Archive for the ‘Documentary’ Category


Posted: March 22, 2017 in 2016, Documentary, Italy

This is the kind of documentary that critics and festival-goers around the world love because of its subject, not because of its merits as a documentary. A good documentary gives you a better insight in something that you don’t really learn about otherwise. A good cinematic documentary shows you great images that make you feel involved. Unfortunately all of these elements are absent in this award-winning document of life on Lampedusa, the Italian island on which most refugees arrive from the African continent.

It’s sad, because the thousands of refugees arriving in Europa via a dangerous sea trait is a present-day topic that doesn’t seem to go away any time soon.

The idea of just showing images and limiting the amount of interviews is great! However, almost 80 % of the images are futile. We get it: there’s a contrast between the bored life of young fishermen’s kids and the enormous humanitarian crisis happening near their home. But what does it help to constantly see them being bored. The kids play with slingshots. So what. One kid needs to wear a patch in front of his good eye to have his lazy eye work a bit. Big deal. A mother requests a song for her son who’s at sea fishing. Yawn. The radio host plays it and reads the news about a collapsed refugee boat nearby. A doctor gives info to a refugee about her unborn twins. Then explains about the horror he’s seen in the boats that arrived on the island. Some refugees sing a song about their struggle. Some refugees pose for their first picture in Europe. Some refugees lie dead in the bottom part of a shabby boat.

But again. The images aren’t really telling anything more than what we know from reading the news. The images are boring as hell. And a documentary on a serious subject like this shouldn’t be boring. Ever.

My Scientology Movie – *(*)

Posted: February 20, 2017 in 2015, Documentary, UK, USA, X1/2

Famous (and notorious) documentary maker Louis Theroux  is unable to interview anyone of importance inside the Scientology cult. So he needs to interview SP’s  (‘Suppressive Persons’) to get an inside of how the ‘church’ is run. It’s a term to define the enemies of the church, especially those who had worked for the church for years, know a lot of details about its organization and stepped out.

One of them is Marty Rathbun, who used to hold a very important position within the organization and is now more than welcome to help Theroux depict an ugly image of the sect he used to belong to.

Louis Theroux came up with the idea of making a movie about certain things that happen in the organization. The movie was never really going to be finished, but auditions were done for the key roles (church leader David Miscavige and Tom Cruise a.o.) and rehearsals were held as well. Marty was asked to be present to give advice. And in doing so, giving more details he otherwise wouldn’t express in a plain interview.

It’s a clever and unique way of trying to find out hidden thoughts and opinions. But in the end it looks too much like framing the guy. And that’s where this documentary kind of goes wrong. Theroux is cocky. He’s unreliable. He will use any trick to gain the trust of the person he’s going to interview. He has the cool and the charm to do so. His laid-back, funny attitude makes people open up easy in his presence. His pretended naiveté has done miracles in the past. But this time it’s too premeditated.

It’s an entertaining documentary though. The problem is: who is it for? People who don’t care about scientology aren’t going to watch. People who are scientologist will probably watch it as proof that it’s an evil world full of SP’s out there. And then there are the people who are interested in religious organizations in general and want to learn more about scientology. Well, the later group will be disappointed. You don’t really get to learn anything, let alone more about it.

It’s not an educational documentary. It’s not even all that controversial. It’s a one-sided story about a certain (violent and aggressive) aspect of the church. When you think of Theroux making a document about scientology, you want him to actually spend some time with them and just ask the quirky, played childish questions he always does.

And that’s not the case.

The Loving Story – *(*)

Posted: February 20, 2017 in 2011, Civil Rights, Documentary, USA, X1/2

After watching Loving, you may want to watch the documentary that was the main source of the movie: The Loving Story.

Mr and Mrs Loving were the interracial couple who were sentenced to exile in the state that they lived (Virginia) just because they married ‘a different race’. Their case ended up being brought to the Supreme Court, which allowed interracial couples to be married all over the United States.

The most interesting thing about watching this documentary is the realisation that the casting director of Loving did a tremendous job looking for actor that ressemble the real life characters. The actors must also have watched this documentary over and over again. The HBO special itself isn’t giving that much extra information about the case. It’s pretty much all covered in the movie. You get to see still pictures of the couples, home videos of the family, interviews with the lawyers (at the time of the trial and later on in life). They also add vintage footage of tv interviews from back in the days when people just openly talk about wanting to keep segregation…

That said. It’s 2017 and you have the alt-right KKK-clones claim the same things on tv.

It’s sad that you don’t really get to know much more about the family members. They interview the daughter, but she’s basically telling general stuff about her parents.

So, watch the movie and leave it at that.

Good Hair – **(*)

Posted: February 1, 2017 in 2009, Comedy, Documentary, USA, XX1/2

The hair industry for black women (and some men) in the United States is a multi million business. Black women spend thousands of dollars on their hair. All because they assume their natural hair is bad hair.

It’s a weird concept for a documentary. Especially when you’ve never before gave it any thought. Unless of course, you are black and live in the US.

The movie really talks only about this obsession of black people to have good hair and the money they spent on getting good hair. It doesn’t really talk about its social of psychological impact. It just talks about the craziness of the business.

