Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Project)

An ongoing survey of the Criterion Forum membership to create lists of the best films of each decade and genre.
Post Reply
Message
Author
User avatar
domino harvey
Dot Com Dom
Joined: Wed Jan 11, 2006 2:42 pm

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#451 Post by domino harvey » Wed Aug 27, 2014 3:50 pm

15 Documentaries That Switched Course During Filming

I've never even heard of Daughter From Danang but it sounds really interesting!

User avatar
zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#452 Post by zedz » Wed Aug 27, 2014 5:01 pm

domino harvey wrote:15 Documentaries That Switched Course During Filming

I've never even heard of Daughter From Danang but it sounds really interesting!
I think there's only two of those I haven't seen. And Daughter from Danang is great!

Also, I seriously doubt whether McElwee was ever intending to make a straight documentary about Sherman. There's certainly nothing in any of his earlier work to suggest that he was ever that kind of filmmaker.

User avatar
Gregory
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#453 Post by Gregory » Thu Aug 28, 2014 5:51 pm

There are probably many other examples, but the greatest one that comes to my mind is The Battle of Chile: due to violent forces imposing when and where they will, the plan changed from documenting the reforms under Allende's presidency to documenting the coup and its aftermath, at great risk and difficulty, done because the filmmakers were in a unique position to capture what was taking place. That, and how well it was done, make it one of the great documentaries.
Another example is Claudia Heuermann's A Bookshelf on Top of the Sky, about John Zorn's music. She worked on the film at a fairly casual pace over a period of about ten years, and at some point in the process found that Zorn was no longer willing to continue to meet with her to keep acting as an interview subject, or to have any role in the project. At that point, she turned the camera on herself and onto her frustrated process of trying to complete the film despite the drastic change in her relationship with her subject. Some viewers were surely frustrated with the film that resulted, but as many people say these days, "It is what it is."

User avatar
zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#454 Post by zedz » Thu Aug 28, 2014 6:29 pm

Gregory wrote:There are probably many other examples, but the greatest one that comes to my mind is The Battle of Chile: due to violent forces imposing when and where they will, the plan changed from documenting the reforms under Allende's presidency to documenting the coup and its aftermath, at great risk and difficulty, done because the filmmakers were in a unique position to capture what was taking place. That, and how well it was done, make it one of the great documentaries.
That's such a great example that I'd completely forgotten that it was (obviously) commenced as an entirely different film.

It's raised in the comments section for the article a couple of times, but The Thin Blue Line is the classic example of this happening. Randall Adams would have been lucky to end up as a footnote in the film (Dr. Death) he originally set out to make.

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#455 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Sep 21, 2014 2:36 pm

Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? (Michel Gondry, 2013)

This is an admirable, but also rather irritating, film in which a series of conversations between linguist Noam Chomsky and filmmaker Michel Gondry get depicted in animated form. While Gondry talks in his introduction about using animation to show extremely clearly that anything Chomsky says is filtered through Gondry's filmic point of view and choices, the constantly changing animation often feels as if it obscures the Chomsky discussions rather than reveals them. It really ends up feeling more like a film about Gondry struggling to understand Chomsky than about illustrating Chomsky's ideas for a wider audience.

There are occasional flashes when Gondry's animation beautifully illustrates a point, such as in the final scene relating to the title of the film, or the river-canal-freeway change of language one, but just as often any well made point, or beautifully illustrated one, gets washed away under another tidal wave of rapid fire imagery, or the topic gets changed.

For example the early sequence in which Chomsky is talking about Galileo and Newton picking up and running with ideas gets a whole episode of the recent Cosmos series devoted to it. In this film Chomsky gets cut off in mid-flow for Gondry to do a voice over about how he doesn't understand all of this Newton and Galileo stuff that Chomsky is going on about, so he will let him talk but will cut it out of the film, which I think encapsulates the issues of the film in a nutshell (Chomsky's mention of a task of a scientist being to find a way of simply explain their discoveries to the public is also one that gets made and developed upon in Cosmos).

But then I guess I'm strange - although I think that a sensitive illustration of a concept can often be worthwhile, if I had the choice I would much rather prefer a film that just plonked an unmoving camera in front of the pair and had them talk uninterrupted. As in something like the Edward Said: The Last Interview film that I voted for in this lists project. But then that wouldn't perhaps provide enough drama or cinematic interest!

