Watch Gil Scott-Heron in “Black Wax”

Gil Scott-Heron, who died yesterday at the age of 62, is best known for the spoken-word single “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” His influence on black culture, political poetry and music is tremendous, but what about documentary film? Well the title of his most famous track has been borrowed for the title of one prominent non-fiction film: Kim Bartley and Donnacha O’Briain’s 2003 film on Hugo Chavez, which unintentionally/fortuitously documented the attempted coup in 2002.

And then there is Robert Mugge’s “Black Wax,” a 1983 music doc focused on Scott-Heron as he performs in and walks around D.C. and hangs out with wax figures of political and historical figures. You can’t rent it from Netflix as it appears to be out of print, with new DVDs selling for about $80 on Amazon — VHS copies are only $3, though. There are at least a few clips here and there on the web, one of which — I think it’s the beginning — you can check out after the jump.

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Doc News: Jose Padilha, Michael Moore, Pearl Jam and Queen

- Brazilian documentary filmmaker Jose Padilha (“Bus 174″; “Secrets of the Tribe”) is hopefully not getting too distracted from non-fiction. He’s currently in development on the “RoboCop” remake and is now back in the news with his previously announced South American ‘Triple Border’ project “Tri-Border.” The English-language political action thriller, originally titled “A Willing Patriot” and written by Jason Keller, is currently being re-scripted by Nick Shenk (“Gran Torino”). Add to this the option of the next “Wolverine” movie, as Padilha is reportedly on Fox’s shortlist for directors up for the gig abandoned by Darren Aronofsky. Next up for the director, though, is a segment of “Rio, Eu Te Amo,” the latest in the “Paris, Je T’Aime”/”New York, I Love You,” model of anthologies (aka the “Cities of Love” franchise). I’m still not sure if his short will be fiction or doc, but I expect it’s the former.

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Poster: “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest”

Another favorite doc from Sundance is “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest,” which was impressively directed by actor Michael Rapaport. In my review of the film I stated that it transcends the rap group’s base audience to succeed as one of the best music docs in years, possibly the best since “Dig!” An excerpt from that review:

In spite of its familiar overlying narrative, though, the new documentary about the rap group, lengthily titled ‘Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest,’ is still an excellent look at the past, present and possible future of one of the most influential hip hop acts of all time. Directed very inquisitively and skillfully by actor-turned-filmmaker Michael Rapaport (‘True Romance’), it starts out rather conventionally and builds into one of the most engaging music docs in years.

Now via The Playlist we’ve got a look at the doc’s poster and while I understand that it’s consistent with A Tribe Called Quest’s albums as well as the animated sequences in the film, I’m not completely into the design.  I think it reads awkwardly with those street signs in the way of the flow of the subtitle. But that’s just me being picky. Anyway, it doesn’t affect my recommendation and it shouldn’t affect your need to go see this when it opens July 8 (and rolls-out from then).

See a larger version of the poster after the jump.

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News: Distribution for “Jig” and “Ride, Rise, Roar”

Competition-based documentaries are pretty common right now, with recent theatrical releases including “Make Believe” (teen magic championship) and “Louder Than a Bomb” (teen poetry slam championship). The next one for your radar is Sue Bourne’s “Jig,” a doc about the Irish Dancing World Championships that will hit screens in NYC, Boston, Toronto and Chicago on June 17th. Now officially announced as the doc’s distributor is Screen Media Films, a good fit since they also just handled the release of “White Irish Drinkers.” They must have a thing for the Emerald Isle. Anyway, I’m seeing “Jig” soon and should have a review up ahead of its opening. So stay tuned.

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News: Julian Temple Directing Multiple City-Based Concert FIlms

Continuing the current filmic fascination with Rio de Janeiro (“Rio,” “Fast Five,” “The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part 1″), Julian Temple is heading to the City of God for a concert film titled “Children of the Revolution,” documenting the annual Rock in Rio event, according to indieWIRE. The filmmaker has a lot of experience in the genre (like “Glastonbury”), as well as a long career directing music videos and other music-based docs (a favorite being “The Filth and the Fury”). He even previously made a music-based film set in Brazil starring Mick Jagger (“Running Out of Luck”) and also filmed part of the classic Sex Pistols doc “The Great Rock ‘n’ Roll Swindle” in Rio more than 30 years ago. He says since then:

I’ve always wanted to make a film about the city and now as it finally prepares to take its rightful place on the world stage that time has finally come … Brazil’s extraordinary journey from third world dictatorship to Olympic host country demands to be told.  Visually Rio is a film maker’s gold mine and through its music and the people who make it, both the soul of the city and its unique destiny finds its ultimate expression.

The Rock in Rio documentary will kick off a series of similar concert films Temple will make in other cities, including London (titled “This is London” – not to be confused his 2008 doc “There’ll Always Be an England”), Tijuana (“Tijuanalandia”), Havana and Berlin.

In lieu of a Rio clip from “Swindle,” watch a Brazilian TV preview for “Running Out of Luck” after the jump. It’s not important if you don’t know Portuguese.

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Nick Broomfield Interviewing El Duce About Kurt Cobain’s Death

I won’t start on the whole discussion of whether or not Kurt Cobain was murdered and whether or not Courtney Love had anything to do with it. It’s been 17 years, to the day, of the Nirvana front man’s death and it’s as moot a point as ever. That doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to love Nick Broomfield‘s documentary “Kurt and Courtney” for scenes like the one I share today. El Duce, who claims to have been offered money by Love to “whack” Cobain, is as addressed hard to rely on as a witness. But as a character, he is awesome. Truth schmuth, to me it’s all about personality, and while we don’t get enough of Broomfield’s typically fascinating first-person protagonist here, it’s more than made up with the interview subject on hand. In terms of Broomfield characters, he’s up there with Aileen Wuornos and Violetta Wallace as favorites.

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As for the reality of Cobain’s death, all I can say is that it’s a shame he’s not still around and I hope he’s resting in peace.

 

Listen to a Track from the SXSW-Winning Score for “The City Dark”

One of my favorite documentaries out of SXSW this year is Ian Cheney’s “The City Dark,” a film that explores the fading night sky, which we take for granted, and the problems with artificial light polluting our lives and planet (residents near an Upper West Side Duane Reade store in NYC know this well lately). The doc took home a prize for best documentary score, which is by Brooklyn’s The Fishermen Three (collaborating with producer Ben Fries), and now you can sample one of the great tracks from that score (here or here). Titled “Western Space Dance,” it’s kind of like if AIR did something with a plucky western score-style guitar. Strangely enough, a twangy song by All India Radio just came up on my Pandora mix, which is also quite comparable.

I mentioned the score in my review for Cinematical:

Compared to ‘King Corn,’ ‘The City Dark’ is a less informative and seemingly less crucial doc, but on an aesthetic level I enjoyed it a lot more. It has a kind of abstract and new age-y tone, rendered by the jangly ambient techno score by The Fishermen Three and Cheney’s quiet, contemplative voice-over narration.

Check out the trailer for the doc, which also features some of the music, after the jump.

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