My favorite films of this season are ultimately the documentaries.
My friend was mentioning the fact that it comes to the end of this phase of Oscar films and, at least this year, she isn’t really excited for the fictional films as she is for the animated features. She just relates to them more, she is more inspired by them, she is utterly attracted to their creative process, their imaginative stories. I don’t think she’s even considering the quality, it’s not about that. You may argue though it's nothing but a matter of taste. It may be. On my end, I can’t bring myself to watch any of the animated films. I think how she is compelled by animated film I am by the documentary.
And this year it is just mind blowing, their quality, the stories they have been bringing to us. Where should I start?
The Invisible War and the other Oscars docs:
I already mentioned this film last year and here’s the thing, we have this films we see and understand how important they are because they have been making such a substantial difference, like The Invisible War, which since it premiered more than one year ago has been making some change and a great deal of awareness. This film not only is all of that but it is of course a great work of research, great narrative and absolutely entertaining. But yes, it does hurt to look at something like The Invisible War, but the good part is that people can change that. Then you have Searching for Sugar Man which brings this incredible story of a unique human being. It is beautifully made; it is wonderfully entertaining and brings an incredibly satisfying story. How to Survive a Plague is another great, amazing film which kind of brings both aspects of what I mentioned earlier. 5 Broken Cameras is exceptional and just spot on. I have no idea which of them I would vote for. Searching for Sugar Man will probably win because it brings the satisfying ending. But The Invisible War and How to Survive a Plague could win to, so 5 Broken Cameras and The Gatekeepers, but I have not seen the last one yet.
Searching For Sugar Man
Of course this is one of the most talked about documentaries of the year, and god, what not to say about it. This is one of the most creative, accomplished pieces of art of any kind and also one of the most touching and fascinating stories I’ve seen in years. I’m easily lost for words.
Sugar Man is a truly amazing, fascinating tale, a beautiful rarity of sorts. For someone who comes towards this film without knowing anything about it, the experience must be even more fascinating and satisfying. This is the story about a mysterious musician called Rodriguez, who many thought was dead; while he gradually became more popular than Elvis Presley, but not in his own country but in some other place in the world, South Africa.
What makes this film so astonishing starts with the story of course, but more importantly how director Malik Bendjelloul lead the whole piece, that’s what makes this film so good, it is such a well crafted film, such an accomplished piece of art. The director chose to bring what seems the most obvious aspect of the entire story, the mystery. So he brings us mystery, he brings us suspense. He asks for our full attention, while he explores the own inner elements of the city of Detroit, the city of the singer Rodriguez. While he explores key members of this journey to find what happened to Rodriguez, while he explores South Africa, while he explores the world of record labels. Another crucial element to Sugar Man is the songs. They float beautifully throughout the entire story, not only their timing is always impeccable, they bring this beautiful atmosphere, they bring meaning and once again, all the while the director never stops from creating meaningful connections with the space he’s showing to us. Detroit becomes this influential connection not only with Rodriguez, but with the bridge between the forty years that passed, to what Detroit is today and to what Rodriguez is today. Therefore, this film is thorough in so many ways. I’ve seen this documentary a couple of times, and then some, and I still feel the same way from the first viewing, which is really what this man represents, Rodriguez is one of those who in their own nature become this extraordinary, unprecedented human beings. Rodriguez brings the music, brings the mystery, and brings the human nature at its most unprecedented and beautiful form. It’s the human spirit of Rodriguez that will most touch people. Just listen to his songs.
The Queen of Versailles
Here’s what I kept saying after this documentary ended: This is so good. This is soooo freaking good. Good God, this is good.
The timing couldn’t be more perfect, that’s one of the main perks of this fortunate direction by Lauren Greenfield, followed by a tremendous and crucial narrative. It is continuously captivating, honest, amusing and…this is so damn good. It will become one timeless, classic piece of work we can look at and learn, from different perspectives, from different levels, for different purposes. People will look at this and always remember what America is made of. This is so good.
This documentary follows a billionaire couple as they are about to build the largest home in the United States of America, when the economy crushes deep down. The Siegel Family is the intriguing case that gives us a variety of perspectives, in every level you can imagine really. This being said, I still need to make a special mention to Jackie Siegel, the wife, this unique soul who really brought the truly genuine spirit to this Queen of Versailles, she was truly the queen of this show, she was undoubtedly the star! A tremendous praise should be given to the director who had the guts to keep moving fearlessly through this world. So this documentary is obviously among the most entertaining features of the year, and undoubtedly the years to come.