That the film is disappointing is rather a shame as this is a film that is focused on Chomsky's linguistic studies rather than his political activism, so there was a lot of previously unexplored material for this film to tackle. Unfortunately just as much time is spent on Chomsky's background and upbringing, which is interesting and necessary from the perspective of language acquisition that it initially gets brought up in, but feels less so when Gondry goes into a sequence questioning Chomsky on his relationship with his recently deceased wife over the years they were together, which feels as if it is purely aiming towards pushing things into a too troublingly sentimental place.
Last edited by colinr0380 on Tue Jan 13, 2015 8:45 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
MichaelB
Joined: Fri Aug 11, 2006 6:20 pm
Location: Worthing
Contact:

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#456 Post by MichaelB » Wed Sep 24, 2014 5:47 am

I've just been informed that the great Czech documentary-maker Helena Třeštíková is having a free online retrospective between now and October 5th - and all the films apparently have English subtitles.

I can't recommend her work highly enough - she basically takes the ethos of Michael Apted's Up project (in that her subjects are tracked over years and sometimes decades) and applies it to all walks of Czech life. Good starting points would be her recent features René and Katka, which respectively examine a recidivist jailbird and a heroin addict - and the fact that we get to see such a lengthy span of their lives (in both cases roughly 15 years) offers a far more rounded portrait than the usual brief snippets. In particular, the fact that Katka ages from 19 to 33 but looks far older by the end is a message that wasn't lost on its audience - and the film was extensively shown in Czech schools for this reason.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#457 Post by knives » Thu Oct 02, 2014 10:11 pm

colinr0380 wrote:Is The Man Who Is Tall Happy? (Michel Gondry, 2013)

This is an admirable, but also rather irritating, film in which a series of conversations between linguist Noam Chomsky and filmmaker Michel Gondry get depicted in animated form. While Gondry talks in his introduction about using animation to show extremely clearly that anything Chomsky says is filtered through Gondry's filmic point of view and choices, the constantly changing animation often feels as if it obscures the Chomsky discussions rather than reveals them. It really ends up feeling more like a film about Gondry struggling to understand Chomsky than about illustrating Chomsky's ideas for a wider audience.

There are occasional flashes when Gondry's animation beautifully illustrates a point, such as in the final scene relating to the title of the film, or the river-canal-freeway change of language one, but just as often any well made point, or beautifully illustrated one, gets washed away under another tidal wave of rapid fire imagery, or the topic gets changed.

For example the early sequence in which Chomsky is talking about Galileo and Newton picking up and running with ideas gets a whole episode of the recent Cosmos series devoted to it. In this film Chomsky gets cut off in mid-flow for Gondry to do a voice over about how he doesn't understand all of this Newton and Galileo stuff that Chomsky is going on about, so he will let him talk but will cut it out of the film, which I think encapsulates the issues of the film in a nutshell (Chomsky's mention of a task of a scientist being to find a way of simply explain their discoveries to the public is also one that gets made and developed upon in Cosmos).

But then I guess I'm strange - although I think that a sensitive illustration of a concept can often be worthwhile, if I had the choice I would much rather prefer a film that just plonked an unmoving camera in front of the pair and had them talk uninterrupted. As in something like the Edward Said: The Last Interview film that I voted for in this lists project. But then that wouldn't perhaps provide enough drama or cinematic interest!

That the film is disappointing is rather a shame as this is a film that is focused on Chomsky's liguistic studies rather than his political activism, so there was a lot of previously unexplored material for this film to tackle. Unfortunately just as much time is spent on Chomsky's background and upbringing, which is interesting and necessary from the perspective of language acquisition that it initially gets brought up in, but feels less so when Gondry goes into a sequence questioning Chomsky on his relationship with his recently deceased wife over the years they were together, which feels as if it is purely aiming towards pushing things into a too troublingly sentimental place.
All of this is true, but I think it fits the film since Gondry doesn't seem overly interested in Chomsky's ideas so much as a method for exploring questions on life and death with the probable additions of barriers in movement within a global world. As a Chomsky film, for example, you are right concerning the Galileo sequence. I think though that as the film I've described it works since it illustrates Gondry's barriers with gathering knowledge and growing old. It probably is telling near the film's end with a young man walking with a young woman to a song growing old and dying becoming Chomsky and Gondry at once.

