Tag: Documentary

Human Flow

Initial thoughts about the documentary Human Flow is that it sounds a bit sexual. Don’t laugh, you thought so too.

I quickly realized (because I read a plot description) that is only sort of had to do with sex. You see, sex leads to pregnancies, and pregnancies usually lead to babies, and babies usually lead to adults. And sometimes there are too many adults. Sometimes these adults are mean, rude, or ruthless. Sometimes adults force other adults (and babies!) to leave their homes due to force, threats, or just general hysteria. These adults (that were made by sex) now find themselves homeless and on the move, looking for a place to call home as their previous home was torn apart by terrorists, warlords, and drones.

These adults, and tiny adults, and babies, are now refugees, and fleeing the world. However, with the amount of angry adults there are, the refugee amounts are growing at extreme levels. These refugees need places to go, and the places to go are filling up quickly. This is leading to stricter border control measures, more fences, and now refugees are finding themselves between countries. Sure, there may be countries available for these refugees to go to, but if they have no way to get there due to the other country walls, then it is as if they don’t exist at all.

So yes. In a way, Human Flow is a justified, sexual, title.

DOc
What would be sexier if a city planner got in on one of these tent cities.

The director, Ai Weiwei, goes to great pains to make sure this isn’t some exploitation documentary, where he would gain acclaim, fame, money, off of the suffering of hundreds of thousands of individuals. He seems to be a man who truly cares about their plight and is using this documentary to help get the world to understand what is going on in their lives.

In fact, we get to see Weiwei on camera, interacting with the refugees, getting some personal stories, exchanging passports even. That passport scene was absolutely heart wrenching for me, and it must have been terrible for the director and crew to be there. We have all of these people who want homes for their families, doctors for their new babies for vaccinations, things like soap, and in comes a crew of people making money and able to leave whenever they want. Of course they would latch onto that group, because hey, if there is a wall in their way, they will do whatever they can to protect their families.

Unfortunately, outside of a few select scenes of interest, the documentary felt incredibly boring. It was hard to get through, and still hard to be empathetic to their flight, maybe due to the sheer number of people and how numbed I am through the news. But it felt like a chore to get through, with an over 2 hour run time. It just dragged.

Basically, if it wants to get people involved with this thing, it has to get the common man more excited and riled up during it. They needed to make it sexier, at least the introduction or something. I spent a lot of time talking about how technically, this is a sexy topic. But when watching it, it feels entirely unsexy, and that is something they need to work on in the future.

2 out of 4.

An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power

“I once was a dumbass,” could be the name of mine and many other people’s autobiographies. That is just a part about growing up. When An Inconvenient Truth came out, I didn’t watch it. I knew what it was about, but I didn’t care. After all, I was a senior in high school and I was pretty sure Global Warming was fake.

I wasn’t going to let some guy known for not wanting to give up an election tell me what to think. I had other people for that. Like Penn and Teller! And South Park, namely their quite famous and still amusing episode, ManBearPig. You see, that episode had Al Gore running around Colorado, talking about some mythical ManBearPig. He was super cereal about the whole thing, this threat that no one believed, and he did more damage than good.

I got it, I got the joke, I was super cool and I knew things. Then I eventually did know things, quickly changed my mind, realized that I was just being a stupid. It is especially dumb since I went into the Geology field, where of course we all know and agree that Climate Change is happening and it sucks. Even the oil companies.

But still, I did not see the documentary. At that point I didn’t need to. However, a sequel to that documentary? A new thing? An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power?

Yeah, I was going to jump on that moment.

Inc
And it looks like he has a lot of fans at the doors just happy to see him!

The sequel title calls itself inconvenient, because ideally the first one would have been enough for the world. But no, global warming was politicized, it became a Democrat versus Republican issue, despite being virtually 100% agreement amongst scientists. And plenty of easy to understand data for everyone else to get the main themes. The sequel title maybe should have added that they are pissed off they need to make another documentary.