Ai Weiwei: Never Story
Filmmaker Alison Klayman gives us an inside look at the Chinese artist and inevitable activist Ai Weiwei, an increasingly prominent figure in the contemporary Chinese society, a place still full of prohibition, with no freedom of speech, with the ultimate disrespect for human rights, to let them be who they are. She follows this artist without ever being too present, but coming to him always in the right time with the right questions; she’s just simply there, because this artist, this artist brings everything. Ai Weiwei is warming, moderated, and educated, an amusing man who struggles with his country’s circumstances with the most admiring and relentless passion, a truly fascinating human being.
If the system doesn’t work at all, he has to work through the system. That’s what he has been doing. His passion is a truly admiring thing to watch nowadays. To see how twitter and the internet works for him, how important his art becomes and how important it is for him, it gives us an idea, it just gives us an idea of the human spirit set in the right fields. He embarrasses us all. That’s what’s about! I guess that’s what this new world of cyber communication brings us, on one hand I absolutely loathe Facebook; doesn’t just irritates your nerves when you happen to read something like “Anti social people, I’m going to sleep”. Why? But on the other hand, we have someone like Ai Weiwei who can make a difference, in the true sense of the word. I was very moved by this story.
How To Survive a Plague
We Were Here was already so touching, and this year comes How to Survive a Plague which is equally touching and poignant. We Were Here takes place in San Francisco, How to Survive a Plague takes a whole new set of activists in New York, I think this one is even richer. This is another great touching documentary about the AIDS epidemic, and the editing work is so good, all the years of protesting, all the information they collected translated in this one film it shows how good this documentary is. Tears were constantly threatening to come out from the very first moment until the end.
5 Broken Cameras
This is a great inspiring story of a man in the middle of an exceptional situation in his life, in the world really, which is the Palestine. A man who happens to have a video camera, or a few of them, who loves to record and ends up gathering footage and bringing to us this passionate and inspiring civil movement in his village. In these circumstances he has this unthinkable spirit and craft of being able to portrait the ultimate Israel-Palestine situation, therefore the filmmakers shows us the human passion, and he brings us an example of hope in the middle of one of the most hopeless places in the world. This documentary is both entertaining, inspiring, revealing. It’s everything you hope to be.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Do you like Sushi? So you want to have a little but crucial taste about life? I watched this little documentary and I did taste what life is all about in this corner of the world, a little restaurant under the Tokyo subway. It is perhaps on a subtle way, one unexpected beautiful film.
West of Memphis
It seems this story that many people are now aware of is coming to an end. But it’s not quite there yet, is it?
Once again, with a new set of directors and producers, this documentary brings a consistent and complex resume of the situation but more importantly it brings the new elements that have been gathered very recently. Because this is a story that is still hard to believe, West of Memphis is still worth the big spot, it keeps being more and more fascinating how everything went wrong in this case. Ultimately it is never enough to remind every single one of us, that justice as to be made righteously, that people’s rights need to be respected and once they’re violated there’s got to be something done.
Here are my emotional levels throughout the film, if it matters at all, because I freaked out, I freaked out so much I had tears in my eyes, I was so freaking nervous and disturbed, but mostly, so scared with The Imposter. It just kept getting better and better, or yet, worse and worse, or better yet, creepier and creepier, super disturbing, and I would say, finally, outrageous! It was bloody outrageous.
How the world does become this small connected place of constant outrageous coincidental actions? Oh, this was a very Cloud Atlas moment. Shit.
I do admire the people who find these stories and have the intelligence and resilience of embracing it and be able to bring it together into a documentary, got to praise their work. Though, this was too much!
What a beautiful, artistic portrait of a not so artistic situation, which is the city of Detroit, an increasingly degraded place, which has been harshly hit by the economic crisis. It’s an American story through the eyes of a hidden camera, which moves lightly through the empty streets, through the empty souls, through people with a vision. I’m not from Detroit but I believed the spot on portrait of this film.
Side by Side
Spot on take revealing the current state of the world of film, yes it is technical but the truth is that it really is a moment of change in the universe of cinema, the questions about digital and film will always be the questions of storytelling.
Everyone the least involved in this world quick learns the current atmosphere of continuously technological improvement, if you buy this one really good camera, there’s a big chance in a few months the same camera has been improved and another one more sophisticated comes to replace it. Everyone in this world realizes that what they’re facing it’s a change of course, but like with any other, it is always a difficult process. There are always the skeptical ones; there are the ones who fully engage onto the new. The thing is, like they say in this film, there are good pros and mostly defiant opportunities. It is always developing, the human nature assures you that and it won’t stop improving, ever, even if they screw up a little in the meantime. At the end of the day what matters is what better contributes to the way they want to tell their story.
These are only some of the films I had the good pleasure and fortune of seeing. There are still so many I want to see and missed out.