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#458 Post by colinr0380 » Thu Nov 06, 2014 8:52 am

Leviathan (2012; Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel)

This has already been mentioned a number of times in the thread but I've just gotten to the film thanks to its first screening on Film4. It will certainly be making my list the next time that we do the documentary project. It is a strangely beautiful film, with its camera capturing the scenes of fish processing with an almost alien eye. I’m not a vegetarian at all but the film seems to obviously be more compassionate towards the fish here, starting with them being dragged out of the sea in the nets, flopping and dying in the air, the sequence feels as disorientating and as strangely brutally alien as if we were seeing it from the point of view of the dying fish.

The swift and efficient processing begins, with the camera taking in shots of the fish strewn deck covered in water rolling with the movement of the boat as the humans take the bits of fish that they want and discard the rest. The metaphor that the filmmakers seem obviously to be going for here is the trawler as a ship of death, cutting through the seas with sluiced blood spraying out of its sides. We get shots less focused on the humans doing their job, and what exactly that is, and more on the wooden side of a fish tank dripping with blood and gore, or pieces of dismembered fish swirling dead-eyed in a bucket of water before being almost mockingly thrown back into the roiling waves to be eaten by the gulls.

Leviathan feels like a extremely, deliberately abstracted film in which the human element is consciously depersonalised . The human beings only start to come to the fore in the shower scene following the fish processing, as the fisherman shuck their rainslicks and we start to see their bodies and faces as they move inside the ship. The shower scene is the turning point of this, coming in the middle of shots showing the unwanted and discarded bodies and shells of fish thrown into the sea, almost as if contrasting the fisherman’s body in water to those of the fish. Though even then it is the body (the arm flesh, the sweat of the labour, the tattoos, the unknowable eyes peering out of craggy faces) that is emphasised over the person themselves. Even the long shot of watching a person watching television in the galley has the sound from the TV of adverts for physical ailments (bowel movement products) and an ad for people living busy, deadline driven lives whilst the person slowly succumbs to fatigue in front of it.

In a way this is a film of animal flesh contrasted against lumbering technology. In that sense Leviathan doesn’t entirely strike me as a clinical documentary about the day-to-day life on board a trawler, or a cinema verite film about the process involved, though some sequences move in that direction (there’s process but no explanation of the meaning of that process), it is more abstract than that. I ended up feeling that this documentary film was the nearest that anything else has come to replicating the bizarre world of Matthew Barney’s films, in which veiled human figures work on massive, groaning, filth smeared machines, or concentrated on specific fish processing tasks for unspecified, almost compulsive, purposes. The humans are like the alien limpets scrabbling and scrambling around on the sides of a vast metal machine. The living elements colluding with the mechanical death-dealing monster (which is perhaps a little too forgiving of humans for their role in fish processing! Perhaps this film has a lot to say about the idea of collusion too!).

And the soundtrack, as mentioned previously in the thread, is beautifully curated, the abstract sounds being our one constant throughline, tying events, shots and even themes together. Eventually we get to a (highly emotional) final montage of the sea, the gulls and the creaking sound of the ship which feels like a kind of Brakhage film, just with paint and silence replaced by the glitter of the moon on the waves, the distant cries of gulls and the inky darkness of the ocean.

User avatar
D50
Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2010 2:00 am
Location: USA

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#459 Post by D50 » Thu Nov 06, 2014 12:02 pm

What with the continued search for Malaysia Air MH370 in the southern Indian Ocean, a reminder that even 2 years after the FDR (flight data recorder) and CVR (cockpit voice recorder) batteries have died, they can still be found with usable information.

Air France 447: Vanished (2013), Air Emergency: Season 12, Episode 13

User avatar
D50
Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2010 2:00 am
Location: USA

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#460 Post by D50 » Fri Dec 05, 2014 10:20 pm


User avatar
Gregory
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#461 Post by Gregory » Sat Dec 20, 2014 11:35 am

It's interesting that Overnight is on this list. It's a film I've just decided I need to see, though I haven't seen Boondock Saints in its entirety (I saw some of the scenes of Dafoe's, and that was enough, really). But your write-up of it in the 1990s List thread made me curious about whether the rest of the film really was as bad as the several minutes I saw. I hadn't read or heard anything about Duffy's personality but decided to look up an interview with him to see how he presents himself, and what I found was almost unbelievable. Just look at this clip of Duffy talking to one of Ray Carney's classes. It surpassed anything I could have hoped to see, except for maybe him getting into it with Carney mano a mano.
But the thing that interests me about Overnight is that it was made at Duffy's request, and two of his friends at the time shot it to document his sudden rise to filmmaking success, but ended up capturing his failure and the disintegration of their friendship with him.

