Tag Archives | Documentaries

America’s Most Progressive Filmmaker

Robert Greenwald. Photo: Sam Smith (CC)

Robert Greenwald. Photo: Sam Smith (CC)

And the award goes to… Robert Greenwald! Okay, so I just created an award out of thin air, but Greenwald is more prolific and arguably more successful in changing attitudes and policy than the other leading candidate for such an award, Michael Moore. Jeffrey Fleishman profiles Greenwald for the Los Angeles Times:

In an old, whitewashed motel, where folklore has it studio executives once brought their secretaries for “lunch,” Robert Greenwald, a mercurial man trailed by insults and death threats, leads a small band of filmmakers dedicated to unnerving political and corporate powers with righteous anger and quick-cut editing.

Greenwald embodies the populism of George Bailey and the sly delight of a spy handed a secret dossier. His Brave New Films has skewered Wal-Mart, Fox News (Bill O’Reilly despises him) and the conservative politics of billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch. Greenwald’s narratives have criticized the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and his latest documentary condemns the Obama administration’s drone program for killing civilians in Pakistan and other countries in a misguided strategy to combat terror.

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Robert Greenwald on How America Embraced Drone Warfare

Activist documentarian Robert Greenwald can be relied on to address the most topical issues of the moment, ranging from Wal-Mart’s dubious employment practices to corporate war profiteering in Iraq, exposing the Koch Brothers or showing what happens to whistleblowers.

Unmanned

His latest film is Unmanned: America’s Drone Wars. Jesse Hicks interviews Greenwald for The Verge:

What drew you to this topic in the first place? Did your perspective change as you worked on the documentary?

I was drawn to it because I’ve done a series of films and investigations around the war issues. I did the first film around the Iraq war and the reasons we were given for it; I did another film called Iraq for Sale about war profiteering; I went to Afghanistan and did a film challenging the military policy there. I see the idea of the bipartisan militarization of policy — the bipartisan belief that we will be safer by invading or occupying or droning — as one that is highly questionable.

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‘Windy City Heat’: The Greatest Trick Comedy Ever Pulled

220px-WindycityheatSteven Hyden at Grantland wrote a piece about legendary movie-within-a-movie Windy City Heat, a film that is ostensibly about a “sports detective”, but is actually about a terrible actor who believes he’s in a movie about a “sports detective”. Oh, and if you’re interested in a more straightforward documentary on the corrosive quality of sudden fame, I strongly recommend Overnight, a film that profiles the sudden rise and ego-fueled fall of Boondock Saints director Troy Duffy.

Via Grantland:

Based on what I’ve briefly related about Windy City Heat, you’ve likely reached an obvious conclusion: There’s no way that the film-within-the-film is for real. You’d have to be pretty dense not to recognize the signs — Caravello is clearly a terrible actor, the sports detective premise is ludicrous, and the Fridge is far too dignified to appear in such a low-rent project.

Sure enough, a series of inserts appearing over the opening scene informs the audience that all of this Stone Fury business is really an elaborate prank that everyone is in on except for Caravello.

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Neurons To Nirvana

Neurons To Nirvana is a feature documentary about the resurgence of psychedelics as medicine. Through interviews with the world’s foremost researchers, writers, psychologists and pioneers in psychedelic psychotherapy, the film explores the history of five powerful psychedelic substances (LSD, Psilocybin, MDMA, Ayahuasca and Cannabis) and their previously established medicinal potential.


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The world premiere is on October 19th in New York City and will be followed by a panel discussion featuring:

RICK DOBLIN, PH.D., MAPS (Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies);

JULIE HOLLAND, M.D., psychiatrist & editor (Ecstasy: The Complete Guide & The Pot Book: The Complete Guide to Cannabis);

GÁBOR MÁTÉ, M.D., addiction & ADD Expert, best-selling author (In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction);

JEREMY NARBY, PH.D., anthropologist and author (The Cosmic Serpent, & Intelligence in Nature) and

JAG DAVIES from the Drug Policy Alliance.… Read the rest

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Koch Brothers Suppressed Documentary Film

Those pesky billionaires, Charles and David Koch, stretch their tentacles wherever their money is accepted, and it seems as though public television is no exception. Brian Stelter describes the unfortunate plight of the film Citizen Koch in his report for the New York Times (don’t forget, of course, that Robert Greenwald’s documentary Koch Brothers Exposed is on sale right now):

One year ago, the filmmakers Tia Lessin and Carl Deal thought they had hit the public television jackpot. ITVS, an arm of public television that finances independent documentaries, had signaled interest in subsidizing and broadcasting a film about the influence of big-dollar donors on elections. At the time, Ms. Lessin and Mr. Deal were calling their documentary “Citizen Corp,” and they were expecting $150,000 from ITVS to help them finish producing it.

citizen koch

Then a few things happened. Last fall, the film was renamed “Citizen Koch,” a reference to Charles G.

