Gullah—the African-influenced dialect of Georgia’s Sea Islands—has undergone few changes since the first slave ships landed 300 years ago, and provides a clear window into the shaping of African-American English. This classic PBS program traces that story from the west coast of Africa through the American South, then to large northern cities in the 1920s. Studying the origins of West African pidgin English and creole speech—along with the tendency of 19th-century white Southerners to pick up speech habits from their black nursemaids—the program highlights the impact of WWI-era industrialization and the migration of jazz musicians to New York and Chicago.
In Southern California in the 1980s, KROQ had this weird un-DJ-like guy named (seriously) Rodney Bingenheimer, who came on late at night on Sundays and played punk records and new bands like Blondie, The Ramones, X, Joan Jett, Devo and Cheap Trick. Did this weirdo really have some influence? A 90-minute 2004 documentary now on YouTube, Mayor of the Sunset Strip (Part 1) tells his story, and it's weirder than you may have imagined. [more inside]
Fred Martinez was nádleehí, a male-bodied person with a feminine nature, a special gift according to his ancient Navajo culture. He was one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at 16. Two Spirits explores the life and death of this boy who was also a girl, and the essentially spiritual nature of gender. (previously)
Pete Standing Alone has come full-circle in his dedication to preserving the traditional ways of his people on the Blood reserve in Southern Alberta. His 50 year journey from cultural alienation to pride and belonging has been uniquely captured by the NFB in the Pete Standing Alone Trilogy. [more inside]
The most vivid figure in Michael Gramaglia and Jim Fields's End of the Century was the least articulate and most archetypal of the Ramones: Johnny, the right-wing prole whose hard-ass sense of style the others nutballed and softened and accelerated and above all imitated. ... Exciting and absolutely right though their '70s sets always were, the film establishes that they kept the faith live till the end, lifted by Joey's goofy dedication and powered by the chords Johnny thrashed out like they were why he was alive. As unyielding in his aesthetic principles as he was in everything else, this reactionary was an avant-gardist in spite of himself. - Robert Christgau
Highrise: One Millionth Tower is an interactive documentary, architectural visualization, and virtual transformation featuring a highrise development in Toronto. Presented by the National Film Board of Canada. (via Chrome Experiments)
"Ornette in '59" - a BBC documentary segment about Ornette Coleman's The Shape of Jazz to Come. [more inside]
Bill Cunningham New York is a wonderful documentary about a fascinating man, now available on Hulu. [more inside]
This weekend marks the time of the Hajj, a core pillar of Islam in which great tides of humanity venture to the ancient city of Mecca to honor God. Predating Mohammed's birth by centuries, the pilgrimage comprises several days of rites, from congregation like snow on Mount Arafat and the ritual stoning of Shaitan to the circling of the sacred Kaaba (the shrouded cubical monolith Muslims pray toward daily) and kissing the Black Stone (colored by the absorption of myriad sins, and believed by some to be a fallen meteorite). While the city has modernized to handle this largest of annual gatherings -- building highway-scale ramps, gaudy skyscrapers for the ultra-rich, and tent cities the size of Seattle -- it remains mysterious, as unbelievers are forbidden from entering its borders. Richard Francis Burton became famous for touring the city in disguise to write a rare travelogue, but contemporary viewers have a more immediate guide: Vice Magazine journalist Suroosh Alvi, who smuggled a minicam into the city to record The Mecca Diaries [alt], a 14-minute documentary of his own Hajj journey. Browse the manual to see what goes into a Hajj trip, or watch the YouTube livestream to see the Grand Mosque crowds in real time.
Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L1037, a documentary by Ben Niles. "Invention for 900 Hands", a nine-part series in The New York Times. "K 2571: The Making of a Steinway Grand", an article in The Atlantic Monthly. [more inside]
America in Primetime is a four-part PBS special on four character archetypes that define contemporary television and interviews tons of writers, producers and actors from a set of defining shows. The first episode, Independent Women (which you can stream from their website) aired last night, gaining measured reviews from Bitch and the AV Club. Future episodes: Man of the House, The Misfit and The Crusader.