Carney has this gem on his website in reply to a question about how it came to be that Duffy was a guest in his class:
As far as I can tell based on that visit, Troy is an idiot. And his film is worse. He and his film were inflicted on me due to my lack of advance knowledge about either fact. We all make mistakes. However, I gather someone was there to record mine. (May yours go unmemorialized.) No one asked my permission to film or told me about the work that resulted. Typical. I assume it is awful.
He goes on to change the subject to himself, at length, explaining that he never watches any of the documentaries he's interviewed for, but they're all worthless, trivial and simplistic. He just knows they are.
Eventually he attempts to invoke Noam Chomsky to validate his points, attributing to him a quote about "institutional control of discourse," a phrase that Chomsky has never used as far as I'm aware. And when Chomsky writes about propaganda in democratic societies, it's hard to imagine what he had in mind had anything to do with movie-related documentaries being made that say things that Ray Carney disagrees with (thus in Carney's words the "dopey view" prevails, and one of the chosen few like Carney aren't allowed to present "the truth" about hacks like Hitchcock).
But anyway, Carney's site was once again well worth reading, especially because I love the knowledge that what's going on behind his smile in that clip is something like, "Fuck, how did this idiot end up in my classroom?" I need to see all of Overnight and am hoping for lots of inarticulate displays of belligerence punctuated by awkward silences and staring vacantly into space.
(edited for typo)
Last edited by Gregory on Thu Aug 25, 2016 4:54 pm, edited 2 times in total.

User avatar
colinr0380
Joined: Mon Nov 08, 2004 4:30 pm
Location: Chapel-en-le-Frith, Derbyshire, UK

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#462 Post by colinr0380 » Sat Dec 20, 2014 12:27 pm

Gregory wrote:But the thing that interests me about Overnight is that it was made at Duffy's request, and two of his friends at the time shot it to document his sudden rise to filmmaking success, but ended up capturing his failure and the disintegration of their friendship with him.
That's really the thing that made me strongly dislike Overnight as this was one of those documentaries in which it was obvious the filmmakers wanted me to feel one way and I ended up feeling quite the opposite! Troy Duffy might have been arrogant and a pain to be around (and I got Overnight in a double set with The Boondock Saints, which was an utterly unmemorable film aside perhaps for seeing the Scottish comedian Billy Connolly in a hitman role. Even Willem Dafoe has played goofier characters in worse films *cough* Speed 2 *cough*! So I'm not suggesting that Duffy is a undervalued filmmaker in any way!), but the problem was that the more Montana and Smith took obvious glee in destroying him in their film the more I felt the lesson to be learnt from Overnight was not to 'treat people better' as a director but more that you should choose your friends wisely and always make sure you never piss off the crew making a behind the scenes documentary of your film! Plus never, ever get friends to work for you! Especially friends who are more inclined towards filming juicy scenes of ranting rather than attempting to take you to one side and try to talk some sense into you!

Their seeming 'punishment' of releasing a documentary rubbishing a person far outweighed Duffy's crime by the end, especially when his faults of arrogance, selfishness and a single minded obsession with the greatness of his vision to the exclusion of all else are not exactly unknown in filmmaking! (Plus Overnight somehow allows the Weinsteins to get away with their part in puffing up Duffy's ego much too far, then dropping the whole project unceremoniously!) It would perhaps have been more tactful if they had just left The Boondock Saints to speak for itself about Duffy's filmmaking abilities. But then again I suppose that the filmmakers got a successful documentary out of a making of piece that would otherwise have been forgotten. I think that the perfect word to describe Overnight is 'opportunistic', even if getting that opportunity meant stabbing people in the back.

User avatar
movielocke
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#463 Post by movielocke » Mon Jan 26, 2015 9:08 pm

Digging into the near bottom of my kevyip pile is the four True Life Adventures volumes Disney put out several years ago. Oy.

