Watch: Robert Greene’s Short Doc “Goodbye Engineer”

Filmmaker Robert Greene (“Kati With an I”) would like to share a gift of sorts this Father’s Day. “Goodbye Engineer” is a 20 minute documentary commemorating the passing of Greene’s grandfather, Robert Sr. (the filmmaker is a III), who died of lung cancer June 11, 2010. The film features the voice, over the phone, of grandmother Dee Greene. She tells of meeting her husband and their life together right up to his last morning as home movie and other archival footage (and some new shots, too) illustrate the somber story. “It’s personal and emotional and all that so be prepared,” Greene wrote of the short. Even with preparation it’s pretty devastating in the end.

The film is also a very sad reminder, particularly through its inclusion of a bit of a 30-year-old “20/20” news story on the first ten years of the War on Cancer (and the National Cancer Act of 1971), that it’s been four decades and we’re still without a cure. Sure, there is some great medical magic going on, like the sort that kind of ‘cured’ my own father’s cancer by removing and rearranging some organs, but even then his after effects (combined with other complications) have been unpleasant enough to keep him from attending my wedding last weekend (also June 11).

Anyway, never mind my own personal and emotional story for right now and instead watch Greene’s film after the jump. And happy father’s day to all dads, living or not.

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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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Watch Tim Hetherington’s Short Documentaries “Diary” and “Sleeping Soldiers”

It’s extremely upsetting to hear about the death of Tim Hetherington, photojournalist and co-director of the Oscar-nominated “Restrepo,” as well as cinematographer for “The Devil Came on Horseback.” It was made known via a fellow journalist’s Facebook page that Hetherington and photographer Chris Hondros were killed while covering the conflict in Libya and has since been confirmed.

“Restrepo” was one of the best documentaries of 2010 and its embedded-journalism format certainly shows the kind of danger Hetherington would put himself in for the sake of great cinema and journalism. His bravery was to our benefit and his death is a great loss in that regard, as well as with the obvious and direct tragedy of the situation.

Let’s remember him through his work. First, here’s a short, personal film he made last year about what he does and why he does it, titled “Diary”:

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Short or Reality Series

Here’s something that just occurred to me while watching Cindy Meehl’s “Buck,” the documentary about a horse whisperer that won an audience award at Sundance and is now getting standing ovations at SXSW: some docs shouldn’t be features, but it’s sometimes hard to say if they should instead be a short or a TV series.

On the one hand, I really don’t think there’s enough of a story in “Buck” to play out near 90 minutes. It repeats itself a lot, particularly regarding its explicit metaphoric anti-abuse message. On the other hand, Buck Brannaman is such an amusing and likable character, and his on-the-road job is so episodic, that I could see his life further followed as a reality program.

I wonder how many other docs that seem ill-fit as features are the same, could go either other way.