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Al Jazeera will begin broadcasting a 24-hour Arabic documentary channel from 1 January 2007. Programmes will range from social and political documentaries to history, science and the environment. Al Jazeera says it wants to sponsor talent and work in partnership with international filmmakers to develop content.



Richard Dawkins’ book The God Delusion continues rank high in Amazon and New York Times nonfiction best seller lists.  A companion to the book,  the two part documentary program The Root of All Evil? was written and narrated by Dawkins for Channel 4 in the UK.  The film has not been shown in the US, but is available on Google video. 

Part I: The God Delusion

Part II: The Virus of Faith


The Golden Globe nominations were announced yesterday. And as for the last 30 years no documentary category exists for TV or film. No one except award junkies and celebrity followers seems to care too much about the outcome of the Golden Globe awards, but the increasing popularity of documentaries both in the U.S. and abroad makes their absence more prominent than ever. The Hollywood Foreign Film Press who runs the event gave out a best Documentary film until 1977. If you are going to bother with the event, a documentary category should be included.


A U.S. federal judge has thrown out a lawsuit by an Iraq war veteran who claimed filmmaker Michael Moore used the veteran’s image without permission in the anti-war documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

The film showed Iraq war veteran Sgt. Peter Damon, who had lost his right arm near the shoulder and much of his left arm, lying in a hospital gurney at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland, saying that he feels pain but that pain-killers given him “take a lot of the edge” off of it. (more…)


By Bryan Newbury
December 19, 2006

“April is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.”

T.S. Eliot
That The Revolution Will Not Be Televised is the most essential viewing for one who endeavors to understand international politics could scarcely be disputed. Whether it is more valuable as a portrait of emerging democracy in Latin America or an account of media manipulation by private industry is up for debate.

As the Irish film crew, led by Kim Bartley and Donnacha O Briain, captures tense moments inside the presidential palace, the role of media (and subsequently, historians) is illustrated perfectly. While Hugo Chavez’ ministers are languishing in the palace, which is under threat of cannon fire should Chavez not surrender himself to the coup d’etat, one is filmed exclaiming that “[T]hey can’t destroy history.” Can’t they, now?

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised illustrates a number of issues with Latin America in general and Venezuela in particular, but the idea of destroying history is at the forefront. As one watches the film, it is alluring to contemplate just how much of history is reliable. And just how much could well be laughable. Were it not for the filmmakers arriving in Caracas in September of 2001 to shoot a documentary about the populist President of Venezuela, the official story would appear as some bastard doppelganger inverse to actual fact. That ironies seem to compound in relation to the film is symptomatic of the state of North and Latin American media it seems to decry.
–Read the rest of this entry »


PARIS, Dec 19 (Reuters) – A documentary says French special forces had Osama bin Laden in their sights twice about three years ago but their U.S. superiors never ordered them to fire.

The French military, however, said that the incidents never happened and the report was “erroneous information”.

The documentary, due to air next year and seen by Reuters on Tuesday, says the troops could have killed the al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan but the order to shoot never came, possibly because it took too long to request it.

“In 2003 and 2004 we had bin Laden in our sights. The sniper said ‘I have bin Laden’,” an anonymous French soldier is quoted as saying.

The documentary ‘Bin Laden, the failings of a manhunt’ is by journalists Emmanuel Razavi and Eric de Lavarene, who have worked for several major French media outlets in Afghanistan. A cable television channel plans to air the documentary in March.

Razavi said the soldier told them it took roughly two hours for the request to reach the U.S. officers who could authorise it but the anonymous man is also quoted in the documentary as saying: “There was a hesitation in command.”

Full article at Reuters


DVD Releases December 19, 2006

When the Levees BrokeReviewPurchase at – One year after Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, director Spike Lee presents a four-hour, four-part chronicle recounting, through words and images, one of our country?s most profound natural disasters. In addition to revisiting the hours leading up to the arrival of Katrina, a Category 5 hurricane before it hit the coast of Louisiana, When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts tells the personal stories of those who lived to tell about it, at the same time exploring the underbelly of a nation where the divide along race and class lines has never been more pronounced.

