500 YEARS — Documentary Review

500 YEARS — Documentary Review

500 Years is the third  and final film in Pamela Yates‘ extraordinary three-film documentary series about the Mayan people’s ongoing struggle for equality and justice in Guatemala. With her politically-charged trilogy, The Resistance Saga, Yates has actually changed the course of history. 500 Years is the culmination of 35 years of filmmaker dedication to coverage of a pressing social and political issue. Stand alone or viewed with it’s companion films, it is a masterful example of how movies can make a difference. The film and its companion documentaries are must-sees for anyone who is interested in understanding current events and the role media can play in shaping them.

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GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR (2011) — Documentary Retroview

GRANITO: HOW TO NAIL A DICTATOR (2011) — Documentary Retroview

Part courtroom drama, part political thriller and part war movie, Granito: How to Nail A Dictator is one of the most compelling. gripping and inspiring documentaries of the year to date. Watching you film, you feel that you’re privy to an insider’s experience in furthering the fight for human rights and justice.

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Documentaries Watch List for Veteran’s Day

Documentaries Watch List for Veteran’s Day

On Veteran’s Day, as a way of showing respect for those who’ve returned home from war and their fallen comrades, take time to watch documentaries that tell true stories of combat veterans, and remind us that conflict resolution through peaceful negotiation is the better choice.
Here are my recommendations…

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Documentary Review: LIONESS

Documentary Review: LIONESS

Lioness, a documentary by filmmakers Meg McLagan and Daria Sommers, profiles a group of courageous women soldiers who were deployed to Iraq as support personnel–mechanics, cooks, and clerks–but found themselves in actual combat situations. Known as Team Lioness, they are the first generation of American women to return home as combat veterans, and their debriefing in this film is enlightening. Presented in cinema verite style, this must-see film is a gripping and heartrending look at how war effects soldiers. Read my review…

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Documentary Review: WARTORN 1861-2010

Documentary Review: WARTORN 1861-2010

Soldiers returning from combat experience severe depression, sleep disorders and other symptoms collectively known as post-traumatic stress disorder. Wartorn presents the history of the effects of war on combat veterans from the time of the U.S. Civil War — when doctors called it hysteria, melancholia and insanity — the to the present. None of the soldiers who appear in the film lack fortitude. They simply cannot cope with what they’ve experienced in war. And, they tell you exactly what that is. And, their accounts are seconded by those of their immediate families, who are also deeply effected by the condition of their beloved husbands, sons, brothers and fathers. Read my review…

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Documentary Review: THE GOOD SOLDIER

Documentary Review: THE GOOD SOLDIER

The Good Soldier is a powerful documentary in which filmmakers Lexi Lovell and Michael Uys present a cadre of highly decorated soldiers who’d fought valiantly in America’s wars — World War II, Vietnam, the Gulf War and Iraq — and, in doing so, came to the conclusion that warfare is neither a righteous nor effective way to resolve differences of opinion, ideology and/or national interests. Read my review…

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Documentary Review: JIMMY CARTER MAN FROM PLAINS (2007)

Documentary Review: JIMMY CARTER MAN FROM PLAINS (2007)

Before director Jonathan Demme signed on to helm a documentary about Jimmy Carter, he negotiated two important points: he would have unlimited access to the former president and he would have final cut of the film. As a result, Demme has produced an unusually intimate, insightful and revealing tribute to an exceptional elder statesman who, now in his 80s, continues to work tirelessly for peace. Demme chose to make the structural spine of his Jimmy Carter tribute the former president’s nationwide tour to publicize his 21st book, Palestine Peace Not Apartheid, in which he lays out his controversial opinion regarding Israeli behavior towards the Palestinian people. Basically, while rebuking Palestinians for provocation and violence towards Israelis, the book effectively faults Israel for encircling Palestinian territories with walls that create ghetto-like imprisonment for the people who live in them. Read my review>>

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Documentary Review: OCTOBER COUNTRY

Documentary Review: OCTOBER COUNTRY

Taking place during the year from one Halloween and the next, October Country is the haunting tale of co-director Donal Mosher’s immediate family — at least of those who still reside in rural Mohawk Valley, New York, the Mosher clan’s ancestral turf. They are a collection of complex, emotionally compelling individuals who are trapped in an intergenerational cycle of spousal and child abuse, teenage pregnancy, drug abuse, debilitating depression and other syndromes that haunt them like ghosts. Released in 2010, it’s no available on DVD. Read my review…

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Movie Review: Bill Morrison’s THE MINER’S HYMNS

Movie Review: Bill Morrison’s THE MINER’S HYMNS

As a filmmaker, Morrison’s signature is the use of archival footage to create impressionistic, rather poetic portraits of bygone eras in different places. In The Miners’ Hymns, the place is County Durham in North East England, and the time frame is roughly from the middle of the 19th century to the 1990s, when operations ceased at the area’s collieries, and coal miners turned in their drills, pickaxes and shovels for jobs in service industries.

