6 New Documentaries You Have to See
I’ve spent the last week in my own personal heaven, my absolute favorite week all year — the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT. I love the snow, I love the almond pastries, but most of all I love the movies. I love them so much, in fact, that I skip all the parties, events, shopping and basic meals and sleep to view as many as possible in whatever time I can spend here each year. Normally, this averages out to about 30 films at a usual rate of 4 to 5 a day. I realize this is probably crazy talk to the non-film obsessed! I digress.
Today I want to share a few films from the festival that I think everyone who loves Care2 will enjoy seeing. While there were many, many other excellent films playing, I’m going to focus on documentaries here, because I feel that best fits this audience and the social causes I know we all care about so much.
The Gatekeepers is a doc featuring six former heads of Israel’s Secret Service meeting to reflect on the successes and failures of what’s known as the “peace process.” Israel is, of course, the right country to ask since their 1967 military victory, they have longed for but never quite gotten a long-lasting peace. Bought by Sony, the gripping doc was nominated for an Oscar in the documentary category and is set for release in LA and NYC on 2/1 and other areas in the weeks to follow.
Are you ready to shed some tears? Tim Hetherington, the famous war photographer and filmmaker behind the epic Restrepo, was killed in Libya shortly after the release of his film. Now, his colleague Sebastian Junger has made a doc, entitled Where Is the Front Line From Here?, tracing Hetherington’s work across the many battlefields and showing just what a super star and artist he really was. The Hollywood Reporter calls the film “more than a chronicle of a life and a brilliant ten-year career cut short at age 40. It’s also a strangely beautiful insight into one man’s distinctive way of looking at and experiencing war.”
On a family vacation in 2006, 25-year-old Jason DaSilva was at the beach with his family when he suddenly fell down and couldn’t get back up. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, which can lead to loss of vision and muscle control, along with many other problems. To help keep his spirits up and follow his love of filmmaking, Jason turned the camera on himself, and began filming the slow decline of his body and the things it taught him along the way. “Skilled direction and an indomitable spirit make a filmmaker’s personal journey with multiple sclerosis inspiring without being maudlin,” says The Hollywood Reporter.
Set for release this summer comes Pandora’s Promise, a must-see for an enviro-loving citizen. The doc focuses on the growing number of environmentalists who are taking back years and years of antinuclear orthodoxy and completely switched teams. Many now believe that this most feared and controversial technology could be our greatest hope. The director’s notes state that “recent reactor meltdowns in Japan have ignited passionate worldwide debate about energy and the future of nuclear power. The film is anchored around the personal narratives of a growing number of leading former anti-nuclear activists and pioneering scientists who, in the face of considerable controversy, are directly challenging the anti-nuclear orthodoxy that is a founding tenet of the mainstream environmental movement.” See also: awesome Slate article which talks about the film.
A must-see for the conscious eater, The Moo Man is about a year in the life of farmer Steve and his cow Ida, who gets sick and challenges her human friend’s optimism and way of life. The remarkable story was filmed over four years on the marshes of the Pevensey Levels and will give you just as much laughter as tears.
Three signs of a good documentary: CNN and Magnolia Films go in to buy your doc, you sold out all of your Sundance screenings, and SeaWorld is being called out. As is the case for Blackfish, a new documentary from Gabriela Cowperthwaite. Here, eight ex-Sea World employees talk about the ease of error at the park and examine whales in captivity. One in particular, Tilikum — an orca that has killed three people, including veteran SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 – proves the sometimes deadly consequences of keeping intelligent animals in captivity. Check out the LA Times review for more 411. I left stunned and in tears.