WE ♥ DOCS
"We keep training them over and over." Netflix has debuted the official trailer for an indie documentary titled American Factory, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year to rave reviews. It also won the Best Director award, and was one of the most talked-about docs of the festival. American Factory has also played at the Full Frame, Sarasota, San Francisco, Hot Docs, Seattle, Sheffield, and Nantucket Film Festivals, and CPH:DOX. The documentary, made by Oscar-nominated filmmakers Julia Reichert & Steven Bognar, is about an automotive manufacturing plant (aka "factory") in Ohio that shuts down and lays off its staff, destroying the small town it's located in. Until a Chinese billionaire buys it and re-opens the plant. But the Chinese way of doing things goes against the way the American's do things, and they capture it all over years as the two cultures clash. Netflix scooped up this documentary at Sundance, and is giving it a small theatrical release in addition to streaming starting late this month. It's one of the best documentaries of the year, and one film I highly recommend to anyone interested in modern capitalism and international culture.
"We've got to maintain our high standards… Luckily for us, we have one record in the Top 10." Showtime has launched an official trailer for a lively music history documentary titled Hitsville: The Making of Motown, premiering later this month on their channel. This is actually a feature-length documentary that will air on Showtime first, looking back at the iconic history of one of the greatest record labels in history, Motown Records. The film focuses specifically on the period beginning with the birth of Motown in Detroit in 1958, until its relocation to Los Angeles in the early 1970s. Featuring exclusive interviews with legendary Motown founder Berry Gordy, and rare behind-the-scenes footage from his personal archives, along with appearances by John Legend, Jamie Foxx, and Smokey Robinson, among many others. This looks like an exquisite examination of music history and how this iconic studio changed music forever. Check this out.
"His deafness gave him the ability to hear his own voice." Abramorama has debuted the first official trailer for a compelling documentary titled in full, Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Movements, which initially premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year. This acclaimed film is described as a "deeply personal memoir" about a deaf boy growing up, his deaf grandfather growing old, and Beethoven the year he was blindsided by deafness and wrote his iconic sonata. I've heard great things about this and I'm looking forward to the experience. "Buoyed by a perceptive soundscape and luminous animation, Brodsky astutely captures the complexity of silence and hearing… [She] explores the meaning of deafness, loss, and the power of silence as her son discovers his unique voice and her parents confront a new chapter of their lives." Looks like a remarkable doc. The footage in this trailer alone gives me the chills, so deeply moving and inspiring.
"Any time you do the kind of work Molly did, there's a price to pay for it." Magnolia Pictures has debuted an official trailer for the documentary Raise Hell: The Life & Times Of Molly Ivins, which originally premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. The doc film also won the Audience Award at the SXSW Film Festival in the spring. Raise Hell tells the story of "media firebrand" Molly Ivins, six feet of Texas trouble who took on the Good Old Boy corruption wherever she found it. Her razor sharp wit left both sides of the aisle laughing, and craving ink in her columns. She knew the Bill of Rights was in peril, and said "Polarizing people is a good way to win an election and a good way to wreck a country." Molly's words have proved prescient. Reviews say the film is a "slick, enjoyable documentary pays tribute to the wit and wisdom of the firebrand Texas political commentator." Seems like her honest voice is just as relevant today as ever.
"It takes a really powerful idea, combined with someone willing to push it forward, to make it happen." Dada Films + Uncommon Productions have revealed the first official trailer for an indie documentary titled Jim Allison: Breakthrough, from filmmaker Bill Haney (Gift of the Game, Racing Against the Clock, A Life Among Whales). This premiered at the SXSW Film Festival earlier this year, and played at the Seattle Film Festival. After losing his mother to cancer, Jim dedicated his entire life trying to find and develop a working cure. Today, Jim Allison is a name to be reckoned with throughout the scientific world — a 2018 Nobel Prize winner for discovering the immune system's role in defeating cancer but for decades he waged a lonely struggle against the skepticism of the medical establishment and the resistance of Big Pharma. The film takes us "into the heart of a true American pioneer, in a film that is both emotionally compelling and deeply entertaining." Featuring narration by Woody Harrelson. This looks great - more than just a biopic.
"A fascinating glimpse at the emergence of a phenomenon." Check out this rad first trailer for a punk rock doc titled Desolation Center, made by filmmaker Stuart Swezey. The documentary dives into the untold story from the early 1980s about "Reagan-era guerrilla punk and industrial desert happenings in Southern California" that have since become recognized as the experiences that inspired and laundry iconic festivals like Burning Man, Lollapalooza, and Coachella. Featuring interviews and rare performance footage of Sonic Youth, Minutemen, Meat Puppets, Redd Kross, Einstürzende Neubauten, Savage Republic, Survival Research Laboratories, Swans and more. This really does seem like a iconic moment in music culture history to look back on, and they've probably got some wicked stories to tell. Music fanatics don't want to miss this.