Sir! No Sir!ReviewPurchase at – Award-winning breakout theatrical hit SIR! NO, SIR! unfolds the stunning and often forgotten story of the military men and women who helped force the U.S. government to end the Vietnam War. Poignantly narrated by a diverse cast of veteran GI resisters, who recall the ferocious days of peace marches and stiff jail sentences, SIR! NO, SIR! pulls no punches in its raw depiction of the power of people, especially those in uniform. Trading dog tags for picket signs, Purple Hearts for peace signs, thousands of ordinary GIs in that world-changing era broke ranks to start up homemade underground papers, subversive coffee shops near military bases, and to engage in mass civil disobedience that brought the war machine to its knees. Directed by David Zeiger, SIR! NO, SIR! is “powerful stuff, offering us not only a new look at the past, but to the unavoidably relevant insights into the present”


Not much original TV programming left to be shown in this year, thus it is a good time to try out a new monthly post that will try to provide a good overview of what documentary program will be on TV.  The focus of these posts will be highlighting new programs that are getting their media or TV debut.  US television will be the focus, although I welcome others to use our new blog system to start similar posts for other countries.  When it is a slow part of the year, I may include reference to repeats of interesting programs or films.  The monthly posts will be updated and bumped as new programming is added.

I will be using publicists and press releases to compile the list in addition to monitoring known sources of documentary films. My starting list will include PBS, History, Discovery, HBO, Sundance, IFC, and the Networks.  If you have other ideas add a comment and let me know.  Check times with your local paper, programming guide, or station to confirm times.

December 18 2006 –  9PM – Sundance Channel – Godless In America – At a time when the religious right plays an increasingly important role in national politics, documentary filmmakers Leslie Woodhead and Reggie Nadelson look at the plight of the estimated 30 million American atheists and their struggle not to be ignored. Reviewing the long, colorful and bizarre life of atheist activist Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her contemporary successors, GODLESS IN AMERICA reveals how a freethinking secular minority continues to fight for a voice in the mainstream, despite discrimination, hostility and threats of violence.

December 28 2006 – 8PM – PBS – NOVA: Underwater Dream Machine – Follow one man’s quest to engineer a submarine with panoramic views –


When: November, 2007
Where: Palermo, Italy
What: Documentary festival with a focus on culture and ecology.


Sundance Channel has picked A Crude Awakening: The Oil Crash to launch “The Green,” the weekly block of ecologically oriented programming.The documentary polls oil workers, activists, politicians and others to show how “civilization’s addiction to oil puts it on a collision course with geology.”The three-hour block will include films and original series with a focus on “information, practical advice and community building.”

From Broadcasting & Cable


WASHINGTON – The producer and others involved in Oliver Stone’s documentary on Cuban leader Fidel Castro have agreed to pay the U.S. government more than $6,000 to resolve allegations they violated a long-standing embargo against the communist country.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls, which oversees the economic embargo against Cuba, said the payment of $6,322.20 would settle alleged violations that occurred between February 2002 and May 2003 in the making of a documentary film, according to documents. A government official said the film involved in the dispute was “Comandante.”

The Treasury documents, dated Dec. 1, said that production company IXTLAN Corp. in Santa Monica, Calif., and four people had agreed to the monetary settlement. The documents did not identify the people or provide further details.

“Comandante” was the precursor to Stone’s more recent documentary on the Cuban leader called “Looking for Fidel.”

Full article at San Diego Union Tribune.


By Umut Newbury
December 13, 2006

For several years now, the Organic Consumers Association in the United States has been referring to genetically engineered foods with the affectionate phrase: “Frankenfoods.”

Austrian filmmaker Nikolaus Geyrhalter’s latest documentary, Our Daily Bread, illustrates grimly in about an hour and a half how all food, crops and animals, raised in the industrial agricultural system qualify as Frankenfoods.

Our Daily Bread shows us the nightmare that is producing food for 6 billion of us on this planet in the 21st century. We all partake in it everyday of our lives, yet so few of us really think of where our food comes from. Geyrhalter has tracked down for us exactly where filet mignon and eggs and bacon, even tomatoes, peppers and apples come from, and it is not pretty. The 21st century human being is so cut off from the reality of foodstuffs that it seems the more we don’t look, the worse it gets.

Geyrhalter spent two years across Europe on factory farms, shooting images of pigs, cows and chickens being slaughtered by the thousands. Think of the scene in Baraka where the accidentally hatched baby chicks were being gassed in an egg factory, then multiply it by as dozen or so times. Unlike Baraka, there is not a score substituting for narrative in Our Daily Bread. Geyrhalter’s piece is virtually quiet, except for the sound of machines, muffled human voices and lots and lots of water hoses. There are so many shots of cleaning and watering in the film, it is difficult not to remember Lady Macbeth. Human beings industrialized food production and brought it indoors to confined crowded environments and the result is lots of blood and chemicals that need to be washed from the bunny suits of workers, the floors and the equipment again and again. But water will not wash our sins away and the workers in Geyrhalter’s film seem to be aware of this. The only thing more disturbing in the film than the cruel and unusual treatment and killing of the animals is the situation of the people who work at these factories. Though we have managed to invent lots of machines to help with the dirty work, it seems the most gruesome duties are still reserved for the human workers. There has to be a person to give a cow a C-section, a person euthanize pigs and a person to cut off the heads of chickens. None of the factory farm workers in Our Daily Bread look happy or pleased with their jobs.

