documentary

Sundance Review: Fela Kuti’s Wild Life of Sex, Drugs, and Afrobeat Takes Center Stage in FINDING FELA

Article: Sundance Review: Fela Kuti’s Wild Life of Sex, Drugs, and Afrobeat Takes Center Stage in FINDING FELA

FINDING FELA, prolific documentarian Alex Gibney’s latest work, faces the challenge of depicting a contradictory artist. But that’s not to say it isn’t entertaining. On the contrary, the film — about the life, times and music of Afrobeat superstar and Nigerian revolutionary Fela Kuti — is exceptionally watchable. Kuti’s wild life never loses its surprise ingredients: from the time he married 27 girls in one ceremony to his involvement with a “spiritual guru” who slit throats for party demonstrations. The film’s challenge lays in its difficult hero, an enormously talented and charismatic man who was also troubled, stubborn, unpredictable, and probably not entirely sane.

Sundance Review: MITT, A Portrait of a Politician as We Never Saw Him on the Campaign Trail

Article: Sundance Review: MITT, A Portrait of a Politician as We Never Saw Him on the Campaign Trail

“If people really got to know who you are, it could be a successful campaign,” Craig Romney says to his father near the beginning of MITT, when the family’s gathered for the holidays in 2006, discussing the pros and cons of Mitt Romney running for president. Seven years on, the statement serves as a retroactive laugh line. Who, among his detractors or his supporters, felt like they really got to know Romney, a candidate who was broadly categorized for changing his positions on issues, and who came across as so stiff some jokingly likened him to a robot?

2013 Sundance Film Festival Premiere and Documentary Premiere films announced

Article: 2013 Sundance Film Festival Premiere and Documentary Premiere films announced

Sundance Institute announced today the films selected to screen in the out-of-competition Premieres and Documentary Premieres sections of the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, January 17-27 in Park City, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Sundance, Utah.

John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival, said, “We are pleased to see a number of returning filmmakers in our Premieres and Documentary Premieres sections, indicating that there is sustainability, longevity and personal reward to careers in independent film. The films announced today build on each filmmaker’s personal artistic legacy and contribute to the ever-growing and inspiring achievements of the independent film community.”

THE STAIRCASE – new episodes coming soon

Article: THE STAIRCASE – new episodes coming soon

Sundance Channel announced today that it has co-produced and will premiere two new installments of the critically acclaimed crime documentary, THE STAIRCASE, by Oscar®-winning director Jean-Xavier de Lestrade (MURDER ON A SUNDAY MORNING). Beginning January 7 at 10:00pm e/p, Sundance Channel will air an encore performance of the original eight-part Peabody Award-winning series in its entirety—a program described by The New York Times as “a masterpiece…so brilliantly conceived, reported, filmed and paced that you may come to wish it were twice as long.” Following the first eight installments, Sundance Channel will debut two hour-long never-before-seen episodes entitled THE STAIRCASE: LAST CHANCE, which will explore new and explosive developments in the life of author Michael Peterson whose sensational murder trial made headlines across the country. The new episodes air on March 4th and March 11th at 10:00pm e/p.

YOU'VE BEEN TRUMPED: Scottish villagers try to fire The Donald

Article: YOU'VE BEEN TRUMPED: Scottish villagers try to fire The Donald

No doubt you’ve got a firm perception of Donald Trump, and it probably looks something like “crazed birther with bad hair who likes to fire people on TV.” I’ll bet that whether you love or hate The Donald, you’ve probably never used the word “environmentalist” to describe him. Trump has characterized himself that way, though, specifically in regards to how he’s developed luxury golf resorts. Apparently, one resort in Virginia does have a bird sanctuary; in most cases, though, residents and local environmentalists have been unimpressed with Trump’s approach to preserving natural resources while developing land he’s purchased.

