After a successful appearance at the Silverdocs festival this past summer, the film is now out in theaters, and Rodriguez, the subject of the film, has been touring. He has already played at the Historic Sixth & I Synagogue, but you can still hear his music in the film.
In a recent New Yorker blog post about the film, Sasha Frere-Jones described Rodriguez’s music thusly:
Call it philosophical Motown folk-soul, or something hideous like that. The songs began on a nylon-string acoustic guitar that Rodriguez outfitted with a pickup and played through a bass amp. There are subtle rhythm-section additions, synth bleeps, vibraslap trails, and bits of string playing, none of which intrude…. Rodriguez is an appealing, unpretentious singer who seems to want nothing more than to deliver the song and get out of his own way.
Holy cow there are a lot of documentary films coming to theaters in the DC area. My fingers are tired from all the typing! So I’ll only go through a couple items here, but see the full list of films playing in the area at my site or on the Docs in Progress site or at the WIFV site.Detropia opens in theaters tonight, playing in DC over at the West End Cinema. Filmmaker Rachel Grady will be present at the 5pm and 7pm screenings on Friday and Saturday (9/14 & 9/15). That’s FOUR chances for you to see the film AND to have a chat with one of the filmmakers. Do yourself a favor and don’t miss the opportunity. If you are interested in energy, whether focused on green energy or energy independence, you might want to check out Switch, playing at the Landmark E Street. If you are interested in “the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives,” check out Samsara, also playing at the Landmark E Street. made by Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson (Baraka) this will surely feature marvelous cinematography and stunning views. If you are interested in Burma, They Call It Myanmar is for you. A rare look at this very isolated country, including an interview Aung San Suu Kyi. Playing at the AFI Silver Theater for one week. Tonight, at the Wilson Center, 6th Floor of 1300 Pennsylvania Ave, is Reportero. This PBS film (part of the upcoming POV season) follows reporters for a weekly newsmagazine in Tijuana as they try to report on the drug cartels and avoid getting murdered by them as well. The National Archives will screen the Robert Drew film, Crisis: Behind a Presidential Commitment, about the efforts of JFK and Robert Kennedy to force Alabama Governor George Wallace to allow racial integration of the University of Alabama in 1963. This is a landmark cinema verite film and should be seen by anyone interested in documentary film. The Latin American Film Festival opens soon at the AFI Silver, and the Human Rights Film Series at AU gets underway. Also, the National Geographic All Roads Film Festival is about to start, too. You’ve missed the early bird pricing, but you can still get tickets for the WIFTI International Summit and the ScriptDC. Both events will be held concurrently Nov. 30 – Dec 2 and feature lots of great sessions, speakers, and schmoozing. Big news: this fall, filmmaker and teacher
Opening today, 9/14, at the West End Cinema is Detropia, the new film from Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. Together, as Loki Films, they have made The Boys From Baraka, Jesus Camp, 12th & Delaware, and one of the sections of Freakonomics. The duo’s films have been regular features at Silverdocs over the years and the two filmmakers themselves taught a masterclass on directing in 2011 that was the best session in the conference.
Rachel Grady will be at the 5pm and 7pm screenings on Friday and Saturday (9/14 & 9/15). She will undoubtedly have interesting and worthwhile things to say.
In many respects, this is a modern version of the classic “city symphony” film. These films sought to portray the character of a city through visuals and music. Detropia adds to this mix the voices of Detroit’s citizens, several of whom Rachel and Heidi feature in the film. It looks to be an awesome combination.
Oh, and it won the Editing prize at Sundance this year. So buckle your seatbelts for a powerful film.
Last night’s WIFV Documentary Roundtable was a great look at the DVD release of Arc Of Light: A Portrait of Anna Campbell Bliss, directed by Cid Collins Walker (with a dedicated team of other local filmmakers). Stay tuned for upcoming Roundtable activities.
While you’re waiting for your Arc Of Light DVD to arrive, why not head out to theaters to see another documentary? See the full list of films playing in the area at my site or on the Docs in Progress site.
Searching For Sugarman, a Silverdocs selection this year, is playing at the West End Cinema. This story of a lost-and-then-found musician from Detroit is supposed to be fantastic – I haven’t seen it yet, but am looking forward to the opportunity. Don’t miss your chance.