The situation in the fields does not look any brighter. In one scene, a field of beautiful flowers is suddenly overshadowed by a crop duster spraying pesticides; in many others Geyrhalter shows us acres and acres of land devoted to the cultivation of one single plant. Workers in these fields and greenhouses seem like robots picking produce, watering or applying a concoction of chemicals. We even get a glimpse of a field supervisor with his binoculars watching the workers on the field, reminding us of the ironic similarity to days of plantations and slavery. Even salt miners look dehumanized as they travel hundreds of feet below the European continent and find themselves in a massive maze of gigantic tunnels for the simplest of dinner table items.

We have put an end to the reign of the family farm, the natural biodiversity and ecological balance. We have consolidated food production, putting it under roofs that house hundreds of thousands of chickens and pigs, we have invented machines and conveyor belts to make the production faster, and the people who now work for feeding the world look like zombies. All this, for what? Cheap food and lots of it, for sure. There are so many mouths to be fed in this world that naturally food production needed to increase and live up to the demand. But a first year economics student could easily tell that this has to do not just with supply meeting demand but with profit-making as well. There is nothing inherently wrong with desiring a profitable industry and feeding the world at the same time, but the those of us who consume the products of this morally disturbing system meal after meal must start asking the question, “At what cost?”

Geyrhalter said this in a recent interview:

“… it becomes the scandal of how we live, because this economic, “soulless” efficiency is a reciprocal relationship with our society’s lifestyle. There is nothing wrong with saying, “Buy organic products! Eat less meat!” But at the same time it’s kind of excuse, because we all enjoy the fruits of automation and industrialization and globalization every day, which affect much more than just food.”

It’s true and Geyrhalter’s chosen technique in Our Daily Bread, sans narration or score, helps the viewer contemplate upon this.

This film should be required viewing for anyone who eats. These images should be replaying in every consumer’s head while buying groceries or ordering lunch at a restaurant. It is time we stop corn-syrup coating the hellish nightmare we call food in the 21st century.


Directed by Nikolaus Geyrhalter

92 minutes/ Color


Purchase at First Run/Icarus Films


Starz isn’t known for original documentary films, but this film is an entertaining documentary that any Hunter fan will enjoy.  As with any writer, it is tough to capture his work in a film, and this film tends to rely heavily on previous documentaries, footage from movies based on his work, and most importantly interviews with friends.  Those interviewed rarely get much screen time before jumping to a different interviewee , but by the end of the film, their love for Hunter and significant amount of his personality comes through.


DVD Releases December 12, 2006

America: Freedom to FacsismReviewPurchase at – Controversial and throught-provoking are two words that describe one of the most talked-about documentaries of 2006. Determined to find the law that requries American citizens to pay income tax, producer Aaron Russo (Bette Midler’sThe Rose, Trading Places) set out on a journey to find the evidence. Neither left nor right-wing, this startling examination of government exposes the systematic erosion of civil liberties in America since 1913 when the Federal Reserve system was fraudulently created. Through interviews with two U.S. Congressmen, former IRS Commissioner and former IRS and FBI agents, tax attorneys and authors, Russo connects the dots between money creation, federal income tax, and the national identity card, which becomes law in May 2008 and will use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) technology. Could this be a precursor to an impending police state in America? Watch the film and make your own conclusions.

Ocean Odyssey – Review – Purchase at – Do you know what lies at the bottom of the ocean? From the makers of the Walking With… series comes an enthralling exploration of Earth’s final frontier seen through the eyes of its greatest inhabitant and the worlds largest predator, the sperm whale. Following a young male from infancy to old age, the marinescape comes vividly to life: the impossibly deep canyons, the underwater volcanoes, and the spectacular mountain ranges. The inhabitants of opaque depths are no less impressive ? black dragonfish that cast an eerie red glow, jellyfish shaped like giant footballs ? but the whale is only interested in one creature, the colossal squid. When the two meet, it is the ocean’s ultimate battle.


By Bryan Newbury
December 11, 2006

In literary circles, there are two schools of thought regarding Henry Charles Bukowski. The first reveres, going so far as to stand him next to Whitman and Villon in the poetic pantheon. The second finds him craftless, boorish and generally not their kind of people. “How many ways can you look at rough sex or horse races,” this second group, usually consisting of equal parts obsequious academic intellectuals and overly sensitized hausfraus, will go on. The first group answers, “Quite a lot,” and braces for fisticuffs while group two laments the state of contemporary verse.

