Tagged Documentary

Apollo 11 (Miller, 2019)

It’s so gratifying to go into a documentary and not have to be talked at for two hours. For those that feel differently, there are many other films you can watch about the Apollo 11 mission that have the traditional talking heads in place. They can give you better explanations and direct testimony about the…

Black Mother (Allah, 2018)

Black Mother is filmmaker and photographer Khalik Allah’s benediction to his homeland of Jamaica. In his polyphonic and contrapuntal vision, it is a place of many faces and attitudes, with eyes that see the road ahead with sagacity, noses that revel in the scent of the country’s foods and recreations (marijuana included) and mouths that sing…

Free Solo (Vasarhelyi & Chin, 2018)

I spent a good portion of Free Solo loudly swearing at my walls. Not a heights guy, I’m afraid. Watching someone scale a rock formation without a rope or harness is the kind of cinematic event I can’t put myself through more than once, even if I know the outcome in advance. Not good for the blood…

The 2019 Oscar-Nominated Shorts: Documentary (Various, 2017-2018)

Black Sheep (Perkins, 2018) I could definitely feel the Moonlight influences in this short documentary about a black boy’s desperate drive to survive after moving to a racist neighbourhood in Essex. The direct address to the camera, and the sustained close-up of his face is one noticeable feature, as is the shot of his younger self in…

Of Fathers and Sons (Derki, 2017)

Kudos to the Academy’s documentary branch for plucking this lesser-known choice out of its shortlist and giving it a top five berth over something more mainstream like Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I’m sure it pissed off a mighty contingent of moviegoers (and maybe even the Academy at large, who I’m sure would have coasted Neville’s film…

RBG (West & Cohen, 2018)

I shall play the role of sober judge while writing this review, because Ruth Bader Ginsburg would want me to do nothing less. And so, while I admit RBG is highly entertaining and teeming with warmth for its subject, it’s also one of those documentaries that turns a Wikipedia entry into an audiovisual presentation. When it’s done…

24 Frames (Kiarostami, 2017)

Abbas Kiarostami left the world with an unusual goodbye. Not a narrative film, or a film of particular grandeur. Not a film that took us through his beloved Iran, meeting new faces and treading new terrains. No. He left us a film that is experimental in nature, best described as watching pictures come alive in…

Did You Wonder Who Fired the Gun? (Wilkerson, 2017)

Travis Wilkerson’s family history is not one he is proud of. You would forgive him if he never talked about it in public. I, too, would be apprehensive if I knew one of my closer descendants (in his case, his great-grandfather) had been racist scum responsible for killing a black man in cold blood. The…

Minding the Gap (Liu, 2018)

Late into Minding the Gap, one of its subjects learns the true purpose of the documentary and remarks that it is a form a free therapy. So cleverly does Bing Liu frame the film at the start that we don’t realize what he’s up to for quite a while. At first, for instance, I thought this…

Hale County This Morning, This Evening (Ross, 2018)

The cinematography in Hale County This Morning, This Evening rivals some of the best fictional work of the year, allowing every sprig of Alabaman life to become one with the larger spheres. For instance, there is one moment when Ross superimposes a full moon on a little girl playing in a bubble bath, slowly dissolving to the…

They Shall Not Grow Old (Jackson, 2018)

Peter Jackson certainly does us a service in terms of historical preservation by restoring century-old footage for They Shall Not Grow Old. Seeing it in a normal frame rate, and in colour, opens up the past in a new way by allowing us to see the world as those soldiers once saw it. It becomes more…

Shirkers (Tan, 2018)

This is a film about loss and reclamation over a span of several decades, ending on a note of triumph even though its circumstances are anything but. There is nothing here about sexual assaults or bodily invasions, but in a sense, there is brutal violation everywhere. A man who is trusted, older, and eminently charming…

The Work (McLeary & Aldous, 2017)

Therapy can be intense. Intensive group therapy? Man. I don’t know how else to compare such extreme cathartic intervention other than as a form of non-supernatural exorcism. It must take mountains of courage for grown men to relinquish their deepest, darkest demons so openly and then crumple into balls of unfiltered emotion. And even more…

They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (Neville, 2018)

I watched this before the 38-minute featurette A Final Cut for Orson, which is where all the details about The Other Side of the Wind’s restoration work are included. I wouldn’t have minded one long and comprehensive documentary about the film’s history, from inception to release. Neville’s documentary felt incomplete without documenting the many legal snares that…

Rat Film (Anthony, 2016)

Anyone who goes into this thinking they’re going to learn about the physiology of rats and their historical notoriety as carriers of infection will be disappointed. This isn’t your standard nature documentary. It’s actually an essay piece formed like a collage, and its thesis isn’t immediately evident. Only when the film begins to explain the…