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Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2014: Documentaries, Program B
A man carves majestic caves in sandstone rocks, and a prison hospice sees a lifer to the end.
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Film Review  February 7, 2014, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...Two short documentaries, each of which runs about 40 minutes, are included in this program. Each film introduces us to a memorable character...."

Documentaries and the Cult of Personality
How documentarians pick a winner
DAILY Screens  March 12, 2008, by Josh Rosenblatt
"...George is the glue, the blood, the life of her movie. His personality is the doorway into a world she wants us to want to enter. Having seen so many documentaries recently I began to believe that personality is the golden ticket to a film’s success, that the potency of a movie's subject or the artistry in which it's presented aren't always enough..."

2018 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentaries – Program A
Breaion King arrest doc heads up the Oscar short list
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Film Review  February 9, 2018, by Richard Whittaker


2018 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentaries – Program B
Horror and hope in America's underdog communities
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Film Review  February 9, 2018, by Richard Whittaker


2017 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentaries – Program A
Let the voting begin
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Film Review  February 10, 2017, by Marjorie Baumgarten


2017 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentaries – Program B
Be the most knowledgeable voter at your Oscar party
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Film Review  February 10, 2017, by Marjorie Baumgarten


2017 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentaries – Programs A & B
Misery and suffering know no national borders, but refugees from those conditions know all too well their demarcations. That is the message that comes through clearly in these five contenders...
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Film Review  February 10, 2017, by Marjorie Baumgarten


2016 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentaries – Program A
Let the voting begin
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Film Review  February 5, 2016, by Josh Kupecki


2016 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentaries – Program B
Be the most knowledgeable voter at your Oscar party
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Film Review  February 5, 2016, by Josh Kupecki


2016 Oscar-Nominated Short Films: Documentaries – Programs A & B
The uproar over the lack of diversity at the Oscars may be grabbing all the headlines as awards season fully blooms, but there is plenty of diversity in the Short...
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Film Review  February 5, 2016, by Josh Kupecki


Oscar-Nominated Short Films 2014: Documentaries, Program A
Three remarkable stories of people's reaction to oppression.
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Film Review  February 7, 2014, by Kimberley Jones


50 Documentaries to See Before You Die
Morgan Spurlock leads the way
DAILY Screens  May 24, 2011, by Belinda Acosta


The Real World: Documentaries
Screens Story  February 25, 2000, by Marjorie Baumgarten, Sarah Hepola and Marcel Meyer


Manufactured Landscapes
With the eye of an artist, photographer Edward Burtynsky views the effects of China's industrial incursions into its natural landscape.
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Film Review  September 7, 2007, by Josh Rosenblatt
"...At some point during Manufactured Landscapes' eight-minute opening tracking shot of a hangar-sized factory in China, you may get the sensation you’re in uncharted waters. After all, few documentaries seek the sublime and meditative in something as dreary and disheartening as a manufacturing plant..."

The Story of the Weeping Camel
A story about a Mongolian camel and her newborn calf becomes a transfixing lesson about the rhythms of life.
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Film Review  July 16, 2004, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...But, as they say in critics’ boot camp, "If the quote fits, share it." The Story of the Weeping Camel is an unusual film that is part ethnographic documentary and part narrative film. It was made in much the same way as Robert Flaherty’s classic documentaries, Nanook of the North and Man of Aran, in which the subjects of the documentaries "play" themselves in a film story culled from their lives..."

The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg
After numerous documentaries tracing the lively literary exploits of Beat icons William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, someone has finally brought us full circle with this engaging look at the man...
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Film Review  February 25, 1994, by Marc Savlov
"...Directed by: Jerry Aronson. After numerous documentaries tracing the lively literary exploits of Beat icons William Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, someone has finally brought us full circle with this engaging look at the man some people have called the emotional epicenter of the Beat triad, poet Allen Ginsberg..."

The House I Live In
Eugene Jarecki examines America's war on drugs and the collateral and self-inflicted damage it has caused within one African-American family.
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Film Review  October 26, 2012, by Marc Savlov
"...The so-called war on drugs has been taking a sound drubbing of late, with nearly everyone who doesn’t have a financial incentive to continue the assorted melees, skirmishes, and outright routings quixotic crusade initiated 40 years ago by President Nixon. We’ve seen 40 years, too, of documentaries both for and against said war, but I can think of none more personal than Jarecki’s..."

