WE ♥ DOCS
"A diploma cannot compare to the future of Hong Kong." Dogwoof has released an official promo trailer for the documentary film Faceless, the first film from journalist / filmmaker Jennifer Ngo. This is premiering at the Hot Docs Film Festival this week, hence the new trailer to drum up some early buzz and interest. Not to be confused with two other horror films also titled Faceless. Ngo's doc Faceless is an intimate portrayal of four young protestors in Hong Kong struggling to protect their freedom and way of life under the shadow of authoritarianism. The film takes us to the front lines of the pro-democracy movement in Hong Kong to meet four brave young people. "As protests morph into a greater city-wide movement calling for democracy and justice against police brutality, each of them are forced to re-examine their motives, their values and personal relationships." This doc goes hand-in-hand with the Oscar-nominated short doc Do Not Split, also about the Hong Kong protests and the people involved in them. This looks outstanding - I will be watching.
"Rolling!" Watch out for killer turtles! Check out this official trailer for a never-finished-film documentary called Snapper: The Man-Eating Turtle Movie That Never Got Made, the latest from director John Campopiano, who is also currently working on the film Pennywise: The Story of It. This doc tells the untold story of Snapper, an unfinished early 90s film about a man eating turtle that wreaks havoc on a lakeside community in New England. Told through unearthed behind-the-scenes set footage, photos, newly digitized film reels of daily footage, and some never-before-told stories from the filmmakers. "This is a short doc (30-minutes) about the making of a creature feature that actually fell apart before becoming a true film. In many ways it's also a tiny window into DIY garage filmmaking here in New England during that era." This sounds great! And for those interested - this short is already available to watch virtually at a local theatre in Boston.
"What does an artist owe to his people?" Amazon Prime Video has released the full trailer for an acclaimed documentary called The Boy from Medellín, one of the latest films from filmmaker Matthew Heineman (Cartel Land, City of Ghosts, Tiger, The First Wave). This premiered at the Toronto Film Festival last year and launches on Prime Video worldwide starting in May for anyone to watch. The Boy from Medellín is a profile of the beloved Colombian reggaeton musician called J Balvin, whose full name is José Álvaro Osorio Balvín. The doc film follows J Balvin as he prepares for the most important concert of his career - a sold-out stadium show in his hometown of Medellín, Colombia. Shot entirely in the one "dramatic week" leading up to the concert, The Boy from Medellín gives us "unprecedented access to 'Reggaeton's Global Ambassador,' and provides an immersive look into one of the most pivotal and emotionally charged moments of his life." This looks damn good, because it seems there was a lot on his mind during this one week. Take a look below.
"The revolution will not be televised!" Searchlight Pictures has unveiled the first teaser trailer for the new music history documentary Summer of Soul, the feature directorial debut of DJ / musician Questlove - who MC'd the Academy Awards show live last night. Summer of Soul first premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival, where it won both the Grand Jury Prize and the Audience Award, and it will stop by HotDocs next. This film won over critics and audiences with audacious, joyful, uplifting look back at this remarkable music event. Summer Of Soul (…Or, When The Revolution Could Not Be Televised) is a doc feature about the legendary 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival which celebrated African American music and culture, and promoted Black pride and unity. The documentary feature includes never-before-seen concert performances by Stevie Wonder, Nina Simone, Sly & the Family Stone, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Ray Baretto, Abbey Lincoln & Max Roach and more. This is an amazing film, and will likely be the EVENT of the summer when it opens. It will play both in theaters (yes!!) and on Hulu at the same time starting this July. Don't miss it!!
"Each block is made from 100 year old mountain cherry." This isn't a new video to enjoy, but it's certainly worth watching anyway and might inspire artistic minds. Thanks to recent "unintentional ASMR" finds, this Ukiyo-e Technique video from the Smithsonian's National Museum of Asian Art has been rediscovered by the internet. It features master printmaker Keiji Shinohara going through his process of transferring (or is it "painting"?) a woodblock print onto paper, a beautiful traditional Japanese technique that has been used for centuries. I am a huge fan of Japanese woodblock prints (I even own an original Japanese art print I picked up from the Ronin Gallery in NYC) and this video is so delightful. It's also a calming, meditative 18-minute short doc that features nothing but Keiji quietly doing printmaking and talking about it. View below.
"Sweetheart, I might have to have a colonoscopy." Gravitas has released a trailer for a documentary called It's Not a Burden, or titled in full It's Not a Burden: The Humor and Heartache of Raising Elderly Parents. As the title indicates, it's a film about how people care for their parents when they get older and really need that support. This touching, funny, emotional film by Michelle Boyaner, chronicles her journey caring for her long-divorced parents (her mom battling dementia, and her father, a hoarder). Other families’ supporting storylines – of all races, genders and backgrounds, are expertly woven throughout, showing the universal and inevitable issues, we as a nation face around the topic of aging. "Leading with humor and heart, It's Not a Burden takes on the relatable struggles of elder-care, with truth, humor and compassion – exposing the multiple sides to this complex issue that affects so many while gently reminding us, we're not alone." Featuring an original score composed by Joanna Katcher, and songs by Danielle Ate The Sandwich.
