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

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Trailer: “General Orders No. 9”

The (appropriately timely) comparisons to Terrence Malick are obvious even without the pull quote from Hammer to Nail‘s Michael Tully or the acknowledgement from /Film’s Russ Fischer (on whose post I saw this trailer). Just look at the award-winning, visually poetic cinematography and listen to the pensive voice-over narration from William Davidson, who sounds like a drawling Emilio Estevez (son of “Badlands” star — but not narrator — Martin Sheen). The film in question is titled “General Orders No. 9,” and it’s the longtime effort of first-time filmmaker Robert Persons. Perhaps he’s inspired by Malick, but I might be more inclined to think about another disciple, David Gordon Green, whose earlier work seems more similarly interested in the rusting decay of the changing Southern American landscape.

The “tone poem” style documentary, which made its way through the festival circuit in ’09-’10, is also being likened to the work of Godfrey Reggio (“Koyaanisqatsi”), but I’d place its kinship even before that with his city symphony predecessors. “General Orders No. 9” isn’t about just one city, though, so let’s call it a South symphony film. It additionally seems like both the perfect companion and the very antithesis of something like “Sherman’s March.” As much as I hate to say it, I kind of understand why the doc currently has an embarrassing 3.4/10 rating at IMDb. It must be really fresh and wonderful.

I literally just marked June 24 on my calendar, because that’s when “General Orders No. 9” opens at Brooklyn’s awesome reRun Gastropub Theater (playing through June 30 only). Join me there for the first showing. You’ll want to after viewing the trailer after the jump.

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