Truth needs a little creativity sometimes. n the early 1920s, director Robert Flaherty decided to film the incredible and different society of Inuits that he’d stumbled upon. He ruined the first draft, then went back and reshot what later became 1922’s Nanook of the North, a feature-length docudrama that became the controversial catalyst for a […]
The article Birth, Death, and Dramatization: The Invention of the Modern Documentary appeared first on Film School Rejects.
“We really wanted you to be clicking through the channels, landing on our show and thinking that it is a real documentary, and then suddenly say, ‘Hey, hold on for a minute — that’s Fred Armisen, what’s he doing in this documentary?'” said Alexander Buono, the executive producer who has co-directed and served as cinematographer on every episode of the show’s two seasons.
Buono and his fellow co-director, executive producer Rhys Thomas, started their collaboration on “Saturday Night Live” where every week they were charged with creating send-ups of everything from a suspense drama to a pharmaceutical commercial to a music video.
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And thankfully two great, if light, histories of some of the great films are finally available on DVD.
From Icarus Films comes the release of three films, across two DVDs, that take a direct look at the early days of documentary cinema, ostensibly from the beginning with films like Nanook Of The North to the work of German propagandists like Leni Riefenstahl and Us news reels which would see names like
The story of Sundance’s Grand Jury Prize winner follows Dina Buno, a 49-year-old living on disability, suffering from a neurological disorder, and her courtship with Scott Levin, a Walmart greeter with Asperger syndrome. The filmmakers arrive after Scott proposes to Dina at a Red Robin,
Related: The Eagle Huntress review – Kazakh falconry was never so family-friendly
At first glance, Otto Bell’s The Eagle Huntress looks like one of those archetypal ethnographic documentaries with which Robert Flaherty kicked off the whole history of documentary film-making a century ago. Just like in 1922’s Nanook Of The North, Bell tackles a vanishing way of life – an ancient people in a harsh, unforgiving climate – and one might be forgiven for thinking it celebrates a wilful anachronism as it slides over history’s horizon. But you’d be wrong: there is enough of the new and the now to make this enthralling viewing.
Born the oldest of nine in a poor and very religious household in a small town in the southernmost part of Mexico, Tovar moved with her family to Mexico City in the later years of the Mexican Revolution. It was there, as a teenager studying dance and gymnastics, that she was discovered by Robert Flaherty, the docu-fiction film pioneer who directed Nanook Of The North and Man Of Aran. At the time, Flaherty was preparing his collaboration with F.W. Murnau, Tabu: A Story of the South Seas, and he wanted Tovar for the lead role. However, after coming to Hollywood, she ended up signing a contract with Fox; Tovar would later claim that this was an attempt by the studio to get back ...
Visually dazzling and loaded with charm, the movie is also blatant in its quest for cultural sensitivity: It has memorable songs by “Hamilton” phenom Lin-Manuel Miranda and a first-rate mystical soundtrack by Samoan composer Opetaia Tavia Foa’i, in addition to a
Read More: IFC’s ‘Documentary Now!’: Bill Hader and Fred Armisen Break Down the Docs Spoofed in Season 2
The series will return this fall, but before then, they have released a teaser of their first episode back which parodies Chris Hegedus and D. A. Pennebaker’s 1993 political documentary “The War Room,” about Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign for President. “The War Room” mainly follows lead strategist
Inspired by “The Thin Blue Line,” the fourth episode of IFC’s inventive, erudite “Documentary Now!” — from the frenzied imaginations of director Rhys Thomas and “Saturday Night Live” alumni Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Seth Meyers — mimics the filmmaker’s work so precisely that it comes to resemble an X-ray, showing the bone structure of his distinctive style while (gently) poking fun at it. In this sense, to describe “Documentary Now!” as a parody is to undersell: It’s a wildly funny act of criticism, deconstructing the mechanics of nonfiction in an age defined by the slippage between “reality” and the real.
Starring Armisen and Hader in an ever-changing series of roles—in a pungent send-up of Vice Media, they even play three indistinguishable pairs of plaid-clad, ne’er-do-well correspondents on the trail of a Mexican drug kingpin — “Documentary Now!” is designed with an in-depth knowledge of the form, down to the title sequence. A clever nod to public television, replete with evolving logo, synthesized theme music, and Helen Mirren’s refined introductions, the homage to the likes of “Pov,” “Frontline,” and “Independent Lens” is telling. Though tough, at times, on the familiar tropes of Morris and the Maysles, the creators’ treatment of documentaries is affectionate; their approach is closer to Christopher Guest’s warm, playful comedies, from “Waiting for Guffman” to “For Your Consideration,” than to the sharp satire of “Drop Dead Gorgeous” or “Tanner ’88.”
This is born, it seems, of their interest in the power of nonfiction narratives, and in the process by which such stories take shape. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, “Documentary Now!” is lavish in its praise — Hader’s version of Little Edie Beale, in the series’ tribute to “Grey Gardens,” replicates several memorable moments in the film almost exactly — but it’s when the series turns toward exaggeration and hyperbole that its understanding of the form’s fakery is on fullest display. Against the “direct cinema” aesthetic of the Maysles, “Documentary Now!” depicts the siblings, here known as the Feins, eliciting performances from their subjects, searching the shadows of “Sandy Passage” for the most compelling variant of the truth. (It comes back to bite them, in a way that acknowledges the elements of Gothic horror in “Grey Gardens” by blowing the original to bits.)