This sketch could be a bit of a simplification, but finding a gray area when it comes to Buk is like seeking common ground between English and Argentine football fans. A fitting tribute to the man. Bukowski wasn’t one for nuance.

Whatever camp one falls into, there is no disputing his selling power. In the twelve years following his death, Charles Bukowski is more than a cottage industry. From 1994 to the present, he’s had more books of poetry released than many do in a lifetime. He’s sold more than most. Matt Dillon stars in a recent adaptation of his second novel, Factotum, and the chances of seeing Buk’s pockmarked mug on a tee shirt at a rock show are exponentially greater than when he was alive.

This presented a daunting task to director John Dullaghan. When a cult figure reaches this kind of popular apogee, the longtime fans tend to get a bit restless. For the many who have shared a kinship with this drinking class hero, this level of attention is a bit unwelcome. At the very least, the 2003 release of Born Into This must have appeared opportunistic to die-hard Bukowskians. This is a group of men and women who have been known to steal titles, drink heavily and heckle Phillip Roth. Dangerous characters.

On the other hand, Bukowski fans are thrilled with even a passing glance. There is no limit to books, recordings, broadsides or… tee shirts… that a devotee might collect. Though the exposure may strike the hard core as unseemly, it must be taken into consideration that Buk was not in the company of Auden or Bunting, eschewing biography for the work itself. To the contrary, few have cultivated such a cult of personality. The more Bukowski content there is, the fans say, the better.

Dullaghan had a tightrope to walk. Yes, there is an audience for this film. A rabid one at that. That audience, however, tends to define cynical. Sure, that certain number will own a copy; but the chances of them widely deriding it as bullshit are very high.

It is with pleasure that the reviewer can report Dullaghan has the balance of a cat. Born Into This is beyond a triumph. For fans of Bukowski, and even of contemporary literature, it is an essential addition.
–Read the rest of this entry »


Distinguished FEATURE Documentary Award
James Longley
Typecast Pictures, Typecast Releasing, HBO Documentary Films

Distinguished SHORT Documentary Award
Marcelo Bukin
ANGEL’S FIRE (Fuego de Angel)
Rec Stop and Play, Global Humanitaria

Stanley Nelson
Firelight Media, Seventh Art Releasing, WGBH, PBS

Davis Guggenheim
Laurie David, Lawrence Bender, Scott Z. Burns
A Lawrence Bender/Laurie David Production, Participant Productions, Paramount Classics

Mark Samels, executive producer Sharon Grimberg, series producer
Episodes Submitted: “The Boy in the Bubble” (Barak Goodman, John Maggio, dirs./prods.), “Eugene O’Neill” (Ric Burns, dir./wtr.); Marilyn Ness, Steve Rivo, Robin Espinola, Mary Recine, prods.) “John and Abigail Adams”(Peter Jones, dir.; Elizabeth Deane, prod./wtr.), “Las Vegas” (Stephen Ives, dir./prod.; Amanda Pollak, prod.)

Brent Renaud, Craig Renaud
DCTV, Discovery Times Channel

Carrie Lozano – University of California, Berkeley


The film started as and examenation of the disappearing wetlands, but when Katrina struck, vertern IMAX filmmaker Greg MacGillivary immediately began shooting the resulting damage that hits Louisianna.

Hurricane on the Bayou will be released nationwide to IMAX theaters on December 22.  MacGillivary follows a group of four musicians, both legendary and rising, as they uncover the culture of New Orleans; explore the beautiful, alligator filled bayous on airboats; recount their personal stories of Katrina; and most of all, bring the focus to the rapidly disappearing wetlands that are New Orleans’ first line of defense against the destrucition of the city and culture


When: February 24-March 3, 2007
Where: Burkina Faso
What: Africa’s largest film festival.  All films have an African connection whether it be subject, location, or filmmaker.  In additiona to film screenings and competition, discusion forums and film markets are held.


Bad Boys of Summer, World Premiere (2007, 76 min, USA)

Written/Directed by Tiller Russell and Loren Mendell

Battling prison violence and racial tension, the coach of the San Quentin Giants tries to change the lives of his convict baseball players during their final season together.

Ballad of AJ Weberman, US Premiere (2006, 83 min. UK)

Written/Directed by James Bluemel and Oliver Ralfe

A portrait of obsession and eccentricity this film tells the story of AJ Weberman, Bob Dylan’s most infamous fan, founder of Garbology, and New York counter-culture odd-ball.

Children of God: Lost and Found, World Premiere (2007, 75 min., USA)

Directed by Noah Thomson

CHILDREN OF GOD: LOST AND FOUND is a first-person account of growing up in the controversial, evangelical Christian cult known as the CHILDREN OF GOD. Director Noah Thomson tells his story and the story of others like him who were born into the group and later left as young adults.