Anyways, a lot of this documentary covers the efforts they have done since the last documentary. How their efforts have changed and grown since the documentary and Peace Prize. And how major storms have grown and impacted more and more areas, more often than ever before. Of course also, the dumbfucks who refuse to listen to any amount of reason, yet still get elected into the higher positions of power in the United States.

That is the entire documentary in a nutshell. It only had limited information based on Trump’s actions, since it takes time for this stuff to get out and shown in festivals, but it did highlight some of them.

And yet the main issue with this documentary is just how boring it made everything seem. Maybe it is due to the fact that I am so knowledgable now, I don’t know. But I could not get into this story at all. It just lacked a lot of passion (we got some at the end) throughout the film and I just didn’t care.

If you want people to like your documentary, you gotta get them interested in the topic, factual, and keep it interesting. Destruction of all mankind on its own isn’t enough for most of us, unfortunately. Just a dull, dull, documentary.

2 out of 4.

Trophy

Given the generation of Trophy Kids and Trophy Parents, it makes sense to really look hard at the industry that profits from the everyone gets a trophy mentality.

Just kidding. But that would be a sweet documentary, to see the gritty underbelly of that whole area.

Instead Trophy is about hunters and conservationists and animals. You know, the big game that is hard to get and kill nowadays, that you can hang up in your “trophy room.” The animals that if they had antlers? They’d be in Gaston’s room.

And the big business of big game is pretty big. There are conferences for the guns and equipment necessary. There are parts of Africa that sell permits a few times a year to hunt these animals. And perhaps most controversially, there are parts of Africa that breed and take in animals with the intent of having them hunted. Not all of them, but if they sell the rights to an animal for a whole lot of dollars, they can use that money for conservation efforts, to fund saving of the other animals. Now obviously people have a lot of strong feelings about that, having a farm kill these majestic beasts in order to…save the majestic beasts. But as one of them put it, when has an animal gone extinct when it was farmed for a profit?

Oh, we also have a dude with a shit ton of rhinos, who developed a method to remove the tusk “painlessly” from a Rhino. He can saw it off every two years or so, protectin the rhino, and still providing ivory for people who need that shit. Except the ivory trade has been banned, so he has tons of inventory but no way to make a profit, and the only ones who can profit are…yep, poachers.

Trophy
Rhinos are not into bondage.

Trophy doesn’t cut any corners when it comes to talking about an uncomfortable subject. Do you hate the idea of hunters hunting big game? Well, you are going to see some dead big animals in this film. Not only that, you will see some of them alive before they are dead, and literally watch them die by bullets. You will see the aftermath of a poacher attack. You will see people posing with majestic beasts, like Cecil the Lion, but less famous. (And yes, they also talk about that impact on the “industry.” ) So if that really churns your butter, you butter not even get close to this documentary.

With its controversy, I found the documentary to be relatively bias free. It tried to highlight all of the sides of this controversy, by having them speak for themselves with only the occasional statistic popping up on the screen. No narrator to drive the ideas, just a bunch of people who are a part of the business and who hate the business speaking their sides. If you would have asked me off hand last week before I watched this documentary my thoughts on any of this, I can’t even tell you what I thought. Having sweet animals die out suck, but when I was growing up, I always wanted to have a giant stuffed bear in my house, so I could have gone either way.

Trophy takes a good look at an industry that has been relatively out of the spotlight until Cecil the Lion. It is a rich club of people, and some people have motivations that seem genuine and not just profit driven. And everyone on every side agrees poachers suck. It will be interesting to see where this goes in reality over the next few years.

3 out of 4.

City of Ghosts

What a spooky week! Technically this review of City of Ghosts comes only one day after my review of A Ghost Story, and they couldn’t be more different. Well, if one was bad and the other was good it could be different. But they are both fantastic. Oh no, I spoiled the talk about this one being fantastic early!

City of Ghosts puts us in Syria, before the fall of Assad. During the Arab Spring in 2011, protests happened throughout the country and in Raqqa, the capital of Syria. The regime had been dickish in the past, but they tortured a bunch of school aged kids for graffiti that was anti-government, and that set the protests into a bigger momentum. Protectors fought with soldiers, and eventually the government was toppled over. Hooray freedom!