The Burton Holmes Archive has information about Burton Holmes, the travel writer who became the first person to make filmic travelogues. More importantly, they also have a lot of film clips by Holmes and his associate, André de la Varre, who was also a great travelogue maker himself. Watching these clips is not quite time travel, but it is as close as we can get. Take a look at Reykjavík, Iceland, in 1926, Lake Michigan in 20s, Cairo in 1932 and the 1955 Rio de Janeiro carnival. The later films have sound and narration, but I prefer the silent ones. [Burton Holmes previously, André de la Varre previously, and the Travel Film Archive, which runs Burton Holmes site, previously]
In 2003 and again in 2009, Director Andy Glynne, with Mosaic Films and BBC4 created Animated Minds, a series of animated documentaries to express the subjective experiences of various kinds of mental health disorders. [more inside]
The Reel History of Britain, a BFI/BBC co-production, brings archive film into the nation’s living rooms. The footage shown in the series has been selected from the hundreds of thousands of films and programmes preserved in Britain’s film and television archives. We are complementing the series by making many of the films featured in The Reel History of Britain available online in their entirety, alongside expert commentary from the nation’s archive curators.
80 Blocks from Tiffany’s was what The Warriors, the cultish and campy Hollywood street gang movie involving roller skates and a race to Coney Island, could never be. It was real. Shot over the course of a couple of weeks in the summer of ’79 (as the seeds of hip-hop culture were slowly sprouting in the BX), 80 Blocks from Tiffany’s, produced by Lorne Michaels [and directed by SNL director Gary Weis], veers away from the social commentary typically associated with gang exposés. Instead, the 60-minute documentary focuses on the personalities behind the news reports, including a tough NYPD detective from the Bronx Youth Gang Task Force and a sympathetic community activist. Quoted from the introduction to an interview with Gary Weis.
Music is a book/app/documentary film by photographer/film-maker Andrew Zuckerman (previously). Similar in format to Zuckerman's film Wisdom, Music features interviews with musical luminaries both fully- and not-so-luminous. [more inside]
"'Being Elmo,' the crowd-pleasing [documentary film] profile of the man behind Elmo, arguably the most-loved Muppet on 'Sesame Street,' has been melting hearts on the festival circuit since premiering at Sundance this year, where it won the Special Jury Prize. ... [It's the] story of how puppeteer Kevin Clash came up through the ranks on sheer ambition and ingenuity to become one of the best in the business is an underdog tale of the best variety."* However, could it be that there is an Elmo backlash brewing? [more inside]
After the success of No Direction Home, Martin Scorsese has turned his documentary eye toward another 60s musician. On October 5 and 6, George Harrison: Living In The Material World will run on HBO in two parts. The film has already played some film festivals and gotten great reviews. [more inside]
Last night, British ITV broadcasted "Exposure: Gaddafi and the IRA", a documentary which included this 1988 Provisional IRA footage the filmmakers found on YouTube. Unfortunately, the footage is actually and blatently from videogame ArmA 2. ITV has stopped streaming the documentary.
Perhaps you've managed to see PJ20 during its limited stand in select theaters. Perhaps you'll watch it when it airs on PBS late next month. Either way, you might be interested in seeing the press conference with all five members of the band plus Cameron Crowe [20m32s], the director of the documentary, which took place after the premiere of the film at Toronto International Film Festival. The press conference is also available in downloadable audio format. [more inside]
Like a "modern-day pirate," 75-year-old Ray Ives has been diving for sunken treasure for decades. Wearing an ancient, bronze-helmeted diving suit, he searches the ocean floor and keeps a huge collection of marine salvage (including antique cannon balls, 'bottles, bells, swords, portholes and diving gear') in a shipping container "museum" at a British marina.
