flick Battleship, director Peter Berg will turn the camera on her real life. Deadline reports the Lone Survivor and Hancock directing is launching a new production company called Film 45 with a specialty in non-scripted programming for television and film, and one of the first projects will be a theatrical feature documentary about Rihanna. Berg will direct the film himself and it's described as a contemporary version of the 1967 Bob Dylan documentary Don't Look Back as the filmmaker intends to dig deep into Rihanna's life and her rise to fame.
Following a premiere at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, the documentary Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck is coming to HBO in May. But in the United Kingdom, the film is hitting theaters in April, and a trailer from across the pond has just arrived for the film profiling the iconic grunge musician who left us all too soon. Cobain's life is brought to life with never-before-heard music, home movies, animation and the musician's own art, combined with interviews with those closest to him. This was one of our favorite docs at Sundance as we called it "an impressive and enriching documentary," even for non-Nirvana fans. Watch!
Just in time for the 30th anniversary of the original Back to the Future, a new documentary will be coming this fall called Back in Time. The film was Kickstarted in October of 2014 after just having landed an interview with Christopher Lloyd, but since then, they've also landed several other big interviews with co-stars Michael J. Fox and Lea Thompson, director Robert Zemeckis, writer Bob Gale, composer Alan Silvestri and more. But now the documentary needs a little funding to get finished since the size and scope of the film has become bigger than they imagined, and if you need convincing, there's a trailer. Watch!
"The word icon is much overused, but if it applies to anybody in American popular culture, it's Frank Sinatra." On what would be the 100th birthday of the crooning legend, Frank Sinatra is getting the documentary treatment from HBO with a two-part profile titled Sinatra: All or Nothing at All. Director Alex Gibney, fresh off his HBO documentary on James Brown, brings hours of archived interviews and commentary from those closest to Old Blue Eyes. This looks to have something for everyone, even the most die hard of Sinatra fans will probably learn things they didn't know about the beloved singing star. Watch!
Plenty of films from the 2015 Sundance Film Festival got picked up for release sometime this year or next, but one documentary that's still waiting to get distribution is The Russian Woodpecker. The film takes a look at what caused the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in Ukraine, exposing that there might be more to the disaster than initially thought. The film is named after the Duga, a gigantic radio-transmitter wall that produces a wood-tapping sound not unlike that of the woodpecker. We missed this one at the festival, so we can't speak to its greatness, but it won a Grand Jury Prize, so it must be good. Watch below!
While movie theaters continue to refuse to book films that strike deals for releases on Netflix the same day a film hits theaters, that's not stopping production companies from teaming up with the streaming service for future endeavors. Today, Netflix announced a multi-year first look deal with Leonardo DiCaprio and his Appian Way production banner for documentary projects that will stream exclusively on the streaming service. The aim of DiCaprio as a producer or executive producer of these projects is to mix philanthropy with filmmaking and create projects with topical, provocative environmental and conservation themes.
"A photographer is literally somebody drawing with light. A man writing & rewriting the world with light & shadows." I love this documentary, it's so utterly beautiful and awe-inspiring. The Salt of the Earth is a documentary by Wim Wenders exploring the life & work of legendary Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado, co-directed by his son Juliano Ribeiro Salgado. No doubt you've seen some of Sebastião's photos, many of which are featured in this doc. It's a mesmerizing look at a man who documented humanity in such a remarkably honest and intimate way, and the doc becomes something else when it focuses on how much he (Sebastião) loves this planet we are destroying. It was nominated for an Academy Award this year.