Category Archives: Documentary
There are many levels to director and actress Sarah Polley’s new documentary, “Stories We Tell.” In fact, now, having seen the film, I think that its trailer, while certainly intriguing, tells more than it should (as do most trailers these days). I recommend going in cold to see this compelling documentary, playing locally at Angelika Film Center (18 west Houston Street). Now having said this, my challenge is to convey my thoughts and feelings about “Stories We Tell” without giving away more than I should about the film.
“Every family has a story. This one thing that happened.” This quote from early on in “Stories We Tell” sets in motion a story about Polley’s parents. Her mother, Diane, who died when Polley was 11, was larger than life and full of fun. She fell in love with Sarah’s father, Michael, not so much with the man himself, but with a character he portrayed in a play in which the two of them performed. The mother and father were very different people, as Sarah’s father, Michael, frankly recounts. From there the story is launched and flies off at a trajectory somewhere between melodrama and thriller. Read the rest of this entry
Premiering at the Tribeca Film Festival, “Gore Vidal: The United States of Amnesia” is a wild ride through the life of the eponymous, critic, author, play-write, raconteur, screenwriter, essayist, novelist and probably a few other things that I am leaving out. Director Nicholas Wrathall managed to capture Vidal on camera during his final years, during which Vidal had lost none of his very acerbic bite. Read the rest of this entry
From April 17 – 30 Film Forum will present the US theatrical premiere of the documentary “Deceptive Practice: The Mysteries and Mentors of Ricky Jay.” The film is about the life and career of actor, world famous magician, magic historian and collector of antiquarian books, Ricky Jay. Jay narrates the film, a fascinating look at the life and career of this unique performer. Read the rest of this entry
Jafar Panahi, an acclaimed Iranian filmmaker, has received a six-year prison sentence in addition to a twenty-year ban on making any films. The reason: he supported the opposition party in Iran’s 2009 election. He is accused of making propaganda against the state. “This is Not a Film,” Panahi’s 2011 documentary about his situation, has just come out on home video.
I currently teach a college course, “Mass Communication and Popular Culture.” One of the issues covered is that a totalitarian regime tells its people what to do, while a democracy will use the media to persuade the populace. There are also cases in which a totalitarian regime will suppress media with which it does not agree. This can also happen, with more subtlety, in a democracy. I would be hard pressed to find a better demonstration of the tension between totalitarianism and mass media than “This Is Not a Film.” Read the rest of this entry
The death penalty, New York City on the verge of bankruptcy, “Ford to New York: Drop Dead,” the black out of the summer of ’77, massive looting, Son of Sam, the closing of the Sydenham Hospital, the alienation of the black community, rumors of being gay, alienation of the gay community over his response, or lack thereof, to the AIDS crisis, “How am I doing?,” Bella Abzug, Bess Meyerson, Charles Rangle, Al Sharpton, Mario Cuomo, “Vote for Cuomo not the homo,” and many other incidents and personalities all provide for a no holds barred, nostalgic, wild ride of a portrait of former, larger than life, New York City mayor Ed Koch who represented the rough and tumble of the city during the 70s and 80s.” Read the rest of this entry
“Searching for Sugar Man” is a fascinating documentary about a great American singer of whom you have most likely never heard, unless, of course, you have seen this movie. It is one of the best documentaries of 2012.
While the film was just released on home video, and is available as a DVD by mail from Netflix, it continues its run at City Cinemas Village East Cinema, at 181 Second Avenue, where it has been for at least the past few months. Although it is playing on one of the theatre’s small, downstairs auditoriums, on a small screen, “Searching for Sugar Man” proved to be a revelation for me and the fewer than 10 other patrons who showed up for the first show this past Saturday. Read the rest of this entry
“The Children next Door” is one of the most striking short films at DOC NYC, the documentary film festival running from November 8-15 at IFC Center and the SVA Theatre. The documentary was photographed and directed by Stuyvesant Town filmmaker Doug Block. The 36-minute-long film is an intimate look at the Waldroup family, one that is recovering from a horrible act of violence committed by their father and husband, Brad Waldroup.
Doug, who has mined his own family relationships involving parents and children so successfully in his personal documentaries “51 Birch Street” (2005) and “The Kids Grow Up” (2009), now explores a darker aspect of family relationships. In “The Children Next Door” he looks at a family disrupted by violence and attempting to heal. Read the rest of this entry
Ross McElwee, one of my favorite documentary filmmakers (next to Stuyvesant Town’s own Doug Block, of course), has returned to the screen with “Photographic Memory,” a personal documentary about the passage of time, how we capture it, the reliability of how we remember it and what it all may mean.
The passage of time has long been a theme of McElwee’s documentaries especially in such films as “Time Indefinite” (1993) and “Bright Leaves” (2003). The latter is my favorite of McElwee’s work. “Time Indefinite” (which I also like) deals with McElwee’s relationship with his father, a prominent surgeon. Read the rest of this entry