First Person was a TV series that ran during 2000 and 2001 featuring interviews conducted by documentary filmmaker Errol Morris using his (patent pending) Interrotron. Episodes included an exploration of the mind of an expert on cattle slaughter techniques, the story of a parrot who may have witnessed a murder, a professional high school student, a serial killer groupie, and other strange and eccentric people. (Previously: The smartest man in the world.)
Inshallah Kashmir: Living Terror is Oscar-nominated director Ashvin Kumar's brand new documentary, which is banned in India, that provides the perspectives of people that rarely receive positive mainstream media attention. [more inside]
Inside Nature's Giants is a ridiculously educational British science documentary series featuring dissections of very big animals, including a giant squid, a sperm whale, a giraffe, and many, many more. [more inside]
German filmmaker David Sieveking had just finished film school and was a huge fan of David Lynch. How could he pass up the opportunity to see Lynch when he came to speak about creativity and how to unlock it? How could he possibly fathom that the lecture would lead him on a five year voyage into the world of Transcendental Meditation, viewing the movement from within and without, with an accepting and then a critical eye, and ultimately would lead him on a journey to the source of the Ganges and yield a feature-length documentary, Sieveking's first movie? For a limited time, David Wants To Fly can be viewed at the Link TV website in its entirety. [~95min]
Victorian Farm | Edwardian Farm -- 18 hours of BBC experimental archeology/historical documentaries, online. Archaeologists Alex Langlands and Peter Ginn and historian Ruth Goodman spend two years living the life of rural country farmers.
When Mitt Romney Came to Town (subtitle: The King of Bain) a 30 minute attack documentary whose "overriding sensibility is not Swift Boat — it's Frontline, replete with a calming voice of God narration and meticulous sourcing to SEC filings, court documents, and the Boston Globe" (Rolling Stone) provides an interesting moment in the future of political messaging and funding. [more inside]
Here is a very good 8-part documentary about the making of The Flaming Lips' album The Soft Bulletin. Some time after their appearance on Beverly Hills: 90210, some time before releasing new music embedded in edible gummy material of various shapes (and flavors), the album was released to near-unanimous critical acclaim. The FLips, previously on MeFi.
WALK .. is a trippy 1983 journey from one part of Minneapolis to another. It begins with a guy who can hardly move. He slowly gains stuttered motion and utters basic letter sounds, then begins a real and imaginary walk. His journey is from his view - floating. At the end of this walk, he meets a friend. Walk's film surface is hand worked and street noise is composed as music-concrete. 16mm B/W SLYT
From 1981 - 1993, documentary producer Christopher Sykes created three films about Dr. Richard Feynman. All are now available in their entirety on YouTube: Richard Feynman: No Ordinary Genius, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out and Last Journey of a Genius (previously). [more inside]
We've all seen variations on the personal time-lapse video -- a snapshot every day for six years, or a look at a young girl's first decade. But nobody's done it quite like Sam Klemke. For thirty-five years the itinerant freelance cartoonist has documented his life in short year-end reviews, a funny, weary, eccentric, and hopeful record dating all the way back to 1977. Recently optioned for documentary treatment by the government of Australia, you can skim Sam's opus in reverse in the striking video "35 Years Backwards Thru Time with Sam Klemke," an ever-evolving home movie montage that grows grainier and grainier as it tracks Sam "from a paunchy middle aged white bearded self deprecating schluby old fart, to a svelt, full haired, clean shaven, self-important but clueless 20 year old."
Murray Siple, a snowboarder and extreme sport filmmaker, suffered a debilitating injury in an auto accident which ended his career. Or so he thought. Years later, he came across a group of homeless men in Vancouver, BC who combine their livelihood of collecting bottles for recycling with their love of speeding down hills on shopping carts. He made a film about them which avoids easy clichés and provides a portrait of humanity and thrill-seeking that is joyous and enlightening. Carts Of Darkness [59m24s] can be viewed in full (even in HD) at the National Film Board of Canada website.
The James Dean Story Directed by Robert Altman, Starring James Dean two years after his death "by means of a new technique... dynamic exploration of the still photograph".
Grierson believed strongly that the filmmaker had a social responsibility, and that film could help a society realize democratic ideals. His absolute faith in the value of capturing the drama of everyday life was to influence generations of filmmakers all over the world. In fact, he coined the term "documentary film." [more inside]
Viewable in its entirety at YouTube, Ballou is an engaging, inspiring, funny and entertaining documentary film about inner city Washington DC's Ballou High School band.
Click the photo at the top of the linked page to view The Voyagers, a rumination on the universe, love, a golden record and two small space probes.
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]
Ulillillia (previously, and previously) is an Internet celebrity who's famous for his writing, videos on Youtube, personal website, and game design. The Platform Master is a documentary that was filmed earlier this year about his life, and is scheduled to be released this coming summer.
Sloth Sanctuary is a documentary about a sloth orphanage in Costa Rica that will air on Animal Planet on December 18th. Trailer
The Autism Enigma is a documentary that explores the potential link between gastrointestinal bacteria and the disorder. It is viewable online through CBC's The Nature of Things. [Full show on Vimeo, for those outside Canada.] [more inside]
The Light Bulb Conspiracy is a documentary about disposable printers, light bulbs and everything else, investigating the implications of the business model and industrial design philosophy of Planned Obsolescence that drives and shapes our economy.
It was a simple and crazy idea: to celebrate her 28th birthday by renting a hotel room, cover it in paper and spend a week drawing on the paper. Welcome to Molly Crabapple's Week in Hell with photos of work in progress and panoramas of the completed room.
Portrait of a Handmade Artisan: Korehira Watanabe The Sword Maker (one of a number of films by Etsy) [more inside]
"In winter, the air temperature above the sea ice can be below -20C, whereas the sea water is only about -1.9C. Heat flows from the warmer sea up to the very cold air, forming new ice from the bottom. The salt in this newly formed ice is concentrated and pushed into the brine channels. And because it is very cold and salty, it is denser than the water beneath. The result is the brine sinks in a descending plume. But as this extremely cold brine leaves the sea ice, it freezes the relatively fresh seawater it comes in contact with. This forms a fragile tube of ice around the descending plume, which grows into what has been called a brinicle." A BBC film crew has recorded one of these freezing life on the sea floor.
El Acordéon del Diablo is a captivating documentary about Francisco "Pacho" Rada Batista, the great Colombian accordionist and singer-songwriter. In this film, Pacho Rada, in his nineties, tells stories and reflects on celebrity, copyright, tradition and the shortcomings of pop music. His stories include a shipwreck that left a boatload of accordions washed up on a Colombian beach and an accordion duel with the devil himself. In ten parts: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
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]