Studio engineer Matt Ross-Spang wasn't even born when most of Sun's most famous records were cut. Nonetheless, he's thought a lot about what makes them sound the way they do (transcript). Matt has been buying up old gear for a few years, returning the Sun Records studio to a vintage state (with a few exceptions), and he is still practicing "sonic archaeology," trying to figure out how Sam Phillips made records sound like Sun Records. There's more to it than the Sun tape echo. [more inside]
Teddy Gray's Sweet Factory is a short and sweet documentary by Martin Parr about a traditionally owned and run confectionery factory in the British Midlands. [via kottke]
A Tale of Internet Spaceships - A crowd funded documentary on the video game, Eve Online. Filmed at the annual CCP FanFest, a look at the unique world of spaceships, spreadsheets, diplomacy, community, and inevitable betrayal.
Radio Ambulante [Español] has been called "This Latin American Life". It is long-form non-breaking-news documentary journalism from across Latin America. It was recently featured in an episode of On The Media which looked at Latino and Hispanic media in the US. While the majority of its content is in Spanish, they do have some stories en Inglés.
The World's Most Dangerous Amusement Park Opens Its Gates Again: (Class) Action Park, perennial MetaFilter favorite, is back in business! [more inside]
The Woman Who Wasn't There. Her husband died in the attacks. She barely escaped from the south tower. But a new book chronicles the (literally) unbelievable story of 9/11’s most famous ‘survivor.’ [more inside]
Brian Knappenberger's The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz is available to watch for free in its entirety thanks to the Internet Archive. [more inside]
Wattstax [SLYT] is a 1973 documentary film about the 1972 Wattstax music festival, held at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum to commemorate the seventh anniversary of the Watts riots. Featuring performances by Isaac Hayes, Albert King, Rufus and Carla Thomas, The Staple Singers, The Emotions, The Bar-Kays, and other greats of soul, R&B, and gospel, Wattstax also incorporates relatively unknown comic Richard Pryor's musings on life for black Americans in 1972, "man-and-woman-on-the-street" interviews, and audience footage. [NSFW] [more inside]
Life Itself. The documentary based on Roger Ebert’s memoir, by Hoop Dreams’ director Steve James, premiered at Sundance in January and is now rolling out in theaters and on demand.
Rick Sebak, Pittsburgh’s resident documentarian and the inventor of the scrapbook documentary, has a brand new documentary out: A History of Pittsburgh in 17 Objects. Don’t know about the quirky joys of Rick Sebak, or of Pittsburgh? This is your lucky day. [more inside]
Les Invisibles: Vintage Portraits of Love and Pride is a collection of found photographs by film-maker Sébastien Lifshitz showing (mostly anonymous) gay couples together in the early years of the 20th century. 'He found most of his collection in the US and western Europe, but none in the UK: “Maybe the British think such photographs have no value, or are too private to sell.”'. In 2012, Lifshitz released Les Invisibles, a related documentary exploring the lives of 11 gay and lesbian individuals over the age of 70. [more inside]
Flann O'Brien: The Lives of Brian [VIMEO]: A documentary about Flann O'Brien aka Brian O'Nolan. [more inside]
On May 13th, the film world was shocked and saddened by the tragic death of documentary filmmaker Malik Bendjelloul, who had won an Oscar just last year for the documentary "Searching for Sugar Man". In the month that has passed since then, more details have emerged of the months and days that led up to his suicide. The Hollywood Reporter profiles the life and death of Bendjelloul and takes a look at how sudden success can bring about even more sudden depression.
Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, was a dangerous place to be in the late 1970s. With bombs, shootings, British Army Patrols, riots on the streets, and The Ramones and New York Dolls on the turntable, the most punk thing 5 Catholic lads could do was to sing upbeat songs about adolescent lust, girls, getting nowhere with said girls, and the general struggles of being young. In the bleeding heart of The Troubles, The Undertones escaped by dreaming of a life more ordinary. [more inside]
Vinkensport (finch sport), or vinkenzetting (finch sitting) is a Belgian, primarily Flemish, sport involving a box, a bird, and a counting stick. The bird that sings the most times in an hour wins. Here is a short and somewhat doubtful documentary.
2001: A Space Odyssey -- A Look Behind the Future. In 1966, Look magazine released a documentary on the making of Stanly Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and the science featured in the film. Vernon Myers, the publisher and president of the magazine, bookends the documentary, announcing that Look would feature the film in its magazine to coincide with its then-1967 release date. If you remember, Kubrick got his start in photography working for the magazine as a young man, so it makes sense that his former-employer would want to feature his upcoming film.