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Witchsploitation! Witchcraft “Documentaries” From the Golden Age of Groovy

One of my favorite blogs, A Few Years in the Absolute Elsewhere (A nice reference to The Morning of the Magicians, that.) has quite a treat on offer today. Author Tristan Eldritch has written a nice round-up on witchcraft-themed “documentaries” from the sixties and seventies. Although I’ve embedded a documentary here, I firmly suggest you check out the original article.

A Few Years in the Absolute Elsewhere:

“Being so prevalent in the fictional cinema of the period, it is unsurprising that witchcraft also seeped into the seedier corners of British filmmaking. Now appearing quaint and incongruous, putative “documentaries” were often produced as a means of slipping copious nudity past the censor, these films finding a ready audience among the so-called “dirty mac” set in Soho sex cinemas…”

Keep reading.

WARNING: Film (NSFP) Not Safe for Prudes.

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We Steal Secrets – The New Movie About WikiLeaks – Infuriates WikiLeaks

We_Steal_Secrets_-_The_Story_of_WikiLeaksEvery documentary filmmaker begins with deciding on the story to be told, and, then, how to sustain audience interest.

If your goal is to inform the public or take a stand on an important issue by explaining its origins and exposing wrong doers then you go one way. If your goal is to entertain and shroud your motives by exploring murky personality contradictions, you go another.

We Steal Secrets, Alex Gibney’s latest documentary (or is it a docudrama?), skillfully made with the backing of major media company tries to do both.

Ironically, that company, Comcast-Universal, owners of NBC, is at the same time having a major success with another movie, Fast and Furious6, glamorizing a criminal gang that relies on speedy cars.

You could say that Wikileaks, the subject of We Steal Secrets also began with a fury – a fury against war and secrecy, and was moving as fast as it could to challenge media complacency in the digital realm.… Read the rest

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Does Making Films Help Make Change?

President Obama on The Daily Show closeThere has been a major shift in media culture as most TV networks have abandoned long-form information programming. In these times, with Twitter playing a big part in disseminating news, TV has to be punchy, quick and visual. The age of media mergers has seen showbiz merging with news biz, and soundbites have become shorter as the newscast story count rises.

Significantly, the best TV criticism of these trends in the US appears in a nightly program on the Comedy Central channel. But ultimately, there is nothing funny about the way a media system – intended to bolster a democratic discourse – contributes to its decline.

News is increasingly becoming more about the image than the information – an approach to “coverage” that is at its core tabloid in its sensibilities, often intended for a memorable emotional impact that will boost media ratings and revenues. The race for “breaking news” is breaking our ability to understand the context of events.… Read the rest

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PBS: Independent Lens: ‘Seeking Asian Female’

Debbie Lum’s ‘Seeking Asian Female’ follows the surprising romance of Steven and Sandy — an aging white man obsessed with marrying any Asian woman and the young Chinese bride he finds on the internet. Debbie, a Chinese American filmmaker, documents and narrates with healthy doses of humor and reflection, from the early stages of Steven’s search for an Asian bride, through the moment Sandy sets foot in America for the first time, to a year into their precarious union. Global migration, Chinese-American relations and the perennial battle of the sexes, weigh in on the fate of marriage in this eccentric love story.
This version of ‘Seeking Asian Female’ was edited for time allowed. You can purchase the full 90 minute film here.

Watch Seeking Asian Female on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.Read the rest

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Psychedemia

On the 70th anniversary of the first intentional LSD trip, a compelling new documentary film about the academic study of psychedelic drugs is released.

Psychedemia was the first academic conference funded by an American university to explicitly focus on the risks and benefits of psychedelic experience. Ph.D’s, M.D.’s, M.A’s, graduate students and lay folk from all walks of life convened at the University of Pennsylvania over the 27th-30th of September 2012 to present new research addressing the historical and potential influences of psychedelics on knowledge production, health, and creativity. The four day event brought together scientists, artists, journalists, historians and philosophers from more than 10 countries for an Ivy League convocation unprecedented not only in view of its controversial subject matter, but in its unparalleled inter-disciplinary scope.

Directed and Edited by two-time Emmy Award winner Vann K. Weller and Drew Knight, the documentary is being dedicated to the Public Domain to be freely used for any purpose as an intellectual and cultural artifact – broadcast directly through YouTube.… Read the rest

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