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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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All about IDFA, For Those Who Don’t Already Know

All about IDFA, For Those Who Don’t Already Know

IDFA, the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, is the world’s largest and most influential documentaries-only festival. Founded in 1983, by festival director Ally Derks, it is unique for its international film program featuring a wide variety of documentary genres with political and socially conscious themes. The festival presents many European and world premieres each year, and is a major annual gathering place for filmmakers, producers, distributors and students to meet and network.

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Andrew Morgan on THE TRUE COST, Fast Fashion and Making Films That Matter (Exclusive, Unedited Audio Interview)

Andrew Morgan on THE TRUE COST, Fast Fashion and Making Films That Matter (Exclusive, Unedited Audio Interview)

In this exclusive and unedited audio interview, Andrew Morgan discusses his eye-opening documentary, The True Cost, about how ‘fast fashion’ – you know, those stylish little frocks that H&M and other branded purveyors sell by the millions for $9.99 each — impacts our global economy, shatters local cultures, causes political unrest and poses a serious threat to the environment. Surprise: H&M is just about on a par with Monsanto in its sacrifice of human well-being for the sake of profit. Read on and listen to the interview.

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‘Paradise Lost Trilogy, The Complete West Memphis Three Case,’ on DVD

‘Paradise Lost Trilogy, The Complete West Memphis Three Case,’ on DVD

If the ongoing, well-publicized West Memphis Three murder case eluded you, it is a harrowing example of injustice that was covered intensively by filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky in their trilogy of documentaries, “Paradise Lost,” now available on DVD. The justice defying ordeal for three West Memphis, Arkansas, teenagers began back in 1994, following the grizzly murder of three eight-year old boys in their hometown. Profiled as ‘Satan worshipers,’ the three highschoolers were picked up, arrested, tried and convicted of the gruesome crime, with what were highly questionable — and now proved wrongful — procedures and evidence.

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NORDISK PANORAMA Names New Director

NORDISK PANORAMA Names New Director

Søren Steen Poulsen has been appointed managing director of Nordisk Panorama, the premiere festival and marketplace for documentaries and shorts produced and/or co-produced in the Scandinavian countries of Iceland, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden. Poulsen joins the Nordisk Panorama team on May 1, replacing Katrine Kiilgaard, who leaves the organization at the end of March, after having run it successfully for 15 years.

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Kirby Dick Talks About Filmmaking and Outrage

Kirby Dick Talks About Filmmaking and Outrage

Documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick, known for tackling controversial and challenging subjects — such as the ‘outing’ of closeted gay politicians in Outrage (2009), exposing sexual abuse in the military in The Invisible War (2012), and ripping the lid off rape on college campuses in The Hunting Ground (2015) — thinks of each of his films as an ongoing experiment, an investigation of subject and form that he’s never satisfied with, never quite finished with. He is, it seems, incessantly indignant about the social issues represented in his films.

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CUTIE AND THE BOXER – Movie Review

CUTIE AND THE BOXER – Movie Review

Filmmaker Zachary Heinzerling follows the daily routines of Ushio Shinohara and Noriko Shinohara, Japanese fine artists who moved to New York during the 1960s, got married in 1979, and have been living and working together in their crowded loft in Dumbo (that’s an artsy part of Brooklyn, for those who don’t know the ins and outs of New York neighborhoods)for the past 27 years. They’re a couple of strong individuals. They’re both dedicated to making art, and their interests sometimes clash. Read on…

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Movie Review: THE INVISIBLE WAR

Movie Review: THE INVISIBLE WAR

Filmmaker Kirby Dick’s The Invisible War presents staggering evidence of the frequent incidence of the rape of soldiers — men and women, but mostly women — in the U.S. military, and exposes the systematic cover-up of reported rape and sexual harassment incidents and the ongoing victim persecution by U. S. military authorities. While authorities claim to have and administer a zero tolerance policy and the military acknowledges awareness of the complaints that have been filed, there is continued incidence of rape and sexual abuse throughout the military establishment. Read on…