Seal Island is terrible as a documentary, the photography is superb, but the narration and editing is absolutely maddening. The narration is just lazy in how nonsensical it is. Apparently the seals arrive at the island and immediately mate. We are then told the mothers welp the previous year's litter, after this year's mating. Then the children learn how to swim. Throughout the film, drama is drummed up by the editing and score by using totally disconnected shots of different animals in different locations which the narration claims is all the same animal. To top it off the film is suffused with a creepy anthropomorphism more in keeping with animated films than with the wierd mismatch of early american suburbia mores and "polygamous" animals to quote the narration. The film stands out for a bloody and brutal battle between rival bulls at the end of the flim that is wildly out of step with the adorable tone of the rest of the film.

Beaver Valley is better as a documentary, it doesn't feature a major narrative failure in the timeline of reproduction, but it creates new irritating editing failures. Throughout the film, the editing and narration crafts "danger" in the form of a single wandering coyote, a coyote always shown in shots completely disconnected from the other shots of the film, shots probably not even photographed in the same general location. The film still anthropomorphizes in irritating and creepy ways that often undermine the actual footage, often by the narration incorrectly labeling what the footage is showing by reverting to suburban cliches. The film focuses on beavers for the entire runtime and then inexplicably climaxes with otters playing in the snow and sliding down a hill, because beavers are boring, apparently and one must have a climax.

Nature's Half Acre is probably the best of the lot so far, in part because this film focuses on insects, arthropods and flowers. That means there are marvelous stretches of the films that are not narrated, and that the narration is often unnable to anthropomorphize them effectively--in fact, this film could almost be called "Brutal Nature" because it's absolutely unafraid to show the fairly vicious and unsentimental kill or be killed warzone of wild nature--ironicly, other than a handful of wideshots the entire film is clearly shot on a sound stage with tons of lighting in order to facilitate the stunning macro photography, timelapses, cutaway timelapses and staged events, such as a spider wrapping up a bee stuck in its web. That last bit is important, because the film series asserts in an opening title card that nothing is staged and is all shot live, and this film is pretty brazen in how completely staged virtually all the footage is; it's big failure is that it is a complete fake. The film climaxes with a series of mostly unnarrated timelapses of flowers opening the buds and brazenly shaking and displaying theimselves quite graphicly and unashamedly. I like to think that on some meta level the editor or producer was aware of the sexual innuendo of this particular, 'climax'.

Olympic Elk is probably the worst of the lot so far, the film substitutes a singular predatory black bear for the singular predatory coyote of the Beaver film, and otherwise is more or less identical. The Elk are well suited to the Disneyfication process, although you'll probably want to watch Bambi for more hardhitting, informative and realistic information on the life of the deer species. The film climaxes with an unimpressive and over narrated battle of two bucks locking horns, but like the film, the battle is tepid and uninteresting.

Overall, I assume all the footage for these films was shot MOS and there was no sound recordist with the photographers, because pretty much everything sounds like Foley and quite a lot of the animal sounds in the film sound like humans making them. The scores for the films, like the photography are probably the best part, though of course the score is committing the musical versions of the mistakes of the awful Narration scripts. Bottom line, don't consider these films to be good representations of documentary because they undermine the form more than they embody it.

User avatar
D50
Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2010 2:00 am
Location: USA

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#464 Post by D50 » Tue Jan 27, 2015 8:39 am

Leaving the Earth - Denny Fitch, DC-10 pilot and hero (2001), Errol Morris' First Person (TV series)

part 2 | part 3 | part 4 | part 5

User avatar
movielocke
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#465 Post by movielocke » Thu Jan 29, 2015 9:24 pm

I'm guessing Disney caught some contemporaneous shit for the Nature's half Acre short, because the next one has a new title card that simply says the scenarios are natural or some such, no patently false claims about the entire film being authentic and unstaged.

Water Birds is a significant improvement on the prior films, the film lacks some of the sentimentality and focuses more on novelty and humorous situations of the scenes. that means the scripts is pretty unmemorable, it is informative rather than attempting to be entertaining, notating things like, 'this birds bill lets them do blah blah blah instead of blah blah blah." It makes for a much better experience lacking the anthropomorphic gyrations of previous films. This film has a massive list of photographers, and since it sprawls all over the hemisphere it's no wonder, there is also some jumps in quality of the image, but those are pretty slight overall. The film's biggest flaw is reusing the same shots over and over and over again just cause its funny (two birds running across the water).

