New Documentary

DocTalk: ‘BURDEN’ — Filmmakers Speak About Man Who Had Himself Shot for Art (Video)

Posted on May 13th, by admin in Art, Biography, Film, Photography and Video. No Comments

Co-directors Richard Dewey and Tim Marrinan discuss the making of “BURDEN,” a new documentary about a performance artist who shocked the world with his violent work in the early 1970s. Chris Burden ultimately left behind this provocative, innovative art when he moved out of Los Angeles to Topanga Canyon. There he began to create large, detailed installation pieces, which includes “Urban Light” (2008), one of his most iconic. 

DocTalk video produced, directed and edited by Barry Rubinow. He is an award-winning documentary filmmaker and editor who worked as Senior VP, Creative for The Documentary Channel.

Read Gregory Crofton’s review of … Read More »

‘ABACUS: SMALL ENOUGH TO JAIL’ — Story Needed to be Told, But Not as Full-Length Feature

Posted on May 11th, by admin in Doc News & Reviews. No Comments

By Gregory Crofton

Kartemquin Films’ Steve James had an epochal impact on the world of documentaries when he made “HOOP DREAMS” in 1994. His latest feature film “Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” will not leave the same mark.

This film is important because it tells a key and largely unknown story from 2008 financial crisis era — a family-owned bank in Chinatown is prosecuted for mortgage fraud when it should not have been. But its 90-minutes is about 60 minutes too long. It’s a courtroom drama without any real drama, and it includes more scenes of the same family eating at different Chinese restaurants than ANY film should.

What the documentary does well is provide access to the little-seen world of Chinatown, and it reveals that the relationship dynamics of a successful Chinese-American family seems to be the same as any other successful … Read More »

‘BURDEN’ — Fascinating Biographical Doc Shows Journey from ‘Evel Knievel’ Days to Beloved Installation Artist (Review, Trailer)

Posted on May 5th, by admin in Doc News & Reviews. No Comments

A promotional still for the new documentary “BURDEN,” which made its theatrical premiere May 5th in New York City, shows artist Chris Burden wearing Speedos with his hands tied behind his back. He’s lying on his chest, struggling across a parking lot covered in broken glass using his hips, legs and feet to squirm his way forward. The image is part of a piece of performance art Burden made in 1973 called “Through the Night Softly.”

Burden had the piece filmed and paid for it to be broadcast five times a week for a month on television after the 11 p.m. news in Los Angeles. This was not the only time in Burden’s career he used television to make his mark. But this piece could certainly be used as a metaphor for Burden’s determination to make a name for himself, … Read More »

‘GLEASON’ — Unflinching Portrait of a Football Hero Faced With His Own Demise (Review/Trailer)

Posted on March 1st, by admin in Doc News & Reviews. No Comments

By Gregory Crofton

I didn’t feel like watching “GLEASON,” a documentary about a retired professional football star who is diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS). The film seemed like it would be depressing enough not to want to turn on.

But it is a tremendously powerful piece of work, one of the most honest and personal documentaries I’ve ever seen. “GLEASON” takes you on an explicit and emotionally jarring journey to one of the darkest places that families have to go together — toward death.

1,300 hours of video were shot for the film. Clay Tweel, who worked on two highly acclaimed docs “FINDERS KEEPERS” and “THE KING OF KONG: A FIST FULL OF QUARTERS,” sorted through it all. Much of it shows the growing terror of how the disease is stealing Gleason’s speech and mobility as he awaits the birth … Read More »

True Crime: A Conversation with Nanette Burstein about her New John McAfee Documentary (43 minutes, 2016)

Posted on November 22nd, by admin in Film, Photography and Video. No Comments

In her new film, “Gringo: The Dangerous Life of John McAfee,” Oscar-nominated director Nanette Burstein (The Kid Stays in the Picture; On the Ropes) investigates the mysterious and controversial life of John McAfee, who, among other things, made millions with his anti-virus software and tried to become the Libertarian candidate for the US Presidency. But while living in Belize in 2012, McAfee came under police suspicion when his neighbour was found murdered. Burstein discusses her approaches to filmmaking and the process of delving into a highly contentious true crime story with an unwilling subject and a strong air … Read More »

‘SUPERSONIC’ — Oasis Documentary Celebrates Band and Looks Back Through Anger to See Brothers Relationship (Review/Trailer)

Posted on October 28th, by admin in Doc News & Reviews. No Comments

by Gregory Crofton

OASIS: SUPERSONIC, a new documentary about the British rock band — executive produced by Asif Kapadia (AMY, SENNA) and directed by Mat Whitecross (ROAD TO GUANTANAMO) — does the job it sets out to do in explaining how the band came to be, and how in just three short years it played to 250,000 people over two nights at Knebworth, England, in 1996.