Since his death from cancer at age 32, comedian Bill Hicks's (very previously) legend and stature have only grown; American: The Bill Hicks Story (previously) fills in the details of a life cut tragically short, blending live footage and animation, and is narrated by the 10 people who knew Bill best. A comic's comic and unflagging critic of hypocrisy and cultural emptiness, American: The Bill Hicks Story is now streaming for free on Snag Films.
A 50 minute documentary about Maxwell Street Market and musicians in Chicago (I interpret the title with an implicit accusatory question mark.) Mike Shea—previously a photographer for Life, Look and Time—directed this exquisitely composed, Frederick Wiseman-esque documentary that lurches between the wiles and complaints of street vendors to some astoundingly well-recorded street side blues performances—recorded by Gordon Quinn. Most notably numerous songs by Robert Nighthawk and one electrifying performance by Carrie Robinson. There's also one seriously awesome-looking house party. [more inside]
Before there was Firefly, after there was Star Trek, in between there was… Blake's 7 (previously). The BBC's dystopian space opera ran for four series, ended with arguably the bleakest finale in sci-fi TV, yet never achieved popularity in proportion to its influence. To accompany its DVD release, documentary filmmaker Kevin Jon Davies prepared making-of videos for the first three series, which he has now posted YouTube: Series 1, Series 2, Series 3. Learn the origins of Blake's dysfunctional band of freedom-fighters, the secrets of the show's horrible SFX, watch the cast read aloud their worst reviews, and much more!
Inside, please find a list of forty-three movies, TV episodes, and short subjects by Werner Herzog, all of which can be streamed, along with some short descriptions of their content. One or two of the films are in German without subtitles; this is noted in the description. [more inside]
Valley of Dolls
Eleven years ago, Ayano Tsukimi returned to her home in Nagoro. Confronted with constant departures, she has populated the village with dolls, each representing a former villager. Around 350 of the giant dolls now reside in and around Nagoro, replacing those that died or abandoned the village years ago.
In a recent documentary titled The Valley Of Dolls, Fritz Schumann explores Tsukimi's world, highlighting the time and artistry that goes into making the figures, and explaining her motivations. In it we're shown around a local school, once filled with children and teachers, that now houses dozens of dolls, sitting statically, waiting for class to begin.
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]
You've heard of dog and horse shows, but are you familiar with rabbit shows? Rabbit Fever is a coming-of-age story that follows six competitors as they strive to win the top title at the National American Rabbit Convention - an event that draws more than 20,000 rabbits in one building, the largest mass of rabbits in the world. While adult members of the rabbit habit compete for BEST IN SHOW, the teenage enthusiasts quest for an even more coveted honor in the rabbit community - Rabbit King and Queen!
Inside, please find a list of twenty-eight movies, TV episodes, and short subjects by Errol Morris and two movies about Errol Morris, all of which can be streamed, along with some short descriptions of their content. [more inside]
The trailer for the 2012 documentary The Raw and the Cooked stands alone as a work of art, by capturing perfectly the best scenes from this beautiful film. Created by German filmmaker Monika Treut. Background.
In 1984, the Canadian branch of the United Auto Workers, represented by Bob White, and General Motors Canada, represented by Rod Andrew, sat down to negotiate a new wage agreement. GM had gotten the American UAW to agree to profit sharing and was dead-set on doing the same in the North; the Canadians were bitterly opposed to the idea. By the end of the negotiation, workers had struck, negotiators had been stabbed in the back, White and his allies had split from the UAW to form the CAW, and a compromise was reached that left everyone a bit unhappy - but the workers less so than their managers. Filmmaker Sturla Gunnarsson used his unprecedented access to both teams of negotiators to craft Final Offer, "the best collective bargaining film ever made." You can stream the movie in its entirety at the National Film Board's website.
Good Grief, an animated short film from Australia about the process of grieving and the lessons learned from adjusting to loss, made using stop-motion animation and recorded interviews with real people.
Kate Mulgrew (aka Captain Janeway) is narrating a new documentary called "The Principle", which posits that the Sun really does revolve around the earth. The film is the product of Robert Sungenis, who maintains the website Galileo is Wrong (previously). Geeks are understandably confused.
