4 items from 2009
The re-released cinematic head-trip Forest of Bliss adheres firmly to the purer school of documentary-making
The lowest form of documentary involves a presenter setting off on a journey to discover why he or she didn't yet know something about which we, the audience, were already adequately informed. Near the opposite end of the documentary spectrum are those quiet, almost anonymous films such as Être et Avoir or Sleep Furiously, in which a community is observed and recorded with minimum fuss and no overt manipulation. Beyond those are films – so seldom seen that one could be forgiven for thinking them extinct – with no presenter, no commentary, no characters, no specific setting and no narrative or story. Godfrey Reggio's Koyaanisqatsi (a Hopi Indian word meaning "life out of balance"), made in 1982, is the classic of its kind: a compilation of ravishing footage of cities and natural wonders, seen at night and in the blaze of day, »
- Geoff Dyer
It's very hard to categorize a film like Baraka. Because of its particular characteristics - a complete lack of a verbal component, a non-linear 'plot' and a broadened coverage of our planet - it doesn't fit it with any existing genre. With that being said, I wouldn't want to have to put a label on this beautiful production. Its simplicity and remarkable ability to convey the idiosyncrasies of our planet have made it a favorite among film enthusiasts since its release in 1992. In many ways the highly acclaimed Planet Earth series (released last year by the BBC) owes much of its success to Baraka, mainly for the cinematography and time-lapse photography it uses. When Baraka director Ron Fricke (Koyaanisqatsi, Chronos)  set out to make this film he had a clear idea of what he was doing. According to the featurette, his goal was to "reconnect with humanity and communicate on a level which, »
- Myles Dolphin
I have feelings more than ideas. I am tired, but very happy. My 11th annual film festival has just wrapped at the Virginia Theater in my home town, and what I can say is, it worked. There is no such thing as the best year or the worst year. But there is such a thing as a festival where every single film seemed to connect strongly with the audience. Sitting in the back row, seeing these films another time, sensing the audience response, I thought: Yes, these films are more than good, and this audience is a gathering of people who feel that.
Let me tell you about the last afternoon, the screening of a newly restored 70mm print of "Baraka." The 1,600 seats of the main floor and balcony were very nearly filled. The movie exists of about 96 minutes of images, music and sound. Nothing else. No narration. No subtitles. »
- Roger Ebert
It's a good thing Ebertfest is no longer called the Overlooked Film Festival. One of my choices this year, "Frozen River," was in danger of being overlooked when I first invited it, but then it realized the dream of every indie film, found an audience and won two Oscar nominations. Yet even after the Oscar nods, it has grossed only about $2.5 million and has been unseen in theaters by most of the nation.
Those numbers underline the crisis in independent, foreign or documentary films--art films. More than ever, the monolithic U.S. distribution system freezes out films lacking big stars, big ad budgets, ready-made teenage audiences, or exploitable hooks. When an unconventional film like "Slumdog Millionaire" breaks out, it's the exception that proves the rule. While it was splendid, it was not as original or really as moving as the American indie "Chop Shop," made a year earlier. The difference is, »
- Roger Ebert
4 items from 2009
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