No Your City In a city of over 8 million people, it is impossible to walk the streets without running into interesting New Yorkers with unique relationships to the city. Whether it is Don Ward, the best shoe-shiner in Manhattan or Te'Devan the 6'7" Nomadic-Jewish-Healing-Freestyler. Everyone has a story that is worth hearing, but unfortunately most of them go unheard. New York City is the busiest place on earth and it is rare for someone to take a few minutes out of their schedule to stop and chat with a fellow New Yorker. No Your City is an 8-part documentary series that offers a glimpse into the lives of these extraordinary New York City inhabitants. [more inside]
In the late '80s, documentarians Louis Alvarez and Andrew Kolker spent six months in Tokyo looking at how symbols and imagery familiar to Americans had been appropriated and given new significance in Japan. Though more than 20 years old, the resulting video remains popular in undergraduate courses across the social sciences and humanities in part because it's so entertaining. [more inside]
The most-watched show in the history of the National Geographic Channel isn't Wild, Taboo or even the longest-running documentary series on cable tv: Explorer. It's Doomsday Preppers, a show that documents the "lives of otherwise ordinary Americans" as they prepare for the end of the world. [more inside]
In February, PBS and AOL launched Makers, a video archive containing personal stories and anecdotes told in the first person by women, many of whom have sparked groundbreaking changes in American culture. [more inside]
In the wake of their grunge-y breakout hit "Creep" and the success of sophomore record The Bends, Thom Yorke and the rest of Radiohead were under pressure to deliver once more. So they shut themselves away inside the echoing halls of a secluded 16th century manor and got to work. What emerged from that crumbling Elizabethan castle fifteen years ago today was a shockingly ambitious masterpiece of progressive rock, a visionary concept album that explored the "fridge buzz" of modernity -- alienation, social disconnection, existential dread, the impersonal hum of technology -- through a mosaic of challenging, innovative, eerily beautiful music unlike anything else at the time. Tentatively called Ones and Zeroes, then Your Home May Be at Risk If You Do Not Keep Up Payments, the band finally settled on OK Computer, an appropriately enigmatic title for this acclaimed harbinger of millennial angst. For more, you can watch the retrospective OK Computer: A Classic Album Under Review for a track-by-track rundown, or the unsettling documentary Meeting People is Easy for a look at how the album's whirlwind tour nearly gave Yorke a nervous breakdown. Or look inside for more details and cool interpretations of all the tracks -- including an upcoming MeFi Music Challenge! [more inside]
Wired called them, digital graffiti and John Carmack spoke of them at QuakeCon 2011 but they remain little known. A recently released full-length documentary (download) gives a portrait of the creative digital subculture from 80s to the present day. [more inside]
A decade on, the Coen brothers' woefully underrated O Brother, Where Art Thou? [alt] is remembered for a lot of things: its sun-drenched, sepia-rich cinematography (a pioneer of digital color grading), its whimsical humor, fluid vernacular, and many subtle references to Homer's Odyssey. But one part of its legacy truly stands out: the music. Assembled by T-Bone Burnett, the soundtrack is a cornucopia of American folk music, exhibiting everything from cheery ballads and angelic hymns to wistful blues and chain-gang anthems. Woven into the plot of the film through radio and live performances, the songs lent the story a heartfelt, homespun feel that echoed its cultural heritage, a paean and uchronia of the Old South. Though the multiplatinum album was recently reissued, the movie's medley is best heard via famed documentarian D. A. Pennebaker's Down from the Mountain, an extraordinary yet intimate concert film focused on a night of live music by the soundtrack's stars (among them Gillian Welch, Emmylou Harris, Chris Thomas King, bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley) and wryly hosted by John Hartford, an accomplished fiddler, riverboat captain, and raconteur whose struggle with terminal cancer made this his last major performance. The film is free in its entirety on Hulu and YouTube -- click inside for individual clips, song links, and breakdowns of the set list's fascinating history. [more inside]
The American Festivals Project takes you along on two guys' National Geographic-funded 2008 tour of the "small, hidden, and bizarre" festivals celebrated all over the United States. Through photos, video, and a blog, discover Rattlesnake Roundup, Okie noodling, an American Fasnacht, the Idiotarod, and plenty more. [more inside]
Blues Houseparty is a fun, entertaining and highly recommended 57 minute documentary that takes us into a Virginia houseparty of 1989, where the assembled Piedmont blues and gospel musicians and their friends pick guitars, sing, dance and engagingly reminisce on the houseparties of old. Amidst hearty laughs, barbecue and general good times, the guests recount personal memories of fun and rowdiness, corn liquor, 500-pound hogs, the devil's music and the Lord's music. There's a whole lot of cultural history on display here, a slice of black American life that is all but gone now. The mood is infectious, to say the least, and the music just keeps getting better and better throughout the film. The next best thing to being there!
It's been estimated that the average UK adult is now registered on more than 700 databases and is caught many times each day by nearly five million CCTV cameras. So how hard would it be for an average citizen to disappear completely? That’s the subject of a new documentary film: Erasing David, (Trailer: YouTube, Vimeo) which premieres this evening in the UK on More4. It's also now available worldwide online at the iTunes store and through several Video On Demand services, as well as through Good Screenings. [more inside]
Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans premieres Thursday, January 29 on PBS. Faubourg Tremé is considered the oldest black neighborhood in America, the origin of the southern civil rights movement and the birthplace of jazz. Trailer for Faubourg Tremé
Architectural critic and writer Reyner Banham loved Los Angeles. (Last link is a BBC documentary, circa 1972, 52 minutes -- NSFW at 47 minute mark) [more inside]
Home Movies. A 1975 documentary by a young academic folklorist, exploring what it was that people were doing when they made home movies: remembering selectively, creating a "golden age." [more inside]
Saddam's Confessions - Given Saddam Hussein's central place in the American Consciousness over the last couple decades and particularly in recent years, I found 60 minutes' interview with FBI interrogator George Piro pretty fascinating.
"In a close-knit Chesapeake Bay community, the world’s fastest muskrat skinners face off in a truly cutthroat competition at the National Outdoor Show. One lucky young lady gets to be their queen." [Warning: Fiddle tunes!] Muskrat Lovely, a documentary about the conflation of the world muskrat-skinning championships with the Miss Outdoors beauty competition. The film will air soon on the PBS program Independent Lens. Catch some of the brackish flavor of the Chesapeake Bay's traditional regional culture, including some muskrat recipes and skinning tips.. And don't miss the link to Everything Muskrat.
Child brides of Afghanistan. A child bride is very often just that: a child, even a preteen, her innocence betrothed to someone older, even much, much older. Images by Stephanie Sinclair who's work on women's issues in Afghanistan is always eye opening.
The Kids Are Alright, A Documentary (Warning ~60 MB Quicktime download. Worth it.) A bit of strange luck led me to this documentary, in which several teenagers discuss frankly and openly what it's like to be a queer kid in North Carolina. Contrast and compare their experiences with that of 14 year old Thomas McLaughlin in Arkansas. I wonder what Aaron Fricke would think about the last 20-odd years.