Academy Award-Nominated Documentary Shorts 2005
A rare opportunity to see what's considered the best in the field of short docs; plus all four nominees have a socio-political bent.
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Film Review  April 7, 2006, by Steve Davis
"...The documentary is a hopeful one, depicting how these women – once a repressed gender – have emerged as community leaders, heads of households, and the backbone of a nation that continues to heal. Like the first two short documentaries, “The Mushroom Club” (D: Steven Okazaki) could also use tighter editing and a more focused perspective, though there are times in the film that you might feel as if your heart is being wrenched from its cavity..."

Shanghai Ghetto
Shanghai Ghetto is one of those feature documentaries that’s intrinsically interesting because of its subject matter but is nevertheless marred by the technical limitations of its talking-head narrative technique. Far...
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Film Review  May 30, 2003, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...Directed by: Dana Janklowicz-Mann and Amir Mann. Shanghai Ghetto is one of those feature documentaries that’s intrinsically interesting because of its subject matter but is nevertheless marred by the technical limitations of its talking-head narrative technique..."

Queer Culture From the 1970s to 70
Three documentaries highlight a generation of gay icons
Screens Story  March 8, 2013, by Andy Campbell
"...John Waters (boyhood neighbors with Milstead) is an always-entertaining staple of the documentary circuit, but his interviews here are more germane, as he's able to reveal a great deal about someone he was close with. The documentary, like Schwarz's other documentaries, is satisfyingly slick and peppered with minirevelations..."

A Private War
Rosamund Pike captures war journalist Marie Colvin
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Film Review  November 9, 2018, by Matthew Monagle
"...Take the director of fearless documentaries like Cartel Land and City of Ghosts (Heineman) and let him make his feature debut with the real-life story of a legendary war correspondent. The math makes sense, doesn't it? And there are even times when both the subject and aesthetics of A Private War seem to align accordingly; unfortunately, the film is incapable of sustaining this poignancy for any extended period of time...."

John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection
The genius of the original bad boy of tennis, deconstructed
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Film Review  September 7, 2018, by Josh Kupecki
"...This year has seen a number of popular documentaries concerning the lives of notable figures: Fred Rogers, Whitney Houston, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. And while one might suspect that with a title like John McEnroe: In the Realm of Perfection, the film would be another entry into this genre, nothing could be further from the truth..."

Mission Control: The Unsung Heroes of Apollo
Doc on the men behind the astronauts
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Film Review  April 14, 2017, by Josh Kupecki
"...Fairhead is a veteran editor, starting back in 1994, when he worked on the BBC2’s brilliant and prescient news parody The Day Today. He went on to work on many documentaries, much of them science-related, so it’s no shock that his feature debut concerns the nuts and bolts of shooting astronauts into the gaping void of space and onto the nearest celestial body..."

Dont Look Back Turns 50
AFS screens D.A. Pennebaker’s early Bob Dylan doc at the Paramount
DAILY Screens  January 17, 2017, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...Dont Look Back, D.A. Pennebaker’s black-and-white film of Bob Dylan’s 1965 concert tour of England, is a template for all the music documentaries that would come afterward..."

Tower
Austin-made doc re-creates the UT Tower massacre with stunningly powerful immediacy
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Film Review  October 21, 2016, by Marc Savlov
"...Director Keith Maitland’s film is one of the finest documentaries ever made, and it’s also one of the most unusual. Maitland shot the film – based in large part on Pamela Colloff’s riveting Texas Monthly piece “96 Minutes” – using actors and animator Craig Staggs, with his Minnow Mountain team, rotoscoped the footage à la Richard Linklater’s Waking Life..."

Barista
Baristas compete for fame and glory, and the camera catches it all
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Film Review  November 6, 2015, by Kimberley Jones
"...The peppy, goes-down-easy Barista is the latest in a trending mini-industry of documentaries about rarefied food and drink cultures. (See also: Hey Bartender, Somm, Kings of Pastry, and the exceptional Jiro Dreams of Sushi)..."

