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Birth, Death, and Dramatization: The Invention of the Modern Documentary

By Jacob Oller

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.
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Oliver Laxe In Front and Behind the Camera

  • MUBI
Ben Rivers' The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers (2015) is showing on Mubi from September 6 - October 6 and Oliver Laxe's Mimosas (2016) from September 7 - October 7, 2017 in the United Kingdom as part of the series Close-Up on Oliver Laxe.MimosasBoth Mimosas and The Sky Trembles and the Earth Is Afraid and the Two Eyes Are Not Brothers mirror each other in many different ways: they both take place in the same geographical space, the south of Morocco, they were filmed at the same time, have some of the same people in them, and are filmed in 16mm. But these are only apparent similarities that veil deeper discussions between both films. Director Oliver Laxe stands behind the camera in Mimosas, he is observed from the distance in the first part of The Sky Trembles, and finally ends up crossing the invisible wall
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The Beautiful Lies of Robert J. Flaherty’s "Moana with Sound"

  • MUBI
Close-Up is a feature that spotlights films now playing on Mubi. Robert Flaherty's Moana with Sound (1926 / 1980) is playing August 30 - September 29, 2017 on Mubi in most countries around the world.Slowly, slowly, the tufunga taps his comb of bone needles into the young man’s lower back. His movements are practiced and precise, each tap marking the young man for the rest of his days. The young man winces in agony, sweat pouring down his face as his relatives wipe away the blood and excess ink with tapa cloth. A witch-woman stokes a fire and burns candlenut stalks to make more soot for the tufunga’s ink. The infernal tapping continues, now on his upper back, now on his flanks, now on his knees—the most painful part of the ceremony. Outside the hut, a crowd of men dance and sing. “Courage to Moana,” they cry, “Courage to Moana!
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Running Children, Warring Cities: Children in the Films of Peter Nestler

  • MUBI
Mubi's retrospective on filmmaker Peter Nestler, A Vision of Resistance, presented as part of a collaboration with the Film Society of Lincoln Center, is showing in from July 18 - September 1, 2017 in most countries around the world.By the Dike SluiceWhen German documentarian Peter Nestler sees a glass, he doesn't just see a glass. He sees factories, he sees furnaces that melt the glass and he sees hands that toil and mold it. When he sees a city, he sees the hills, the roads and the sluice, and then looks more intently at the children running on the road, the women carrying their babies to work and the men playing cards in a bar. He sees layers within the unidimensional cinema space and reads the politics, the geography and the history through the people he sees, especially the children. His Marxist lens sifts through footage as his eyes try to represent
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From Lollobrigida to Gidget: Romance and Heartache in Italy

Here's a brief look – to be expanded – at Turner Classic Movies' June 2017 European Vacation Movie Series this evening, June 23. Tonight's destination of choice is Italy. Starring Suzanne Pleshette and Troy Donahue as the opposite of Ugly Americans who find romance and heartbreak in the Italian capital, Delmer Daves' Rome Adventure (1962) was one of the key romantic movies of the 1960s. Angie Dickinson and Rossano Brazzi co-star. In all, Rome Adventure is the sort of movie that should please fans of Daves' Technicolor melodramas like A Summer Place, Parrish, and Susan Slade. Fans of his poetic Westerns – e.g., 3:10 to Yuma, The Hanging Tree – may (or may not) be disappointed with this particular Daves effort. As an aside, Rome Adventure was, for whatever reason, a sizable hit in … Brazil. Who knows, maybe that's why Rome Adventure co-star Brazzi would find himself playing a Brazilian – a macho, traditionalist coffee plantation owner,
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‘Documentary Now!’: The Secrets to Recreating Film History the Right Way

‘Documentary Now!’: The Secrets to Recreating Film History the Right Way
IFC’s “Documentary Now!” has always gone for more than the cheap laugh. While it’s a mockumentary of public-tv programming and the documentaries they feature, the real pleasure lies in watching how it will create homages to great nonfiction filmmaking.

“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.