The Queen of Versailles and The Imposter are both at the Landmark E Street. If you want to be overwhelmed with the excesses of the housing boom (and its aftermath), go see Queen. If you want a film noir style thriller about a family and their lost-and-then-found son, so see The Imposter.
The classic rock concert film, Stop Making Sense, showcasing Talking Heads at the top of their game, is playing for three nights at the AFI Silver. Big theater, big screen, big suit.
Werner Herzog’s amazing 3D tour-de-force, Cave of Forgotten Dreams, is playing at the Goethe-Institut on 8/27. Don’t miss your chance to see this amazing use of 3D technology.
Playing at BloomBars on 8/28 is Made in L.A., the story of three Latina immigrants who work to win labor protections at the sweatshop where they toil.
Coming up in September: Half The Sky, at the DC JCC, based on Nicholas Kristof’s book which takes its title from the phrase “women hold up half the sky”. Also of interest at the JCC is 2 Or 3 Things I Know About Him, following the family of a Nazi perpetrator as they dig into their painful legacy. At the National Gallery of Art is El Velador, which shows the tragedy of the Mexican drug wars from the perspective of the night watchman at a cemetary. And at the Hillyer Art Space is Grrrl Love and Revolution: Riot Grrrl NYC, by local filmmaker (and former Doc Roundtable speaker) Abby Moser.
Don’t miss the WIFV Open House on September 5, at the Center for Digital Imaging Arts–Boston University in Georgetown.
The fabulous Docs In Progress is holding a workshop on crowdfunding on September 15. The featured speaker is Kiley Kraskousas, another former Doc Roundtable presenter.
After many months, the Doc Roundup is back. There have been a number of documentaries out over the last several weeks, and I hope you got the chance to see them. There are more coming every week! See the full list of films at the WIFV siteor on the Docs in Progress site.
A couple of films that played at Silverdocs this year are now out in theaters. The incredibly interesting Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry provides a close view of the famous artist and provocateur (at the Landmark E Street). The Queen of Versailles is holding court at the Landmark Bethesda Row, and their “riches-to-rags” tale is not to be missed. You can’t look away!
Also at the Landmark Bethesda Row is Searching For Sugarman, the story of little-known singer-songwriter Sixto Rodriguez. Discovered in Detroit, and presumed to be the Chicano Bob Dylan, Rodriguez released two albums in the early 1970s but they barely got noticed. He vanished, while many legends of his death were spread. His albums did catch on, to great success, in South Africa. And eventually two South Africans who grew up with bootleg copies of Rodriguez’s records went in search of the musician known as Sugarman.
Bonus Roundup factoid! And Spolier alert! Highlight this paragraph to reveal spoiler: Sugarman himself will be playing at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue on Thursday 30 August, at 8pm. get more info about concert here.
OK, back to the Documentary Roundup. The West End Cinema is showing 5 Broken Cameras, an immediate view of non-violent protest in a West Bank village, mostly filmed by a local Palestinian.
Docs In Progress is showing a free screening of Keeping The Kibbutz at the Takoma Park Community Center on August 9. Join them for a look at the history and development of the kibbutz, that unique community of post-war Israel.
The Goethe-Institut is going to be showing two 3D documentaries, both by outstanding directors. Pina!, by Wim Wenders, is on 8/22, and Cave of Forgotten Dreams, by Werner Herzog, is on 8/27. Pina! showcases the dances of recently-departed Pina Bausch, and Herzog’s Cave is a monumental exploration of ancient cave paintings in France. Both make exquisite use of the 3D space.
Go ahead and mark your calendar now for Stop Making Sense, the ground-breaking concert film of the Talking Heads, by Jonathan Demme. It’s the concert where David Byrne wears the giant suit. You know the one, and it is one of the best concert films ever. Playing three times: 8/25, 8/29, and 8/30, at the AFI Silver.
Coming up – don’t miss the WIFV Doc Roundtable on August 23rd at Interface Media Group, 1233 20th St NW, Washington, DC 20036. Our guest will be filmmaker Cid Collins Walker of Black Opal Productions, talking about the upcoming DVD release of her film, Arc of Light: A Portrait of Anna Campbell Bliss.
