MOSSVILLE: WHEN GREAT TREES FALL – Documentary Review

MOSSVILLE: WHEN GREAT TREES FALL – Documentary Review

The November 2019 release of Todd Haynes’ compelling truth-based narrative Dark Waters reminded moviegoers about how chemical titan DuPont de Nemours’ corporate greed delivered death-dealing PFOA pollution to six water districts around its plant in Parkersburg, West Virginia, poisoning some 70,000 people, including factory employees, their families and others living in the area — some […]

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DIXIE CHICKS: SHUT UP AND SING (2006) – Documentary Retroview

DIXIE CHICKS: SHUT UP AND SING (2006) – Documentary Retroview

The Dixie Chicks’ popularity plummeted after main singer Natalie Maines made an off the cuff comment about the Iraq War. This documentary, directed by Barbara Kopple, chronicles the group’s efforts to reclaim their place in the hearts of their fans and at the top of the music charts.

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Khodorkovsky (2011) – Documentary Retroview

Khodorkovsky (2011) – Documentary Retroview

Mikhail Khodorkovsky is an icon in Russia, and throughout the rest of the world, too. He’s young, attractive, smart and extremely rich. And he’s in jail. German filmmaker Cyril Tuschi profiles the fascinating Khodorkovsky, tracing his life and career from the time his early childhood, through his standout student career in Soviet Russia and his rise to prominence in post-Soviet Russia’s growing capitalist economy.

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PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER (2013) – Documentary Retroview

PUSSY RIOT: A PUNK PRAYER (2013) – Documentary Retroview

Whether you’re a fan of punk music or not, you’ll have to concede that in both style and substance the punk rock movement has pushed hard against the forces of repression wherever they exist. And, sometimes — or quite often — the powerful forces of repression strike back in hideously unjust ways. Such is the case with Pussy Riot, a feminist punk rock band of performing artists who hail from and work in Moscow.

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EARTH DAYS (2009) – Documentary Retroview

EARTH DAYS (2009) – Documentary Retroview

To explore the fundamental premises and chronicle the advent of Earth Days, our annual celebration of Gaia and whatever ecological awareness we can muster, documentary director Robert Stone has assembled and interviewed a special tribe of the environmental movement’s elders — Stuart Udall, Denis Hayes, Paul Ehrlich, Pete McCloskey and Rusty Schweickart among other activists, politicians and forecasters — who give testimony about advances made by conservationists during the 1960s and 70s, and lead us to an understanding of what happened beginning with the Nixon administration to bring us to our current situation — on the brink of environmental disaster.

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Freedom Riders (2010) – Documentary Retroview

Freedom Riders (2010) – Documentary Retroview

Documentarian Stanley Nelson’s Freedom Riders chronicles the actions of and pays tribute to an important group of civil rights activists who played a major role in the nonviolent civil rights movement.

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63 UP – Documentary Review

63  UP – Documentary Review

For those who’ve followed filmmaker Michael Apted’s entire UP Series, it’s a treat to catch up with the subjects’ latest developments in 63 UP, the eighth and likely final episode in the series. Apted refers to the series as an exploration of the British class system, and asks all whether they think the original premise for the series — “give me a child at the age of seven and I’ll show you the man” — is true. The now familiar subjects’ responses are varied, authentic and provocative.

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Filmmaker Michael Apted: Leading Up to 63 UP

Filmmaker Michael Apted: Leading Up to 63 UP

Michael Apted helms both documentaries and narrative features, and has won numerous awards for both kinds of films. But he is best known for his career-defining Up Series, a unique documentary project that has been in progress since 1964. In the Beginning At the inception of the Up Series, Apted was working as a researcher […]

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Documentary Retroview: 56 UP

Documentary Retroview: 56 UP

56 UP is the latest chapter in The UP Series, filmmaker Michael Apted’s monumental series about fourteen British citizens, following their lives since 1963, when they were seven year old boys and girls living in very different circumstances in diverse regions of the United Kingdom.

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Critics Choice Documentary Awards 2019 Nominees Announced

Critics Choice Documentary Awards 2019 Nominees Announced

The Critics Choice Association will once again be honoring the finest achievements in documentaries released in theaters, on TV and on major digital platforms, as determined by the voting of qualified CCA members (Full disclosure: I am a CCA member) . THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM leads this year with seven nominations, including Best Documentary Feature, John Chester for Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Editing, Best Score, Best Narration, and Best Science/Nature Documentary.

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Full Battle Rattle (2008) – Movie Review

Full Battle Rattle (2008) – Movie Review

Disneyland For War Games Somewhere in the Mohave Desert, the U.S. military maintains a large rural compound that contains several fake Iraqi towns. It’s here that American soldiers are sent to practice battle tactics and learn to deal with Iraqi people before their deployment to Iraq. The towns look real enough, with accurate street plans […]

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Sputnik Mania (2007) – Documentary Retroview

Sputnik Mania (2007) – Documentary Retroview

Timed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of America’s moon landing, the Apollo 11 documentary reminds us that humans are capable of making miracles happen, but it also calls up memories of the fearsome USA vs USSR race to space, which was part and parcel of the cold war between two mega powers that were often on the brink of striking out to destroy each other and — since nuclear bombs were the weapons of choice — much of the rest of the world as well.