Read More: How ‘The
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When In Disgrace With Fortune and Men's Eyes: Close-Up on Nicholas Ray's "In a Lonely Place"

Close-Up is a column that spotlights films now playing on Mubi. Nicholas Ray's In a Lonely Place (1950) is playing June 2 - July 2, 2017 on Mubi in the United Kingdom as part of the series The American Noir.Although mostly remembered now by the public for his 1955 classic Rebel Without a Cause, Nicholas Ray left behind him a legacy of over twenty feature films. A veritable cinematic explorer, Ray traversed genres ranging from noir, western (most notably his 1954 gender-bending cult Trucolor extravaganza Johnny Guitar), melodrama, epic and experimental film. He dared as few would to shoot in remote and forbidding locations such as the Arctic and Everglades National Park. What are Ray’s films about? As in his signature piece Rebel, despite Ray’s wide-ranging endeavors in genre and subject matter we are often met with anti-hero protagonists who struggle and rail against authority while lamenting their meaningless and circumscribed existences.
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Icarus Films Releases Two DVDs Looking At The Early Days Of Non-Fiction Cinema

Over the last decade or so, non-fiction and documentary cinema has been the breeding ground for some of cinema’s most interesting films and film-makers. However, for many cinephiles the history of this world of cinema has been vastly undervalued and works vastly underseen. Be it the earliest days of silent cinema to the importance of documentary films in global conflicts, non-fiction directors have crafted some of the greatest and most influential works in all of the art form.

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
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Sundance Review: ‘Dina’ is an Intimate, Questionable Portrait of Love

A tender love story, Dina is a documentary that could easily be mistaken for a fiction film. Framed in long takes, often on a tripod, several choices other than its style call the film’s legitimacy into question, including a key moment which occurs in the film’s third act that leaves one wondering if directors Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini are playing fair. The film, up until that moment, is so engrossing that as manipulative as it may appear, I’m willing to forgive the choice of pulling back the curtain a bit on a moment that’s offered up with little context.

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,
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The Eagle Huntress: how a Mongolian teenager triumphed over tradition

Otto Bell’s documentary mixes the traditional and modern to thrilling effect

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.

Continue reading...
See full article at The Guardian - Film News »

Newswire: R.I.P. Lupita Tovar, Mexican star of Hollywood’s golden age

Lupita Tovar, the 1930s film actress who starred in the acclaimed Spanish-language version of Dracula and the first Mexican talkie, Santa, has died. She was 106.

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 ...
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‘Moana’ Review: Dazzling Visuals, Dwayne Johnson and Lin-Manuel Miranda Sustain This Animated Disney Musical

‘Moana’ Review: Dazzling Visuals, Dwayne Johnson and Lin-Manuel Miranda Sustain This Animated Disney Musical
Disney’s animation roster has a history of playing with culturally insensitive fire, from the “siamese” cats in “Lady and the Tramp” to the savage Middle Eastern stereotypes in “Aladdin.” The same directors of that movie, Ron Clements and John Musker, reteam for “Moana,” the tale of a young Polynesian woman who commands the high seas to save the world. But the movie has two other co-directors, Don Hall and Chris Williams, whose credits include more recent Disney efforts such as “Big Hero 6.” While the quartet of credits may contribute to the movie’s uneven tone, it also suggests a merging of Disney’s past and present.

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
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‘Documentary Now!’ Season 2 First Clip: Watch The Twisted & Morbid Spin on ‘The War Room’

‘Documentary Now!’ Season 2 First Clip: Watch The Twisted & Morbid Spin on ‘The War Room’
Though Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Seth Meyers are no longer on “Saturday Night Live” together, they still work closely together on the IFC mockumentary series “Documentary Now!” Hosted by Helen Mirren, the series parodies celebrated documentary films by adopting its style and focusing on a fictitious subject. In the first season, the team parodied the Maysles brothers’ “Grey Gardens,” Robert J. Flaherty’s “Nanook of the North,” Errol Morris’ “The Thin Blue Line,” and the recent rock doc “The History of the Eagles.”

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
See full article at Indiewire Television »

‘Documentary Now!’ Season 2 First Clip: Watch The Twisted & Morbid Spin on ‘The War Room’

‘Documentary Now!’ Season 2 First Clip: Watch The Twisted & Morbid Spin on ‘The War Room’
Though Fred Armisen, Bill Hader, and Seth Meyers are no longer on “Saturday Night Live” together, they still work closely together on the IFC mockumentary series “Documentary Now!” Hosted by Helen Mirren, the series parodies celebrated documentary films by adopting its style and focusing on a fictitious subject. In the first season, the team parodied the Maysles brothers’ “Grey Gardens,” Robert J. Flaherty’s “Nanook of the North,” Errol Morris’ “The Thin Blue Line,” and the recent rock doc “The History of the Eagles.”