"You'd see Britt and Brian and they were just like, little kids standing around with terrifying giant skinheads and weird dudes in dresses, it was heaven .... Slint were a unique band." [more inside]
Homelessness in America Award-winning documentary by Michael Becker. (Vimeo)
"Anita", a documentary by director Freida Mock, which opened in New York and Los Angeles last weekend, looks back on the journey of Anita Hill, who famously testified that her former boss and then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas had sexually harassed her. Trailer [more inside]
It's only one race into the 2014 Formula One season, and if you're interested in knowing more about this world of specialized racing cars, there was a roundup of documentaries on Reddit last year. While the links are all dead, it's a handy guide to films you can find online. For your viewing pleasure... [more inside]
'The media is a chaotic place. Like an ocean or a weather system, it no longer respects authority. In fact, those who attempt to impose their authority are ridiculed, while brilliant and valuable tidbits emerge from the most remote and seemingly inconsequential sources.... Younger, media-savvy viewers instinctively reject authoritative voices and laugh at commercials in which people try to act "cool." ' That was Douglas Rushkoff's assessment of companies courting the youth demographic as covered in print in 2000, and the next year in video as the PBS Frontline documentary, Merchants of Cool (streaming documentary; prev: 1, 2, 3, 4). Earlier this year, Rushkoff revisited the topic with PBS in Generation Like (streaming documentary), in a time when young people are generally happy to tell the world what brands they like as a way of identifying who they are. [more inside]
A short and sweet 10-minute documentary on musician and artist Daniel Johnston. [SLYT] [more inside]
Writing In The Gray Areas - "Are some acts so revolting that the people who commit them do not deserve a hearing?" [more inside]
Life After Pi : How Rythm & Hues declared bankruptcy and 11 days later won an Oscar for their work on 'Life of Pi' (SLYT). [more inside]
The University of Southern California's US-China Institute has a huge number of videos on YouTube regarding China, Taiwan, history, global diplomacy, etc. [more inside]
This year marks the 25th anniversary of 1989 Batman movie, which is remembered for everything from the logo "that helped set the course for superhero movies" to the ways the movie was true to the comics, or was really a "noir" update to the 1960s Adam West Batman. While preparing yourself for what may come in the lead-up to the June 23 anniversary date, enjoy Batman: The Making of a Hero documentary, a rare 25 minutes behind-the-scenes look at the making of the film, from the folks at 1989 Batman, a fansite dedicated to the movie, and its sequel, Batman Returns. [more inside]
Patrick Moote's marriage proposal was rejected in front of a large crowd at a UCLA basketball game. When he asked his former girlfriend why, she told him it was because his penis was too small, which led to him creating a cockumentary called Unhung Hero. [more inside]
American Promise is a PBS documentary (live streaming through March 6) that follows two middle class African-American boys, Idris and Seun, who enter The Dalton School as young children, and follows them for 13 years. [more inside]
Yesterday saw the surprise release of PolyFauna (Android - iOS), a free, movingly minimalist art game produced by Radiohead in collaboration with digital art studio Universal Everything. In the tradition of previous projects such as Proteus (previously) and Björk's Biophilia (also previously), the game turns players loose in an open world of moody vistas and fog-shrouded wilderness, accompanied by music and visuals from 2011's earthy, naturalist The King of Limbs. With an associated redesign of the band's website, could work on the long-awaited LP9 be far behind? [more inside]
I.F. Stone's Weekly, a 1973 documentary about one of the greatest American journalists of the 20th century (Part 1). Part 2 of 6 here (incomplete). Isidor Feinstein "Izzy" Stone discusses how he exposed widely-accepted fictions about the Vietnam War and the escalation of the Cold War—merely by reading what the government published. He was blacklisted in 1950 and began his own newsletter, which railed against McCarthyism, racial discrimination, and the complacent establishment media. [more inside]
What if poor people capitalized on their own natural resource, poverty? This is the central question of Renzo Martens' 2008 documentary, Episode III - Enjoy Poverty, the second film in a triptych exploring power relations between photographers and their subjects. [more inside]
"Everything is fine and the world is beautiful. It's raining, it's dark, I woke up at 5:30AM, I'm commuting in traffic. I would have had a headache, I would have been miserable, I would have wondered how my life took me to this point. This point I'm at right now. But no, no, everything is fine. Life is beautiful. The rain drops are just falling and in each one I see the reflection of every persons life around me. Humanity is beautiful. In this still frame shot of traffic on this crowded bus I just found love and peace. Heroin is a wonder drug. Heroin is better than everything else. Heroin makes me who I wish I was. Heroin makes life worth living. Heroin is better than everything else." [more inside]
"This is the only thing I could do, and I could do whatever the fuck I wanted to do, and make a living." From a special edit of the feature length documentary Sign Painters.