Ray: A Life Underwater: Vimeo / YouTube. (A short film documentary.) [more inside]
Ray: A Life Underwater: Vimeo / YouTube. (A short film documentary.) [more inside]
Metafilter Favorite Stephen Fry announces that he is now the president of mental health charity MIND, in part because of his 2006 documentary: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. [more inside]
Barizogon ("bitter condemnation") is a 1992 indie Japanese docudrama about Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants and is a dramatization of the life and "accidental" death in 1989 of the whistle-blowing Nao--a twenty-six-year-old who takes on crooked campaigning and a cover-up at the unsafe nuclear plant where everyone in Okuma works. The movie is available (with subtitles) on YouTube: Part 1. The whole series of YouTube videos are collected on this blog. [more inside]
Better This World is a documentary about two activists from Austin who joined a group heading to protest the 2008 Republican convention. Their problem was that they prepared molotov cocktails at the last minute, and one of their ring-leaders was an FBI informant. Legal nightmare ensues. Aired on PBS September 6, it can be viewed online until October 6.
'“The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975“ is an incredible documentary with an equally incredible story behind it. The film is constructed entirely from hundreds of hours of archival footage of the black power movement, footage that’s not just rare, but unseen; it was shot by a Swedish news crew in the 1960s and 1970s, then left untouched in a Swedish TV station’s cellar for 30 years, where it was discovered by documentary filmmaker Göran Hugo Olsson.' [more inside]
in 1976, surrealist icon Salvador Dali starred and directed in the fake documentary/travelogue Impressions de la haute Mongolie - Impressions of Upper Mongolia - about his quest to find a rare hallucinogenic mushroom. It was intended as a tribute to the late Raymond Roussel. It is available on Youtube in 5 parts. 1 - 2 -3 - 4 - 5 (70 min)
The Tribes of Darkest Austria - or: if Africans ruled Anthropology. (slyt)
From 1935 to 1951, Time Magazine bridged the gap between print & radio news reporting and the new visual medium of film, with March of Time: award-winning newsreel reports that were a combination of objective documentary, dramatized fiction and pro-American, anti-totalitarian propaganda. They “often tackled subjects and themes that audiences weren’t used to seeing — foreign affairs, social trends, public-health issues — and did so with a combination of panache and subterfuge that today seems either absurd or visionary.” (Previous two links have autoplaying video.) By 1937, the short films were being seen by as many as 26 million people every month and may have helped steer public opinion on numerous issues, including (eventually) America’s entry to WWII. Video samples are available at Time.com, the March of Time Facebook page and the entire collection is available online, (free registration required) at HBO Archives. [more inside]
Over Your Cities Grass Will Grow bears witness to German artist Anselm Kiefer’s alchemical creative processes and renders as a film journey the personal universe he has built at his hill studio estate in the South of France. [more inside]
Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth
Style Like U features an exhaustive video archive of people talking about their clothes and history and what personal style means to them and the power of self transformation. [more inside]
Do you see what I see? Do people always see the same thing when they look at colours?
The Interrupters is a new film from Steve James (Hoop Dreams) and Alex Kotlowitz (There Are No Children Here) about the work of CeaseFire's Violence Interrupters (previously), who work to prevent violence in Chicago with direct intervention and mediation. The film follows Ameena Matthews, the daughter of of a notorious gang leader; Eddie Bocanegra, who teaches art to children and is driven by remorse for a murder he committed when he was seventeen; and the charismatic Cobe Williams, who recently joined James and Kotlowitz for an interview with WFMT's Andrew Patner. Some of the videos contain strong language and scenes of violence.
Happy World: Burma, the Dictatorship of the Absurd. A surprisingly funny "hypervideo" web documentary about life in
Myanmar Burma. [Via]
"Hiroshi Teshigahara's Antonio Gaudi is a spare, astonishing, and haunting documentary on the designs of famed turn of the century Spanish architect, Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926). A profound influence on the Spanish art nouveau movement, Gaudi's sensual adaptation of Gothic, Middle Eastern, and traditional architecture is a truly a unique artistic vision. Teshigahara immerses the viewer into Gaudi's unorthodox vision using lingering takes and mesmerizing panning sequences, accompanied by an equally eclectic soundtrack that vacillates from lyrical symphony to disquieting near silence. The film, largely structured without verbal narrative, unfolds as a figurative mosaic of Gaudi's early influences and nascent vision in the mid 1800's - from an overview of the Catalonian culture, to the contemporary works of other prominent architects, to the medieval art and architecture pervasive in the region." (Janus/Criterion, 1:12, color)
When they want to kill a dog, they say it's crazy. A photo essay from Haiti by Jared Iorio.
