WE ♥ DOCS
"It's a great time to be a con man in America." Well, this just got interesting. Hulu has debuted an official trailer for and already released their documentary Fyre Fraud, a feature-length film about the infamous Fyre Festival disaster. Netflix also released a trailer for their documentary, Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, just last week pitting these two films head-to-head. Which is even more peculiar because apparently this documentary calls out the other one for being biased. Hulu's Fyre Fraud is "a true-crime comedy exploring a failed music festival turned internet meme at the nexus of social media influence, late-stage capitalism, and morality in the post-truth era." Sounds like this is one damning doc. The directors add that, "Billy McFarland offers us a window into the mind of a con artist, the insidious charm of the fraudster and how they can capture our imaginations, our investment and our votes in the age of Trump." Take a look.
"We want to live." The first official festival trailer has debuted for a documentary titled Gaza, premiering at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival in a few weeks. This film is listed as an Ireland/Canada production, though it's actually about modern day Palestine and the Gaza strip in the Middle East. "This elegantly shot and masterfully crafted portrait of Palestinian life offers a rare chance to be immersed in the heart of Gaza, as we glimpse behind the walls of this misunderstood land to get to know real people who inhabit it." It's a film that takes us into the lives of regular people from there, showing us they're just like anyone else, and not the dangerous enemies the media makes them out to be (at least in western countries). The doc film reveals "a world rich with eloquent and resilient characters, offering us a cinematic and enriching portrait of a people attempting to lead meaningful lives." It's certainly worth a look, some very impressive footage in this trailer.
"The only option I have is to not give up." Freestyle Digital Media has debuted an official trailer for a new documentary titled Sharkwater Extinction, the latest doc by Canadian filmmaker / activist Rob Stewart. This follow-up to Stewart's 2006 doc Sharkwater is once again all about sharks, but this time it's about the billion dollar illegal shark fin industry and the political corruption behind it. By exposing the truth behind all the illegal fishing, he also looks at how this industry that threatens the survival of the world's sharks. "Shark finning is still rampant, shark fin soup is still being consumed, and endangered sharks are now also being used to make products for human consumption. Stewart’s mission is to save the sharks before it’s too late." This looks like it's trying to be Blackfish but for sharks with the hope of actually causing real change.
"Closer to.. Lord of the Flies than Coachella." Netflix has unveiled an official full-length trailer for the new documentary Fyre: The Greatest Party That Never Happened, a film about the infamous, disastrous music festival known as the "Fyre Festival". This documentary is the latest from filmmaker Chris Smith, who previously made the fantastic Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond also for Netflix. So the story goes that in 2017, Fyre Media found Billy McFarland and rapper Ja Rule tried to put together an exclusive music festival on the Bahamian island of Great Exuma set to take place over two weekends. But it was soon discovered that the whole thing was a scam, and McFarland was then arrested and found guilty of defrauding investors and defrauding ticket buyers. This is the story of what really happened. Yeah, I'm definitely curious, even though I think the whole thing was stupid to begin with. I just want to see them give us all the real dirt in this doc.
"Say the word 'sex' with more emotion!" Magnolia Pictures has released the first official trailer for Ask Dr. Ruth, a documentary premiering at the Sundance Film Festival in just a few weeks. The film chronicles the incredible life of Dr. Ruth Westheimer, a Holocaust survivor who became America's most famous sex therapist. "With her diminutive frame, thick German accent, and uninhibited approach to sex therapy and education, Dr. Ruth transformed the conversation around sexuality. As she approaches her 90th birthday and shows no signs of slowing down, Dr. Ruth revisits her painful past and unlikely path to a career at the forefront of the sexual revolution." She seems so spunky and spry, and still as witty and wise as ever. Enjoy.
"I can only see forward when the cart is full." Think about all the random waste and leftover filler product drifting around out there. What happens to all of it? Styrofoam is a short film by a photographer named Noah Sheldon, based in Shanghai, who made this as part of a video series on work in modern China. The doc is about a woman named Wo Guo Jie, who is a styrofoam collector. She roams the streets scavenging and hunting for leftover styrofoam - boxes and other various shapes. She collects this and piles it very high on her motorcycle, reselling them to a seafood wholesale market. "Working under the cover of night to limit police attention, she's still a highly conspicuous sight on the city streets, biking with as many boxes stacked around her as possible so that she has to make only one trip a day." It's a beautifully-shot film, allowing us to follow her daily routine closely as she travels around the city hoping to stock up. Definitely worth a watch.