Silverdocs 2012 is upon us, and I have just gotten my picks into a list. There are a lot of great films this year – too many to list all, in fact, but here are some highlights I recommend, and some that I am looking forward to seeing.
Chasing Ice is a breathtaking display of the changes happening in nature before our very eyes. If we had the patience to sit in one place for a year or two, that is. See massive glaciers recede into the distance as captured by timelapse cameras. The crew was even lucky enough to capture on video a massive iceberg the size of lower Manhattan come crashing off the front edge of a glacier. Talk about dramatic impacts!
And talk about massive changes and upheavals – the revolution in Egypt is still working to some sort of conclusion, but with ½ Revolution you can see how it all started, back in January 2011. This film was made by a couple of friends, all from around the world, who were visiting in Cairo as the Arab Spring unfolded. Powerful stuff.
Private Universe is an intimate observation of a Czech family over many years. The director, Helena Trestikova, began filming the family at the birth of their first child, in the 1970s, and continued until last year. She leavens the intensity of such focus by including some absurd threads of Czechoslovak history through the film.
Both shockingly funny and unbelievably jaw-dropping, Mads Brugger’s The Ambassador is an exposé of diplomatic corruption. If you care at all about international diplomacy, you need to see this film. The director buys a diplomatic position in Africa, and sees how far he can push the system to expose the depths of corruption. I’m not sure how he survived!
Drivers Wanted is a light-hearted look at a New York City taxi company, mixing old regulars (one of whom is 90 years old) and new drivers just learning the city’s routes. Time Zero: The Last Year of Polaroid Film is both a paean to the iconic self-developing film and a moving story about a group of people who took on the impossible.
For those who love the artistry of high-caliber chefs, but don’t want to miss out on good old-fashioned father-son tension, you must see Step Up To The Plate. Famed chef Michel Bras is retiring, and leaving his son to take over their signature restaurant. But yet he seems to continually be hovering in the background. The director has created a lush film that visually integrates the chefs with landscape, much as they integrate the fruits of that land into their dishes.
Tokyo Waka is a “city poem” (waka is a kind of Japanese poetry) that looks at the denizens of Japan’s capital, both human and avian. The city is home to numerous crows, and the black birds find their way into every encounter the filmmakers show. My favorite moment – when a homeless girl sings a song about crows flying home, the melody of which is played by bells around town to tell children it is dinnertime.
Lastly, I recommend Strong!, a profile of Cheryl Haworth, an Olympic women’s weightlifting medalist. She won the bronze at the 2000 Olympics, but an injury shortly before the 2004 games limited her ability. This film shows her efforts to qualify for the 2008 Olympics. But its real power is in the charm and sass of its subject. Cheryl is more than an athlete. She is an incredible artist with an incredibly engaging personality. The rapport she had with the director, and her ease in her own self, is evident in nearly every shot.
There are plenty of good shorts this year, too. I recommend Solo Piano, NYC, a surprisingly moving story of a piano left on a city sidewalk, told only with still pictures. Also, A Brief History Of John Baldessari uses Tom Waits as narrator to stand the celebrity profile on its head. Paradise gives a new perspective on the job of washing the windows on skyscrapers, which is as dangerous as it looks. Cutting Loose puts several genres into a bucket and pulls out a prison-hairstyling-competition doc set in Scotland. You’ll be glad there are subtitles! Best piece of advice: don’t mess up the hair of an old gang member.
Lots of shorts about animals – I’m looking forward to seeing Catcam, which attaches a camera to a cat’s collar and lets us into that secret world. Reindeer is a very short but stunningly beautiful view into the cold world of reindeer herding. Contact Call profiles a somber and reserved German ornithologist who begins to find his place in the world. Lastly, I must mention I Kill, a profile of a New Zealander whose job description is the title of the film. He is a “mobile slaughterhouse,” travelling from farm to farm to shoot, clean, and skin cows in the most quick and humane way possible. The beautiful landscape is a soothing counterpart to the action, and the man himself is a thoughtful and engaging character.