Just kidding, this started a country wide civil war, and it wasn’t long before a militant group referring to themselves as the Isalmic State came into Raqqa and took over. They promised to be nice, but also came in with machine guns and executed those faithful to the past regime. And then they kept killing. They took control over everything, and kept executing those who sucked. But they controlled the media in the area and sent messages about how awesome things were.

But things weren’t awesome. People were living in more poverty, there were food shortages, more and more of their basic freedoms were being taken away. Worse than when Assad was in control. But the militant group had their ranks grow still, because it was the only way to have a good life in the area.

One group of citizens decided that their city was dying and no one in the world knew about it. They started an organization, called Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS). Their goal was to smuggled out videos, information, pictures, to major media about the realities of their life and to let people know that this group called ISIS was doing a lot of harm and lying about it, putting their own lives on the line in the process.

ISIS
And now ISIS is on my website 🙁

That’s right, ISIS motherfuckers!

And I found the beginning of this documentary fascinating about the rise of ISIS in the area fascinating. They could have done the whole story on that and it would have been great on its own right. But no, this is by the guy who gave us Cartel Land. He wants to talk about the citizen journalists of RBSS and showcase them as heroes.

We learn about some of the men who founded the website/twitter account, and how they first got the word out. We learned about their passions and lives before the protests begin and how they saw their lives going. We saw them on the run in their own city, secretly recording and getting the message out. We saw them on the run out of their country, into Turkey and Germany, when one of their own was captured and killed with information on them.

And we saw them more importantly, double down on their efforts. Ramp up security for their own operatives still inside the city risking their lives, while worrying about political assassinations across country lines. We saw them feel like they were safe, but still get wrecked by the ISIS Hollywood level media campaign against them in their homes, as more of their family members were found and killed, while also dealing with protesters in their new homes who want the new “dangerous” immigrants out.

What we have here is an extremely powerful documentary that handles a broad subject with grace and humility. This is their story and another way they have to get their message out into the world. It also sheds a message on refugees and helps show just what they are escaping, and how ridiculous these protesters who are anti-refugee look. It should almost be required viewing just to get certain hard ass individuals to maybe open their goddamn eyes.

City of Ghosts tells of a world, a nation, a city, that was stripped of its humanity from outsiders. And the message they want to pass on is to not let these same outsiders destroy the rest of the world’s humanity as well.

4 out of 4.

American Anarchist

American Anarchist is a title I can get behind. I know, I know, movies that are two word phrases with the first word American are goddamn everywhere. At some point, movie studios decided these were the best sort of movies and it became overused and now it is almost generic. I currently have 9 reviews that begin with the word American, which is absurd (and yes this will make 10). I have more reviews of movies that begin with American than I do with the word Harry!

I digress, let’s talk about American Anarchist. This title really works because it is a bit ironic. Yes, technically, you can be American and an anarchist as the same time, but it is odd to rally against having a government at all, when that is what technically makes us qualify as “Americans”.

And who do you think of when you hear Anarchy? Is it the Joker? Is it V? Is it the hacker group Anonymous? Or is it William Powell?

No, probably not William Powell, but he is a pretty big name. He grew up in the UK despite being American, then moved back here as a teenager. He grew up here during the 1960’s, through the protests, through the police state feel, and he was angry and he wanted to change things. He thought that the people should fight back and in case they did, he wanted to make a guide for them to do that.

He worked in an indie book store, and going through their military books and research in the library, he put together a manual for military tactics, making drugs, and making homemade bombs, among other things. He also filled it with rhetoric about freedoms and his own thoughts. He was able to find a publisher, and in 1971, The Anarchist Cookbook was born.

Moneyshot
Oh goodness, this is the money shot of the documentary right here.

So why haven’t you heard of the author? If he is still alive, why hasn’t he been an outspoken member of the media about war and the government? Well, first of all, unfortunately, Powell passed away from a heart attack exactly a year ago today (July 11, 2016), after this documentary was filmed.

