WE ♥ DOCS
"If you take anger out of my heart… I'll never hate again." Blue Fox Ent. has released a new official trailer for the documentary Created Equal: Clarence Thomas in His Own Words, about the Supreme Court justice and his entire career in law and politics. Although Clarence Thomas remains a controversial figure, loved by some, reviled by others, few know much more than the news headlines as well as the recollections of his contentious confirmation battle with Anita Hill in 1991. Yet, the personal odyssey of Clarence Thomas is a classic American story and it should be better known and understood. This doc film tells the Clarence Thomas story truly and fully: "unscripted and without narration, the documentary takes the viewer through this complex and often painful life, dealing with race, faith, power, jurisprudence, and personal resilience." Sounds like a compelling watch! Even if you don't care for him much. Take a look at the new trailer below.
"Forget about basketball. It wasn't about basketball anymore…" 1091 has released a full trailer for a sports documentary about basketball player Stephon Marbury. The doc is called A Kid From Coney Island and it premiered at last year's Tribeca Film Festival. For those who don't know, here's his story: "Marbury, now 42, grew up in the housing projects of Coney Island, New York [City], and watched as his three college basketball-playing brothers fail[ed] to make the pros. Eventually, he made his way to the NBA, playing for 12 seasons from 1996 to 2009 for teams including the New York Knicks and the Minnesota Timberwolves. In 2010, Marbury moved to China to play professionally in the Chinese Basketball Association, becoming a six-time All-Star." Not everyone is happy with this choice, but he's an inspiration to many all over the world.
"She's using her voice in a whole new way." Netflix has unveiled an official trailer for Miss Americana, the documentary about Taylor Swift and her transitional years recently finding her own voice in life. This is premiering at the Sundance Film Festival as one of the Opening Day films this week. It will be available to watch on Netflix at the end of this month, not too long of a wait. The doc "offers a multifaceted window into Swift, her creative process, and her singular experience of being one of the brightest lights on the world's global stage. Showcasing Swift's trademark vulnerability and her fierce intelligence and wit, Wilson captures moments both tender and exhilarating." Sounds & looks like an empowering film about a vibrant musician.
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 2020 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 2020 (I just want to go see everything). There are new films from filmmakers like Dee Rees, Benh Zeitlin, and tons of fascinating documentaries that are also worthy of attention, plus many other films. You never really know what will good or bad, but here's my first few picks.
"We fight today, we fight tomorrow!" HBO has launched an official trailer for a documentary titled We Are The Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical, launching on HBO next month. This trailer is debuting on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, and arrives on HBO in February during Black History Month. Focusing on the Oakland Unified School District's MLK Oratorical Festival in California—one of many oratorical competitions that take place across the country—the film follows students from schools across the city in the months leading up to the 40th annual festival as they hone their speeches, hoping for a coveted spot in the finals. Through interviews with the contestants and scenes of rehearsals and performances, the film reveals the deep connection these students make between King's words and the world they live in. The doc is executive produced by Mahershala Ali, Amatus Karim Ali, Mimi Valdés, Julie Anderson. Take a look.
"Enough is enough! I'm not going to take it anymore." Gravitas has unveiled an official trailer for an indie documentary titled Tread, telling the story of the infamous "Killdozer" incident that took place in Granby, Colorado in 2004. Pushed to his breaking point, a master welder in a small town at the foot of the Rocky Mountains quietly fortifies a bulldozer with 30 tons of concrete and steel and heads out to destroy those he believes have wronged him. Though it was armed with three high-powered firearms, no one but the driver was killed - after the police confronted him. His name was Marvin Heemeyer. Tread explores the polarizing perspectives on this man, his motives, and what drove him to the breaking point. This premiered at the SXSW Film Festival and will be out to watch at the end of February. I have to admit this certainly intrigues me, another "true crime story" with much more going on than what's seen on the surface. Take a look below.