21 Years: Richard Linklater
A subject as worthy of a documentary as this one is deserves a more thoughtful approach than this star-studded tribute.
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Film Review  November 14, 2014, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...It’s perhaps surprising that there aren’t more Linklater documentaries out there, considering how substantial, influential, and plain fucking brilliant his body of work is. In the meantime, 21 Years will have to do...."

Stories We Tell
Canadian filmmaker and actress Sarah Polley goes looking for her biological father and comes homes with a wise and poetic documentary about the nature of truth.
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Film Review  June 7, 2013, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...Acknowledging all this, Sarah Polley plunges ahead with Stories We Tell – a very personal yet inventive inquiry into the true identity of her biological father, as well as the many aspects of truth. Using interviews (or interrogations, as some subjects call them), old home movies, newly shot footage made to look like scratchy, old Super-8 film, and material that records her father reading from a memoir he wrote, Polley constructs one of the most lyrical documentaries to come along in a while..."

Neil Young Journeys
Jonathan Demme hooks up with Neil Young for a road trip through Ontario, Canada, in their third documentary together.
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Film Review  September 7, 2012, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...With this film, Jonathan Demme now has a trilogy of Neil Young music documentaries to his credit and, as rapturous as it is for the many fans of the musician, it’s starting to sound a bit like a broken record. A very good record, mind you, but Neil Young Journeys is one that will be best appreciated by the connoisseurs..."

Chimpanzee
The Planet Earth filmmakers turn their cameras on an orphaned chimp.
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Film Review  April 27, 2012, by Kimberley Jones
"...As with other Disneynature documentaries, Chimpanzee (coproduced with the Jane Goodall Institute) excels as a super-immersive, visually breath-catching entrée into a world little seen by humans. The stunning aerial photography, the time-lapse footage of nature alive and in flux, the macro lens on the chimpanzees' quotidian claw toward surviving and thriving, and a dramatic bonanza when an orphaned chimp is uncharacteristically adopted by the community's alpha male: great stuff, all of it, made cheap by a jokey narration that reeks of America's Funniest Home Videos and an editorial edict to frame these animals as hairier humans, assigning them heroes and villains and pop-song accompaniments edited to imply the chimpanzees are mugging for the camera..."

Crazy Horse
Paris' famed erotic showcase at the Crazy Horse saloon is profiled in this Frederick Wiseman documentary.
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Film Review  March 2, 2012, by Marc Savlov
"...Wiseman's film captivates, like all backstage documentaries, with its instances of the banal ensconced amid so much fleshly and artistic perfection. At 134 minutes, Crazy Horse could have used some judicious editing, but that relatively minor quibble aside, it provides a revealing and intimate look (as if there could be any other kind) at an institution both familiar and utterly alien...."

Building Hope
Activist Turk Pipkin's documentary looks at the process of building of a secondary school in Mahiga, Kenya.
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Film Review  June 3, 2011, by Kimberley Jones
"...Directed by: Turk Pipkin. Building Hope deviates somewhat from the modus operandi of local filmmaker and activist Turk Pipkin's prior two advocacy documentaries: 2006's Nobelity, in which Pipkin sat down with nine Nobel Prize winners and picked their brains for their feelings on the state of the world, and 2009's One Peace at a Time, wherein Pipkin traveled far and wide uncovering what people were doing to better that sorry state..."

Lemmy
Motörhead founder Lemmy Kilmister is the subject of this thorough and entertaining rock & roll documentary.
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Film Review  January 21, 2011, by Marc Savlov
"...Directed by: Greg Olliver and Wes Orshoski. What's in a name? Lemmy, Olliver and Orshoski's portrait of Motörhead founder Lemmy Kilmister (which made its world premiere at the SXSW ’10 Film Festival), is one of the most thorough and entertaining rock & roll documentaries since Ondi Timoner's Dig! Like its subject, it's by turns philosophical, brash, and thoroughly kickass..."