Secondly, Powell grew up. He didn’t care much for the book, he didn’t have the copyright rights (his publisher did) so he couldn’t stop the book if he tried. He left the country and became a teacher in Africa and Asia, trying to make the world a better place on terms he could handle. He, in all honesty, has done the right thing.

Thirdly, he doesn’t have a wikipedia page. He has a blurb on the Cookbook page, and if you go to his “page” it will just redirect you to the book. So he is a bit of a mysterious fellow.

This documentary gives a nice look at his history and inspirations, but it also gives us a look on his opinions NOW and how his thoughts have maybe changed since he was a teenager. We get real, personal feeling conversations between him and the director, Charlie Siskel (who did Finding Vivian Maier), so much that the director almost becomes a character in this story as well. Because Powell is a smart man, he doesn’t let his emotions take over him and he actively fights against Siskel as Siskel tries to get a “gotcha!” moment for the camera.

It makes the whole thing feel more…real. I am glad Siskel kept it in, it makes him look like an asshole, a guy who just prods way too much. And honestly, I gained a lot of respect for Powell, who I also never heard about before this documentary.

This documentary did what great documentaries, in my mind, are supposed to do. They highlight a real person or event who is NOT already super well known, and they do it in a way to make the watcher interested in the story. Not every real person needs a documentary, but with the life Powell led and the unfortunate negative impact he had on the world, he definitely deserved this one.

4 out of 4.

Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press

I am a big fan of the first amendment. It is technically what gives me the right to write stupid shit like some of the reviews you may have read before on this website. The Resident Evil one? Thanks first amendment!

I was excited to hear about Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press was not only now available, but readily available on Netflix. Because it is about the first amendment, lawsuits, celebrities, and most importantly, a lawsuit I sort of actually follow a little bit as it happened!

A documentary about something I know a little bit about! I mean, it wasn’t a trial I was actually a part of, in the same state I was at, or anything for real related to me. But I read articles on the internet!

Let’s just go on and say it. Fuck Gawker. Fuck all of Gawker’s affiliate sites, and I do mean all of them. Fuck Buzzfeed too. I have been doing my best to rage against the click bait media that is ruining journalism, and Gawker is sort of at the head of it, while also doing just smut articles. And that is my opinion. People aren’t buying news as much as they should, and that sucks, please support news, so click bait doesn’t work as much. But I wont click on an article if it is click bait. I will go out of my way, google the keywords, find it from a reputable source, then maybe respond to it on Facebook letting people know the info they want without the shitty tactics.

So I am biased against this story, I guess.

HH
Holy hell, Hogan’s hand looks huge.

Hulk Hogan once had sex. It was on camera. And it was shared on the internet. Not just shared on the internet, but Gawker decided to make an article not only about the tape, but also you know, hosting part of it, and sharing it freely for people to watch as they please. And Hogan sued them, and eventually he won. It is why you can now go to Gawker and see that they are shut down. They are completely bankrupt and fucked.

But that isn’t the whole documentary. It then goes into a man who works in Silicon Valley who funded the Hogan lawyers because he had a vendetta against Gawker and wanted them to pay, and pay they did. And then a third act about a Las Vegas newspaper, who were bought by someone shady in their community, so they reported on it and bad stuff happened. That third act was complete news to me, so I was happy to see it, just not happy to hear what happened.

Which brings us back to Gawker. The documentary brings out claims abotu what happened to them, and compares them to Trump who is on his own war against media. Sure, I guess, but it still feels incredibly different. Because even if the guy who bankrolled Hogan wasn’t the best dude Gawker. Still. Was. Wrong.

They put out a sex tape of a celebrity, against his will, didn’t shut it down when asked, and got fucked for it. The internet is a fucked up and unforgiving place, but things are getting better. It used to be that celebrities were not seen as people and just torn down on a whim and just had to take it. But they are getting involved speaking out for the wrongs against them. Especially the women.

Like the women who had their privacy fucked over by the infamous The Fappening, which had a hacker gain access to dozens of celebrities phones, find the naughty ones and post them online, hurting peoples privacy. Places like Gawker did NOT publish these, but talked about them negatively. And then they also do stuff like this, and don’t see the problem.