"Wondrous yet rueful." Kino Lorber has unveiled a brand new trailer for Jia Zhangke's documentary film I Wish I Knew, which originally premiered in 2010 at the Cannes Film Festival but was never properly released. While there is a new "Director's Cut" (it premiered at Göteborg Film Festival last year), this release seems to specifically celebrate the films 10th anniversary - and this is the first time it will actually show in theaters in the US. I Wish I Knew (also known as Legend on the Sea) focuses on the people, their stories and architecture spanning from the mid-1800s, when Shanghai was founded as a trading port, to the present day. "The film was commissioned by the World Expo, but is anything but a piece of straightforward civic boosterism." Described as a richly textured tapestry full of provocative juxtapositions. This does look like a stunning film that deserves to be admired on the big screen. Opening in select US theaters later this month.
"This was a real band… All those spark plugs needed to be ignited or it didn't work." Magnolia Pictures has unveiled an official trailer for a new rock doc called Once Were Brothers: Robbie Robertson and The Band, telling the story of the rock band known as The Band. This first premiered at the SXSW Film Festival last year, and showed at a few other doc festivals. Described as a "confessional, cautionary, and occasionally humorous tale of Robbie Robertson's young life and the creation of one of the most enduring groups in the history of popular music, The Band." Once Were Brothers blends rare archival footage, photography, iconic songs and interviews with Robertson’s friends and collaborators including Martin Scorsese, Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Van Morrison, and more. Another fascinating rock doc about an iconic band in music history.
"He found an exactly taped path out of the trap called 'The Bridge to Freedom.'" 1091 has released a trailer for a documentary called Over the Rainbow, which premiered at the Melbourne Film Festival last year. This trailer is for the film's NYC premiere as part of the Film Comment Selects series happening at the Film Society of Lincoln Center this month. It will be screening with a Q&A followed up by Mother! on 35mm. I'm sold! The film isn't just another film about Scientology, it's a reflection on how perceptions of reality can be warped. "Across a decade, Peixoto gained the trust of some in the church, and some who have left, and builds a platform for them to speak. Their unadorned observations are refracted through the observations of an alien abductee expert, an archivist of American religion, a journalist, and other [people] investigating the fringes." Allowing us to examine how and why people get sucked so deeply into religion. Take a look below.
"She hits that ball harder than her momma does." Pull Shot Productions in association with Cascia Films has debuted an official trailer for an indie documentary titled Foosballers, produced, edited and directed by Joe Heslinga. As the title indicates, this film is indeed about the people who compete in the table soccer game known best as foosball. "Most people know foosball as the game they used to play in their parent's basement, but for some die-hard fans, foosball isn't just a game… it's a way of life. Enter the underground world of professional foosball, a sport that's been around for over 40 years but no one knows exists." The doc follows six of the best table soccer players in the world as they prepare for the sport's most prestigious event, The Tornado World Championships. Looks like an amusing, crazy, compelling doc to catch sometime.
"This has gotta work, or we're all in trouble." Gravitas Ventures has released an official trailer for a movie history documentary called Making Apes: The Artists Who Changed Film, from filmmaker William Conlin. The movie is a fascinating documentary about a group of ambitious makeup artists, telling the story behind the guys who changed everything with Planet of the Apes. 50 years ago, John Chambers and Tom Burman changed the future of cinema with their groundbreaking work on the make-up and costumes for the apes in the seminal sci-fi film. The doc film features appearances by Tom Burman, Guillermo del Toro, John Landis, Rick Baker, Leonard Maltin, and Matt Winston. I really love these docs that go deep into the historic behind-the-scenes moments of Hollywood, specifically the FX industry and how they pulled off major milestones like Apes. Can't wait to watch this. Any and all movie geeks need to watch out for this.
"Don't be afraid. Be brave." Passion River Films is highlighting one of their best releases from this fall, an animated documentary film titled Liyana. This originally premiered in 2017, but since then has picked up over 35 Jury & Audience Awards from numerous festivals all over the world. After playing at various fests for over two years, it's now available to watch on VOD or DVD. Liyana is a genre-defying documentary that tells the story of five children in the Kingdom of Eswatini who turn past trauma into an original fable about a girl named Liyana who embarks on a perilous quest to save her young twin brothers. The film weaves her animated journey together with poetic documentary scenes to create an inspiring tale of perseverance and hope. It looks like an imaginative and inspiring film to discover about the incredible power of storytelling.