Documentary

The Imposter Movie 2012

Bart Layton‘s documentary The Imposter was warmly welcomed at SXSW (and other fests) for its icy shudder-inducing premise. It’s about…a person…but to describe that person would undercut the effectiveness of this insanely well-cut trailer. For now, know that it’s about a kidnapped boy, an emotionally demolished family, and a piece of miraculous news from across the Atlantic Ocean. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Meet the Fokkens

If the Ben Stiller/Robert De Niro movies had been set in the red light district of Amsterdam with two flaxen-haired geriatrics on the verge of retiring from professionally giving hand jobs, it might have made more money. Or been better. From writer/director Gabrielle Provaas, the documentary Meet the Fokkens (Ouwehoeren in its native tongue) is a portrait of said infamous district and Louise and Martine – two seasoned, sex worker sisters who still pull in money with their talents. The trailer promises candid, quirky conversations with them about vibrators, young hookers and hopefully they’ll share their stroopwafel recipe. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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The Invisible War Poster

Fair warning – the trailer for Kirby Dick‘s newest documentary The Invisible War is fairly intense. It covers an impossibly difficult subject – the widespread sexual abuse in the US military. The raw number tossed out? 500,000. That’s half a million women sexually assaulted in the armed forces, and as the trailer portends, there isn’t much done to curb the problem. Hopefully the work is balanced, and hopefully its taken as the honest criticism that it aspires to be. Inevitably, some will believe Dick is attacking the military, but while it’s a vital part of our nation and comprised of over a million dedicated and honorable citizens, the military is one government institution that demands this kind of keen oversight. Especially on an issue like this. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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One plus one equals three. It’s a fascinating idea in its simplicity and in its wrongness, but it’s the key to Ken Burns‘s work. According to the iconic documentary filmmaker (and sometimes Community homage subject), that’s the math that adds up to his storytelling success. The director is now the subject of a short documentary (because art has a sense of humor) from Sarah Klein and Tom Mason called Ken Burns: On Story (via The Atlantic). In it, they ask the central question of storytelling’s nature, and he answers with a little fuzzy math. Check it out for yourself:

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Roman Polanski has more than one story to tell. In a lifetime dedicated to storytelling, it is ironic that his own life experiences have been the stuff that good Hollywood films tend to made of. No doubt much will be made of the fact that the Memoir was filmed while Polanski was under house arrest in Switzerland, and indeed the film takes the controversial “American problems” as the director himself refers to them here as the starting point but the documentary is a good deal more than an opportunity to clear the director’s name. Instead it tells the story of his entire life, in which Samantha Geimer is merely one chapter, and – most enticingly for film fans – in Polanski’s own words (and occasionally those of “host” Andrew Braunsberg). Rather than opt for a narrative-type documentary, director Laurent Bouzereau opts instead for a feature length interview with his subject, presided over by Polanski’s friend and production colleague Braunsberg in the inquisitor’s seat, inter-lacing personal photographs with stock historical footage and sequences taken directly from Polanski’s films. In honesty, these visual ornaments are only brief distractions, and for the main part the film allows Polanski to merely tell his own story, which was a good decision given his story-telling abilities and his natural charm.

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A young, lanky man is trying to pay his rent by dropping watermelons out of a hat on Hollywood Boulevard. He’s one of three subjects in the forthcoming documentary The Magic Life which profiles three magicians foolish enough to use your illusion as a profession. The movie from Nelson Cheng follows a 17-year-old kid in a Beijing magic school, the aforementioned 25-year-old scruffy guy in LA, and a 32-year-old MBA-owning businessman who quits his job in order to pull rabbits out of hats for money. It’s a solid trailer, and even if magic doesn’t seem compelling, it seems to ultimately be about following dreams – no matter what they are. Check out the new trailer for yourself:

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With a dormant development arm, James Cameron has fully committed himself to holding his breath underwater and exploring the depths of narrative that he can mine from Pandora and the world of Avatar. A sequal and a threequel were already in the mix, but The Playlist is noting that Cameron seems more than open about an Avatar 4. It was 14 years from first draft to finished film, and its been almost 3 years since that sci-fi epic was released, so if the prospect of 3 more seems like it would take up the rest of Cameron’s sane days, it’s because they just might. The director looks to be quitting the original story game. “I’ve divided my time over the last 16 years over deep ocean exploration and filmmaking. I’ve made two movies in 16 years, and I’ve done eight expeditions. Last year I basically completely disbanded my production company’s development arm. So I’m not interested in developing anything. I’m in the Avatar business. Period. That’s it. I’m making Avatar 2, Avatar 3, maybe Avatar 4, and I’m not going to produce other people’s movies for them. I’m not interested in taking scripts,” said Cameron.