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Review: TABLOID on DVD

Review: TABLOID on DVD

It’s easy to see why Errol Morris, known for intimate and revealing profiles of famously controversial figures, would find former beauty queen Joyce McKinney an intriguing subject. Her take on life is odd in the extreme, but she’s smart and articulate, and has no compunctions about speaking out — or ranting. Documentary filmmakers aren’t responsible for saving their subjects from themselves, but the best profiles show some compassion and an attitude of considerate restraint. That those qualities are lacking in Tabloid renders the documentary an arrogant, obscene, inexcusable example of tabloid exploitation. Read on…

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Movie Review – KOCH (Now on DVD)

Movie Review – KOCH (Now on DVD)

During the three terms he served as NYC’s Mayor, Ed Koch was notoriously brash and theatrical, outspoken, blunt, wily and hilariously humorous. As a public figure, Koch wasn’t afraid to show his sharp side, or to play the clown, poke fun at himself to disarm critics with charm. Koch’s inimitably gutsy style and refusal to compromise on policies and positions he believed best for the city and his constituents gained him avidly loyal followers, as well as legions of detractors. Neil Barskey’s fascinating biodoc tells all!

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Movie Review: Jennifer Baichwal’s PAYBACK on DVD

Movie Review: Jennifer Baichwal’s PAYBACK on DVD

Using Margaret Atwood’s fascinating treatise titled Payback: Debt And The Shadow Side of Wealth as a point of departure, acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Jennifer Baichwal engages a compelling cast of renown commentators to expound on the notion of debt and its wide ranging implications about human civilization and the future. Not all debt is economic. There is environmental debt,, too. And, when has someone guilty of a crime paid his or her debt to society? The film leads to considerations that are essential and urgently needed. Concerned citizens, see this film! Read my full review.

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Documentaries in Theaters, August 2014 – Part One

Documentaries in Theaters, August 2014 – Part One

Documentaries about troubled youth in small town USA and throughout China, expressions of Iranian artists in exile, the inspiration of music and ‘playing it forward,’ and deep sea discoveries hit big screens between August 1 and 12. Check out the roster and for maximum non-fic cool, see them all!

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Movie Review: POINT AND SHOOT

Movie Review: POINT AND SHOOT

While chronicling the exploits of Matthew VanDyke, an American who gained notoriety when he joined rebel forces in Libya and was captured and imprisoned, filmmaker Marshall Curry deftly targets the subject of how movies and the media influence personality, aspirations and social behavior in the children who are exposed to them. though Curry’s lens, VanDyke becomes a fascinating Everyman. Curry is right on target in his handling of VanDyke’s story and the film is a bull’s eye.

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Steve James Talks Empathy in Documentary Making

Steve James Talks Empathy in Documentary Making

Documentary filmmaker Steve James discusses the fundamentals of his approach to filmmaking, including his belief that one of the most essential qualities a filmmaker can bring to documentaries is empathy towards the film’s subjects. plus compassion for their plights and long-term commitment to telling their stories from their perspectives. That often makes it difficult for him to separate from his subjects when the film is complete.

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The European Documentary Network, an Overview

The European Documentary Network, an Overview

Founded in 1996, the European Documentary Network (EDN) is dedicated to enhancing opportunity for documentary filmmakers by stimulating cooperation and networking, and spreading knowledge within the documentary sector about financing and distribution. The independent nonprofit organization currently has more than 1000 members representing documentary communities in more than 60 countries. EDN is an invaluable resource. Read more…

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WE LOVE IMPUNITY – Nick Fraser on THE ACT OF KILLING

WE LOVE IMPUNITY – Nick Fraser on THE ACT OF KILLING

By my own, not quite reliable reckoning, I’ve been asked to show The Act of Killing on the BBC at least five times. I have some difficulty in responding to its many admirers – not because my responses are hard to explain but because they appear so out of tune with the prevailing chorus of praise. And I have watched the film repeatedly. After a film-maker whose views I respect told me I should see the film on a big screen, I did so. But I found that I was put off not just by being told by the film-makers that I would find the experience upsetting, but by the ritual odour of self-approbation I could sense among members of the audience.

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