Jane – 2017


One of the highlights of the recent Toronto Film Festival (and sure to be at the upcoming New York Film Festival) was the premiere of the extraordinary National Geographic documentary Jane which is based on 100 hours of recently discovered 16MM film footage of Jane Goodall’s first foray into the world of chimpanzees in 1962. Long thought lost, the footage shows a brave young woman at the beginning of what would become a remarkable lifelong journey with these amazing creatures.

Goodall, now 83, is considered the foremost expert on chimpanzees, and this film takes us back to the first expedition of a then-untrained 28-year-old Jane whose research revolutionized our understanding of the animals. She has been at it ever since. The images are so crisp and beautiful it looks like it was all filmed last week, and her new narration provides insight that is absolutely fascinating.

With a thrilling musical score from Oscar nominated composer Philip Glass this film from director Brett Morgen (Kurt Cobain: Montage Of Heck, The Kid Stays In The Picture) should be a prime Oscar contender not only for Documentary Feature, but also Original Music Score, and perhaps Film Editing for the sensational work in assembling the recently uncovered footage filmed by the great Hugo van Lawick, the National Geographic filmmaker who met, fell in love with and eventually married Goodall. In fact their very first meeting is chronicled and seen here.

“The film is very much a love story, except the love is not between man and woman. The love is between a woman and her work, and a man and his work,” Morgen said. National Geographic Documentary Films will be opening the film on October 20. Before that, Glass’s score will be performed live to picture on October 9 at the Hollywood Bowl, with Glass, Goodall and Morgen in attendance.

Morgan said he wanted Jane to be “like a cinematic opera” which is what led him to Glass in the first place. Watch the trailer above.

Snowden – 2016


On 6 June 2013, the Guardian broke the news National Security Agency (NSA) had ordered Verizon to provide it with the phone records of its customers. As the story developed it became clear that the two other major telephone networks as well as credit card companies were doing the same thing; and that the NSA and FBI were being provided with access to server systems operated by Google, Apple, Facebook, Yahoo, Microsoft and Skype.

On 11 June the Guardian reported the source as Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old who had been working at the NSA for four years.

Snowden believed it was important for him to publicly acknowledge his role in order to provide a human face to the story. He knew he was putting his life at risk and exposing himself to decades of incarceration. “My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them,” he explained. Snowden hoped to trigger a debate “about the kind of world we want to live in”. The US government began an immediate campaign to track, harass and silence him.

Meru – 2015

Three elite climbers struggle to find their way through obsession and loss as they attempt to climb Mount Meru, one of the most coveted prizes in the high stakes game of Himalayan big wall climbing. . . . .

Cartel Land – 2015

With unprecedented access, CARTEL LAND is a riveting, on-the-ground look at the journeys of two modern-day vigilante groups and their shared enemy – the murderous Mexican drug cartels. In the Mexican state of Michoacán, Dr. Jose Mireles, a small-town physician known as “El Doctor,” leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Templar drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years. Meanwhile, in Arizona’s Altar Valley – a narrow, 52-mile-long desert corridor known as Cocaine Alley – Tim “Nailer” Foley, an American veteran, heads a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, whose goal is to stop Mexico’s drug wars from seeping across our border. Filmmaker Matthew Heineman embeds himself in the heart of darkness as Nailer, El Doctor, and the cartel each vie to bring their own brand of justice to a society where institutions have failed. CARTEL LAND is a chilling, visceral meditation on the breakdown of order and the blurry line between good and evil.

Amy – 2015

The story of Amy Winehouse in her own words, featuring unseen archival footage and unheard tracks. Amy won the 2016 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. Amy Winehouse’s immediate family were initially willing to work with the film’s producers and director, having heard about the success of their earlier documentary, Senna (2010). They granted the filmmakers access to hours of archive footage of Amy and her family, as well as giving the filmmakers’ their blessing to interview Amy’s family and friends. However, they – in particular, Amy’s father, Mitch Winehouse – soon began to feel they were being misrepresented in the documentary, that the negative aspects of Amy’s life were receiving much more attention than the positive, and that footage had been edited in order to produce an inaccurate narrative of Amy’s story, especially the last three years of her life.

Red Army – 2014

Red Army is a 2014 American-Russian documentary film directed, produced, and written by Gabe Polsky, executive produced by Jerry Weintraub and Werner Herzog. It premiered at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival and was released in limited theaters by Sony Pictures Classics on January 23, 2015. Directed by Polsky, the film tells the story through the eyes of team captain Slava Fetisov. The film details the link between sports and politics. The film also narrates how players were wooed by National Hockey League scouts and eventually flooded NHL rosters.

That Sugar Film – 2014

Damon Gameau embarks on an experiment to document the effects of a high sugar diet on a healthy body. . . . .