Bear Country continues on the same direction, despite the bears presenting numerous opportunities to anthropomorphize them, the film doesn't exploit it to the same extent as the earlier Seal and Beaver films. Though of course the adorable critters are put through this rigamorole much more so than the Birds. And that's the problem is that Bears are fairly nasty predators and the film keeps trying to make them cuddly--while often showing us quite unsentimentally the Bear being its predator self as the subjects feast their way through the summer. The best aspect, however, is that the film's final five minutes focus on the "abandonment" of the mother from the two year old cubs, it was nice not to have that glossed over, and the film makes mention that the biggest threat to bear cubs is adult male bears. Since the nature documentaries I've seen are 99% anti predator, it was nice to see a film that took a different tack.

Prowlers of the Everglades proves even Disney cannot make some creatures cute and cuddly, and the film shockingly focuses a long section on the various ways that baby gators are killed (by adult gators, by racoons, dying as eggs, dying when hatchlings fight each other). In the first seven films, it's one of the first times Disney has allowed a totally unsentimalized brutal nature to show through without some softening narration or strained anthropomorphizing. The film also features quite a lot of footage of gators hunting and chomping on birds, turtles and fish, which I also found a little surprising given the soft-ish nature of the previous films.

For all their nearly innumerable flaws, the films are absurdly entertaining, they fly by and are beautiful to look at. It's just a shame they're so bad at being docs.

User avatar
movielocke
Joined: Fri Jan 18, 2008 12:44 am

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#466 Post by movielocke » Thu Feb 05, 2015 8:37 pm

Getting into the feature length just exacerbates and magnifies the problems of the shorts making them more grating and irritating, or the newness of the series has worn off, and what was once charming is now no longer so. There's some stunning footage in Living Desert (mostly staged), the Vanishing Prairie, and The African Lion, but little to recommend the films, and other than locale, little to distinguish one film from the other.

But there is a standout for best in show of the entire series and that is The Secrets of Life. The film has an interesting structure, phenomenal staged macro photography with just jaw dropping timelapse photography of plants, and a narratively disjointed if visually spectacular finale (the last real is in cinemascope). I don't think there's any cute nor cuddly animals anywhere to be found in the film. it's flowers, trees, grass, bees, wasps, ants, termites and snakes that I remember being featured, and then at the end, Lava. So other than the attribution of agency to "nature" who has "designed her ____ to do ____" in the narration, I pretty much did not have a single complaint and was continually impressed by the film.

Interestingly, the definitely not a documentary Perri included in the set is called a "true life Fantasy" but without that header would be indistinguishable from the rest of the series, given it's mostly shot and staged on the same soundstage as those other true life adventures featuring macro photography. And in retrospect, this films makes those other soundstage true life adventures seem even less authentic than they already did. you have to wonder how hard this shoot was on the animal actors. What's amusing is that Perri, as a film, is much more frank about the circle of life, and how one animal preys on another, preyed upon by another, who is also preyed upon by another. The film opens to a very matter of fact sequence about having to find food and that most animals will target defenseless young of other animals in the spring time. Several baby animals and a few mothers die artfully, just off screen, obscured by a convenient bush or log. If you've ever seen The Hound Who Thought he was a Racoon a Disney short made around the same time as this, you've got a decent idea of what sort of animal shenanigans you'll see in the rest of the film.

Nature's Strangest Creatures is an unrestored short, and is a pretty bland visit to Australia that basically just namechecks all the famous animal oddities of the area, with a couple shots and calls it a day, by far the laziest of the films, and not surprising it wasn't an official part of the series.

User avatar
D50
Joined: Sat Sep 04, 2010 2:00 am
Location: USA

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#467 Post by D50 » Sat Feb 07, 2015 1:16 pm


User avatar
jindianajonz
Jindiana Jonz Abrams
Joined: Wed Oct 12, 2011 8:11 pm

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#468 Post by jindianajonz » Sun Aug 14, 2016 3:33 pm

Does anyone know where one could see the 1935 documentary Ghost Town: The Story of Fort Lee? Somebody erroneously claimed that it was on Image's Unseen Cinema DVD, but this appears to be a different Theodore Huff film. I haven't found it on my usual backchannel source either. Are there any DVDs that include it as a special feature?

