Filmmaker Dylan Reibling delves into friendship and mystery with his 2016 documentary Looking for Mike. The piece aired as part of the CBC’s Firsthand series and weaves a very personal tale that is as bizarre as it is poignant. Reibling, the director of various short films and interactive art pieces, takes an intimate approach and […]Read more "Looking for Mike (2016)"
Asif Kapadia’s Amy has a deep thread of sorrow running through it. This 2015 documentary about the life and death of British singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse captures existence in spiral and everybody knows how the story ends. There are no easy answers, no simplistic targets in the blame game.Read more "Amy (2015)"
Amy J. Berg’s Prophet’s Prey is infuriating. It contends with Warren Steed Jeffs, the current leader of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. Jeffs is serving life plus 20 years on two counts of the sexual assault of a child, but he continues to lead his followers behind the prison bars.Read more "Prophet’s Prey (2015)"
10 days ahead of the premiere of Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, the Church of Scientology took out a full-page advertisement in two coastal newspapers denouncing the 2015 documentary. They also contacted film critics and hassled former church members in what could only be described as an structured and entirely batty campaign […]Read more "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief (2015)"
The prolific Alex Gibney spares little in his Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine, a documentary examination of the co-founder and chairman of Apple. The 2015 film examines the man who became a cultural icon with precision, leaving concerns of hagiography well off to the side. This is an incisive motion picture, although many […]Read more "Steve Jobs: The Man in the Machine (2015)"
Stevan Riley’s Listen to Me Marlon is an astonishing documentary for a number of reasons. Surely the fact that it even exists is somewhat of a triumph, with Marlon Brando as its subject. This 2015 piece places the ball in the actor’s court and it weaves a life in his own words, using reams of […]Read more "Listen to Me Marlon (2015)"
A harrowing documentary that shakes with visceral urgency, Evgeny Afineevsky’s brilliant Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom is an on-the-ground look at the rising in Kiev’s Maidan Nezalezhnosti. This 2015 motion picture is a tough journey and it doesn’t flinch in presenting the details, with the lens never turning away from the reality of […]Read more "Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (2015)"
Davis Guggenheim takes an entirely conventional approach to He Named Me Malala and it’s hard to argue with the chosen path. This 2015 documentary is wholly deferential in its portrait of Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai, as it should be, but there’s an inherent lack of focus that keeps it from being all that it can […]Read more "He Named Me Malala (2015)"
A pounding, insistent, thrilling documentary, Matthew Heineman’s Cartel Land presents a staggering on-the-ground look at the vigilante groups fighting Mexican drug cartels. The 2015 film feels hopeless at times and so it should. The Mexican drug war is an untenable situation, to say the least, with an endless stream of victims and corruption proving the […]Read more "Cartel Land (2015)"
“I’m tired,” says Nina Simone in Liz Garbus’ What Happened, Miss Simone?. “You don’t know what I mean,” she adds before playing the piano. The 2015 documentary, distributed by Netflix, deals with the almost cold-bloodedly complicated singer and activist. It frames itself as an exploration rather than an answer to the titular question, which is […]Read more "What Happened, Miss Simone? (2015)"
Make no mistake about it, Gore Vidal and William F. Buckley, Jr. detested each other. Robert Gordon and Morgan Neville explore this fact in the 2015 documentary Best of Enemies, a mostly straightforward film that essentially contends with the 1968 debates between the two American intellectuals. The movie apparently was five years in the making […]Read more "Best of Enemies (2015)"
Directed by Joshua Oppenheimer, The Act of Killing one of the most stomach-churning, chilling motion pictures in recent memory. This 2012 documentary features co-direction by Christine Cynn and an anonymous Indonesian, with Errol Morris and Werner Herzog among the executive producers. This review is for the theatrical version, but there is a director’s cut with […]Read more "The Act of Killing (2012)"
One of the best documentaries of 2014, The Overnighters is a staggering and beautiful film about broken people. It is written and directed by Jesse Moss and is one of the most pertinent pictures to come around in quite some time. It tells a layered tale that not only deals in matters of the immediate […]Read more "The Overnighters (2014)"
The tale of The Dog is almost too strange to be true. This 2013 documentary is produced and directed by Allison Berg and Frank Keraudren and is a 10-year labour of love, with remarkable footage and interviews of the subject adding up to a beguiling experience. Said subject is John Stanley Wojtowicz, the bank robber […]Read more "The Dog (2013)"
Directed by Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman, Remote Area Medical is a dazzling look at the struggle far too many Americans go through on a daily basis just to achieve decent health standards. There are many, many political issues under the surface, but this 2013 documentary astutely sidesteps these matters in order to focus on […]Read more "Remote Area Medical (2013)"
Broadway legend Elaine Stritch credits her husband with saying that “Everyone has a bag of rocks.” Her bag of rocks is the subject of Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, a stunning documentary from director Chiemi Karasawa. The film opened shortly before its subject’s passing in July of 2014 and stands as a powerful, insistent tribute to […]Read more "Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me (2013)"
Directed and produced by Joe Berlinger, the 2014 documentary Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger is an unfortunately cluttered and meandering film. It fashions the purpose of the trial of the convicted murderer and Boston crime lord as determining whether or not Bulger was an informant for the FBI and then spends […]Read more "Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger (2014)"
Produced and directed by Ryan White and Ben Cotner, The Case Against 8 is a thorough documentary about the fight to overturn California’s Proposition 8. The film details the multitude of courtroom and personal battles associated with fighting the state’s 2008 constitutional amendment to ban same sex marriage.Read more "The Case Against 8 (2014)"
The subject of Stephanie Soechtig’s Fed Up could not be more pressing. The numbers presented in this 2014 documentary are staggering, exploring the root causes of obesity as being significantly more complex than the “calories in, calories out” claptrap often suggested. When one considers that it takes an hour and a half of swimming to […]Read more "Fed Up (2014)"
Released by Disneynature, the studio’s “independent film label,” Bears is a saccharine nature documentary heavy on all the storytelling and magic the House of Mouse is known for. Unfortunately, it’s short on everything else. The 2014 nature documentary is more a feat of editing than anything else, but those looking for a little bear footage […]Read more "Bears (2014)"