Dream in Doubt, World Premiere (2007, 56 min, USA)

Written/Directed by Tami Yeager
When his brother is murdered in America’s first post-9/11 revenge killing, Rana Singh Sodhi begins a journey to reclaim his American dream and fight the hate that continues to threaten his community.

King of Kong, World Premiere (2007, 79 min., USA)

Directed by Seth Gordon*

Obsession and the pursuit of excellence push diehard gamers to break World Records on classic arcade games like Q*bert, Joust, Pac-Man, and Donkey Kong.

*Gordon is a Slamdance alumni director, Slamdance 2002 Anarchy Online Film “Squirt”

Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa, World Premiere (2007, 70 min, USA)

Written/Directed by Jeremy Stulberg and Randy Stulberg

In the remote New Mexico desert, disillusioned Gulf War veterans, desperate teenage runaways and survivalists form a post-modern “Wild West” with a vigilante code all its own.

Red Without Blue, World Premiere (2007, 74 min, USA)

Written/Directed by Brooke Sebold, Benita Sills & Todd Sills

The intimate bond between two identical twin brothers is challenged when one decides to transition from male to female; this is the story of their evolving relationship, and the resurrection of their family from a darker past.

Rock the Bells (2006, 105 min, USA)

Written/Directed by Casey Suchan and Denis Hennelly

Personifying the fierce independence and Do-It-Yourself spirit of the Hip Hop movement, producer Chang Weisberg puts everything on the line for his impossible dream of reuniting notorious no-shows The Wu-Tang Clan.

Row Hard No Excuses, World Premiere (2007, 83 minutes, USA/Spain)

Written/Directed by Luke Wolbach

Two middle-aged American men set out to win the “world’s toughest race”—three thousand miles across the Atlantic in a rowboat—is it a noble quest or an ill-fated nightmare?

Unsettled, World Premiere (2007, 80 min, USA)

Written/Directed by Adam Hootnick

During the Gaza withdrawal of 2005, three young Israelis will be forced from their homes, two soldiers will be sent to evict them, and one activist will try to help her country avoid a war. Can one generation change history? Narrative Special Screening Features

Documentary Special Screening Features

Alice Neel, World Premiere (2007, 81 min., USA)

Written/Directed by Andrew Neel

Portrait painter Alice Neel (1900-1984) abandoned almost all the comforts of a “normal” life and family in her quest to document the 20th century, one soul at a time.

Previous Film: Darkon, (2006, 90 min.)

Documentary Feature, SXSW Audience Award

Ganja Queen, World Premiere (2007, 120 min., Australia)

Directed by Janine Hosking

Behind the scenes of the controversial trial of Schapelle Corby, a young woman accused of smuggling ten pounds of marijuana into Bali, Indonesia.

Previous Film: My Khmer Heart (2000) Winner, Best Documentary: Hollywood Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival, Melbourne Film Festival, Mademoiselle and the Doctor 2004, Silverdocs finalist, Joris Ivens finalist, Amsterdam 2004, Melbourne Film Festival, Sydney Film Festival.

Super Amigos, World Premiere (2007, 82 min, Canada/Mexico)

Written/Directed by Arturo Perez Torres

Mexico City is not Gotham City, but if you were to run into any of the five masked activists who protect this metropolis, you’d wonder if you were not living inside a comic book.

Previous Films: Wetback – The Undocumented Documentary
Awards: Winner, Spectrum Award, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival; Winner, Best Documentary, Cinequest Film Festival; Winner, Audience Award, Chicago Latino Film Festival; Winner, Best Story, Festival Pamplona Punto de Vista.


LOS ANGELES, Dec. 5 (UPI) — Director Jonathan Demme has been tabbed to head a film documentary about former U.S. President Jimmy Carter entitled “He Comes in Peace.”

The film from Participant Productions will feature the results of Demme’s cinematic crew as they follow Carter on a national book tour for the former president’s new work, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” The Hollywood Reporter said.


“The president’s book tour occurs at a crossroads where the world of religion intersects with global politics,” Demme explained. “This picture is just an extraordinary honor for me. I loved Carter when he was president, and I’ve loved him more and more since he left office. He makes me feel so proud to be an American.”

Carter’s book tour began on Nov. 11, three days prior to his book’s release, and has focused around the politician’s efforts towards peace in the Mideast.

The Reporter said that “Peace” will mark Demme’s most recent foray into the documentary field; earlier, he headed up production on “Neil Young: Heart of Gold” and “The Agronomist.”