"Loving takes your further than 'not hating', because to love someone is to know what hurts them." Yep. An important short doc film about racism. Battleground is the creation of filmmakers Kwesi Thomas & Mark Bone, developed through conversations immediately following the murder of George Floyd last year (finally there is some justice a year later). Vimeo premiered the 18-minute film and says: "the short captures the particular discomfort of having to argue for one’s value in a society that should care instead of question. Kwesi, a Black man, powerfully conveys these feelings to his co-director Mark, a white man, in the wake of George Floyd's death last May." This was made up in Canada, but still connects with the experiences of any Black person in North America. "The film [is] an attempt to articulate the confusing, vertiginous, experience of one's skin being a site of social conflict, a 'battleground,'" the filmmakers explain. It's beautifully shot and features a number of meaningful conversations with many people about their experiences with racism today.
"She just brings such authority and such honesty to whatever she's playing." Roadside Attractions debuted an official trailer for a documentary film titled Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided To Go For It, made by Puerto Rican filmmaker Mariem Pérez Riera. This first premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year, and also played at the Miami, San Francisco, Seattle, and Sarasota Film Festivals. The film offers a celebratory look at the life and 70+ year career of Rita Moreno, from her humble beginnings in Puerto Rico to her success on Broadway and in Hollywood where she broke down barriers, and fought for representation and forged a path for new generations of artists. The doc feature "illuminates the humor and the grace of Moreno, as well as lesser-known struggles faced on her path to stardom, including pernicious Hollywood sexism and abuse, a toxic relationship with Marlon Brando, and serious depression a year before she emerged an Oscar winner." Looks like a wonderful life-affirming profile of a massively talented woman.
"Studying whale culture might be more about glimpsing something of ourselves… How we can connect differently a million years from now." Apple TV+ has revealed an official trailer for a documentary titled Fathom, in celebration of Earth Day. The film introduces us to the most dedicated whale researchers, Dr. Michelle Fournet and Dr. Ellen Garland, exploring both their groundbreaking work and how a life at sea has shaped them. The film is a "deep dive" into these two scientists' quest, on opposite sides of the world, to communicate with humpback whales and unravel the mystery of why they sing. Sharing groundbreaking revelations, and also highlighting "the passion, curiosity, collaboration, perseverance and work it takes for leading scientists to make scientific discoveries." I enjoy films that take us on adventures into the process of learning even more about the natural world and how animals interact. Really looking forward to watching it.
"You don't want to see Magaluf angry…" A festival promo trailer has launched for the indie documentary titled Magaluf Ghost Town, directed by Spanish filmmaker Miguel Ángel Blanca. This is premiering at the HotDocs Film Festival in Canada soon, with this trailer being released now to bring some extra attention to it. Magaluf is a beach town on the Spanish island of Majorca (aka Mallorca) in the Mediterranean, where many British travel for vacation each year. The place is now a real ghost town due to pandemic restrictions shutting down travel for the last year. But this doc film takes us back into the heart of this globally infamous mass-tourism mecca (dubbed the "Twin Peaks of the Balearics"), exploring how local people experience the impacts of tourism. The film is described as an "ensemble piece that offers a portrait of a community as it navigates the transition from hibernation to the high season." I'm very curious about this, and curious if it's going to end by saying that tourists leaving the place empty is better than when it was full. Very interesting.
"This was a new drug cartel… They were drug dealers wearing suits and lab coats." HBO has unveiled the official trailer for the next searing new Alex Gibney documentary titled The Crime of the Century, a major investigation into Big Pharma's involvement in the opioid epidemic. This is premiering at a two-part series on HBO coming up in May, and it looks like it hits hard on the truth - exposing "the billions of dollars gained and thousands of lives lost due to the opioid crisis." Time to put this into the spotlight. "Big Pharma sold America a lie and made a killing." An indictment of Big Pharma and the political cohorts & government regulations that enable over-production, reckless distribution and abuse of synthetic opiates. There's a lot covered in this 2.5 minute trailer and it's quite damning, with plenty of confessions and revelations about how complex this drug game is. This is exactly what Gibney is great at examining in his docs. A must watch.
"This is the story of dreams enabled by technology." Metrograph Pictures has released an official trailer for an acclaimed indie documentary titled Sisters with Transistors, marking the feature directorial debut of filmmaker Lisa Rovner. The doc film tells the story of electronic music's female pioneers, composers who embraced machines and their liberating technologies to utterly transform how we produce and listen to music today. Narrated by legendary multimedia artist Laurie Anderson, it showcases the music of and rare interviews with many electronic heroes including: theremin virtuoso Clara Rockmore; "Dr. Who" theme composer and master of tape manipulation, Delia Derbyshire; Daphne Oram, one of the founders of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop; Éliane Radigue, known for her work in musique concrète and tape feedback techniques; sound artist Maryanne Amacher, known for using psychoacoustic phenomena; co-creator of the world’s first electronic film score for Forbidden Planet, Bebe Barron; and others as well. This might play perfectly as a double feature with the EDM doc Underplayed, also about women in electronica. Enjoy.