I’m looking forward to Trash Dance, playing with the new Julia Reichert and Steven Bognar short, Sparkle. Sheri “Sparkle” Williams has been a star dancer of the Dayton Contemporary Dance Company for 40 years, and is now trying to recover form her first serious injury.
Other films I’m looking forward to: The Punk Syndrome and Bad Brains: A Band In DC, along with Radio Unnameable, about the legendary radio personality Bob Fass of WBAI in NYC. Ross McElwee’s new film Photographic Memory is playing at the festival, and Virgin Tales sounds interesting.
Events during the week:
Don’t miss the WIFV happy hour on Tuesday, at McGinty’s (5:30-7pm), and especially don’t miss the WIFV Silverdocs Breakfast at Eggspectations (8-9:30am). Moderated by NPR’s Neda Ulaby, WIFV will be joined by the directors of Tokyo Waka, and Heather Courtney, director of last year’s Where Soldiers Come From. They will discuss immersing yourself in your story.
Friday night is the annual Summer Open House at Docs In Progress, 6-10pm. Stop by the Doc House no your way to or from a film! Socialize with local filmmakers, and other festival attendees. And don’t miss the chance to donate to this great group! (It is a free event, but they are a reputable and worthy charitable organization.)
Don’t miss the last few days of the Environmental Film Festival in the Nation’s Capital. On Saturday, 3/24, the Avalon Theatre is showing The CIty Dark by Ian Cheney (King Corn), about the loss of darkness at night. Sure, it _seems_ dark, but where are the stars?
Opening this weekend at the Landmark E Street are two new films. Jiro Dreams of Sushi, about a famed Japanese chef, who is 85 years old and hoping to pass on the restaurant to his son who struggles to live up to his father’s reputation. Also opening this week is The Ballad of Genesis and Lady Jaye, an unusual love story of a couple who want to be more like each other. So they make it happen.
This year’s Oscar winner, Undefeated, moves to the West End Cinema, and fellow nominee, Pina, by Wim Wenders, is still at the AFI Silver (only in 2D, alas).
Artisphere has a couple of docs as part of the Northern Virginia Jewish Film Festival: Trembling Before G-d and Connected. The former is about the little known world of homosexual orthodox Jews and the later is about our over connected modern life. Both are worth checking out.
On Sunday, 3/25, the National Archives will feature excerpts from Ken Burns newest documentary, The Dust Bowl. Introduced by Mr. Burns himself.
Coming up next weekend, at the AFI Silver, is your chance to see the Best Worst Movie, a documentary about the terribly bad movie, Troll 2. It’s really bad, too. But the Best Worst Movie is good, so go see that.
There are plenty of other movies on the Roundup, so go read through and see what ya like!
Festivals, panels, films, and summits. After the Oscars, the documentary world in DC is still going strong. See the full list of films on the Docs in Progress site or at the WIFV site. Sign up on the upper left of this screen to get my weekly highlights in your email inbox.
The DC Independent Film Festival starts happens this weekend, with films and seminars you won’t want to miss. Of note – special guest of honor at this year’s festival is the famous documentary filmmaker Les Blank! Including a masterclass on Saturday, 3/3. List of films at DCIFF. Check out the list of seminars and workshops at DCIFF, including a panel of documentary filmmakers at 3pm.
Oscar winning feature Undefeated opens at the Landmark Bethesda Row today. Charlotte Rampling: The Look opens at the Landmark E Street today as well. Next weekend, the incredible story of a famous housing project in St. Louis, The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, opens at the West End Cinema. Fabulous use of archival footage.
As part of the DCIFF, check out some documentaries in progress from Kosovo. Docs In Progress collaborated with Dokufest, a film festival in Kosovo, and some of those films will be shown. The filmmakers will participate in a feedback session via Skype after the screening.
A number of films next week about singers and musicians. Next Wednesday, the Avalon Theater will screen My Sweet Canary, about Roza Eskenazi, the beloved singer of “rebetiko” also known as Greek blues. Next weekend, as part of the New African Films Festival, the AFI Silver will screen Mama Africa, a portrait of the great singer Miriam Makeba. And Thursday, the Hirshhorn Museum will screen Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone.
