Category Archives: Documentary

CENTRAL PARK FIVE Is Out, PLAGUE Is In: 15 Documentary Features Named to Oscar Shortlist

How to Survive a Plague

Fifteen documentary features have been shortlisted for the 85th Academy Awards. Of these, five will receive nominations, which will be announced on Thursday, January 10 at 8:30am EST. The shortlisted films are as follows:

Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry
Bully
Chasing Ice
Detropia
Ethel
5 Broken Cameras
The Gatekeepers
The House I Live In
How to Survive a Plague
The Imposter
The Invisible War
Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God
Searching for Sugar Man
This Is Not a Film
The Waiting Room

(Notable snubs include The Central Park Five and Love, Marilyn.)

New York Film Festival Preview: The Gatekeepers

(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZepXBymtkUQ]

Screening: Thursday, October 11, 9pm

Venue: Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center, NYC

Series: NYFF50: Main Slate

In The Gatekeepers, documentarian Dror Moreh does something unprecedented by interviewing six former heads of the Shin Bet, Israel’s Secret Service. Individually, the “gatekeepers” reflect on their successes and failures during the ongoing struggles between Israel and Palestine and the mission for peace. In what is surely considered a strong contender for a Best Documentary Oscar nomination, this film is among the most astonishing documentaries of the year. (Moreh sites 2004 Oscar-winning documentary The Fog of War as an inspiration.) The level of access Moreh achieves is remarkable, offering a point of view never previously heard in such a medium. The film is ripe with strong narratives as told by each of the six men, as well as varied “textures” that are achieved through sit-down interviews, revealing archival footage, well-composed graphics, and a score that underlines the visuals in a subtle-yet-impactful manner. The narrative can be a bit cumbersome to follow for those not familiar with the political and social struggles between Israel and Palestine, but even still one would be hard-pressed not to appreciate the film’s obvious achievements.

Limité Rating: 4/5

Director: Dror Moreh

Genre: Documentary

Countries: Israel, France, Germany, Belgium

Language: Hebrew with English subtitles

Runtime: 97 min.

The 50th New York Film Festival runs from September 28 – October 14, 2012.

EATS: A Brief Set of Considerations for Making Your Documentary

I recently acted as a creative consultant on a friend’s feature documentary. In doing so, I came up with EATS, a set of considerations to help make a strong doc. (I was hungry when I originally wrote this, so I imagine that factored into the acronym.) I do not profess to be an expert in documentary filmmaking, but with my previous experiences as a festival screener and in consideration of some of the most successful and enjoyable documentaries I have seen, I believe these four elements are necessary. What are your thoughts? Feel free to comment below.

Continue reading EATS: A Brief Set of Considerations for Making Your Documentary

New York Film Festival Preview: Casting By

(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1EHFoE9uB0]

Screening: Friday, October 12, 6:30pm

Venue: Walter Reade Theater, Lincoln Center, NYC

Series: NYFF50: Cinema Reflected

Much credit is given to the actors, directors, and writers of feature films and TV series, but little is known about the casting directors and their creative contributions to the successes (and failures) of these visual arts. Casting By is a terrific documentary that pulls back the curtain on the little-thought-about art of casting, with a particular emphasis placed on legendary casting director Marion Dougherty (Midnight Cowboy, 1969; The World According to Garp, 1982) for whom the film is dedicated. The documentary explores the early days of casting, when the discipline was more of a “clerical” role, organizing and filing actors’ headshots, to a more substantial practice that includes, in part, understanding the psychology of characters and the talents and qualities different actors bring to a part. The modern-day bureaucracy of the capitalist film industry and the casting director’s detractors (such as Ray director Taylor Hackford) are prominently explored, as well as the fact that the casting director position is the only main title credit on a film not to have its own Oscar category. The film’s greatest achievement is in its elevation of these unsung heroes of film and TV, proving their worth and showing how the guts and instincts of some of Hollywood’s greatest casting directors helped create some films and characters that will forever be etched in our minds as “classics.” In addition to Dougherty and other prominent casting directors, the documentary features some of Hollywood’s heaviest hitters, including Martin Scorsese, Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Glenn Close, Robert Duvall, Jeff Bridges, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Jon Voight, John Travolta, and others.

Limité Rating: 4/5

Director: Tom Donahue

Genre: Documentary

Country: USA

Runtime: 89 min.

The 50th New York Film Festival runs from September 28 – October 14, 2012.

2012 Fall Film Guide

(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)

September 5, 2012

Labor Day has passed, and now it’s time to consider this year’s crop of what will inevitably be considered some of Oscar’s biggest fodder. It’s no surprise that when it comes to the Academy Awards, the movies that are most likely to be honored with a nomination are those that are released towards the end of the year. Some of this year’s frontrunners appear to be ArgoDjango UnchainedThe Hobbit: An Unexpected JourneyHyde Park on HudsonLife of PiLincolnThe MasterLes MisérablesSilver Linings PlaybookWreck-It Ralph, and Zero Dark Thirty. Of course, there’s plenty of other flicks to look forward to, spanning all genres and audience interests.

Note: All non-authored pieces’ loglines are courtesy of IMDb.com.

Continue reading 2012 Fall Film Guide

Preview: Escape Fire

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xl_TD7yppBM]

Official Synopsis:

Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare tackles one of the most pressing issues of our time: how can we save our badly broken healthcare system?

American healthcare costs are rising so rapidly that they could reach $4.2 trillion annually, roughly 20% of our gross domestic product, within 10 years.

We spend $300 billion a year on pharmaceutical drugs – almost as much as the rest of the world combined. We pay more, yet our health outcomes are worse.

