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.

Read more of this post

Doc News: Morton Downey Jr., the Death of “Reality TV”, “Klitschko” Release Date

– Remember Morton Downey Jr.? The late talk show host was the Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh of the ’80s, as we’ll be reminded with a new documentary titled “Évocateur.” The film, which is expected to release sometime next year, will feature interviews with Sally Jesse Raphael, Chris Elliott, Al Sharpton and Pat Buchanan. Directed by the team of Seth Kramer, Daniel A. Miller and Jeremy Newberger (“The Linguists”), the last wrote to Pop Candy’s Whitney Matheson today to assure her that the doc also devotes a “whole section” to the man’s cult album “Morton Downey Jr. Sings!” I admit I’d forgotten about Downey until this news but am now excitedly looking forward to the film. There’s already a trailer available, so you can check that out below and join me in anticipation:

.

Read more of this post

Doc News: Herzog, New Academy Membership, Silverdocs, Ryan Dunn

– Werner Herzog‘s next documentary has been retitled from “Death Row” to “Gazing Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, a Tale of Life” and has been picked up by ZDF Enterprises for worldwide TV rights and theatrical distribution outside the U.S. and UK. The filmmaker is quoted by Variety as describing the film as “a gaze into the abyss of the human soul,” though more literally it involves interviews with Texan death row inmates, including: “two men convicted of triple murder, another who killed his girlfriend and her two mentally retarded sons, and a woman — one of only 10 on Texas’ death row — charged with abducting a newborn baby and killing the child’s mother.”

Read more of this post

What Documentary Has Changed Your Mind?

While I was away honeymooning last week, my latest Doc Talk column posted over at Movies.com. The topic/question: What documentary has changed your mind. I focus on “If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front,” which opens this Wednesday, while also hearing from guests like filmmaker Robert Greene and Pajiba’s Dustin Rowles. Also included are recommendations of new releases “Buck,” “Page One: Inside the New York Times,” “Jig,” “Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop,” “Living in Emergency: Stories of Doctors Without Borders” and (sight unseen) “General Orders No. 9.” Here’s a snippet of the column:

Call me the worst kind of skeptic, but I’m not one for being convinced by anything, let alone documentaries. They may tell or show me something I didn’t already know, whether it’s the daily routines of Eskimos or bible salesmen or theories about global warming. And sometimes I’ll believe what I’ve heard or seen to be true, while other times I’ll watch something as out there as Loose Change or Collapse and think, “hmm, maybe…”

I enjoy documentaries for the stories and characters and occasionally the unknown worlds it introduces me to. But while these elements and their whole can often affect me emotionally, intellectually and spiritually, it’s not too often I walk away from a documentary thinking differently about an issue than when I started the film.

Read more: Doc Talk: What Documentary Has Changed Your Mind? | Movie News | Movies.com

Read more of this post

Trailer: New Clarence Clemons Doc “Who Do I Think I Am?”

Saxophonist Clarence Clemons, who died yesterday following a stroke he suffered last Sunday, was in a number of movies. Among them are “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” Scorsese’s “New York, New York” and of course the recent HBO documentary “The Promise: The Making of Darkness on the Edge of Town,” in which he appears as he’s best known, as a member of Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band. His last film credit (excluding any posthumous soundtrack credits he receives) is also a doc, one that’s strictly about “The Big Man” himself. Titled “Who Do I Think I Am? A Portrait of a Journey” and directed by Clemons’ friend Nick Mead, the hour-long film follows Clemons during multiple trips to China in the last decade to both find himself and simply visit a land where no one knows who he is (here’s where I admit that I never knew him by name before his death). Among the highlights is apparently footage of The Big Man playing sax solo at the Great Wall.

“Who Do I Think I Am?” is currently without distribution, but it screened a few months ago at the Garden State Film Festival in New Jersey. It doesn’t look like anything of interest to anyone but diehard Clemons fans, but that interest has surely increased this week. It also seems a potentially fitting companion to Tom Shadyac’s new soul-searching first-person doc “I Am,” which I think is still playing around the U.S. arthouse circuit.

Check out the trailer for the Clemons showcase after the jump.

