Tag Archives: Documentary

WITCH: We Intend to Cause Havoc (Gio Arlotta, 2019)

Back in 2012, Malik Bendjelloul’s documentary Searching for Sugar Man explored undersung recording artist Rodriguez, a Detroit-born singer-songwriter. More specifically, the film looked at the unusual degree of success and influence his music exerted in apartheid-era South Africa. Its framing device sees two South African Rodriguez fans in the late 1990s journey to find out what happened to this relatively obscure musician in light of his studio album output ending in the 1970s.

The set-up of Gio Arlotta’s music documentary, WITCH, is certainly not identical to that of Bendjelloul’s film, but the rhythms of the editing bear a strong resemblance and it does also concern a small group’s pilgrimage to track down a musical titan from the 1970s that they want to bring to more people’s attention. That the journey of the film effectively starts in 2014, only two years after Sugar Man’s success, makes an intentional influence seem plausible…

Full review for Little White Lies

Stray (Elizabeth Lo, 2020)

A celebrated director of documentary shorts, Elizabeth Lo makes a compelling leap to features with Stray, a concise ethnographic film that’s presented from a nonhuman perspective. Filmed mostly in Istanbul between 2017 and 2019, with an occasional detour to slightly further afield, the film uses the city’s interesting and complicated history with stray dogs as a means to explore life on the peripheries of human society, free of status and security.

The Turkish state has attempted widespread annihilation of stray dogs since the 1900s, resulting in mass killings of the street dog population. But while campaigns to drive non-pet dogs from towns and cities still gain a little traction now and again, widespread protests against these killings have allowed Turkey to become one of the only countries where it’s currently illegal to euthanise or hold captive any dog without an apparent owner. Meanwhile, dogs that don’t appear to be a human’s property are integrated into the fabric of urban existence with relatively minimal backlash…

Full review for Little White Lies

Romantic Comedy (Elizabeth Sankey, 2019)

Elizabeth Sankey is an English multi-hyphenate whose work encompasses music, writing and acting. She’s likely best known as one half of the indie pop duo Summer Camp, who’ve released several albums to date, one of which was the soundtrack to Charlie Shackleton’s essay documentary on teen films, Beyond Clueless. In the realm of critical commentary, she has written for The Guardian, NME, Vice and other publications on all kinds of pop culture, with many of her pieces concerning deconstructions of media from her formative years.

Her feature debut as a director, Romantic Comedy, is a melting pot of all these creative interests: an essay film heavy on autobiographical relationships to the art and texts being discussed, for which Sankey, through Summer Camp, also provides songs – although Jeremy Warmsley also contributes a score…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Midnight Family (Luke Lorentzen, 2019)

“Ambulance chasing” is a term usually reserved to derogatorily describe personal injury lawyers, originating from the stereotype of them following ambulances to the emergency room in order to find clients. Luke Lorentzen’s fly-on-the-wall documentary explores the work life of the Ochoa family, for whom the definition of “ambulance chasing” could be expanded to include. They are the “chasing ambulances”, looking for the next injured person to take to the hospital. And they are just one set of hands behind the wheel in a sea of private ambulances patrolling the streets of Mexico City…

Full review for VODzilla.co

Modern Knights Compete in Medieval-Style Sword Fighting

If you have any awareness of sword-and-shield combat as a modern-day exercise, there’s a strong chance you’ve probably confused it with LARPing (live action role-playing). Medieval combat, however, is a real full contact sport, with a growing number of practitioners globally. Participants engage in competitive fights with historically accurate reproductions of medieval armor and blunted weapons, following period tournament rules (for the most part).

Fighting the misconception that their grueling, dangerous sport is just a LARP offshoot is among the many battles the modern medieval knight faces outside of the ring. “I think every single person that’s not in that world thinks it’s that,” says Ryan Heron, director of the documentary Bludgeon. I spoke to him and co-director Andy Deere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival. Their film explores the medieval combat scene via the Steel Thorns, the premier team from the Taranaki region of New Zealand, as they work toward representing their country in the world championships in Denmark…

Full interview for Hyperallergic

The Untold Story of the Woman Who Helped Make a Landmark Holocaust Film

In the course of making Shoah, an epic nine-and-a-half-hour documentary on the Holocaust, French filmmaker Claude Lanzmann shot over 350 hours of interviews with witnesses, survivors, and perpetrators, alongside footage of key locations in the present day. Released in 1985, Shoah is credited with helping to awaken the public to the horrors of the Holocaust. But prior to that, Israeli editor Ziva Postec spent nearly six years painstakingly poring over those 350 hours to assemble the vital document we have today, only for her role in the production to be downplayed by Lanzmann and subsequent supporting material.

Ziva Postec. The Editor Behind the Film Shoah, from Canadian filmmaker Catherine Hébert, explores what would drive someone to devote so many years of their life to such a grueling undertaking, and at what cost. It’s also a warm portrait of a fascinating life beyond her definitive cinematic achievement, one filled with leaps of faith, tragedy, obsession, and working relationships with some of the great artists of the time, including Alain Resnais and Orson Welles. I had a chat with Hébert after the film’s UK premiere at the Edinburgh International Film Festival

Full interview for Hyperallergic

Nick Broomfield on ‘Marianne & Leonard’: ‘I wasn’t doing a music film, I was doing a love story’

Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love documents the relationship between Leonard Cohen and his Norwegian muse, Marianne Ihlen, their love having begun on the idyllic Greek island of Hydra in the early 1960s, as part of a bohemian community of artists from multiple fields. Director Nick Broomfield, with the aid of footage from fellow documentarian D.A. Pennebaker that was shot during that period, explores their connection from those early days on the island to how it evolved when Leonard went on to become a successful musician. Theirs was a love story that would continue for the rest of their lives, albeit not in a form where they were in any sort of committed relationship beyond that time on Hydra, with the pair dying three months apart in 2016.

Broomfield is known for being more present in his works than many other documentarians tend to be. In the case of Words of Love, there’s a particularly good reason for it. In 1968, a young Broomfield, then aged 20, went to Hydra and met and formed his own bond with Ihlen, who first introduced him to Cohen’s music and also encouraged him to make his first film…

Full interview for The List

Capturing Emotion: The Making of “Living the Light – Robby Müller”

The highly respected Dutch cinematographer Robby Müller died in July 2018, after living with vascular dementia for several years. Just two months later, Living the Light – Robby Müller, a film essay tribute to the man and his work, premiered at the Venice Film Festival.

Having worked on over 70 feature films, it is Müller’s cinematography with the likes of Wim Wenders, Jim Jarmusch, and Lars von Trier that most influenced a generation of filmmakers in terms of his framing, evocation of emotion in his shots, and his use of light. Living the Light intertwines clips from Müller’s oeuvre with footage and images from his extensive personal archives. With the blessing of Andrea Müller, Living the Light director Claire Pijman — a friend of the couple and a cinematographer of nearly 30 years herself — was granted access to thousands of H8 video diaries, set photos, Polaroids, and more that were shot throughout his career; from his earliest days with Wenders to the final few films on his resume…

Full interview for Kinoscope

Maiden (Alex Holmes, 2018)

An almost 50-year institution, The Ocean Race is a yacht race around the world held every four years. In 1989, what was then known as the Whitbread Round the World Race was a 32,000 nautical mile sailing sprint from Southampton and back, taking entrants out to sea – with a few stopover ports, of course – for approximately eight months.

This instalment of the race also hosted the first ever all-women crew to enter, and Alex Holmes’ Maiden, named after that crew’s ship, documents the team’s struggles not only at sea but also getting to participate in the first place…

Full review for Little White Lies