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APOLLO 11 – Documentary Review

APOLLO 11 – Documentary Review

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the mankind’s first landing on the Moon, Apollo 11 is being released theatrically and on line. The new documentary, a compilation comprised entirely of previously seen archival footage, offers viewers an extraordinary ‘you are there’ experience of the moonshot, especially the film is seen on IMAX or other large screens.

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FOR SAMA – Documentary Review

FOR SAMA – Documentary Review

For Sama a harrowing first person documentary in which the filmmaker, Waad Al-Khateab, a Syrian woman journalist, chronicles her daily life and struggles to survive during the Battle of Aleppo. It is a reality-based horror film, a truly painful reminder that we humans create unbearable hardship and agony for each other. For Sama For Sama is absolutely essential viewing.

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IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY FROM THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT (2011) – Documentary Review

IF A TREE FALLS: A STORY FROM THE EARTH LIBERATION FRONT (2011) – Documentary Review

In presenting the story of Daniel McGowan, the former Earth Liberation Front (ELF) environmental activist who’s been sentenced to life imprisonment for environmental terrorism or, more specifically, for arson committed against northwest US lumber companies and national parks, filmmakers Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman raise questions and stir public debate about the definition of terrorism, especially in the post-9/11 security environment. The documentary is now streaming on OVID.tv.

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The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls (2011) – Documentary Review

The Topp Twins: Untouchable Girls (2011) – Documentary Review

Performing around the world and on New Zealand television, the Topp Twins are a hilarious sister act who’ve been embraced by a vast variety of fans. Leanne Pooley’s delightful documentary profile of Lynda and Jools entertains while giving biographical background and information about their current lives, as well as side-splitting clips of their performances.

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Wish Me Away: The Chely Wright Story (2012) – Documentary Retroview

Wish Me Away: The Chely Wright Story (2012) – Documentary Retroview

Watching movies for Pride Month? Remember to include Wish Me Away. Nashville music star Chely Wright, adored by millions of conservation country and western fans, lived much of her public life and career as a lie — until she decided to match up her public and professional persona with her inner truth. Chely is gay, and she decided that she had to come out.

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THE PROPOSAL – Documentary Review

THE PROPOSAL – Documentary Review

Filmmaker and artist Jill Magid became personally committed to unveiling the the legacy of legendary Mexican architect Luis Barragan (1902-1988), whose entire work record and artifacts — diaries, blueprints, photos of everything, personal memorabilia and other belongings, and copyrights — had been purchased by a powerful and wealthy Swiss conglomerate, Vitra, and were entirely withheld from public access.

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Documentary Review: ASK DR. Ruth

Documentary Review: ASK DR. Ruth

Ryan White’s Ask Dr. Ruth is a thoroughly charming and entertaining biodoc about Dr. Ruth Westheimer, America’s famously beloved sex therapist. She has been a public figure for decades, but her personal story is actually full of surprises.

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Gloria In Her Own Words (2011) – Documentary Retroview

Gloria In Her Own Words (2011) – Documentary Retroview

Peter Kunhardt’s profile of and tribute to Gloria Steinem, the famous founder of Ms. Magazine and a leading proponent of women’s equal rights, uses interviews with Steinhem, Bella Abzug and others to chronicle the career of the woman who has been the public face of feminism for decades.

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The First Saturday in May – Documentary Review (2007)

The First Saturday in May  – Documentary Review (2007)

Directors John and Brad Hennegan follow six trainers as they put their amazing and beautiful thoroughbred horses–including the fabulous and tragic Barbaro–through the paces leading up to the Kentucky Derby, the annual race that takes place on the first Saturday of May. Think of this documentary as a cross between Seabiscuit and The Horse Whisperer, but it’s a true story told with actual footage.

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Wild Horse, Wild Ride – Documentary Review

Wild Horse, Wild Ride – Documentary Review

It may sound like a reality TV show, but it’s an annual event that has become a way of life for devoted participants. And, it’s the subject of this documentary film: The Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge. The premise is simple: place 100 wild mustang horses in the hands of 100 capable trainers and give the trainers 100 days to tame the mustangs, teach them a series of tricks and perform with them as a horse and trainer team in a competitive horse show.

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BUCK – Documentary Review

BUCK – Documentary Review

Buck, referring to Buck Brannaman, is all About The Original Horse Whisperer. Gentle, calm and kind, Buck Brannaman can, it seems, tame any horse, and the creatures who ride them. The cowboy who is known as the ‘original horse whisperer,’ travels around the USA to various ranches, giving horse owners workshops about how to handle their steeds, especially those that have a will of their own and insist upon expressing it.

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BLOWIN’ UP – Documentary Review

BLOWIN’ UP – Documentary Review

Filmmaker Stephanie Wang Breal’s latest documentary, Blowin’Up, takes us into New York City’s Human Trafficking Intervention Court in Queens, where Judge Toko Serita has presided over cases against young prostitutes since the pilot court program began in 2004.

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VERY YOUNG GIRLS – Documentary Retroview

VERY YOUNG GIRLS – Documentary Retroview

The trafficking of children is a worldwide crime, but Very Young Girls, directed by David Schisgall, Nina Alvarez and Priya Swaminathan, brings the story home by following several New York City tween and teenage girls who’ve become prostitutes, and who are trying to cope with the consequences and redirect their lives.

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