Read more of this post

Doc News: Elton John; “Big River Man”; DocPoint NYC

– HBO Documentary Films has picked up Cameron Crowe’s “The Union,” which documents the collaboration of Elton John and Leon Russell, which does make it sound like an advertisement at worst, a making of film for an album at best. Having made its debut at the Tribeca Film Festival last month, the cable outlet will give the rock doc its TV premiere in January 2012. Crowe, who was a music journalist before becoming a filmmaker, finally dove into documentary this year with a double dose. His other new rock doc, “Pearl Jam Twenty,” arrives to fans-only delight this fall.

Read more of this post

Doc News: Ken Burns Tourism; Colin Hanks Reaches Goal; Netflix Removes “Death Scenes”


– Any documentary fans looking for summer vacation ideas? Well, as was announced last fall, Ken Burns is now involved in the tourism industry with a company called Tauk. Through the partnership, the filmmaker has produced a series of “filmed narratives” called “Stories by Ken Burns” which coincide with special Burns-inspired trips (titled) “Crafted by Tauk & Ken Burns.” One involves places featured in his “Civil War” series while another, based on his “National Parks” series, takes you through the national parks of the southwest. One-day-only trips called “Ken Burns Events” are also offered, one tied to “Civil War” (which happened in May) and another based on his “Jazz” series. It’s kind of like Alamo Drafthouse’s Rolling Roadshow in a way, bridging cinephiles with special cine-tourism opportunities, yet these are more about pre-existing significance as opposed to locations turned famous by films.

Check out a trailer/ad for the tours and events after the jump.

Read more of this post

Doc News: Federal Judge Labels Documentary Filmmaking a Hobby; Freetown Christiania; YouTube

– Here’s the most ludicrous thing you’ll read all day: federal tax court judge Diane Kroupa has decidedly stated that due to documentary film’s purpose to “educate and expose,” non-fiction filmmakers may not be allowed to make a profit on their “work,” which the IRS will therefore instead consider a “hobby.” There is no ruling yet, but according to International Documentary Association executive director Michael Lumpkin (via the IDA’s magazine and website), Kroapa raised the question in an Arizona court back in March whether or not Lee Storey (“Smile ’Til It Hurts: The Up with People Story”), or any other documentary filmmaker, should be allowed to deduct business expenses accrued during production.

This is surely the scariest thing to happen to the doc community since the recent federal order for Joe Berlinger to hand over raw footage tapes from his film “Crude.” Both cases broadly kill documentary’s qualifications as journalism (the IRS allows print investigative journalists to make a profit), but this news confuses me more. If documentaries can’t be profitable, then can’t they at least have the tax benefits of a non-profit organization? And also, if they’re not allowed to make a profit, will major studios and distributors lose what minor interest they have in the form? So many questions to think about, but the only answer I keep coming up with is that Kroupa apparently needs to watch more documentaries. While it still hurts the greater consideration of docs as journalism, we need her to know docs aren’t all and only about information and awareness. [via Kartemquin Films]

Read more of this post

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

After the poster for “Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest” hit last week, I knew the trailer couldn’t be too far off. Of course, Sony (or was it just Yahoo!?) got the film’s recognizable actor-turned-director, Michael Rapaport, to introduce the ad, because stars can sometimes sell audiences on documentaries. Sure, the members of A Tribe Called Quest are stars in their own right, but Rapaport’s goofy face will have you smiling and drawn in before you even spot Q-Tip, Phife and Ali Shaheed Muhammad on the screen (following or intercut quickly with some more famous people like Common, Ludacris, Questlove, Pharell Williams and Beastie Boys). By the time the “Can I Kick It?” beats explode, you’re probably already hooked.

But if not, let me remind you all that this is not just a typical music biopic and being a fan of Tribe or any hip-hop is not required. The drama of this group, through its back story and more direct, current documentation, is must see stuff for anyone who enjoys movies. Rapaport has an inquisitive eye in doc-making I wouldn’t have pegged him for, and the result is one of the best non-fiction films of the year. Check out my review from Sundance for more praise and watch the trailer for the film, which opens July 8, over at Yahoo! Movies.

 

Trailer: “The Other F Word”

This is a trailer for the SXSW doc The Other F Word, directed by Oscar nominee Andrea Blaugrund Nevins (producer of the 1997 short Still Kicking: The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies). Featuring punk rock papas — the other f word is apparently father — from the Vandals, Bad Religion and Rise Against.

[via Pop Candy]