CROSSETT: Small-town David vs. corporate Goliath

Article: CROSSETT: Small-town David vs. corporate Goliath

Environmental regulations kill jobs. If companies didn’t have to spend money on such nonsense, they could afford to hire more people. That’s a consistent narrative coming out of the right-wing media in this country, and one that’s heavily promoted by various nonprofit organizations funded by Charles and David Koch (aka the Koch brothers). The brothers and their company, Koch Industries, have also paid out millions in lobbying expenses and contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars to politicians willing to fight various forms of environmental regulation.

WATERSHED: Must-see documentary on the once-mighty Colorado River

Article: WATERSHED: Must-see documentary on the once-mighty Colorado River

We got some rain this weekend, but I can still count the number of this Summer’s rainfalls on one hand. While our drought situation will affect everything from food to gas prices, it’s still only one year: Unless these conditions really becomes the “new normal,” we Midwesterners will probably continue to assume that water will be available to meet our needs (as we currently define them). Back in my old stomping grounds of the desert Southwest, though, drought conditions have been in place for more than a decade. While the warnings I remember hearing about water literally running out for places like Las Vegas haven’t come to pass, the Colorado River system is severely strained: The river that defines the region generally does not make it all the way to its delta in the Gulf of California before it dries up.

SUSHI: THE GLOBAL CATCH explores the real cost of tuna

Article: SUSHI: THE GLOBAL CATCH explores the real cost of tuna

I’m not crazy about sushi. I’ll eat it if I’m out with friends and they really want it, but you’ll never hear me say, “Hey, let’s get some sushi.” I realize that, in many people’s minds, that make me a total Neanderthal: contemporary standards of middle-class sophistication mean not only craving this Japanese specialty food, but declaring how much you looovvve it (I think you have to say it just that way).

GENERATION FOOD: All meals are local

Article: GENERATION FOOD: All meals are local

Want to get into a heated argument? Start a conversation about the methods we use to grow our food. Whether you’re supporting the current norm for agriculture (big, mechanized farms using an array of chemical products) or something that seems much greener (organics and other methods of ecological farming), you’ll likely have no trouble finding someone who disagrees with you. Vehemently. At some point, that person will tell you that you’re arguing for the starvation of millions — regardless of which side you’re on.

SOURLANDS: The last green spot between NYC and Philly

Article: SOURLANDS: The last green spot between NYC and Philly

Not in my back yard — that’s often the shortsighted response to clean energy development, right? But it can also be an appropriate response to more threatening forms of development; no one wants a nuclear or coal plant in their “back yard,” either. But this phrase (or the acronym NIMBY) can also describe another phenomenon: the notion that important efforts at sustainability occur somewhere across the globe, in the Arctic or the Amazon — but not in my back yard.

Spend a day in one Indian boy's shoes with the Vimeo Fest winner for best doc

Article: Spend a day in one Indian boy's shoes with the Vimeo Fest winner for best doc

In case you need a bit of perspective, make sure to catch the winning video doc from this year’s Vimeo Festival + Awards: AMAR, subtitled “All great achievements require time”. Watching this young Indian boy’s utterly tireless effort throughout his roughly 18-hour day–from work, to school, to home, to school, to work, to homework, and with a warm smile on his face at all times–would give even the most jaded and overworked Western urban professional pause. Amar is 14 and supports his entire family (while managing to be top of his class at school). It’s also refreshing to see a documentary that is more of a video testimonial as opposed to one that makes use of a traditional voice over.

EMPOWERED: No power plant required!

Article: EMPOWERED: No power plant required!

Trailer for “Empowered: Power from the People” from Shira Golding Evergreen on Vimeo.

Sure, you’d love to power at least part of your home on renewable energy, but the local infrastructure isn’t there yet: no nearby wind farm, no solar or geothermal installers. And, besides, it really isn’t that windy where you live.

That’s the kind of mindset that fossil fuels have given us: we really can’t go out and drill our own oil and gas, or mine our own coal, so we’ve assumed largely that energy is something that others have to provide for us. But part of the beauty of renewables is their availability: we all get some sun, wind, or geothermal heat, and with a little elbow grease, we can harvest that energy – no power company or massive centralized plant needed.

MIDWAY: Where your plastic ends up

Article: MIDWAY: Where your plastic ends up

MIDWAY : trailer : a film by Chris Jordan from Midway on Vimeo.