Understanding documentaries as a set of narrative techniques, and not simply as a reflection of “the facts,” “Documentary Now!” is at its most astute in the first season’s “Kunuk Uncovered.” Based on 1988’s “Nanook Revisited,” itself an investigation of the stagecraft in Robert Flaherty’s 1922 silent, “Nanook of the North,” “Kunuk” renders explicit the series’ animating principle: “Was the first documentary a documentary at all,” the narrator intones, “or was it something else?” As William H. Sebastian (John Slattery) attempts to mold his subject, Pipilok (Armisen), into the “Eskimo” of his ethnocentric assumptions, mounting dog sledding and spear fishing scenes, he loses control of the project to its central figure. “Kunuk” becomes an artful farce, part Hollywood excess and part careful craft.
Pipilok first demands compensation, securing the managerial services of a local pimp, and then displaces Sebastian altogether, transforming into a tortured auteur. (At one point, he curses out the cast in his native tongue, a true diva of the directing chair.) His aesthetic innovations — recording sound, building sets, developing “point of view” and new forms of movement — are those, roughly speaking, of realism, and “Kunuk” is, in essence, a reminder that the style that doesn’t seem like a style is no less fabricated for convincing us otherwise. In “Documentary Now!” nonfiction is always “something else”: A performance, a manipulation, a construction, adjacent to “the real” but not a mirror image of it.
In fashioning a new short film for each installment—with the exception of the two-part “Gentle and Soft: The Story of the Blue Jean Committee” — the series is an outlier in the Emmys’ nascent Variety Sketch category. Last year’s inaugural field featured five nominees on the traditional “sketch” model, including “Saturday Night Live” and winner “Inside Amy Schumer,” and all, including the final season of the excellent “Key & Peele,” are among this year’s twenty eligible series (up from 17). But given the TV Academy’s tendency to settle into firm patterns, to the point that one might call them ruts, it would behoove voters to honor the heterodox, learned, distinctly non-topical comedy of “Documentary Now!” while the contours of the category are still in flux.
If there’s one aspect of the series we know Academy members can appreciate, it’s the brilliant impression: Schumer and Ryan McFaul were nominated last year for directing the dead solid perfect satire “12 Angry Men Inside Amy Schumer” as if inhabited by the spirit of Sidney Lumet, a feat “Documentary Now!” manages many times over, and in myriad registers. Its sketches succeed, in the end, because they’re not sketchy at all, but rather fully realized, remarkably savvy reconsiderations of their subject, which is the creative, sometimes-deceptive act of documentary filmmaking itself.
“The Eye Doesn’t Lie” recalls not only “The Thin Blue Line,” then, but also, by dint of its title, the filmmaker’s examination of visible evidence in “Standard Operating Procedure.” “The pictures spoke a thousand words,” as Army Special Agent Brent Pack says in the latter of photographs of prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, launching into the kind of Morris-esque paradox that IFC’s series so beautifully distills. “But unless you know what day and time they were taken, you wouldn’t know what story they were telling.” The eye does lie, of course, and the brilliant “Documentary Now!” is always catching it red-handed.
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Playing an Austin-based investigate reporter, he’s dispatched to the small town of Mineola, Texas where the neighborhood swinger’s club is conveniently located across from the town’s newspaper. It’s here where the mysterious Booger Red apparently brought kids he trained in his “sex kindergarten” to perform — an allegation made by a profiteering set of foster parents.
Rather curiously, Mader has insisted many real players
Reviewed by Glenn Erickson
Writer-director Kaneto Shindo started his own production company in the 1950s earning critical attention but not great success with pictures on topical themes -- the legacy of Hiroshima, the story of the fishing trawler irradiated by a hydrogen blast.
After a decade of the Dust Bowl destroying crops while rich land owners exploited every little farmer there was, making a film that naively bought into the American dream would seem foolish for any filmmaker. But Jean Renoir could only see hope in the plains, having fled his home to exchange the dreams of Fascism for the dreams of celluloid. While Renoir struggled in Hollywood during the war period, his break came as he went north to Millerton Lake to make The Southerner in 1945. The resulting film follows doe-eyed Zachary Scott, exuding his common-day presence, as Sam Tucker. Tucker, gullible for the promises that hard work means a better life, moves his family from a proto-Days of Heaven cotton-picking existence to a farm of one’s own,
A love story between two outsiders, an Albino ex-con and hypochondriac, picking up on director Kenya Marquez’s interest in what she calls “a lack of resignation before loss,” seen in her Morelia hit and Miami Fest winner “Expiry Date,” “Asfixia” won lab and film development service prizes from Mexico City’s Estudios Churubusco and equipment hire from Mexico’s Equipment & Film Design (Efd).
Chilean actress-turned-director Francisca Silva’s “Another Lake,” about a young teen whose repressive medic father attributes her wild adolescence to a personality disorder, took an award from the U.
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