KING CORN (2007) — Documentary Retroview

KING CORN (2007) — Documentary Retroview

If you believe you are what you eat, you’ll no doubt be shocked to learn that you’re mostly corn. Aaron Woolf’s documentary reveals that most Americans eat mostly food products derived from or containing corn. In King Corn, Woolf follows young eco-activists Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis–who met and became investigative cohorts while undergrads at Yale–as they plant and harvest an acre’s worth of corn, and then to trace their crop as it is processed into the food products that nurture the increasingly obese and unhealthy–and always hungry–American population.

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BIGGER STRONGER FASTER (2008) – Documentary Retroview

BIGGER STRONGER FASTER (2008) – Documentary Retroview

Chris Bell uses his personal story as a platform for consideration of doping in America. The film shows that famous hunks like Hulk Hogan, Sly Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger were dopers, and shows that the use of steroids is not only addictive, but also dangerous to both health and reputation.

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A FILM UNFINISHED (2010) — Documentary Retroview

A FILM UNFINISHED (2010) — Documentary Retroview

Yael Hersonski’s A Film Unfinished is a remarkable holocaust documentary comprised primarily of previously unedited historic footage that was shot by Nazi filmmakers, ostensibly chronicling daily life in the infamous Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. Most of the footage — 60 minutes of silent images — was discovered in East German archives, long after WWII ended. It was generally considered to be historic record — albeit from the Nazi perspective — of life within the walled district (read that as prison) where German authorities and their Polish sympathizers forced Jews to await their fate.

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HITLER’S HOLLYWOOD — Documentary Review

HITLER’S HOLLYWOOD — Documentary Review

Filmmaker Rudiger Suchsland’s Hitler’s Hollywood is a compilation documentary that uses clips from films produced during the Nazi regime to show how the movies were used to indoctrinate the masses and influence their behavior. Subtitled German Cinema in the Age of Propaganda: 1933-45, the film is more analysis than homage, presenting a fascinating profile of the Nazi period of German history that creates positive stereotypes and presents mythic illusions about current and historic events.

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CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL (2011) — Documentary Retroview

CORMAN’S WORLD: EXPLOITS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL (2011) — Documentary Retroview

If you have any interest in Hollywood history and love Tinsel Town lore, this comprehensive biodoc about the life and career of Roger Corman will entertain and fascinate you — even if you’re not a big fan of the B-movie genre. Expect to see Hollywood’s A-List of stars who attribute their success to the legendary ‘King of B-movies.’ pay tribute to Corman, now in his 80s.

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IDFA 2017: The Female Gaze is Gone

IDFA 2017: The Female Gaze is Gone

It’s hard not to appreciate what the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, otherwise known as IDFA, has accomplished during the decades since it was co-founded by Ally Derks, who is rightly revered in the documentary film realm. But Ally Derks has moved on, and IDFA is changing its outlook. This year, the festival dropped its The Female Gaze program and is, apparently, no longer focusing on ongoing issues of gender parity faced by the international community of women filmmakers.

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Claire Ferguson talks Storytelling, Trauma and Team Work in DESTINATION UNKNOWN

Claire Ferguson talks Storytelling, Trauma and Team Work in DESTINATION UNKNOWN

In Destination Unknown, British documentary filmmaker Claire Ferguson’s interviews with Holocaust survivors captures on film the most intimate and painful memories of traumas experienced in the Nazi death camps and the ongoing suffering they have caused throughout the victims’ lives. The survivors’ vivid descriptions are supported by archival footage. The combination of current testimony from surviving elders with images of what they lived through is absolutely devastating. Destination Unknown is an important addition to the canon of Holocaust films. Read what filmmaker Claire Ferguson has to say about making the film and the responsibilities of documentary filmmakers.

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Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady on ONE OF US, the Evolution of Documentary Filmmaking and Partnering with Netflix

Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady on ONE OF US, the Evolution of Documentary Filmmaking and Partnering with Netflix

In One of Us, filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady investigate the unique lifestyle of Brooklyn’s Hassidic community. Presented in Ewing and Grady’s signature style, the highly dramatic stories of two men and a woman who want to leave the community reveal a complex and arcane culture that exists right in our midst, but is largely unknown to outsiders. Ewing and Grady talk about making One of Us and changes in documentary filmmaking during the 15-year span of their partnership.