If you stayed awake in high school history class, you may remember that the Midway Atoll was a site of perhaps the most important battle in the Pacific during World War II. But if you had to provide any other information about Midway, you’d probably need to do a quick Wikipedia search (I know I did – and I loved high school history). The island group’s central location in the Pacific Ocean means that it’s also in the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and, thus, a great place to take a look at the costs of our wasteful ways.

THE GARDEN SUMMER: The Real World in Arkansas?

Article: THE GARDEN SUMMER: The Real World in Arkansas?

After reading a short description of indie documentary THE GARDEN SUMMER – five young suburbanites move to a farm to live sustainably off of the land – you may well jump to the characterization of “The Real World Goes to Arkansas,” or “The Simple Life Sans Celebs.” It certainly sounds like a set up for your typical youth-focused reality series, doesn’t it?

DO I NEED THIS?: Pursuing happiness at the mall

Article: DO I NEED THIS?: Pursuing happiness at the mall

Photographer and film maker Kate Schermerhorn seems obsessed with the notion of happiness: in addition to her previous documentary AFTER HAPPILY EVER AFTER (which, as you’ll probably guess, focused on marriage), she’s also the author of the photography book America’s Idea of a Good Time (which explores our “pursuit of happiness” broadly). If you’re going to dig into such a topic, and particularly its most American incarnations, you’re going to end up at the mall: we love acquiring stuff so much that we now refer to shopping as “retail therapy.” But how happy do the things we buy make us, and what are the larger costs associated with those moments of pleasure?

Kids are suffering from global warming – and they're suing the government

Article: Kids are suffering from global warming – and they're suing the government

TRUST Arizona from Our Children's Trust on Vimeo.

Even if you buy the science behind climate change (which is very compelling), it’s still hard to make an emotional argument about global warming: all of the bad stuff’s going to happen in the future, so you can’t show someone a victim. Right? Not so fast – not only are parts of the developing world, particularly Africa, already feeling the impacts of a warming world, but the children and grandchildren of current generations will “feel the heat.” The victims of global warming are all around us, even if they’re not experiencing the worst of the phenomenon yet.

A green film festival you can enjoy at home

Article: A green film festival you can enjoy at home

Film festivals are great for spotlighting up-and-coming talent, and highlighting niche topics. The conventional film festival isn’t, however, a good vehicle for creating wide-scale conversations, as audiences are limited by location and/or willingness to travel during a specific time period. After two years of hosting the Do Something Reel film festival in Austin, Texas, Whole Foods Market recognized these limitations: they could inspire festival-goers to consider the environmental and food-related messages of the films screened, but most of those audience members would be from the local area.

Sundance Channel and Grey Goose Entertainment green light ICONOCLASTS season six

Article: Sundance Channel and Grey Goose Entertainment green light ICONOCLASTS season six

Sundance Channel and GREY GOOSE ENTERTAINMENT® have announced the green light of the sixth season of the award-winning original series ICONOCLASTS. The highly acclaimed profile series will debut this summer with six episodes. Each episode explores the lives of two creative visionaries in an intimate setting and features an unpredictable exchange that reveals their life’s work and the alchemy of their different fields.

“Over the last five seasons, ICONOCLASTS has featured extraordinary leaders and risk-takers from disciplines as varied as film, music, cuisine, science and business,” said Sundance Channel General Manager Sarah Barnett. “The Sundance Channel audience loves to watch these luminaries shed light on their unique experiences and inspirations. Season Six will deliver more of what our audience is craving.”

The upcoming season will feature an unprecedented roster of innovators, celebrating the best in art, cinema, music, cuisine, sports and philanthropy, with each episode pairing talent from entirely unlike worlds. Sundance Channel will air seasons two through five leading up to the premiere of season six.

Article: THE CITY DARK: What we lose with lots of light

With greenhouse gases causing potentially cataclysmic shifts in weather patterns, and various human-made chemical compounds finding their way into our food, water, and air, the idea of light pollution may seem a bit amusing. It’s light! It’s not going to kill you – right?