On July 9, the Japanese public broadcaster NHK aired a documentary on the earliest days of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis. There appears to be precisely one place on the internet where it can currently be viewed: here.
The Library of Congress (1:30m), a tour documentary by C-SPAN.
[Michelangelo Antonioni's Chung Kuo] as a documentary film was one which was draped with fascination for both filmmakers as well as an audience, rather than championing anti-whatever sentiments from either side of the world. Not having seen many movies, either features, shorts or documentaries made during the Cultural Revolution era or about that era in question (propaganda included), I think this Antonioni film has more than made its mark as a definitive documentary that anyone curious about the life of the time, would find it a gem to sit through.
Maggie McNeil is a semi-retired "honest courtesan" who recently countered Ashton Kutcher's "sex slavery" claims (previously) with some statistics and facts. Bobbi Starr is a professional concert oboist, nationally ranked swimmer, and works in some of the hardest porn available. She was recently featured on the (highly recommended) BBC Radio Assignment series. Primary links are obviously NSFW; BobbiStarr.com also has potential trigger warnings.
Lee Marvin: A Personal Portrait by John Boorman "While trolling youtube for all things Lee Marvin and Parker I discovered this really nifty mini-documentary that filmmaker John Boorman (Point Blank, Hell in the Pacific, Deliverance, Excalibur) did for the BBC called Lee Marvin: A Personal Portrait. It's really fantastic with appearances from folks like William Hurt, Jim Jarmusch, Pamela Marvin, and others. Readings from Marvin's personal journal about his WWII experiences as well as his great fishing expeditions in Australia. And yes, you'll be able to see the wallet Marvin was carrying when a bullet went whizzing through and granted him his Purple Heart."
Living in the Red: A 15 minute student documentary on the Ultras of the Chicago Fire.
"There are no national standards or regulations regarding forensic pathology and practices vary widely from place to place."
The Hardest Cases: When Children Die, Justice Can Be Elusive A joint investigation by PBS Frontline, ProPublica and NPR has found that medical examiners and coroners have repeatedly mishandled cases of infant and child deaths, helping to put innocent people behind bars. (Via. (Article contains descriptions of children that have been killed by abuse. May be disturbing / triggering to some readers.) [more inside]
Such Hawks Such Hounds explores the music and musicians of the American hard rock underground circa 1970-2007, focusing on the psychedelic and '70s proto-metal-derived styles that have in recent years formed a rich body of unclassifiable sounds.
Married To The Eiffel Tower is a documentary that tells the stories of three females who are sexually and emotionally attracted to inanimate objects. (Previously)
2-part KQED documentary about Dorothea Lange, from 1965. Lange meditates on the historical impact of images and how they can be used to examine/change society [more inside]
The World of Jim Henson: 1 :: 2 :: 3 :: 4 :: 5 :: 6 :: 7 :: 8 :: 9 :: "An excellent biography of the Muppet master, this 85-minute film from the PBS show Great Performances mixes the history of Henson's projects with plenty of sketches that any fan age 6 and older should enjoy. The film shows the incredible range of Henson's creations, starting in 1955 with "Sam and Friends" then moving on to Sesame Street, The Muppet Show, Fraggle Rock, and beyond. It illustrates the breadth of his genius, from creating entirely new worlds in film (The Dark Crystal) to pithy '60s TV commercials that achieved branding and a laugh in less than six seconds. There's footage that most fans haven't seen in years, or at all: a regular bit from The Jimmy Dean Show; tantalizing bits of his 1965 Oscar-nominated short, Time Piece; appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show; his explanation of Wall Street on Nightline; and Miss Piggy's hilarious deconstruction of Morley Safer on 60 Minutes."
Amin's hunger for publicity was so great, in fact, that in 1974 he became the first dictator in history to agree to be the subject of an independent documentary film. The resulting movie, Barbet Schroeder's General Idi Amin Dada... is a devastating look at despotism in action and a riveting, and strangely entertaining, portrait of Amin. [more inside]