User avatar
flyonthewall2983
Joined: Mon Jun 27, 2005 3:31 pm
Location: Indiana
Contact:

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Proje

#469 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Sun Jan 22, 2017 9:59 pm

Has anyone ever checked out The Last Mogul, about Lew Wasserman? I watched it on Sundance Channel back when it was co-owned by Universal, ironically enough. It's available on Amazon Prime for anyone curious. It has more the feel of an episode of something that would have been on E! in the 90's than most documentaries, even about Hollywood. As most of the talking heads in it were at least over the age of 40 by the time it was filmed, it definitely had the feeling of the last gasp of a certain era of the movie business that set the stage for the 2nd half of the 20th century into today. It's not edited in the most compelling way, and the archival footage is not as compelling as the interviews filmed for it, but it's at least worth one watch if you're interested in the business side of movies.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Let's Facilitate a Group Discussion

#470 Post by knives » Thu Apr 02, 2020 5:14 pm

Sorry for starting this thread and even more sorry for the title, but I couldn't figure out where else to post this.
therewillbeblus wrote:
Thu Apr 02, 2020 1:43 pm
Yeah that sounds intimately personal, and for me the groups especially focusing on that desperate and acute struggle with powerlessness were personal for very different reasons.

And oh my god I found it on Vimeo (I think this is uncut): The Color of Fear It's always been so hard to track down, hopefully you get something out of it. Not sure if there's a better thread for discussion of this if it sparks any conversation, but it's definitely not here!
Out of curiosity have you seen In the Land of the Pomegranates? I liked it well enough, but by the sound of it you'd get a lot out of it as it in a similar fashion to what you've been talking about uses facilitated discussion to deal with some of the ethnic tension promulgated across Israel.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Let's Facilitate a Group Discussion

#471 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Apr 02, 2020 5:54 pm

I haven’t but I’ll add it to the list. When you say you “liked it well enough” do you mean that film or The Color of Fear?

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Let's Facilitate a Group Discussion

#472 Post by knives » Thu Apr 02, 2020 6:02 pm

That film. I likely won't get to The Color of Fear until tomorrow or the next day. Also by liked well enough I do mean it spurned me to watch all of her available films which I suppose speaks to something.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Let's Facilitate a Group Discussion

#473 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Apr 02, 2020 6:30 pm

It certainly does, I’ll move it up on the docket, probably getting to it next week at the latest.

I’ve only seen The Color of Fear once all the way through during my dynamics of racism class in my graduate program about five years ago (and then various clips ever since), but to say it opened my eyes is an understatement. Coming right off the cuff of the public series of racist police brutality that emphasized what had already been there propelled into the zeitgeist, I saw this at the perfect time when asking myself what can I do about this. Verbalizing the experience is hard but it initiated the spark of a worldview to the reality of an endless process of self-reflection and open-mindedness to acting as simply a listener to the experience of others, specifically regarding race, ethnicity, and privilege. The answer of course is to be self-aware and curious and not impose the self in the process as a first step.

This is not a film in the conventional sense, it’s a focus group of eight men, two of each of four broad races/ethnicities, but the main focus and hostility is between an African-American male Victor (if this was a performance, which at times it feels like due to his completely transparent authenticity, it would be one of the best) and a white man who cannot open his mind to any ounce of empathy that doesn’t concern himself due to every protective factor in the book. In some ways it’s a fault that other people don’t get equal room to speak but it’s a great demonstration of group dynamics, which don’t afford equity as much as organic flow that impacts all.

Even if others aren’t as loud, there are subtleties that are just as riveting as Victor’s explosions. The silent way the other white man comes to terms with his status is even more powerful because he doesn’t take any mic to let us know this. His sense of identity shifts almost invisibly to us other than slight mannerisms that emit enough shame and humility to fog a room. I’m sure you’ll see why I love it just based on the principle of perspective-taking which I rant about a lot (as well as why I’ve been so triggered by certain posters here, when you sit with one character in particular), and the answer being that one cannot achieve actual competence of another’s experience may be a duh moment today but the ride of this film ends in a space of very personal self-consciousness and humanism so dense I can’t think of any film to affect me quite so much in this respect.

I put this in my all-time top ten films for years before making a (maybe unfair) decision to take it out because it isn’t so much a traditional film or even doc, as much as it’s a series of filmed group therapy sessions, but maybe I’ll reconsider one day and put it back in its place.