DVD Releases December 5, 2006

Desperate Man BluesReview by Bryan NewburyReview the film for yourselfPurchase at – Minutes into Desperate Man Blues we’re treated to the bubbly and idiosyncratic personality of Joe Bussard. On the opening cut he’s found smoking what is to be an omnipresent cigar and grooving to a prewar vinyl. Aficionados of air guitar will be as entranced with Joe as record collectors and old time music enthusiasts. Within minutes, the audience is treated not only to air guitar, but air clarinet, air fiddle, air trombone and even (this may be the only recorded case, which would suit Bussard fine to be sure) air Weissenborn. All this while dancing contagiously.  Joe began collecting 51 years ago throughout his native Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia. A few side trips into Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina are certainties. Just like that barracks buddy your grandfather was acquainted with in the Great War who kept his copies of The Fantastic Four intact, Bussard had the vision to see treasure in another man’s rubbish. He relates tales of collecting at a time when pre-Depression 78’s were viewed as throw-away items. In the 1950’s the original owners saw little value in what are now priceless records in Joe’s collection.

Grey GardensReviewPurchase at – Grey Gardens is the name of a neglected, sprawling estate gone to seed. The crumbling mansion was home to Edith Bouvier Beale, often referred to as “Big Edie,” and her daughter, “Little Edie.” The East Hampton, Long Island, home became the center of quite a scandal when it was revealed in 1973 that the reclusive aunt and cousin to Jackie O. were living in a state of poverty and filth. That’s the background to this 1976 film portrait by cinéma vérité pioneers Albert and David Maysles, but it’s only incidental to the fascinating story they discover inside the estate walls. The two Edies have lived in almost complete seclusion since the mid-1950s, ever since Big Edie’s husband abandoned her and Little Edie (then a young socialite on the verge of a dancing career, or so she claims) was called home to care for her depressed mother. Twenty years later they continue to live in their memories while camped out in a single bedroom of the 28-room mansion overrun with cats (who use the floor as their litter box).

Beales of Grey GardenReviewPurchase at – The 1975 cinema vérité classic Grey Gardens, which captured in remarkable close-up the lives of the eccentric recluses and cousins to Jackie Onassis, Big and Little Edie Beale, in their decrepit East Hampton mansion, has spawned everything from a midnight-movie cult following to a Broadway musical remake an upcoming Hollywood adaptation. Now, Albert and David Maysles have revisited their landmark documentary with a sequel of sorts, culled from hours of never-before-seen footage recently found in the filmmakers’ vaults.

Pucker Up: The Fine Art of WhistlingReviewPurchase at – “Just put your lips together and blow!” Well, that’s easier said than done, as this exploration of the high-stakes world of competitive whistling reveals. Pucker Up follows several competitors as they converge on Louisburg, NC – the mecca of whistling – for the International Whistling Convention and Competition. Seasoned veterans and nervous amateurs alike perform for their chance to be named the world’s best whistler in a unique atmosphere of tense competition and convivial camaraderie. Exploring the history and former glory of the pasttime, even the dark underbelly (who knew?) of the whistling world, this delightful film communicates whistling enthusiasts’ hopes of reviving the once-popular entertainment now all but absent from the cultural radar.

Blood and Oil: The Middle East in World War IReviewPurchase at – Except for the Dardanelles/Gallipoli campaigns, the extensive combat operations in the Middle East during World War I have been largely overlooked in documentary programs. Given the historical significance of the Ottoman Empire’s demise in 1918, and the ongoing importance of Middle Eastern oil reserves to Western economies, a close study of this conflict provides two important lessons: 1. The Treaty of Versailles, agreed to by the Western Powers in 1919, paved the way for military and political chaos in the Middle East, which continues to this very day. 2. Oil reserves in the Middle East became an important strategic concern for Western Powers, helping to justify their economic, diplomatic and military interference in the region.

Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take OneReviewPurchase at – In William Greaves’s spontaneous, one-of-a-kind fiction/documentary hybrid Symbiopsychotaxiplasm Take One, Greaves presides over a beleaguered troupe of camera and sound men in New York’s Central Park in 1967, leaving them to try and decipher exactly what it is they’re making: a strange, bickering couple enacting a break-up scenario over and over; a documentary crew filming a crew filming the crew; locals wandering casually into the frame. A multilayered and wildly entertaining deconstruction of cinema, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm defies easy description yet remains one of the most tightly focused movies ever made about making movies.


By Bryan Newbury
November 30, 2006

It was 73 degrees Fahrenheit in Lawrence, Kansas on Tuesday, 28 November 2006. Within a day, that turned to 37 and reduced to low 30’s, then 20’s and eventually into the teens. Rain was followed by freezing rain, then drizzle, then sleet. In spite of the deteriorating weather situation, hundreds packed into the University of Kansas’ Woodruff Auditorium for the maiden screening of Fall from Grace. Mr. Jones quipped to a capacity hall that he was pleased with the attendance. “I spent a year with the Phelps family…with the weather I was beginning to fear that God does hate me.”