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MOVING MIDWAY — Documentary RetroView (2008)

MOVING MIDWAY — Documentary RetroView (2008)

Godfrey Cheshire, a noted and highly acclaimed film critic, uses his cinematic smarts and sensibility to good effect in Moving Midway, his first feature documentary about the relocation of his ancestral home, an antebellum North Carolina plantation named Midway, from its original location, now rapidly being encroached upon by Raleigh’s urban sprawl, to a more secluded and peaceful spot, still on family property, several miles away. The film is a fascinating study of family, location and changing times in the South.

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Human Rights Film Festival 2017: Feminist Programming

Human Rights Film Festival 2017: Feminist Programming

The 28th Human Rights Watch Film Festival (June 9-18, 2017) presents topical and provocative feature documentaries that showcase courageous resilience in challenging times. In an era of global advances by far-right forces into the political mainstream, assaults on the free press, and the rise of “citizen journalism,” festival organizers hope that the films in this year’s program can serve as inspiration and motivation for the audience, from seasoned activists to those searching for a role in local and global movements. Ten of the 21 programmed documentary feature films are directed by women.

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Granito: How To Nail A Dictator – Documentary Retroview (2011)

Granito: How To Nail A Dictator – Documentary Retroview (2011)

Granito: How to Nail A Dictator chronicles efforts to bring Guatemalan dictator and military commander José Efraín Ríos Montt to trial in an international court of law for genocide in that country. Director Pamela Yates and Producer Paco de Onis not only cover case preparation by prosecutors based in Spain, also provides extremely important evidence in the form of archival footage Yates shot of military actions when she was embedded with the guerrillas fighting against Rios Montt’s rule for her previous film, When the Mountains Tremble.

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PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES (2011) — RetroView by Jennifer Merin

PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES (2011) — RetroView by Jennifer Merin

All The News That’s Fit To Print? The New York Times continues to be the nation’s newspaper of record, although news gathering and publishing are undergoing rapid transformations, and the New York Times has had to cut its staff for economic reasons. The film looks at how the New York Times is handling the rise of new media, and considers what will become of the newspaper in the future.

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THE FENCE – Documentary RetroView (2010)

THE FENCE – Documentary RetroView (2010)

Do We Want or Need a Fence Along the US-Mexico Border? In 2008, the US government decided to build a 700-mile long fence along the 2000-mile border with Mexico. Intended to block terrorists and illegal immigrants from entering the country, the fence was built by 19 construction companies, 350 engineers, thousands of construction workers using tens of thousands of tons of metal — at a cost of $3-billion. Filmmaker Rory Kennedy uses statistics, archival and new footage, interviews with experts and humorous commentary to investigate the project’s impact and question its value, effectiveness and ethics.

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American: The Bill Hicks Story – Movie Review – 2011

American: The Bill Hicks Story – Movie Review – 2011

Bill Hicks, the famed American comedian and musician who died of cancer in 1994 at age 32, lives on in this documentary that uses archival footage of his childhood and his funny and irreverent stand up routines, as well as animated family photos and interviews with friends and colleagues to chronicle the comedian’s life and career.

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Ai Weiwei Never Sorry – Movie Review – 2012

Ai Weiwei Never Sorry – Movie Review – 2012

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei is probably as well known for his protests against political repression in contemporary China as he is for his vastly variable works of art.

In Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, first time filmmaker Alison Klayman chronicles the daily life of the artist as he uses his work and his notoriety to draw attention to his grievances against the current Chinese government.

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Biographical Documentaries by Film Title – A to Z

Biographical Documentaries by Film Title – A to Z

Some biographical documentaries investigate the inner life or underbellies of their famous subjects, others are tribute films that present celebrities in a (sometimes artificial) glowing light. Here, in alphabetical order, is a list of some important documentaries about a wide range of celebrated personages — some contemporary and others historical, some famous and others infamous — whose biographies will fascinate and inspire you.