About 65% of Americans are overweight and almost 75% of healthcare spending goes to preventable diseases that are the major causes of disability and death in our society.

So it’s not surprising that healthcare is at the top of many Americans’ concerns and at the center of an intense political debate in our nation’s Capitol. The current battle over cost and access, however, does not ultimately address the root of the problem: we have a disease-care system, not a healthcare system.

Escape Fire examines the powerful forces maintaining the status quo, a medical industry designed for quick fixes rather than prevention, for profit-driven care rather than patient-driven care. After decades of resistance, a movement to bring innovative high-touch, low-cost methods of prevention and healing into our high-tech, costly system is finally gaining ground. This film follows dramatic human stories as well as leaders fighting to transform healthcare at the highest levels of medicine, industry, government, and even the US military. Escape Fire is about finding a way out. It’s about saving the health of a nation.

Escape Fire screened at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and has won awards at the Newport Beach Film Festival and Full Frame Documentary Film Festival.

Directors: Matthew Heineman, Susan Frömke

Distributor: Roadside Attractions

Site: escapefiremovie.com

Release Date: October 5

2012 Top 10 Indie Summer Flicks

(Re-posted from LimitéMagazine.com)

June 19, 2012

Back for its third year is Limité’s “Top 10 Indie Summer Flicks,” which rank orders the top 10 independent films to keep an eye on this season. As far as seasons go, the summer acts as a bit of a super hero for the film industry. It’s when Hollywood studios bring out their big guns and turn over huge box office receipts. We’ve already seen The Avengers and Men in Black 3, and are looking forward to The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises. But unlike the other summer movie guides you’ll see online and in print, our mission is to remind you that the industry’s smaller films are also primed to make a splash—if not financially, then at least critically. If you need a break from the Bourne Legacys and Total Recalls of the big screen, check out some of these gems.

1. BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD

by Daniel Quitério

Reminiscent of the storm that ravaged New Orleans seven years ago,Beasts of the Southern Wild takes an introspective glance at a fantastical world in which nature dramatically changes course for those it encounters—but most especially for Hushpuppy. She is a six-year-old girl who is raised by her father Wink in “the Bathtub,” an area of the southern Delta. Wink’s tough style of parenting is only to prepare Hushpuppy for a time when he will no longer be around to protect her. So when a mysterious illness falls upon Wink, Hushpuppy must contend with a world thrown off balance.

Continue reading 2012 Top 10 Indie Summer Flicks

ESCAPE FIRE Wins The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award

(Re-posted from Tweed)

April 16, 2012

Escape Fire: The Fight to Rescue American Healthcare has been awarded The Kathleen Bryan Edwards Award for Human Rights at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival in North Carolina.

Escape Fire, by Matthew Heineman and Susan Froemke, asks what can be done to save our broken healthcare system. The film examines the powerful forces trying to maintain the current medical industry, which is designed for quick fixes rather than prevention. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2012.

To read more about the award click here.

To learn more about the film, click here.

Official Trailer: Mr. Rogers & Me

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TMXKs6OSrNg]

Premiering on DVD, local PBS affiliates, and iTunes on March 20 (in honor of Mister Rogers’s birthday)

Official Synopsis:

Benjamin Wagner first met Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood creator and star Fred Rogers at Rogers’s summer home in Nantucket, Massachusetts. His mother rented the cottage next door, so Mister Rogers really was his neighbor. On the afternoon of their first meeting, the television icon asked the young journalist about his job as an MTV producer. Wagner felt exposed and a tiny bit embarrassed—a PBS mind in a jump-cut, sound-bit, MTV world.

Mister Rogers said warmly, “I feel so strongly that deep and simple is far more essential than complex.”

One year and many “deep and simple” conversations later, Rogers told Wagner, “Spread the message!”

After Rogers’s death in 2003, Wagner and his brother Christofer set out to meet some of Mister Rogers’s neighbors to find out more about the man himself, what he meant by “deep and simple,” and with whom in our junk food culture those values endure.

Featured in the film are some of the notable personalities whose lives were impacted by their interactions with Mister Rogers. They include Tim Russert (NBC Meet the Press anchor), Susan Stamberg (NPR host), Marc Brown (Arthur author), Davy Rothbart (This American Life contributor), Linda Ellerbee (Nick News host), Bo Lozoff (activist and author), Amy Hollingsworth (author), Beverly Hall (photographer), and Dr. Susan Linn (children’s media expert).

In the end, the brothers come to know more than just the man and his luminous legacy. Their deeply personal journey explores the roots of Mister Rogers’s values, unmasks the forces acting against depth and simplicity, and helps them to develop the means to lead deeper, simpler lives.

On My DVR: Smash His Camera (2010)

Oscar-winning documentarian Leon Gast (When We Were Kings, 1996) brings us Smash His Camera, a look into the life and career of paparazzo Ron Galella, who was in hot pursuit of candid images of Jackie O., Marlon Brando, and other celebrities—risking his safety (and dignity) in doing so. This film dives into the world of the paparazzi and what they go through to provide the general public with the shots they crave, all at the expense of some famous names and the privacy they begrudgingly sacrifice. For once, the camera is turned on the photographers. They’re people too, right?

This film won Gast the Best Director—Documentary prize at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. It’s currently airing on HBO.

Director: Leon Gast
Producers: Linda Saffire, Adam Schlesinger
Cast: Floyd Abrams, Gilbert M. Anderson, Joseph Basile, Ron Galella
Genre: Documentary
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Runtime: 87 min.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ppEFBHidVY]