"Black films hold a mirror up to society, but – at the same time, give an audience an escape." Shudder has debuted the first trailer for a new feature-length documentary titled Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror, directed by Xavier Burgin. Inspired by the book "Horror Noire: Blacks in American Horror Films from the 1890s to Present" by Robin R. Means Coleman, the film is exactly as the title says - an examination of black horror. The doc features interviews with people like Jordan Peele, Ernest Dickerson, Rusty Cundieff (Tales from the Hood), and Tina Mabry (Mississippi Damned); plus actors Paula Jai Parker (Tales from the Hood), and Ken Foree (Dawn of the Dead). The doc will be screening in New York & Los Angeles, then debuts on streaming service Shudder starting in February, in case you want to check this out.
"The truth of the matter is: [the Coen Brothers are] the most pleasant, collaborative, incredibly creative guys I've ever worked with. There's nothing I would say no to…" Hollywood studios usually release pre-packaged, publicity-designed behind-the-scenes featurettes for every movie. The sound bites, the clips, the interviews, the footage is all carefully designed to help with promotion. But this behind-the-scenes video is a raw, real, unfiltered look at what it's like to be on set making a feature film. Josh Brolin made this short documentary while filming No Country for Old Men, written and directed by the Coen Brothers, back in 2007. This "unauthorized" doc is already on the Blu-ray release of the film, but just found its way online (via The Film Stage) and it's worth a watch. Because there's nothing else like it and it's a fun blast from the past.
"Sammy Davis, Jr's whole life was about confronting obstacles." PBS has debuted an official trailer for the documentary Sammy Davis, Jr.: I've Gotta Be Me, a feature-length documentary about legendary Rat Pack member Sammy Davis, Jr. While this is premiering on TV in February, the film originally premiered at the Toronto Film Festival and a number of other film festivals last year, so we're happy to feature it anyway. Described as the "first major film documentary to examine Davis' vast talent and his journey for identity through the shifting tides of civil rights and racial progress during 20th-century America." The doc features interviews with Billy Crystal, Norman Lear, Jerry Lewis, Whoopi Goldberg, and Kim Novak, with never-before-seen photographs from Davis' personal collection, excerpts from his electric performances. The film "explores the life and art of a uniquely gifted entertainer whose trajectory blazed across the major flashpoints of American society from the Depression through the 1980s." Sounds like this is worth a watch.
"Whatever you may think… It's gone already…" Zeitgeist Films, in association with indie distributor Kino Lorber, have debuted an official US trailer for an indie documentary titled Zen for Nothing, from Swiss filmmaker Werner Penzel. This already opened in Switzerland (and some of Europe) back in 2016 but is just now getting a small US release for those interested. The documentary shares the experiences of Sabine Timoteo from Switzerland, arriving as a "Zen novice" inside a Japanese zen monastery called Antaiji. The film is a "masterly immersion into life" at this monastery, presented across three seasons - Autumn, Winter and Spring. "Simple and beautifully filmed, this is Into Great Silence meets Enlightenment Guaranteed, with composer Fred Frith performing the eclectic, elegant score." This looks to be a very calm, meditative, contemplative doc that may appeal most to those curious about Buddhism and living a truly zen life. Enjoy.
"This stuff is bizarre and hilarious." Focus Features has debuted a new official trailer for Bathtubs Over Broadway, a fascinating, fun musical theater documentary that is already playing in select theaters now. Comedy writer Steve Young's assignment to scour bargain-bin vinyl for a "Late Show with David Letterman" segment becomes an unexpected, decades-spanning obsession when he stumbles upon the strange, hilarious world of industrial musicals in this comedic music documentary. Young discovers bizarre cast recordings - marked "internal use only" - of full-on, Broadway-style musical shows about some of America's most iconic corporations: General Electric, McDonald's, Ford, DuPont, and Xerox. This doc features a score by Anthony DiLorenzo; plus interviews with David Letterman, Chita Rivera, Martin Short, Florence Henderson, Susan Stroman, Jello Biafra and more. I'm glad these funny musicals are finally getting some time in the spotlight.
"I say - 'no more secrets.'" "Let this information out…!" The Orchard has debuted an official trailer for an appealing new documentary titled Third Eye Spies, a film that is supposedly going to reveal that psychics and ESP are real. From director Lance Mungia, Third Eye Spies tells the story of two Stanford physicists who discover that psychic abilities are real, only to have their experiments co-opted by the CIA and their research silenced in the name of secrecy. The film contains a few compellingly cinematic re-enactments of actual remote viewings done at Stanford Research Institute for the intelligence agencies, amazing new data retrieved from recently declassified documents via Freedom of Information Act, and over 30 interviews with every top player involved and how those discoveries are being used today. The main character is Russell Targ, one of the original researchers, who has decided that it's time to come out and say that there can be no secrets anymore. Will you believe it? Is it a conspiracy, or is it all real? There's only one way to find out.