Last Days in Vietnam – 2014

During the chaotic final weeks of the Vietnam War, the North Vietnamese Army closes in on Saigon as the panicked South Vietnamese people desperately attempt to escape. On the ground, American soldiers and diplomats confront the same moral quandary: whether to obey White House orders to evacuate U.S. citizens only–or to risk treason and save the lives of as many South Vietnamese citizens as they can. . . .

The Salt of the Earth – 2014

For the last 40 years, the photographer Sebastião Salgado has been travelling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He has witnessed some of the major events of our recent history; international conflicts, starvation and exodus. He is now embarking on the discovery of pristine territories, of wild fauna and flora, and of grandiose landscapes as part of a huge photographic project which is a tribute to the planet’s beauty. . .

Finding Vivian Maier – 2014

Real estate agent John Maloof explains how a trip to a local auction house, in search for old pictures to use for a history book about his neighborhood, resulted in him bidding and winning a box full of old negatives. John goes through the massive quantity of negatives, describes how impressed he is by the quality of the images, becomes quickly determined they are not reverent to his project and just puts them away. That could have very likely had been the end of the story, if the power of the images had not pushed him to fall in love with photography. John confides that his photo hobby quickly motivated him to set up a darkroom and devote large amounts of time shooting. As he learned more about photography, he recognized that those negatives he had bought, then stored, were the work of a real master.

Rich Hill – 2014

Rich Hill intimately chronicles the turbulent lives of three boys living in an impoverished Midwestern town and the fragile family bonds that sustain them. . . . Read more at IMDB or buy it now at Amazon.

Super Duper Alice Cooper – 2014

Super Duper Alice Cooper is the twisted tale of a teenage Dr Jekyll whose rock n roll Mr Hyde almost kills him. It is the story of Vincent Furnier, preacher’s son, who struck fear into the hearts of parents as Alice Cooper, the ultimate rock star of the bizarre. From the advent of Alice as front man for a group of Phoenix freaks in the 60s to the hazy decadence of celebrity in the 70s to his triumphant comeback as 80s glam metal godfather, we will watch as Alice and Vincent battle for each others’ souls. The is the first ever ‘doc opera’ – a dizzying blend of documentary archive footage, animation and rock opera that will cement forever the legend of Alice Cooper. Read more at IMDB or buy it now at Amazon.

The Look of Silence – 2014

In the acclaimed documentary “The Look of Silence,” Joshua Oppenheimer explores the after effects of the 1965 genocide in Indonesia. The Oscar-nominated filmmaker throws light on the human condition in a persistent climate of fear and silence caused by the unanswered killings of between 500,000 and 1 million people. The murderers have not faced justice for half a century because the political regime still protects them. The camera follows protagonist Adi Rukun, an Indonesian optometrist, as he confronts the men who murdered his brother, Ramli, two years before Adi was born. Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.

Cutie and the Boxer – 2013

This candid New York love story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role as her overbearing husband’s assistant, Noriko finds an identity of her own. . . .

Muscle Shoals – 2013

Located alongside the Tennessee River, Muscle Shoals, Alabama is the unlikely breeding ground for some of America’s most creative and defiant music. Under the spiritual influence of the ‘Singing River’ as Native Americans called it, the music of Muscle Shoals changed the world and sold millions upon millions of copies, at its heart is Rick Hall who founded FAME Studios. Overcoming crushing poverty and staggering tragedies, he brought black and white together in Alabama’s cauldron of racial hostility to create music for the generations while giving birth to the ‘Muscle Shoals Sound’ and ‘The Swampers’. Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Percy Sledge, Gregg Allman, Clarence Carter, Etta James, Alicia Keys, Bono, and others bear witness to Muscle Shoals’ magnetism, mystery, and why it remains influential today. Only the genre’s most studious followers will be able to watch Muscle Shoals without being regularly astonished: Even if it sometimes gets lost in its byways, Greg “Freddy” Camalier’s documentary tells an extraordinary story.

The Act of Killing – 2013

A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers. . . . .

The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear – 2013

A filmmaker puts out a casting call for young adults, aged 15- to 23. The director wants to make a film about growing up in her home country, Georgia, and find commonalities across social and ethnic lines. She travels through cities and villages interviewing the candidates who responded and filming their daily lives. . .

Blood Brother – 2013

Blood Brother is an intimate portrait of Rocky Braat, a young man who longed to find a family. He didn’t know it, but this desire would lead him to an AIDS hostel in India, a place of unspeakable hardship, where he would find almost more love and need than he could bear. . . Read more at IMDB or buy it now at Amazon.

Dirty Wars – 2013

Investigative journalist Jeremy Scahill is pulled into an unexpected journey as he chases down the hidden truth behind America’s expanding covert wars. . . Read more at IMDB or buy it now at Amazon.