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Possibly one of the scariest documentaries I’ve ever seen, Sexy Baby explores the over-sexualization of girls and women in the era of the Internet. Directed by Jill Bauer and Ronna Gradus, the movie analyzes how social media, Internet porn and general pop culture are affecting the sexuality of women through the eyes of its three female subjects. There’s former porn actress Nichole (aka Nikita Kash) who’s trying to settle in to a more conventional life; precocious teen Winnifred, who’s struggling to come to terms with her own image and sexuality; and finally there’s Laura, who, after years of saving up for it, is ready to get the plastic surgery of her dreams – labiaplasty to be specific – so she can finally feel confident. The three stories attempt to answer the same question – what does it mean to be a woman in today’s hypersexual climate? Images that were once behind the curtain at the video store or at the very least hidden under a mattress are now accessible at the click of a finger, and it’s gotten more extreme. Porn isn’t new, but the types of porn we’re seeing, and the way we access it is. And in most cases, kids are seeing it at a much younger age than they used to. And if it’s not hard-core porn, it’s sexualized images in music videos, billboards, and advertising images. Celebrity sex scandals are frequently covered in the mainstream media, and those who find themselves with a leaked sex tape […]

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What would the state of American education be if Ned Flanders controlled what went into school textbooks? Folks in the Lone Star State came dangerously close to finding out during the 2009-2010 Texas State Board of Education hearings to determine the curriculum for millions of students. Made up of locally elected officials (some with academic training, some without) the SBOE was chaired by affable yet arrogant dentist and “young Earth creationist” Don McLeroy, and had the power to decide what information would go into textbooks. The position is one of great significance because Texas’ size makes it the country’s biggest purchaser of textbooks. The standards set by the board influence textbook publishing across the country. While it would seem that one’s religion would be irrelevant in such a setting, it took center stage when McLeroy and other members of the board fought to undermine the theory of evolution in the state’s science textbooks with the right wing side pushing for them to accentuate the “weaknesses” of such a theory. This fight is at the heart of The Revisionaries.

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Sound City Studios in Van Nuys has had a hand in creating 7 of the 500 greatest albums on Rolling Stone’s list. It’s a legendary spot, one rich with sonic history and a sense of American Rock ‘N’ Roll when it was far purer than it is today. It’ll no doubt make an engaging doc subject, and Foo Fighter/Nirvana member Dave Grohl plans to make sure that his directorial debut celebrates that musical birthplace in Sound City. According to Aint it Cool, Grohl is making himself mayor of Sound City after buying their Neve 8028 recording console (that was used to lay down tracks for everyone from Neil Young to Nirvana to Nine Inch Nails to bands that didn’t start with the letter N). The press release from Roswell Films calls the movie “a film about America’s greatest unsung recording studio.” Another phrase for it? A damned cool project.

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As I stood in line outside the Hot Docs screening of the Rick Springfield documentary An Affair of the Heart, I overheard the couple in front of me tell their neighbors they’d been following Rick Springfield around the world for 12 years. I remember thinking, “12 years? Really? For the guy who sang ‘Jessie’s Girl’?” Little did I know that was only a small taste of what was to come. When I got inside I couldn’t help but notice this was not your average documentary festival crowd. Where usually there are pale intellectuals, all around me were middle-aged women, eyes awash with excitement and in some cases, just about bursting with joy. I knew I was in trouble when the woman next to me declared she was going to faint and promptly burst into tears. Oh, and did I mention Rick Springfield was in attendance? As I learned during the movie (what I could hear between the screams and catcalls form the audience), Rick Springfield has elicited this kind of emotion from his fiercely devoted fan base for 30 some odd years. To some of us he might seem like another mullet-sporting 80s pop footnote, but to a select group of dedicated fans, he’s a larger-than-life character who’s been a constant in their lives since they were teenagers.

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In a new piece provocatively titled “Robots: The Gateway to ‘Mind-Blowing Sex’?“, John Roach explores the idea that robotic sex partners might revolutionize not just the personal experience, but societal problems as well. The base idea is that the existence of a robotic alternative could greatly reduce the demand for living women in prostitution. Good luck with that. While James Cameron is mining space asteroids, the conversation has just started about the role AI and sex dolls will play in our culture. Hell, even House touched on the topic. If they can fight our wars for us, why can’t they provide companionship in all its forms? Director Allison de Fren is exploring those questions, but she’s also proving that our fascination has been around for centuries in The Mechanical Bride. The documentary focuses on the history of sexualized non-human entities and the psychological elements that go into a world’s fascination with loving something that isn’t alive. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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No, this isn’t an Onion article. Filmmaker Timon Birkhofer is currently planning Capital C, a movie about the crowdfunding movement made popular by Kickstarter, IndieGoGo and you. And what better way to finance the documentary than by creating a Kickstarter page? Birkhofer already has interviews lined up with Iron Sky director Timo Vuorensola, Obama campaign Design Director Scott Thomas, “Wasteland 2″ creator Brian Fargo, former CEO of Universal Music Europe Tim Renner, and several others to discuss the philosophy, potential and popular impact of finding hundreds and thousands of investors for interesting ideas. They’re looking to film this summer after reaching their $80,000 goal. They’ve already got close to $14,000 covered, so if the project sounds interesting, feel free to help them out. It will be the most meta thing you do all day.