Also at the New African Films Festival: Born On The 25th of January, an eye-opening documentary of the Tahrir Square revolution in Egypt. Screening at the AFI Silver on Saturday, 3/10, at 5:15pm.
On Wednesday, 3/7, get a sneak preview of films coming to the DC Environmental Film Festival, made by women filmmakers. Includes a panel discussion with a number of filmmakers.
Next weekend is the Documentary Summit.
“The two days are filled with panels that will take you through EVERY step of the process including storytelling, fundraising, cutting edge filmmaking techniques, distribution, and social media strategies. Our visiting documentary experts include successful & critically acclaimed filmmakers and producers, commissioning editors, foundation directors, social media gurus, DSLR and HD experts, as well as distributors.”
You can get a discount on tickets if you use the code: roundup.
That same Saturday, 3/10, is the WIFV Career Boot Camp. The theme is building a successful career in a slow economy.
The Documentary Summit is coming to DC on March 10th and 11th, and the early bird pricing deadline is this Friday (2/10). Don’t miss your chance to get your tickets for 30% off!
The Summit is a two-day conference, covering everything from structuring your story; shooting the film; and the all-important, but often overlooked, legal and finance. There will be several prominent local speakers at the event including GW Documentary Center founder (and producer) Nina Gilden Seavey, distributor Casey Callister (Garden Thieves Pictures), producer (and West End Cinema co-founder) Josh Levin, and representatives from PBS and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Andrew Zinnes is leading the Summit. He is a producer of documentary, fiction, and reality TV, and also the author of The Documentary Filmmaker’s Handbook. Andrew has written a guest blog post about the Summit for us.
A long list of documentary events this week. These are just selected items – see the full list on the Docs in Progress site or at the WIFV site. Sign up on the upper left of this screen to get my weekly highlights in your email inbox.Tonight, the WIFV Documentary Roundtable returns! Join us to hear from the filmmakers of Essakane Film. They will talk about how they produced a documentary about a festival in the Sahara desert and got their footage back home, safe and sound. I’m dying to know how they kept all that sand out of their hard drives… This weekend, there will be a special screening of a new film about the Joffrey Ballet. The film, Joffrey: Mavericks of American Dance, will be shown at the AFI Silver Theater and at the West End Cinema on Saturday, 1/28, at 1:30pm. There will be live Q&A from Lincoln Center. The film screens again at the West End Cinema on Sunday at 11am. Saturday night, if you want to head to the new-ish Library of Congress facility in Culpeper, VA, you can see documentary footage of MLK, Jr. in King, A Filmed Record: Montgomery to Memphis. Bloom Bars continues there Tuesday evening documentary series with Salvador Dawning, about Afro-Brazilian culture. The following week, 2/7, they will show Homeland: Four Portraits of Native Action . The best of the Banff Mountain Film Festival returns to National Geographic from 1/31-2/4. Also around town, starting Feb. 1 and running through Feb 9, the ReelAbilities Disabilities Film Festival takes place with screenings of documentaries at various venues around town. Check out their website for the full list of films. The documentary selections are on the Doc Roundup. The Most Dangerous Man In America will screen at The Hill Center on Feb. 2. And a new documentary about the big tobacco companies and the science of addiction, Addiction Incorporated will open at the Landmark E Street on Feb. 3. There are two big events coming up that you won’t want to miss. Next Wednesdat, 2/1, WIFV will have an evening program on The Art of Storytelling with Speakeasy DC. What makes a film truly great is how the filmmaker tells the story, and we can all improve our skills in that area. Learn about structure, arc, and character development from some experts, including Amy Saidman, the Executive Director of Speakeasy DC, Amy Wilson, a WIFV member and storyteller, and Mike Kane, an Executive Producer at Discovery and also a storyteller. On Friday and Saturday, 2/3-4, WIFV will hold a special workshop on Producing the Indie Film with Maureen Ryan, a feature and documentary producer. Ms. Ryan was co-producer of James Marsh’s recent docs, Man On Wire and Project Nim, as well as many other films. Along with producing films, Ms. Ryan is a faculty member at Columbia University’s Graduate Film Program and the author of Producer to Producer: A Step-by-Step Guide to Low Budget Independent Film Producing. Don’t miss this chance to spend a day and a night learning from a master.