Our Man in Tehran – 2013

The events of the Iranian Hostage Crisis and Canada’s involvement, especially concerning Ambassador Ken Taylor, are explored. . . Read more at IMDB or buy it now at Amazon.

The House I Live In – 2012

From the dealer to the narcotics officer, the inmate to the federal judge, a penetrating look inside America’s criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy. . . Read more at IMDB or buy it now at Amazon.

Bobby Fischer Against the World – 2011

‘Bobby Fischer Against the World’ is a documentary feature exploring the tragic and bizarre life of the late chess master Bobby Fischer. The drama of Bobby Fischer’s career was undeniable, from his troubled childhood, to his rock star status as World Champion and Cold War icon, to his life as a fugitive on the run. This film explores one of the most infamous and mysterious characters of the 20th century. . .

Girl Model – 2011

A documentary on the modeling industry’s ‘supply chain’ between Siberia, Japan, and the U.S., told through the experiences of the scouts, agencies, and a 13-year-old model. Read more at IMDB or support this site by buying it at Amazon.

You Don’t Like the Truth – 2010

The interrogation recordings of the underaged Canadian Guantanamo Bay prisoner, Omar Khadr, by Canadian intelligence personnel are presented with observations by his attorneys and former cell mates. . . Read more at IMDB or buy it now at Amazon.

Baseball – The Tenth Inning – 2010

This latest entry covers the period from the early 1990’s onward. Labor relations deteriorated badly in the early part of that decade leading to the players strike in August 1994. The Montreal Expos were the best team in baseball at the time but when a Federal judge blocked the owners from unilaterally imposing a contract- which would have let them use replacement players it quickly came to an end and the players returned to work under the old contract. Attendance dropped after that but the game recovered quickly with the heroics of Cal Ripkin Jr. By the end of 1990’s, fans were caught up in the home run derby presented by Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire. There was also the first whiff of scandal when McGwire was accused of using steroids.

Coco avant Chanel – 2009

Several years after leaving the orphanage to which her father never returned for her, Gabrielle Chanel finds herself working in a provincial bar. She’s both a seamstress for the performers and a singer, earning the nickname Coco from the song she sings nightly with her sister. A liaison with Baron Balsan gives her an entrée into French society and a chance to develop her gift for designing increasingly popular hats. When she falls in love with English businessman Arthur Capel further opportunities open up, though life becomes ever more complicated. Read more at IMDB or buy it now at Amazon

Bananas! – 2009

Personal injury lawyer Juan “Accidentes” Dominguez stands in the shadow of his mightiest opponent yet. Representing twelve Nicaraguan banana labourers, he is suing Dole, the world’s largest agricultural producer, for allegedly exposing thousands of field workers to a banned pesticide known to cause sterility. Faced with a grueling uphill battle, can Dominguez beat the odds and bring this modern day Goliath to justice? Filmmaker Fredrik Gertten blows the lid off the dark side of our globalized food economy in BANANAS!, a gripping account of one man’s crusade against corporate corruption that exposes the true cost of the bananas we consume. Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.

Frontrunners – 2008

It’s hard to run for office – even in high school. And the campaign for student body president at Stuyvesant, perhaps the most prestigious public high school in the country, is almost as sophisticated as any presidential election. Candidates must choose running mates, navigate primaries, write political platforms, perform in televised debates, shake as many hands as possible, and win newspaper endorsements. But unlike presidential candidates, they also have to do their homework, take their SATs and write their college applications. FRONTRUNNERS follows the recent elections at the country’s most competitive high school, exploring how politics works at a nascent level.

Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock? – 2006

It’s not everyday that a film is made about long-haul truck drivers, forensic scientists and art connoisseurs. But the unusual mixture of these ingredients is precisely what makes director Harry Moses’ funky new documentary Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock? a success. That, and the inimitable character of the film’s main subject, Teri Horton. Surely, Horton is the key ingredient to Moses’ innovative recipe.

The Take – 2004

“The Take” is a Canadian documentary by Avi Lewis and Naomi Klein, shot in Argentina, where a prosperous middle-class economy was destroyed during 10 years of IMF policies, as enforced by President Carlos Menem (1989-1999). Factories were closed, their assets were liquidated, and money fled the country, sometimes literally by the truckload. After most of it was gone, Menem closed the banks, causing panic. Today more than half of all Argentineans live in poverty, unemployment is epidemic, and the crime rate is scary. In the face of this disaster, workers at several closed factories attempted to occupy the factories, reopen them and operate them.

The Thin Blue Line – 1988

A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas. Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.

Jimi Plays Monterey – 1986

Jimi Hendrix’s landmark concert in Monterey County Fairgrounds in California in which he plays signature songs like “Purple Haze,” “Foxy Lady,” and “Wild Thing.” By D.A. Pennebaker

Read more at IMDB or support this site and the filmmaker by buying it at Amazon.