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In 1982, Ron Fricke wrote, edited and directed photography for Koyaanisqatsi, a movie that’s become a modern experimental classic that sought to create a pure sensory experience beyond what narrative storytelling could do. It’s the kind of film that audiences have to yield to, letting it wash over them like color-wrapped sound waves, and it seems likely that Samsara will be artistically related to Fricke’s early work. He re-teams here with Mark Magidson to create something that – if the movie delivers on its trailer – has to be seen and heard to be believed. The pair are most known for their work on the short doc Chronos and the feature Baraka, and their style is one that mashes moments together in order to find a sense of meaning. They’re incredibly good at it. Plus, the imagery! It’s amazing. The kind of stuff that steals your heart right out of your chest and makes you wish your whole body were made of eyeballs. See it and marvel:

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In 2010, the Republican-leaning Texas Board of Education approved a new set of standards which either 1) re-corrected the balance of historical education away from the liberal bias it tends to or 2) created a new tool for teaching young children that Creationism and a Conservative agenda are correct. The trick here is that a small group of people define what they want to see in textbooks, and the textbook writers have to abide or risk not selling millions of books. Since Texas buys so many, it often (alongside California) informs what the rest of the nation will be learning. At the heart of all of this, was a dentist. The new documentary The Revisionaries – which played Tribeca last week – focuses on Dr. Don McLeroy, the dentist and Creationist in question who is seeking re-election to the board. McLeroy, who recently went on The Colbert Report to discuss his views, is frank about his opinion that Liberals have taken over colleges and that evolution should be questioned while Creationism is giving equal footing in science classrooms. It’s an arrow that hits right into the heart of a cultural divide in America, and it’s one that ensures this doc has a deeply compelling subject. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Like comedians of comedy that have to pray five times a day, The Muslims Are Coming! is a new documentary featuring stand-up performances, personal diary moments, and talking heads attempting to show a different angle on what it means to be Muslim in America. Featuring luminaries like Jon Stewart, David Cross, Russell Simmons and Soledad O’Brien , it focuses specifically on the comedy of Negin Farsad (who directed) and Dean Obeidallah (who also directed). Judging from the trailer, the flick looks really lighthearted even as it tackles an unavoidable social responsibility. There’s no real way to make a documentary about Islam without taking on the All-American baggage that comes along with it. Fortunately, this doc seems content to battle fear with jokes. Check it out for yourself:

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? Jay Cheel (Beauty Day, How to Build a Time Machine) has an incredibly fresh eye for documentaries. Not content to keep things dry, he hunts down compelling subjects and attacks them with nimble creativity, cool camera work and strong storytelling flair. In The Politics of Competitive Board Gaming Amongst Friends (which, yes, sounds like a Community episode title), he almost-satirically points out the ridiculousness of high intensity, low stakes game-playing by taking it seriously. Specifically, he breaks down the dynamic between four friends bellying up to the table to play Settlers of Catan. This is a board game movie we can get behind. What will it cost? Only 10 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

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There’s something really satisfying and simultaneously surreal about seeing the person behind a cartoon voice in the flesh. It’s why Hank Azaria always gets asked to do all of his Simpsons voices whenever he does the late night circuit. It’s a serious profession undertaken by seriously talented people, but it’s one that’s been shifted to video games as a result of growing popularity and the continued use of movie stars to do animated voices. So it’s a triumph to see a documentary celebrating and exploring that craft. I Know That Voice features a long list of the best in the business. Billy West, Tom Kenny, Andrea Romano, John Di Maggio, June Foray, Charlie Adler, Carlos Alazraqui and Tara Strong are just a few of the people who lent their voice (and the rest of themselves) to the doc. Check out the trailer for yourself:

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Why Watch? This one is already making the rounds, and rightfully so because it’s a truly remarkable short movie. Caine is a bright young kid in East L.A. who went to work with his father at an auto parts store. To pass the time, this huge fan of arcades decided to build his own. Prepare to smile for 10 minutes straight and then smile the rest of the day. Then prepare to desperately want a Fun Pass. What will it cost? Only 10 wondrous minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films.

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Take a deep breath and prepare to learn everything you need to know about Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope straight director Morgan Spurlock‘s fast-talking mouth. Will it change the world? Probably. Plus, Junkfood Cinema enthusiast Brian Salisbury accepts the dangerous mission to play Movie News Roulette. Download Episode #128

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published: 12.18.2014
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published: 12.17.2014
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published: 12.15.2014
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published: 12.12.2014
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