WE ♥ DOCS
"We wanted to crush the player." An official trailer has debuted for the documentary Insert Coin, another fascinating video game history doc film looking back at Midway Games. This originally was set to premiere at SXSW, then officially premiered at the Melbourne Documentary Film Festival this summer. Insert Coin: The Midway Chronicles is the amazing behind-the-scenes story of one of the greatest video game studios of all time – Midway Games. Led by the "godfather of video games" Eugene Jarvis, the company pioneered the concept of live action gaming, kickstarting a new arcade boom and grossing billions of dollars in the process with massive hits like Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam – franchises still popular today. Through intimate and often hilarious interviews with the people who were there, we witness how a small, tight-knit group of friends deal with next level success and the roller coaster ride that comes with it. As a geek, I love these kind of docs! Already looking forward to watching this one. It's available in "virtual cinemas" to watch.
"All those beliefs are going to disappear." An early promo / sales trailer has debuted for a Paraguayan doc called Nothing But The Sun, made by Paraguayan filmmaker Arami Ullon. The film is premiering at the prestigious IDFA Film Festival for documentaries in Amsterdam this month, hence why this trailer is out now. The documentary follows Mateo Sobode Chiqueno, a Paraguayan man who has been recording stories, songs, and testimonies of his Ayoreo people on an old tape recorder since the 1970s. He is still traveling around the Chaco region even today, trying to record their voices before they disappear forever. Facing the consequences of a violent uprooting and in an attempt to preserve fragments of the disappearing culture, Mateo walks across communities in the arid and desolate Paraguayan Chaco region. The ultimate question the film (and his stories) ponders: "Is it a problem that a culture disappears in order to adapt to another?" This looks like a compelling doc film about culture and identity made with compassion and understanding.
"As long as it's a love song." Gravitas has unveiled an official trailer for an indie documentary titled Sing Me a Song, made by acclaimed French doc filmmaker Thomas Balmès (Bosnia Hotel, Maharadja Burger, Happiness). This originally premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year, and arrives on VOD in the US in early January. When the internet finally arrives in tiny Bhutan, documentarian Thomas Balmès is there to witness its transformative impact on a young Buddhist monk whose initial trepidation gives way to profound engagement with the technology. A nuanced portrait of a young man’s introduction to the world, Balmès offers us an eye-opening snapshot of the effects of technology, and challenges us to reassess our perceptions of self-worth and beliefs in an age of unparalleled connectivity. It's rather amusing to think that these humble Bhutan Buddhist monks also fall for pretty women in dating apps just as easily as anyone else.
"When you've got brothers singing - it's like an instrument that nobody else can buy." HBO has debuted the full-length trailer for the music documentary The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart, from producer / filmmaker Frank Marshall (directing his first ever doc despite producing many before this). It just premiered at a few film festivals this fall and launches on HBO starting in December. Marshall's The Bee Gees documentary chronicles the triumphs and hurdles of brothers Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb, otherwise known as the Bee Gees. The film is an intimate exploration of the Gibb story, featuring revealing interviews with oldest brother Barry and archival interviews with the late twin brothers Robin and Maurice. Including recording sessions, concert performances, TV appearances and home videos, as well as interviews with musicians Eric Clapton, Noel Gallagher, Nick Jonas, Chris Martin, Justin Timberlake, among others. This looks like an impressive rock doc in every way - with tons of rare footage and interviews galore. Enjoy.
"I thought I had it all…" Freestyle Digital Media has debuted a trailer for the indie documentary Doin' My Drugs, from filmmaker Tyler Q. Rosen. The title is a reference not to drugs, but to medicine, as the doc is about a musician who has HIV. This first premiered at the CPH:DOX Film Festival last year, and arrives on VOD this fall. Danish singer Thomas Muchimba Buttenschøn, whom was born HIV positive to Danish & Zambian parents, is doing something truly unique to get people tested for HIV: he's putting on a concert where, instead of purchasing a ticket, you take an HIV test. The film tells the story of Thomas Muchimba Buttenschøn and his crusade to use his music to wipe out AIDS in his native Zambia and beyond. This looks like a powerful, uplifting story of a successful individual using his success and money for good, to make the world a safer place. That's much more rare than you think. This looks like a heartwarming doc film to enjoy.
"It's not a story you hear every day: religion, relationships, and murder." This is creepy. HBO has debuted an official trailer for Alabama Snake, a true crime documentary directed by Theo Love (Little Hope Was Arson, The Legend of Cocaine Island). Alabama Snake highlights the story of Pentecostal minister Glenn Summerford — a man accused of attempting to murder his wife with a rattlesnake in the sleepy town of Scottsboro, Alabama — and the investigation and trial that haunted Southern Appalachia for decades. The film features local historian & folklorist Dr. Thomas Burton, who spent his life studying the culture, beliefs, and folklore of the Pentecostal snake handlers, as he paints a Southern Gothic portrait of Summerford and his tale of demonic possession. This looks and sounds way creepier than it seems at first, which is the point.