Yes, the audience, along with Mr. Jones, pressed on. Good for the filmmaker’s soul, no doubt. Murder on a reviewer’s complexion.

Fall from Grace is the fruit of a long year spent with the Phelps family, the primary members of the Westboro Baptist Church’s congregation. As the film illustrates, Phelps & Co. are known throughout the world for their pickets, protests, and general hatred of Broadway musicals. What would make a young man devote such time to the subject of Phelps and his ever-visible “God Hates Fags” and subsequently, “God Hates Troops” signs? One suspects it is the same reason Westboro changed its focus from homosexuals to the Iraq War: publicity.

Surely he can’t be blamed for it. Indeed, this is a timely subject. Though we might like to look beyond these evangelical instigators and picture them as quaint anachronisms inhabiting a time prior to the War on Terror, it is instructive to get a view from the crow’s nest into their political, theological and philosophical world. Considering that common ground has been reached between Palestinian Imams and Israeli Orthodox Rabbis on the assertion that a gay pride march is the ultimate anathema in al Quds, we may see Phelps through the lens of history as ahead of the curve. When a bulk of America’s states, including Kansas, decided to validate a portion of Westboro’s teachings through the constitutional prohibition of same-sex unions, Phelps might have demurred. Rather than circling the victory lap, Pastor Fred saw an opening for a new whipping boy. How, exactly, Mr. Phelps came to the conclusion that the American military is aligned with the sleeper cells of the homosexual agenda is up for debate. Changing the object of his ire from fags to flags could be a tremendous miscalculation. Then again, when one ponders James Guckert, he might not be that far off.

The aspect of a convoluted philosophy manifested through a charismatic personality is tackled well in Fall from Grace. The aim of the picture seems to be an in-depth portrait of the personality of Phelps and by extension his family and congregation. (As Jones pointed out in the question-and-answer period, there are only two other families in the congregation. One is married in, the other apparently another filmmaker who migrated back to Kansas from Florida to do a documentary on Phelps and ended up a member of the parish. Tread lightly, Mr. Jones. There but for the grace.) As a profile, Fall from Grace works rather well. We learn much about Fred Phelps’ development both spiritually and professionally.
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BANISHED (Director: Marco Williams) — This story of three U.S. towns which, in the early 20th century, forced their entire African American populations to leave, explores what — if anything — can be done to repair past racial injustice. World premiere.

CHASING GHOSTS  (Director: Lincoln Ruchti) — The 1982 Video Game World Champions share their philosophies on joysticks, groupies and life. World premiere.

CRAZY LOVE (Director: Dan Klores) — An unsettling true story about an obsessive relationship between a married man and a beautiful, single 20-year-old woman, which began in 1957 and continues today. World premiere.

EVERYTHING’S COOL (Directors: Judith Helfand, Daniel B. Gold) — A group of self-appointed global warming messengers are on a high stakes quest to find the iconic image, proper language, and points of leverage to help the public go from embracing the urgency of the problem to creating the political will necessary to move to an alternative energy economy. World premiere.

FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO (Director: Daniel Karslake) — Grounded by the stories of five conservative Christian families, the film explores how the religious right has used its interpretation of the Bible to support its agenda of stigmatizing the gay community and eroding the separation between church and state. World premiere.

GHOSTS OF ABU GHRAIB (Director: Rory Kennedy) — This inside look at the abuses that occurred at the infamous Iraqi prison in the fall of 2003 uses direct, personal narratives of perpetrators, witnesses, and victims to probe the effects of the abuses on all involved. World premiere.

GIRL 27 (Director: David Stenn) — When underage dancer Patricia Douglas is raped at a wild MGM stag party in 1937, she makes headlines and legal history, and then disappears. GIRL 27 follows author-screenwriter David Stenn as he investigates one of Hollywood’s most notorious scandals. World premiere.

HEAR AND NOW (Director: Irene Taylor Brodsky) — Filmmaker Irene Taylor Brodsky tells a deeply personal story about her deaf parents, and their radical decision — after 65 years of silence — to undergo cochlear implant surgery, a complex procedure that could give them the ability to hear. World premiere.

MANDA BALA (SEND A BULLET) (Director: Jason Kohn) — In Brazil, known as one of the world’s most corrupt and violent countries, MANDA BALA follows a politician who uses a frog farm to steal billions of dollars, a wealthy businessman who spends a small fortune bulletproofing his cars, and a plastic surgeon who reconstructs the ears of mutilated kidnapping victims. World premiere.