Freakonomics
The runaway nonfiction book that improbably spent two years on The New York Times bestseller list is now, just as improbably, a movie.
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Film Review  October 1, 2010, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...None of the authors’ arguments is contested in any way, and the zippiness of the film paints everything with a Teflon sheen. Still, there is more material here to chew on than in a dozen other documentaries combined..."

Stealing America: Vote by Vote
This documentary account of Election Day 2004 thinks it has the answer: conspiracy and treason, Republican-style.
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Film Review  September 19, 2008, by Josh Rosenblatt
"...Even a dyed-in-the-wool skeptic with a liberal streak the size of Texas like myself finds it hard to fully believe charges of vote-stealing leveled by a film so clearly dripping with ideological intent. Stealing America is yet another in a long line of political documentaries that would rather sell you something than tell you something...."

SXSW 08 Film Festival
Enjoy the madness while it lasts.It's here.
Film Review  March 14, 2008, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...We're now nearly a week into the Film Festival, which continues through Saturday, March 15. During that time a wide selection of narrative features, documentaries, short films, music videos, and numerous sidebars will screen..."

SXSW 08 Film Festival
Enjoy the madness while it lasts.
Film Review  March 7, 2008, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...We're now nearly a week into the film festival, which continues through Saturday, March 15. During that time a wide selection of narrative features, documentaries, short films, music videos, and numerous sidebars will screen..."

Ten Canoes
Ten Canoes is as much a work of anthropology as it is a narrative, and its true strength lies in its exploration of ancient aboriginal hunting practices, death rituals, and legal traditions.
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Film Review  July 27, 2007, by Josh Rosenblatt
"...Like the 2001 Inuit drama The Fast Runner (Atanarjuat) and last year’s brilliant The Cave of the Yellow Dog, Ten Canoes is as much a work of anthropology as it is a narrative, and its true strength lies in its exploration of ancient aboriginal hunting practices, death rituals, and legal traditions – a simple system of clearly drawn lines and payback ceremonies our own convoluted web of suits and countersuits could never hope to aspire to. Add to that enough tantalizing shots of the Australian Outback to make the producers of the finest National Geographic nature documentaries weep openly, and you have a new and different kind of cinematic mythmaking..."

SXSW Film Festival 2007
Something for everyone. See this week's Screens section, issue insert, and www.sxsw.com/film for full schedule and lots of info.
Film Review  March 16, 2007, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...We're now nearly a week into the film festival, which continues through Saturday, March 17. During that time a wide selection of narrative features, documentaries, short films, music videos, and numerous sidebars will screen..."

SXSW Film Festival 2006
Something for everyone. See www.sxsw.com/film for full schedule.
Film Review  March 17, 2006, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...Of the three films opening for theatrical runs in Austin this weekend, two – Neil Young: Heart of Gold and V for Vendetta – have had sneak peeks at SXSW and are highly recommended by our reviewers. Many music-related features and documentaries also remain to be screened, along with a couple of films in the Kris Kristofferson retrospective, including Cisco Pike and 1984's Songwriter – one of the most illuminating studies ever of the corrosiveness of the music business..."

This Land Is Your Land
This muckraking populist grab bag of a film isn't so much a documentary as it is a harried piece of grassroots agitprop.
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Film Review  February 3, 2006, by Marc Savlov
"...It feels like a low blow to point out that this muckraking populist grab bag of a film isn't so much a documentary as it is a harried piece of agitprop, but low or not that's the case. Not that there's anything wrong with that (agitprop is, first and foremost, meant to agitate), but ever since Michael Moore elevated the form to a whole new level of accessibility with Roger & Me and its successors — and since Hubert Sauper even more recently restored a sparkling patina of genuine art with a capital 'A' to the form via Darwin's Nightmare — grassroots documentaries like This Land Is Your Land pale in comparison..."

Inside Deep Throat
This documentary about the heady days of porn – when "deep throat" became a household expression and everyone viewed the movie Deep Throat as a breath of fresh air – is informative yet lacking historical rigor.
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Film Review  February 18, 2005, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...Furthermore, there's hardly the discussion there was in Boogie Nights of how the advent of VCRs altered the porn industry and returned porn to the home sphere instead of the public arena. Bailey and Barbato have an innate sense for the hot topic, but here, as in their other documentaries, their fascination tends toward the superficial..."

