documentary

In Search of Chopin

August 23, 2014
Phil Grabsky’s 'In Search of Chopin' (2014)

One wonders how Frédéric Chopin (1810-49) would have fared in terms of compartmentalisation if Phil Grabsky had been able to sit him down on the psychoanalyst’s couch. Born and raised a Pole, Chopin found his fame in Paris. He fell in love with Polish girls, but the great romance of his life came with the … More


20,000 Days on Earth

August 23, 2014
Nick Cave in '20,000 Days on Earth' (2014)

Perhaps the strangest fact one discovers about rock star, Nick Cave, in the documentary, 20,000 Days on Earth, is that he spends most of his time doing a good impersonation of a middle class accountant. It never seemed likely when I stood in the audience of those Birthday Party gigs in Sydney, where Cave would … More


Once My Mother

July 26, 2014
Once My Mother (2014)

Sophia Turkiewicz’s Once My Mother is the story of great resilience in the face of overwhelming odds – and I’m only talking about securing funding. Having been knocked back twice by the ABC and twice by SBS, Turkiewicz and her experienced producers, Rod Freedman and Bob Connolly, began passing the hat around Polish community groups … More


The Darkside

December 7, 2013
Warwick Thorton's 'The Darkside' 2013

Warwick Thornton’s The Darkside is one of those rare films that defies categorisation. It is being called a “documentary” for want of a better word, but it’s also a drama and a horror movie at one remove. A succession of wellknown actors tell us stories about ghosts and supernatural occurrences. These stories are word-for-word renditions … More


Twenty Feet from Stardom

November 23, 2013
Lisa Fischer in the film "Twenty Feet From Stardom," directed by Morgan Neville.       NYTCREDIT: Graham Willoughby/Sundance Film Festival

One of the features of world cinema over the past decade has been the resurgence of the feature-length documentary. Two outstanding new examples are getting theatrical releases this week: 20 Feet From Stardom, which looks at the careers of some of the leading back-up singers in popular music; and Blackfish, which examines the lives of … More


Blackfish

November 23, 2013
BLACKFISH
The true story of Tilikum, a performing killer whale that killed several people while in captivity.

Blackfish is the kind of documentary that picks up on an issue that will rarely have entered the consciousness of most people, and makes it a matter of urgency. The starting point is the death of Dawn Brancheau, an experienced trainer of Orcas (or “killer whales”) at SeaWorld, Florida. The agent of destruction was Tilikum, … More


The Act of Killing & Rush

October 5, 2013
Screen Shot 2013-10-08 at 2.08.15 PM

There are limits to a social conscience. When a film has attracted every possible superlative it takes on the status of a must-see event, but after about ten minutes you know The Act of Killing will be both sickening and unforgettable. As one deadpan horror follows another in an interminable procession, many viewers will decide … More


I’m So Excited & Salinger

September 21, 2013
Screen Shot 2013-09-21 at 11.08.10 AM

It’s slightly disturbing to be sitting on a airplane writing about I’m So Excited, set almost entirely on an airplane. It could’ve been worse. There are real life docu-dramas such as United 93, where one spends the whole movie waiting for the plane to thump into a field in Pennsylvania. I’m So Excited is a … More


We Steal Secrets, A Gun in Each Hand, Pacific Rim

July 13, 2013
Screen Shot 2013-07-13 at 9.15.30 AM

If ever you had a sneaking feeling that Julian Assange was not the ultimate hero and martyr of our time, Alex Gibney’s We Steal Secrets will turn suspicion into certainty. The portrait of the WikiLeaks founder that emerges from this documentary reveals a man whose quest for truth has become an exercise in personal propaganda. … More


Hyde Park on Hudson & Silence in the House of God

March 30, 2013
Screen Shot 2013-04-03 at 6.06.08 PM

Hard on the heels of Lincoln comes another movie about a great American President. But if Steven Spielberg seemed to be sending a message to Barack Obama about being steadfast and determined, it’s hard to know what Richard Michell is telling us about Franklin Delano Roosevelt in Hyde Park on Hudson. Allowing for its Spielbergisms, … More


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