What it doesn’t do is tell its story in a fittingly supersonic fashion. It takes a lot of doing to dull characters as sharp as Liam and Noel, but director Whitecross nearly achieves it. There are funny moments between the brothers, and plenty of road and studio stories — like how effortlessly Liam did the vocals for “Champagne Supernova” between football-watching session — but the director’s delivery isn’t as punchy as such potent material should … Read More »

‘BEAVER TRILOGY IV’ — Brilliantly Concise and the Best Documentary Made in Years (Review/Trailer)

Posted on August 2nd, by admin in Doc News & Reviews. No Comments

by Gregory Crofton

Trent Harris and Groovin’ Gary first met pointing cameras at each other in the parking lot of KUTV Channel 2 in Salt Lake City, Utah. It was love, a certain type of love, at first sight.

Harris worked for the news station, producing and shooting for a late night boundary-breaking show called Extra. When he met Gary he was outside testing the station’s new video camera, which would mean switching from shooting his weird interviews and stories on videotape instead of 16 mm film.

Gary was in Salt Lake City visiting from Southern Utah — Beaver, Utah. He drove up in a cool car intent on getting in touch with someone from Extra and make it on the show. Gary was an entertainer who would impersonate people like Olivia Newton “Dawn” and John Wayne. He had his point and … Read More »

‘MEET THE PATELS’ – Indian Romance Can Be Full of Family Complications (Review/Trailer)

Posted on May 26th, by admin in Doc News & Reviews. No Comments

By Gregory Crofton

Want to know what it’s like to be a Patel? You know, the Indian-American families named Patel who own motels all across America.

I didn’t really want to know, but once I plunged into MEET THE PATELS, a new documentary made by a brother-and-sister team, it wowed me by how entertaining it is, and made me realize that documentaries, generally speaking, are much better than they once were.

MEET THE PATELS stars Ravi Patel, a self-effacing young working Hollywood actor looking for a soul mate and future wife. He offers up his sweet, funny and enlightening journey into the territory of biodata-driven matchmaking, a process unknown to most in America.

The film tells several stories at once. It explains the Patel-name phenomenon, explores family dynamics, and the pokes its head into the business of Indian matchmaking. It’s production isn’t … Read More »

‘HOLY HELL’ — Documentary Goes Inside Los Angeles Cult (44 minutes, 2016)

Posted on May 24th, by admin in Family, Mystery, Performing Arts, Religion. No Comments

“Holy Hell,” a documentary directed by Will Allen, tells of the filmmaker’s time with the Buddhafield, a Los Angeles–based “spiritual group” he joined in the 1980s. Director Will Allen shares clips from the documentary as well as the trailer, and recalls his personal relationship with Michel, the name used at the time by the group’s leader. Allen also discusses what life was like inside the cult, why he started filming and how it all came crashing down in this episode of BYOD hosted by Ondi Timoner. (Source: Bring Your Own Doc)

‘HOLY HELL’ — Feels like a Hollywood Feature, But No it’s Really a Great Documentary (Review/Trailer)

Posted on May 3rd, by admin in Doc News & Reviews. No Comments

By Gregory Crofton

You may think you’ve seen a documentary that reveals what it’s like inside a cult, but you’ve never seen one like this. It was made from the inside out.

Its director, William Francesco Allen, was once the official videographer of this cult — The Buddha Field — and a personal assistant to its “Teacher.” The “Teacher,” also known as Michel, kept very tan, often wore a thong bathing suit, and was a skilled ballet dancer.

Allen, who graduated from film school just prior to joining the cult, unwinds the story at just the right clip, exposing the mechanisms used by The Teacher to spiritually feed his followers. But the most powerful moments are the painfully honest interviews Allen conducts with his fellow ex-cult members. They bare their souls in a way they only would to another cult member.

The actor Jared Leto was … Read More »