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
See full article at Indiewire »

Beldocs: The Festival That Turns Expectations Upside Down

The Great FortuneNot many festivals grant you the privilege of being personally welcomed by its director with a bottle of home-brewed liquor, not very many set that as their standard of hospitality: Beldocs, the Belgrade International Documentary Film Festival, is one of them. The composite beauty and disinterested generosity of the city and its people are the ideal environment for a festival genuinely close to its etymological roots, that of festivity, of an uplifting moment of reciprocal discovery and exchange. Big enough to explore, small enough to elaborate, Beldocs is what a festival is meant to be: a place where films are not only consumed but also convivially dissected. The size and schedule of the festival, but most crucially its comradery dimension, allow for the kind of space cinema needs in order to be cultivated, not only watched. The constitutive elements of the seventh art in Beldocs coexist organically side by side,
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‘Documentary Now!’ Stands Out in the Emmys’ Variety Sketch Race

‘Documentary Now!’ Stands Out in the Emmys’ Variety Sketch Race
Spliced together from interviews, establishing shots, and dramatic reenactments, its subjects’ homegrown aphorisms set against the forceful tinkling of the score, “The Eye Doesn’t Lie” might’ve been made by Errol Morris himself.

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.

Related storiesHow 'Mike Tyson Mysteries' Season 2 Pushed Wacky Retro Designs Even Further (Emmy Watch)Taraji P. Henson's 'Empire' Highlight Reel Has to Be Seen to Be Believed'You're the Worst' Star Aya Cash Explains Why You Shouldn't Vote For Her at the Emmys (But You Really, Really Should)
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[Montclair Review] Booger Red

Employing an outsider to disarm subjects deep in Bubba Texas, Booger Red turns to writer/director/actor/provocateur Onur Tukel as its conduit into this world, asking the absurd questions at the heart of a scandal that involves swingers, foster parents and a “sex kindergarten.” Inspired by Michael Hall’s 2009 Texas Monthly article, director Berndt Mader (Five Time Champion) constructs his own documentary/narrative hybrid with Tukel as a reporter named Onur Tukel (although not as himself) in his most restrained role yet.

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
See full article at The Film Stage »

The Naked Island

Don't let your boss see this movie, it'll give them ideas. Writer-director Kaneto Shindo reduces the human drama to its basics, as an isolated family endures a backbreaking existence of dawn 'til dusk toil to eke out a living. It's a beautiful but humbling ode to adaptability and human resolve. And the show has no conventional dialogue. The Naked Island Blu-ray The Criterion Collection 811 1960 / B&W / 2:35 widescreen / 94 min. / Hadaka no shima / available through The Criterion Collection / Street Date May 17, 2016 / 39.95 Starring Nobuko Otowa, Taiji Tonoyama, Shinji Tanaka, Masanori Horimoto. Cinematography Kiyomi Kuroda Film Editor Toshio Enoki Original Music Hikaru Hayashi Produced by Eisaku Matsuura, Kaneto Shindo Written and Directed by Kaneto Shindo

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.
See full article at Trailers from Hell »

The Reality of ‘The Southerner’ and Absurdity of ‘Death by Hanging’

As a supplement to our Recommended Discs weekly feature, Peter Labuza regularly highlights notable recent home-video releases with expanded reviews. See this week’s selections below.

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,
See full article at The Film Stage »

‘Asfixia,’ ‘Lake,’ ‘Mariachis’ Win Big at Guadalajara Co-Pro Meet

‘Asfixia,’ ‘Lake,’ ‘Mariachis’ Win Big at Guadalajara Co-Pro Meet
Guadalajara – Mexico’s ‘Asfixia,’ Chile’s ‘Another Lake,’ and Mexico’s “I’m No Longer Here” and “Mariachis” win big at the 2016 Guadalajara Fest’s Co-Pro Meeting, scoring two prizes a piece, while ‘Lake,’ ‘Ballroom’ and ‘Julio’s Night,’ all first features, snagged coveted Argos Prizes, implying Pesos3 million ($164,000) a shot in co-pro coin, a world for many Latin American productions.

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.
See full article at Variety - Film News »
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