"Nobody's allowed to mention it." An early promo trailer has debuted for a new fan documentary titled A Disturbance in the Force, co-directed by the filmmaker behind the Raiders!: The Story of the Greatest Fan Film Ever Made documentary. This crazy Star Wars doc is about the infamous, unbelievably bad Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978, digging deep into the behind-the-scenes story. The filmmakers explain to io9: "Most attention on the Holiday Special just focuses on how bad it is and doesn't go deeper. Our film is not going to be 90 minutes of dumping on it because no one wants to watch that. We're gone really deep in the research and like an onion, there are a lot more layers as to how the Special happened than you would expect." Sounds good to me. As much as I want nothing to do with that Holiday Special (although this year's Lego Holiday Special looks fun), I'm curious about this and what they learned from the people who made it.
"You come here to live, you don't come here to pass away." Magnolia Pictures has revealed the first trailer for an acclaimed documentary titled Some Kind of Heaven, which originally premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. It also played at tons of other festivals including Rotterdam, New Zealand, Florida, Atlanta, and Visions du Réel. This doc is produced by Darren Aronofsky, and it looks phenomenal. Behind the gates of a palm tree-lined fantasyland, four residents of America's largest retirement community, The Villages, Florida, strive to find solace and meaning. The film is an "inside look" at the The Villages, America's largest retirement community – a massive, self-contained utopia located in Central Florida. I love the way this is shot! The 4:3 presentation and all of the snazzy cinematography gives it an entirely unique vérité look and feel that makes this doc stand out from so many others. Don't skip this! A must watch trailer.
"You have a lot of labels put on you… and somewhere in there is who you really are." Netflix has unveiled an official trailer for Giving Voice, an award-winning documentary created by producers / filmmakers James D. Stern & Fernando Villena. This premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, where it won an Audience Awards as the Festival Favorite. This film follows the annual August Wilson Monologue competition and the thousands of high schoolers who enter the competition for the opportunity to perform on Broadway. We've featured trailers for a few other doc films about these kind of events, including Don't Be Nice about a poetry slam team. Executive producer Viola Davis, with Fences co-star Denzel Washington, share the impact that Wilson’s timeless artistry and legacy has had on their careers and their hopes for the young people carrying it forward. The film also features the original song "Never Break" from John Legend. This looks like a deeply inspiring profile of passionate young people expressing themselves through words.
"Staying calm under fire is very hard…" IFC Films has unveiled a trailer for an excellent documentary titled MLK/FBI, which recently premiered at the Toronto and New York Film Festivals this fall. It's also playing at festivals all around the world on a brief festival tour before arriving in theaters in January early next year. We fully expect this film to be on the Academy Awards shortlist for Best Documentaries in 2020. Based on newly declassified files, Pollard's resonant film explores the US government's surveillance and harassment of Martin Luther King, Jr. Despite his heroic status in history nowadays, MLK/FBI examines how the US government (and specifically the FBI) viewed him as an "enemy of the state". Not only did they surveil him and follow him, they often went after him in vicious ways to undermine his progress and destabilize his attempts at unity and peace. The film is very timely examination of how this occurred and that even though MLK may not have been perfect, he's still not the "bad guy" that the FBI tried to portray him as. Of course.
"Prodigies come few & far between. I saw him take an audience apart." Paramount has debuted an official trailer for music documentary Guitar Man, telling the life story of legendary Bluesman Joe Bonamassa. Directed by Philippe Klose & Kevin Shirley, Guitar Man showcases Bonamassa's astounding talent from his childhood as a "wunderkind" discovered and mentored by Blues legend B.B. King. At the age of only 43, Bonamassa has an illustrious career spanning over three decades. Through highs and lows, Joe persevered, taking his musical journey into his own hands to overcome challenges and reach his goals. In 2009, he fulfilled a lifelong dream of playing at the prestigious Royal Albert Hall and was joined on stage by Eric Clapton, marking a pivotal moment that elevated his music to the next level. Filled with an abundance of music, live concert footage, and interviews with music industry legends, Guitar Man chronicles a musician growing in his craft, traveling the globe, collaborating with top artists from across the world of music, and ascending to the heights of inevitable success. Looks like a good time wading into the world of Blues music.
"We live in a society now where everybody abides by the rules, and people don't even know what the rule is or where it came from, they just abide by it." 1091 Pictures has revealed an official trailer for the sports documentary film titled Gap Year, made by filmmakers T.J. Regan & Josh Kahn. This medium-length doc film runs 50 minutes and focuses on the world of basketball. It's specifically described as a "coming-of-age business of basketball film [that] explores the triumphs and tribulations of Darius as he enters uncharted territory for an NBA prospect, navigating a corporate day job while training for the NBA Draft at the age of 18." The doc profiles Darius Bazley, a modern-day high school basketball phenom, who decided to take an internship instead of go to college to play basketball for them. This is a solid trailer explaining the stakes of his decision and what it means for the basketball world, how disruptive it really is. I can dig it, sounds good.