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.”

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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.

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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.

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Can a Narrative Film Be Remade as a Documentary?

In my latest Doc Talk column at Movies.com, I ask the question, “Can a narrative film be remade as a documentary?” Inspired in part by Hal Ashby’s “The Landlord” and Martin Scorsese’s “Public Speaking,” as well as Scorsese’s confirmed future collaboration with Lars von Trier for a new “The Five Obstructions” project, the post also involves Werner Herzog, “American Teen,” “The Parking Lot Movie,” “Anvil! The Story of Anvil,” “The King of Kong” and “Page One: Inside the New York Times.” Also: minor thoughts about new releases “American: The Bill Hicks Story,” “The King Speaks” and “Rejoice and Shout.” Here’s a teasing snippet:

But here is a novel idea that might also work in a reciprocal way: remaking narrative features as documentaries. Actually, I should stress that it should be fiction films, since narrative features can include works based on true stories, which wouldn’t be too unlikely or difficult. For instance, Werner Herzog could have technically made the documentary Little Dieter Needs to Fly after making the dramatic version, Rescue Dawn, as opposed to vice versa.

Read the rest at Movies.com and then share some possible fiction films that could have also worked as a documentary in the comments section.

Where are the True Summer Doc-Busters?

I have a new documentary column at Movies.com. For now it’s a bi-weekly feature and it’s called Doc Talk, so look for it again in early June. This first installment tackles the term and the concept of the “doc-buster,” which Morgan Spurlock coined for his new doc “POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold.” I also will be leaving room at the end of each column for new docs I recommend. Here’s an excerpt from “Doc Talk: Where are the True Summer Doc-Busters?”:

How anyone would think a documentary would make a lot of money is beyond me, and I love the darn things. A Justin Bieber concert film, okay, that should be called a doc-buster. Disneynature’s latest Earth Day feature, titled “Al Gore Presents: Global Warming is Making These Cute Baby Animals Sad.” Oh yeah. Doc-buster. A Michael Moore film featuring penguins getting launched into the air inside a portable toilet, in 3D? Maybe that’s a doc-buster. But you really just never know with docs what will be a phenomenal hit and what will fall by the wayside.

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