How to destroy a dam: RETURN OF THE RIVER

Article: How to destroy a dam: RETURN OF THE RIVER

Return of the River 2.12.2012 from Jessica Plumb on Vimeo.

As celebrity activists like James Cameron and Sigourney Weaver have argued, dams may be low-carbon forms of energy harvesting, but they’re definitely not “green.” They often result in flooded land, broken ecosystems, and separation of indigenous peoples from the the sources of their food. Dams are impressive engineering feats, but the negative impacts last for generations: we’re still dealing with the damage created during the great age of American dam building in the early 20th century.

PUSH GIRLS premieres Tuesday April 17th

Article: PUSH GIRLS premieres Tuesday April 17th

Sundance Channel rolls out its spring season with the groundbreaking docu-series PUSH GIRLS, premiering April 17th at 10p E/P. PUSH GIRLS, a new series from producer Gay Rosenthal (Ruby, Little People, Big Word), traces the lives of four dynamic, outspoken and beautiful women who, by accident or illness, have been paralyzed from the neck or the waist down.

2012 Sundance Film Festival Award Winners

Article: 2012 Sundance Film Festival Award Winners

Sundance Institute this evening announced the Jury, Audience, NEXT and other special awards of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival at the Festival’s Awards Ceremony, hosted by Parker Posey in Park City, Utah. An archived video of the ceremony in its entirety is available at www.sundance.org/live.

“Every year the Sundance Film Festival brings to light exciting new directions and fresh voices in independent film, and this year is no different,” said John Cooper, Director of the Sundance Film Festival. “While these awards further distinguish those that have had the most impact on audiences and our jury, the level of talent showcased across the board at the Festival was really impressive, and all are to be congratulated and thanked for sharing their work with us.”

Keri Putnam, Executive Director of Sundance Institute, said, “As we close what was a remarkable 10 days of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, we look to the year ahead with incredible optimism for the independent film community. As filmmakers continue to push each other to achieve new heights in storytelling we are excited to see what’s next.”

Photos: Joe Berlinger takes Sundance Channel UNDER AFRICAN SKIES

Article: Photos: Joe Berlinger takes Sundance Channel UNDER AFRICAN SKIES

Director Joe Berlinger has covered the West Memphis Three, Metallica and the oil industry. For his latest film, UNDER AFRICAN SKIES, he teemed up with Paul Simon to revisit the iconic album GRACELAND. Don’t miss the photos in our gallery: UNDER AFRICAN SKIES

Sometimes NIMBY is good: ATOMIC STATES OF AMERICA

Article: Sometimes NIMBY is good: ATOMIC STATES OF AMERICA

“Not in my backyard” – it’s an attitude environmentalists frequently encounter when proposed renewable energy installations move closer to becoming real ones. The Cape Wind project, for instance, has encountered stiff resistance from wealthy part-time residents of Cape Cop who, while supporting renewable energy in general, don’t want their view spoiled. That’s a fairly easy example of the NIMBY attitude to dismiss, as are those involving resistance to most wind projects.

But what if a coal or nuclear plant was planned for nearby? Would you want to be “downstream” from either of those? Would the label NIMBY seem fair for those who protested such development? If you think so, you may want to check out ATOMIC STATES OF AMERICA, which premieres on January 23rd at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

Sundance Film Festival follow up: HELL AND BACK AGAIN

Article: Sundance Film Festival follow up: HELL AND BACK AGAIN

Well, the Oscars got something right. Though they overlooked Sundance 2011’s other top doc HOW TO DIE IN OREGON, HELL AND BACK AGAIN is on this year’s shortlist.

Director Danfung Dennis documents the story of 25-year-old Nathan Harris, a Marine Corps sergeant who was severely injured in Afghanistan. The film follows his recovery and transition back to life back home in North Carolina. Cut jarringly with Dennis’s own footage from behind enemy lines in Afghanistan, HELL delivers a violent jolt back home. This winner of Sundance’s World Cinema Jury Prize and World Cinema Cinematography Award is still in theaters, so if you haven’t seen it yet, go now.