"I was just looking for any way to make a mark." The Paramount Network has unveiled an official trailer for an indie documentary titled I Am Patrick Swayze, the latest in the "I Am" series of docs about iconic actors. The original documentary series "I Am", mostly from director Adrian Buitenhuis, is an inside look at the lives of extraordinary individuals as told by the people who knew them best. They have covered Heath Ledger, Sam Kinison, Richard Pryor, and Paul Walker before, now it's time for Swayze. Best known for his appearances in films like Ghost and Dirty Dancing and Point Break, Swayze passed away at the age of 57 in 2009. The film features interviews with co-stars such as Demi Moore, Rob Lowe, Sam Elliott, Jennifer Grey, and C. Thomas Howell, and many more insights into his life in & outside of Hollywood. Take a look below.
"They're unique, they're eccentric. When you'd see them on stage it was like seeing Bugs Bunny in person." Abramorama has debuted the first official trailer for another new rock doc - this one titled ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band from Texas. That title says it all - a film about the band ZZ Top and how they came to be. "Buoyed by candid band interviews, never-before-seen archive, animation, celebrity fan testimonials (Billy Bob Thornton, Joshua Homme and more), and an intimate performance at the legendary Gruene Hall shot exclusively for this documentary, 'That Little Ol' Band' runs the gamut, from the absurd to the poignant, from squalid Texas bars to MTV heroics, all in celebration of this notoriously private, but larger than life, power trio. In the end, ZZ Top: That Little Ol' Band from Texas unravels the extraordinary tale of a band whose image we know, but whose story we don't." It looks like good fun. That last question is quite a kicker.
"She was the first female rock 'n roll star." Greenwich Entertainment & 1091 Media have released an official trailer for the documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice, which initially premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year. The biopic rock doc film is the latest from award-winning filmmakers Rob Epstein & Jeffrey Friedman (The Times of Harvey Milk, The Celluloid Closet, Common Threads: Story from the Quilt, plus Howl and Lovelace), who use deep-cut archival footage, as well as Ronstadt's own astute recollections, to celebrate an artist whose desire to do justice to the songs that touched her soul made generations of fans fall in love with her - and with the sound of her voice. With one of the most memorably stunning voices that has ever hit the airwaves, Linda Ronstadt burst onto the 1960s folk rock music scene in her early twenties, and played for decades eventually earning a place inside the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
"Football and Chola will capture your heart." Grasshopper Film has debuted an official US trailer for the acclaimed documentary Los Reyes, a Chilean film about two dogs who love at a skate park in Santiago. I've been raving about this film since it first premiered at the IDFA Film Festival last year - here's my glowing review of it. The film also played at numerous other festivals last year and this year, and is getting a small theatrical release starting at NYC's Film Forum this August. The film is entirely focus on and all about these two doggos: Chola and Football, a couple of street dogs that live in the Los Reyes skatepark. A microcosm is organized around them, composed of things, animals and young adolescents in conflict with an adult world that they reject but are required to enter. I'm quoted in the trailer and on the poster, and yes, it really truly is one of the best films ever made about dogs. Any and every dog lover needs to, must, watch this film.
"Attack. Don't settle, don't apologize." Sony Classics has unveiled the trailer for the doc film Where's My Roy Cohn?, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival this year. This is the latest documentary by acclaimed filmmaker Matt Tyrnauer (of Valentino: The Last Emperor, Citizen Jane: Battle for the City, Studio 54) and it connects the dots between Cohn and our worrisome current state of affairs. "If you were in his presence, you knew you were in the presence of evil." He's terrifying. One of the most controversial and influential American men of the 20th Century, Roy Cohn was a ruthless, unscrupulous lawyer and political power broker whose career ranged from acting as chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy's Communist-hunting subcommittee to molding more corrupt politicians that still reign today. Reviews praised the film stating that, "a diabolical public figure mesmerizes from the grave." Worth a watch, if you can stomach this.
"The love of cinema starts early for some." BFI has released an official UK trailer for the joyful, wonderful, inspiring documentary Varda by Agnès - the final film made by the iconic / the legendary Agnès Varda before she passed away earlier this year. This premiered at the Berlin Film Festival this year to rave reviews (here's my own), and is being released as a 115-minute feature in cinemas - including in the UK starting this weekend in July. An "unpredictable" doc from a fascinating storyteller, Varda by Agnès sheds light on her experience as a director, bringing a personal insight to what she calls "cine-writing," traveling from Rue Daguerre in Paris to Los Angeles and Beijing. It's a very charming look back at her entire career, examining many of her films and featuring numerous conversations with her as she discusses her life as an artist and storyteller. I wrote in my review that "it's an utter joy to watch her talk for nearly two hours." Give it a look.