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Critics Choice Documentary Awards 2016

Critics Choice Documentary Awards 2016

As proof positive of the trending interest in nonfiction film, the first-ever Critics Choice Documentary Awards (CCDA) were presented on November 3, 2016, at a gala event attended by leading documentary filmmakers, distributors and film critics. Presented by the BFCA and BTJA, the critics organizations behind the annual Critics Choice Movie Awards (to be presented on December 11), the documentary awards covered nonfiction films with theatrical releases and those shown on television or via online streaming. Read more…

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Movie Review: GOOD HAIR

Movie Review: GOOD HAIR

Chris Rock’s smart commentary on ‘good hair’ (ie straight hair) is hilarious and, alarming. Compelled by concerns about what his daughters will face in the future, he addresses the serious social, political and economic implications of the ‘good hair’ precept. Jeff Stilson perfectly captures Rock’s intent and delightfully subversive attitude. Good Hair rocks! Read the review

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INAUGURAL CRITICS’ CHOICE DOCUMENTARY AWARDS NOMINATIONS UNVEILED

INAUGURAL CRITICS’ CHOICE DOCUMENTARY AWARDS NOMINATIONS UNVEILED

The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA) and the Broadcast Television Journalists Association (BTJA) have announced the nominees for the inaugural Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards. The winners will be presented their awards at a gala event on Thursday, November 3, 2016 at BRIC, in Brooklyn, New York. Here’s a list of the nominees. DISCLAIMER: I was a member of the nominating committee and am a BFCA voting member.

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Documentary Review: YOU’VE BEEN TRUMPED

Documentary Review: YOU’VE BEEN TRUMPED

As you may have assumed from its title, You’ve Been Trumped is about Donald Trump — or, more specifically, it’s about the environmental impact that is likely to result from the real estate mogul’s construction of a golf course complex along the scenic coast of Scotland, at the Menie Estate, near the village of Balmedie, just north of Aberdeen.

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Movie Review: RAFEA SOLAR MAMA

Movie Review: RAFEA SOLAR MAMA

It’s wonderful when filmmakers produce documentaries about social actions that better peoples’ lives. Such is the case with filmmakers Jahane Noujaim and Mona Eldaief’s extraordinary Rafea Solar Mama, which chronicles the transformation of a woman who felt she had no future into a self-confident, independent citizen with the means to support herself and her family. The film doesn’t cure all the ills in Rafea’s life, nor does it resolve all the issues that she and other women in her community face, but it strongly suggests that there are proactive ways to make a difference for the better.

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Margot Benacerraf on ARAYA, Documentaries and the Sun as a Protagonist

Margot Benacerraf on ARAYA, Documentaries and the Sun as a Protagonist

Milestone Films’ restoration of Margot Benacerraf’s Araya coincided with the 50th anniversary of the film’s premier at Cannes Film Festival, where it shared the International Critics Prize with Alain Resnais’s Hiroshima, Mon Amour. Despite the win, Araya didn’t receive widespread distribution. Nevertheless, director Margot Benacerraf, now in her 80s, is a legendary figure in world cinema. Although she’s made few films, her work is compared to that of Robert Flaherty, Luchino Visconti and other master filmmakers.

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Casting By… – Documentary Review

Casting By… – Documentary Review

Casting Director Marion Dougherty didn’t invent Al Pacino or Bette Midler, but she certainly was very influential in the shaping of their careers. Pacino and Midler, and many other actors who’ve risen to super star status. Pacino, Midler and a long list of other movie stars and leading directors, including Martin Scorsese, Robert Redford, Woody Allen and Clint Eastwood appear in filmmaker Tom Donahue’s Casting By… to tell how Dougherty contributed to their success and to thank her for her invaluable input. Praise for Dougherty comes from a who’s who of Hollywood honchos. But, amid all of the headliners, Dougherty herself is actually cast as the central character in Casting By….

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Release of TRAPPED, the abortion rights doc, is timed to Supreme Court decision on TRAP laws

Release of TRAPPED, the abortion rights doc, is timed to Supreme Court decision on TRAP laws

Filmmaker Dawn Porter’s Trapped, the abortion rights film that won Sundance Film Festival 2016′s U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Social Impact Filmmaking, is set to open theatrically on March 4, with subsequent broadcast dates in June on Independent Lens. The film’s nationwide release, timed for social impact, comes just as the U.S. Supreme Court takes on Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the landmark case that will determine the constitutionality of “TRAP” (Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers) laws.

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Diversity Storm Heats Up in Hollywood

Diversity Storm Heats Up in Hollywood

Celebrities are speaking out, demanding better representation for women and people of color. Female filmmakers are lobbying. Plenty of other female critics, besides me, are flagging the problem, which includes a scarcity of substantial and complex female characters in narrative films, whether Hollywood or indie, that fail to pass the Bechdel test (at least one scene with two female characters who have names, talking to each other about anything other than a man).

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