MY KID COULD PAINT THAT (Director: Amir Bar-Lev) — A 4-year-old girl whose paintings are compared to Kandinsky, Pollock and even Picasso, has sold $300,000 dollars worth of paintings. Is she a genius of abstract expressionism, a tiny charlatan, or an exploited child whose parents have sold her out for the glare of the media and the lure of the almighty dollar? World premiere.

NANKING (Director: Bill Guttentag, Dan Sturman) — A powerful and haunting depiction of the atrocities suffered by the Chinese at the hands of the invading Japanese army during “The Rape of Nanking”, one of the most tragic events of WWII. While more than 200,000 Chinese were murdered and ten of thousands raped, a handful of Westerners performed extraordinary acts of heroism, saving over 250,000 lives in the midst of the horror. World premiere.

NO END IN SIGHT (Director: Charles Ferguson) — A comprehensive examination of the Bush Administration’s conduct of the Iraq war and occupation. Featuring first-time interviews with key participants, the film creates a startlingly clear reconstruction of key decisions that led to the current state of affairs in this war-torn country. World premiere.

PROTAGONIST (Director: Jessica Yu) — PROTAGONIST explores the organic relationship between human life and Euripidean dramatic structure by weaving together the stories of four men — a German terrorist, a bank robber, an “ex-gay” evangelist, and a martial arts student. World premiere.

WAR DANCE (Director: Sean Fine, Andrea Nix Fine) — Devastated by the long civil war in Uganda, three young girls and their school in the Patongo refugee camp find hope as they make a historic journey to compete in their country’s national music and dance festival. World premiere.

WHITE LIGHT/BLACK RAIN: THE DESTRUCTION OF HIROSHIMA AND NAGASAKI (Director: Steven Okazaki) — WHITE LIGHT/BLACK RAIN offers a visceral, topical and moving portrait of the human cost of atomic warfare. World premiere.

ZOO (Director: Robinson Devor) — A humanizing look at the life and bizarre death of a seemingly normal Seattle family man who met his untimely end after an unusual encounter with a horse. World premiere.


By Bryan Newbury
November 10, 2006

Detractors of Michael Moore usually share something in common besides politics. More often than not, they haven’t seen the films of which they’re speaking.

It is surprising, then, that The Big One hasn’t shared the enmity that greeted his other feature documentaries. After all, if there is one film of Moore’s that hasn’t been seen, by and large it is this one.

The film takes place on Moore’s book tour promoting his 1996 work “Downsize This!: Random Threats from an Unarmed American.” It is little wonder that Moore has been widely castigated by not only the right, but also mainstream media in general. Here is a man making millions from films and publishing books… and he doesn’t even have a college degree! What right does such a slovenly lout have telling us on which side the bread is buttered?
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DVD Releases November 28, 2006

Where the Heart RoamsReviewPurchase at – Put some famous romance writers (Barbara Cartland, Janet Dailey), some not-so-famous romance writers, and some would-be romance writers on a train and what do you get? The Love Train. Organized by novel d’amour fan Chelley Kitzmiller, this train ride took romance fans from Los Angeles to New York for a late-1980s Romantic Book Lover’s Conference. As they travel cross country, the women–and a couple of husbands–discuss the business of romance novels (how explicit should the sex be? should they wait until they’re married?), while Hunter S. Thompson biographer (and Playgirl writer) E. Jean Carroll grills them about what men and women want from each other. This 80-minute documentary spotlights Kitzmiller’s angst at not having written the book of her dreams and her growing confidence from organizing this public relations coup for the romance industry. –Kimberly Heinrichs

Marshall University: Ashes to Glory – ReviewPurchase at – This documentary chronicles how a grief-stricken football team rose from unfathomable ruin and despair to achieve one of the most remarkable and triumphant victories in the history of sports. It was the fall of 1970 when a chartered plane carrying Marshall University’s Thundering Herd football team, coaches, and leading supporters across West Virginia crashed, leaving no survivors. In the face of crushing heartbreak, a young coach named Jack Lengyel took over the devastated program. Honoring the memories of those who died, Lengyel and the five players who were not on the doomed flight found the strength and courage to patch together a ragtag team that would overcome the odds and triumph despite catastrophe.

The Brave New Films Box SetPurchase at – A pioneer in 21st century activism, Robert Greenwald releases documentaries that are the centerpieces for guerilla campaigns designed to break through noisy news cycles. This special box set includes three films: “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price”, “Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers” and “The Big Buy: Tom Delay’s Stolen Congress”. Also includes an exclusive bonus disc that is available only with this box set. This bonus disc contains over an hour of extra footage, interviews, montages and more.