Tag Archives | Documentaries

From the Soil to the Sky: Thoughts on “Symphony of the Soil”

The soil, the raw Earth, the meat of our world that lays atop the bones… here is the vitality that underlays all life.

I recently watched the documentary “The Symphony of Soil,” which I will further embed below because it so impressed on me once again the importance – and the mystifying complexity – of the ground beneath our feet.

Soils are formed in a hundred different ways, all with their own chemical composition, and all with their own life. One facet of our massively complicated global ecosystem, each tiny portion so intimately vital to the other. Mycelial networks stretching hundreds of miles, bumping into other networks, forming this intricate dance like a natural Internet, the first Internet, transmitting details of weather patterns and other ecological “news” all through their spread. It is an overwhelming idea, a transcendent, beautiful idea –

And our system of global agriculture and capital is destroying it.… Read the rest

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There Is A Place: Documentary Series

In July 2003, I drove my moving truck out of the mountains and into Salt Lake City. Before arriving at my new apartment, I saw a bunch of Mormons burning American flags. So I pulled over, grabbed my camera and began shooting footage. And I didn’t turn the camera off for 3 years.

divided state

Conducting an interview of a Salt Lake City strip club owner.


My original idea, 12 years ago, was to compile an anthology of strange, funny and heartbreaking stories into one big documentary film about Utah.

But then Michael Moore came to town.

In 2004, I shot, edited, produced and directed by first feature film This Divided State about filmmaker Michael Moore’s controversial visit to Orem, UT 2 weeks before the Bush/Kerry presidential election. Originally, this event was going to be a just another entry in my anthology, but it quickly grew into something of its own. The film garnered critical success and I spent the next 2 years traveling the world promoting it.… Read the rest

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Michael Moore’s New Movie ‘Where to Invade Next’

Michael Moore has kept his new movie about America’s infinite war on the down low, but will debut “Where To Invade Next” in September at the Toronto International Film Festival. MarketWatch reports on Moore’s announcement:

Six years after “Capitalism: A Love Story,” Michael Moore is back with a new film called “Where to Invade Next” that examines the U.S. government’s appetite for war, a project Moore has been shooting and editing in secret, a major feat in the age of NSA surveillance and social-media leaks.

Michael Moore 2011 Shankbone 3

Photo: David Shankbone (CC)

The Oscar-winning documentary filmmaker and political commentator revealed in a Periscope broadcast this week that “Where to Invade Next” will premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. He refers to the movie as “epic in nature” and says he and a small team filmed in stealth mode on three continents.

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The Reel Activist

Director of Pay 2 Play: Democracy's High Stakes, John Ennis, at a protest.

Director of Pay 2 Play: Democracy’s High Stakes, John Ennis, at a protest.

I love it when a filmmaker takes on a subject of activist passion. Rather than going door-to-door, lobbying the local residents to sign a petition or getting them to listen to a verbal pitch being read from a manuscript, activist filmmakers look to reach further outward, beyond the local community, through a medium for the masses… to tell the story they want to by creating a message for all to see, for all to digest, to incite debate and, most of all, to bring about more activism. There’s power in such films, from the little to the big. They can make a lot of noise! I call these people… the storytelling masters of their cameras… The Reel Activists.

Before you go getting into a snit over my use of the word “reel”, I use it not because such activists are real (which of course they are), but because they’re filmmakers attempting to reel in your attention to a subject of importance by using their movie reels.… Read the rest

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Amy Berg’s Hollywood Sex Abuse Documentary ‘An Open Secret’ Finally Lands Distribution, Goes to Cannes

‘An Open Secret’

Ryan Lattanzio writes at Thompson on Hollywood:

When “An Open Secret” premiered at DOC NYC, audiences and critics worried that no distributor would touch it. But the film has finally been picked up, by Rocky Mountain Pictures, for a 20-city US theatrical release beginning June 5. The film will also play exclusively at the Cannes Market in an invite-only screening on May 19.

The documentary, however, is not exactly in the wheelhouse of Rocky Mountain Pictures, which has so far specialized mainly in fundamentalist Christian and right-wing political films, from “Atlas Shrugged: Part One” (2011) to its highest grosser “2016: Obama’s America” (2012), for the middle American demo. How will the Utah-based distributor channel the film’s message to the right audience? This pickup suggests that “An Open Secret,” shut out of most high-profile festival play, didn’t elicit interest from the level of distributors who’ve handled Berg’s past films (including Lionsgate and Sony Pictures Classics).

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Our Caring Stream of Consciousness

Still from Bee People.

Still from Bee People.

Do you enjoy caring? Is it overwhelming? How do you do it when the onslaught of network, and even internet news is always ‘breaking’, and when daily life deals to you a seemingly never-ending flow of drama that results in your attention span being co-opted? Do you need two you’s?

One approach is to attempt to separate the personal and global issues within your caring stream of consciousness. Take the things you care about and break them down into two buckets for streaming purposes. The very personal ones that impact daily living go into one stream, and the broader global issues that you care about into another.


For the former; what’s going on with your friends, family, job, health, neighborhood, etc. are very pertinent to daily life and must be thought of and cared about on the highest level. However, making room for more universal subjects is also important.… Read the rest

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Turning Passion into Achievement

How can film set a mission into motion and result in broadened awareness of something important?

According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “Activism” is “a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue.”

There are numerous approaches to being an activist. One could go door-to-door in support of an issue. With the internet and the likes of Twitter and Facebook(among other social media networks), getting your passion and mission position in front of eyeballs has become easier, though the clutter can be daunting. In a search on Twitter alone, if you search #getmoneyout (an activist hashtag devoted to getting big money out of politics and the election process), the number of Tweets is endless. On LinkedIn, if you search for groups related to Climate Change, the results are well more than 10 pages long. Yes… the clutter can be daunting.… Read the rest

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Can a documentary move a social issue agenda forward?

As a member of the film distribution community, most notably relating to documentaries, I have watched more than my fair share of non-fiction films, and studied over years the release patterning of even more. One thing I have learned is that there are no shortage of topics to choose from when it comes to a filmmaker selecting a theme to focus on. From a tour that guides you through Hermitage Masterpieces to a biography of Aleister Crowley (In Search of the Great Beast), films are created and released on a broad spectrum of non-fiction subjects. That was the case in 1984 when I first entered the industry, and that is the case now… 31 years later.

One area that I have seen great expansion is that of films addressing a social or political issue with the agenda of raising awareness or causing viewer perspectives to sway in one direction or another.… Read the rest

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Princes of the Yen: Central Banks and the Transformation of the Economy

Can central banks create booms and busts by manipulating the money supply? Do they do this in order to create a public consensus for economic, political, and social change? Professor Richard Werner, a monetary and development economist at the University of Southampton, says they can do this, and that they are doing this. This is what the Bank of Japan did in the 80s and 90s, and that is what the European Central Bank is doing at this very moment.

The documentary “Princes of the Yen” reveals how Japanese society was transformed to suit the agenda and desire of powerful interest groups, and how citizens were kept entirely in the dark about this. Professor Richard Werner was a visiting researcher at the Bank of Japan during the 90s crash, during which the stock market dropped by 80% and house prices by up to 84%. He experienced first hand how actors inside the Bank of Japan deliberately adopted policies to further an agenda contrary to the interest of the majority of Japanese society.… Read the rest

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