Step Into Liquid
Surf's up! It's The Endless Summer: The Next Generation.
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Film Review  September 5, 2003, by Marc Savlov
"...Bruce Brown’s 1966 documentary on surfing and the surfing lifestyle, The Endless Summer, was the first film to truly connect the dots between surf culture and the American mindset of its time. Shot and compiled over several years – and, upon release, often slotted into Deep South summertime drive-ins where the closest surf was actually hundreds, if not thousands, of miles away – The Endless Summer still stands as one of the greatest sporting documentaries of all time..."

Cinemania
Cinema-obsessed filmgoers are the subject of this documentary.
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Film Review  August 22, 2003, by Marrit Ingman
"...Directors Christlieb and Kijak don’t have to do much more than point the camera at their subjects, whose every word and gesture is self-revelatory. Like so many documentaries about the lovable oddballs among us, the film walks a fine line between observation and exploitation..."

Daughter From Danang
Daughter from Danang is a rarity among personal documentaries: It is candid but not self-conscious, emotionally unsparing but polished and unobtrusive in its production. The camera follows Heidi Bub, a...
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Film Review  January 10, 2003, by Marrit Ingman
"...Directed by: Vicente Franco and Gail Dolgin. Daughter from Danang is a rarity among personal documentaries: It is candid but not self-conscious, emotionally unsparing but polished and unobtrusive in its production..."

SXSW Film Festival Reco 2002
The SXSW Film Festival 2002 has arrived. The Festival begins today, March 8, and continues through next Saturday, March 16. Premiering around town over the next nine days will be...
Film Review  March 8, 2002, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...The Festival begins today, March 8, and continues through next Saturday, March 16. Premiering around town over the next nine days will be a wide selection of narrative features, documentaries, short films, music videos, and retrospectives..."

SXSW Film Festival 2002
The SXSW Film Festival 2002 has arrived. The Festival begins today, March 8, and continues through next Saturday, March 16. Premiering around town over the next nine days will be...
Film Review  March 8, 2002, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...The Festival begins today, March 8, and continues through next Saturday, March 16. Premiering around town over the next nine days will be a wide selection of narrative features, documentaries, short films, music videos, and retrospectives..."

Grass
Batten down the concessions stand because if this movie doesn't give the audience a raging case of the munchies, then something's terribly wrong. Yes, we're talking about that kind of...
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Film Review  August 11, 2000, by Marjorie Baumgarten
"...The film's primary hook is its lucid argument that our cultural attitudes toward marijuana have been so carefully molded and programmed. Mann specializes in documentaries of cultural phenomena (Comic Book Confidential, Twist), thus this study of the battle waged against marijuana focuses on the effects of the war, rather than the effects of the drug..."

Wing Commander
Wing Commander opens with a lovingly rendered CGI shot of the Japanese bombing the American fleet at Pearl Harbor back to the Stone Age, seen from above, with hundreds of...
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Film Review  March 12, 1999, by Marc Savlov
"...It's rife with combat clichés -- hot shot pilots, flight deck romances, that grunt you just know is going to die before the film is half over -- but curiously, these work to Wing Commander's advantage. While much of the film is taken over by enormously entertaining dogfight sequences (courtesy of Roberts' Austin-based Digital Anvil), much of it also rests on the narrative drive, which seems clipped part and parcel from one of those old Why We Fight documentaries that Frank Capra doled out to keep our G.I.s in fighting mode..."

The Last Days
Co-produced by Steven Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, this documentary speaks with five survivors of the Holocaust, all of them originally from Hungary, and all of them...
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Film Review  March 5, 1999, by Marc Savlov
"...Co-produced by Steven Spielberg's Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, this documentary speaks with five survivors of the Holocaust, all of them originally from Hungary, and all of them present at the end as Hitler's war machine shuddered to a listless halt. Unlike the burgeoning cottage industry that documentaries about the Nazis and their crimes sometimes seem to have become, The Last Days doesn't end with a shot of the camp's dead occupants lying about like so much jackstraw cordwood, grim and sorrowful..."

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