User avatar
knives
Joined: Sat Sep 06, 2008 6:49 pm

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Project)

#474 Post by knives » Sun Apr 05, 2020 1:53 pm

The Color of Fear was certainly an experience and one I wish more people would see (I'm planning on sending the film to a professor on mine who teaches a restorative justice class). The film is definitely overwhelmed in the first half by the black and white discussion and in a way that I don't think measures up to the film's goals, but that is a hard ask. I think it was Victor who said that he didn't want to be a tool again for some white guy's self actualization and yet that is how he and the others serve in the first half of the film. I use serve specifically because the film deals with the reality of whiteness being the hegemony, later on David(?) says the Asian identity has been claimed by whiteness with this sort of understanding, and thus everything else is the fulcrum against it. It's a deeply frustrating way to begin the film especially since it takes so long about it. What makes this section all the more frustrating though is that on some level to achieve the second half of the film this elephant has to be acknowledged.

The topic of, as the film calls it, interethnic prejudices is more interesting me as a person with an inter-sectional identity and so the second half was much more compelling to me. It also was when the group was allowed to feel like a group with no person being a real focus. This almost serves as a textual argument against something that was thrown out by one of the group. He argued that the only way to achieve a society without hegemony, to take away the power of whiteness, was to first have colored people form a united front, but that's not how the film worked. Instead a sort of equity or at least understanding with the figure of ultimate whiteness was achieved before the interethnic wounds could be addressed and healed. The film seems to even argue that as the necessary route given how white against black racism is cited as the causation of other interethnic conflicts. Now in the woke era more than ever this set of questions feel like the pertinent ones if a removal of hegemonic standing as well as ability is ever to truly be achieved.

To go back to whiteness, alas, I do appreciate that the focus here, to use terminology cribbed from Angelo Corlett, is not on malignant racism, but rather benign racism. No one here speaks out of hate or bad intentions, but a massive amount of hurt can be accomplished through their acts of kindness. The main white figure genuinely believes that he is a friend to all people and thus free from any claims of prejudice. There's a very astute conversation of the use of language here both verbal and physical which highlights how almsgiving (for an example) can be the most painful poison. The supporters of this system are not the fringe whackos with the burning tiki torches, but the nice guy who hires Mexicans on his farm so doesn't feel like his daughter should be handicapped on college admissions.

User avatar
therewillbeblus
Joined: Tue Dec 22, 2015 3:40 pm

Re: Documentaries List Discussion & Suggestions (Genre Project)

#475 Post by therewillbeblus » Tue Apr 21, 2020 1:59 pm

Just seeing this now, glad you got so much out of the film, knives! It's been a while since I've seen it but the filmed focus group does establish relationships as dynamic in roles like any group does, a living breathing organism of all-significant parts, so the members who listen more are contributing in their own way by allowing or forcing the louder figures to bear themselves naked, including the prime white guy who engages in that passive racism and is essentially propelled into defending his own beliefs thereby outing his problematic thinking and giving the other white member food for thought that inspires change in him (the most subtle powerful expression of growth, a man who primarily listens and yet is able to expand his peripheries tenfold). As Victor leads the charge in the 'spokesperson/leader' position he is cradled into with silence, and also takes on himself on gut-instinct with conditioned skills, he inspires a safe space for the others to speak and shed their own protective shields that have been sculpted against these conversations in a lifetime of marginalized resilience. I agree that this film's focus on the type of racism many don't (or *didn't) label as a problem, or even 'racism' at all, is crucial because in the clash of perspectives the inability for the white man to take an approach of compromise to a curious space of non-dominant/expert surrender exploits that deficit in dominant groups' thick skin to bend the psyche even slightly out of fear of losing that position of stable psychology and definition of moral self that is ultra sensitive without social consequences. His complete refusal is painful to watch, and yet serves up a mirror to whites at least to look at their own prejudices and willingness to admit our own racist tendencies be them microaggressions or historically-conditioned ideas.

We discussed the film in a class on race with half the class identifying as people of color and half white (and I was the only white heterosexual male, with the most 'privilege' at least on the core identifying markers ignoring mental health) and the conversation was definitely interesting with who got what out of it. All I can say is that as a white person the film changed my life and is responsible as a supplement to class content across my grad program as inspiring that exploration of the discomfort there and the journey to a place of 'not-knowing', self-awareness, and admission as the first step to engagement with people who subscribe to signifiers of marginalized populations. I challenge anyone to watch it, hate that white guy, and then look inward as to what that says about our own experiences with facing discomfort and coping with cognitive dissonance.

Post Reply