The documentary is hilariously intriguing. It’s a non topic, really. But it’s brought in such a way that you can easily digest all that relatively useless information. It helps that Chris Rock is chosen to be the investigator. He’s excellent. If he’d host a documentary series, you would watch all the episodes. He’s like Louis Theroux. He just lets people talk and only responds by looking puzzled. His remarks are inoffensively sarcastic.

Now get this:

  • some black women spend 20.000 dollars a year on their hair. even those who cannot afford it.
  • there’s a dangerous chemical ingredient called sodium hydroxide that a large majority of black people put in their hair to ‘straighten’ it as if it’s the most normal thing to do, even when it burns their skull
  • some Indians ritually offer their long hair to a temple out of faith and for free. but that hair later is sold an resold for thousands of dollars so women in the US can wear weaves… !
  • some Indian hair collectors just cut it from women in movie theaters while they are being concentrated on the love scene on screen !!! its only a ‘little crime’ as explained in the documentary
  • men who date black women can tell a lot about their hair on the first date. If it’s not natural than it means she won’t go swimming with you, she’ll need a LOT of money to maintain it, she won’t let you touch it during sex, …. one of the funnier scenes is when Chris Rock asks the guys in the barber shop whether sex with white women is better just because they are less concerned about their hair…

Again, the focus of the documentary is on the business. And it’s entertaining. Throughout the movie Chris Rock follows contestants of a silly hair show in Atlanta. It’s okay, but it’s not taken seriously (which it shouldn’t). It would be a much more serious documentary if they would focus more on already mentioned social and psychological issues like black women honestly believing that an afro hairdo will lower their chances on the job market. (very confronting scene which isn’t really examined up closer). Or why some women spend more money on their hair than on healthy food or education for their children…

But a serious documentary wouldn’t be as much fun.

Luckily it’s 2017 and natural hair is back!!!!

I am Bolt – **

Posted: January 17, 2017 in 2016, Documentary, Sportsdrama, UK, XX

Usain Bolt is an interesting character. He’s genuinely cool and laid back and as the ‘fastest  human on the planet’ he can afford to be cocky and confident and even arrogant to the point that nobody really minds if he boasts of being ‘a legend’ and ‘the greatest’.

I Am Bolt is a very linear documentary that focuses on the unique win of 9 gold medals in three disciples over three olympics. It’s a well made documentary as it has one main thread (the difficult preparation towards RIO2016) and then uses flashbacks on regular intervals to Beijing2008 and London2012. It fascinates, just because Bolt is fascinating.

However, it’s directed by a team that clearly loves Bolt. It’s a fan made movie. Bolt himself may be the main producer. He self directs  himself. Maybe he was in the editing room. Who knows. Some elements are really good though. In stead of having Bolt state in a self recorded message that he is annoyed by the press conferences, the director just makes a compilation of several questions that reporters ask (leaving out the answer). That’s a very efficient way to make the audience understand the frustration of a celebrity sportman.

For a biopic it’s absolutely necessary that there’s more drama, more friction, more dark shade, more controversy. For a documentary like this it’s not. When you decide to watch I am Bolt, it’s because you like Bolt. And there’s plenty out there who do.

Miles Ahead – *

Posted: December 23, 2016 in 2015, Experiment, USA, X
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This is a tough one.

This is just so damn weird that you just can’t say it’s good or bad.

There’s a reason why the release of this movie was postponed so often. It’s just difficult to sell. It’s definitely not a biopic. It’s a kind of action movie in which Miles Davis teams up with a music journalist and runs around chasing a stolen tape, while taking lots of coke and waving a gun around like some wannabe gangster. This happens 5 years after he quit the music business and became a messed-up addict, being pushed by fans and producers to release new music. There are flashbacks to a time when he met his wife, married her and struggled with paranoia already. There’s a performance at the end. And that’s it.

Both McGregor and Cheadle are disappointing. Keith Stanfield looks like he can do great things later on.

Luckily, it’s a very short movie.

Strike A Pose is a Dutch/Flemish (!!!) documentary about whatever happened to the iconic group of dancers in Madonna’s Blond Ambition tour. There used be seven of them, but one (Gabriel) passed away. His spirit however is very present and an interview with his mother is included as well. It’s a good documentary, with a great build up, with few staged moments and accessible for those who have some background about the story and those who have never seen the underrated Truth Or Dare documentary. Luckily for the makers, they could use all the footage they wanted! Which is a great plus. There’s nothing worse than a documentary talking about certain things that cannot be shown. It’s not remarkably well filmed, but the editing is efficient. And each dancer is worth listening to and looking at. Time hasn’t really kept these fabulous and gorgeous dancers from being eternally young and handsome. Not that Luiz or Oliver care about how fat they’ve become. They still have the moves! In fact, that’s what’s so good about this document: all of them (apart from Carlton maybe) feel very at ease talking to the movie makers and are brutally honest. Jose still living with his mom and having her explain in Spanish how sad she is that he never made a career out of his sudden fame! It feels like something we can see at the local Man Bijt Hond human interest shows. The most intriguing character is Salim (who was born in Belgium). At the end it almost feels like he’s the instigator for this project,  because he has a few important things to share with the world!

Too bad it wasn’t more about vogueing!!! And too bad Madonna didn’t join them. (although she probably had some say in the creation of the final version).