Doc News: John Steinbeck, Hilary Swank, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”, Muhammad

– An exploratory documentary that would make Andre Bazin proud: an adaptation of John Steinbeck‘s non-fiction book “The Log from the Sea of Cortez” has begun from producer Robert Kanter, who has just acquired the rights. The plan is to recreate, as in somewhat reenact, Steinbeck’s six-week scientific exploration of the Sea of Cortez with marine biologist Ed Ricketts in 1940. Filming will start next year and will have a sort of environmental agenda. The doc can’t be entirely faithful, obviously, and Kanter aims to present how the flora and fauna have changed in the past 72 years. He also states that he hopes to attract a perfectly fitting actor to narrate the finished work. For more info, see the press release here.


– The surprisingly good documentary sequel “Revenge of the Electric Car” will get an appropriately “hybrid” release this fall via Area23a. Chris Paine’s film, which improves tremendously on his own “Who Killed the Electric Car?” in focus and production value, will get the typical multi-city distribution yet will also play a number of areas that “demand it” through the doc’s website. “Revenge” is about to close Silverdocs, and if you can’t see it there I’d recommend watching sooner than later for greater timeliness, I guess. Or to see some new Haskell Wexler cinematography on the big screen. He shot a tiny bit of footage of Danny DeVito that appears in the film.


– Tomorrow night, a Hilary Swank-produced half-hour documentary on cancer prevention titled “Choose You” will premiere on and Facebook to mark the one-year anniversary of The American Cancer Society’s Choose You campaign. It’s basically an ad for the organization, but its stories of three women “on a journey to put their personal health first” might appeal more broadly than just that.


– Not exactly a dramatic remake of a documentary, but the Spike Lee-directed HBO series “Da Brick” might be of interest to fans of James Toback’s “Tyson.” The announced project, which also involves “Entourage” creator Doug Ellin and writer John Ridley (“Three Kings”), is aiming for a boxing story loosely based on Mike Tyson’s youth, only it will be set in today’s Newark. Add “Da Brick” to HBO’s pile somewhere next to its dramatic remake of “Knuckle” and the upcoming docu-series “On Freddie Roach,” and I’m spotting a trend — not that the network hasn’t always been into the sport.


– Another narrative feature not exactly based on a documentary is the true Formula One story “Rush,” which Ron Howard will direct and Peter Morgan has scripted. Though it’s about a 1970 rivalry between drivers James Hunt and Niki Lauda, it may have relevance to fans of Asif Kapadia’s new documentary hit “Senna,” which follows a more recent rivalry between F1 drivers Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. The only connection between the films is that Morgan has reportedly seen “Senna.” And you should too, whether in anticipation of this film or not.


– Rights to the popular Ben Stein-hosted documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” are up for auction this week, with bidding set to have begun yesterday. The political doc, which is one of the highest grossing non-fiction films of all time, is available due to its production company, Premise Media Distribution LP, filing for bankruptcy. Good luck to any of you creation-believers with enough dough.


– The BBC is working on a three-part documentary about the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, aptly titled “The Life of Muhammad.” Don’t worry, it won’t attempt any visual depiction of the Prophet. According to Variety, the films won’t just tell of Muhammad’s biographical details but will also concentrate on his legacy and particularly where Islam is at today while also looking to sources of the religion’s stance on things like war and women’s rights.


– Another doc focused on Islam in the works is “The Light In Her Eyes,” about the changing roles of women in moderate branches of the religion with specific attention to a female Qu’ran teacher in Damascus. The film, set for the 2012 festival circuit, is indieWIRE’s spotlighted Project of the Day, so head over there for more information.


– Steve James’ latest must-see documentary “The Interrupters,which just took the top prize at Sheffield Doc/Fest, has added Portland to its list of booked theatrical engagements. The city will get the film, about Chicago’s heroic “violence interrupters,” August 26th. “The Interrupters” is currently selling out at Silverdocs this week and will officially open first in NYC on July 29th. See more release dates for the doc here.


“Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” is the best bet for indie film opening this weekend, according to indieWIRE’s Critical Consensus. See my review here and definitely go see it when you get a chance. It’s funnier than funny.


About Christopher Campbell
I am a blogger for Documentary Channel and, where I write the Doc Talk column. I prefer real stories to fake ones. I tweet here: @thefilmcynic

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