Having people take down the press, could be a problem. But this documentary tried to say that Gawker wasn’t at fault here, and that kind of makes it hard to accept its bigger points.

2 out of 4.

Mommy Dead and Dearest

Besides an eye catchy title, Mommy Dead and Dearest is a documentary about a very recent and famous case. A troubling case, and just so we are clear, it is about Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome.

For those who haven’t heard about it yet, it is a problem with a parent or guardian, who will intentionally harm their child, or put the child in harms way, so that they can fix them and heal them. This is my own definition. It gives them a sense of belonging, and a sense of being needed and relied on by an individual.

And yeah, it is child abuse. It is rare, or at least it is rarely reported, but it is extremely serious. I reviewed a movie about it last year that I really loved, but the reveal of the cause is basically a spoiler, so that fucks up with me attempting to tell you about it.

Back to the real story, this is an extreme example of the syndrome. For decades it had been going on. DeeDee had her daughter, Gypsy Rose, in a wheel chair, concinving everyone she couldn’t walk, had cancers, and more. She was scamming her community for donations, help and more. They got some make a wish vacations too.

And then one morning, DeeDee was found murdered in her home with Gypsy Rose missing.

MDAD
I don’t mean to joke about murdered people, but yeah, I can imagine all of that.

Oh shit, missing! With cryptic facebook posts! About rape and murder!

Long story short, yeah, Gypsy Rose’s secret online boyfriend did the murder, with her help. They were going to run away together, free from this prison she was in, but they both admitted to their crimes and now it is a weird situation. Can you murder someone if they have kept you as a prisoner for decades? Someone who has lied to doctors, filled you with pills, and made you lie for free stuff for most of your life?

Apparently not. But this documentary goes into DeeDee’s past, where the father was during all of this, public opinion throughout the trial, what the two did to hide their relationship, how it all went down and more. And also we get to hear a whole lot of the story from Gypsy Rose’s point of view. Her perception of reality is different than anyone else, as her normal involves an abusive mother who wouldn’t let her see the world, who wouldn’t let her use her legs.

This is the type of documentary that has you on the edge of your seat, especially if you are not familiar with the case. It is such an extreme act that one cannot fathom it happening so openly in society. It is a thriller in some regards as well.

This is a very great informative documentary on a very recent event. The biases are kept out, because story is told by those involved, not an outside narrator with an agenda. So sure, they have their own biases, but that is real life and acceptable.

4 out of 4.

Casting JonBenet

Sometimes I can be so into movies and pop culture that I miss the obvious big ones. Some of the most classic films of the last forty years I may have not seen yet. And bigger news events I may have missed out on.

Like this whole, death of JonBenét Ramsey thing that happened like, 20+ years ago. Apparently it was a pretty big deal, a lot of people assumed the parents did it, it was a very strange case. And a sad case. But you know, it was in Colorado, a state always recovering from a big tragedy it seems like.

It also was turned into a shit ton of movies, including TV specials. It was referenced on South Park even, and I just, uhh, never cared to figure out the reference.

Either way, this is a new documentary on the topic, Casting JonBenet, and it attempts to tell the story in a bit of a different way.

Strife
By telling the story in dozens of ways! Dozens!

This documentary is pretending to cast a film, about the death of JonBenet. And it is casting for the roles of the father, the mother, the older brother, the police chief, a few other characters, and of course, JonBenet, in the town of Boulder, Colorado where the event took place. That is the key. We have a lot of people who remember the events from twenty years ago and this is the case that sort of started the idea of armchair detectives. It would especially be true in a community where the crime took place.

So the crux of this film is straight up people auditioning for a role in a film, and also having them talk about the case. Talk about what they noticed, what stood out to them, and of course, their theories on the case.

And hey, if you want to see a documentary on local Boulderites talking about a past event that they can only theorize on, then this is the perfect documentary for you. If you don’t, then you certainly won’t want to watch the documentary.

I mean, I was hoping they would go over some of the real facts of the case. But they didn’t. And we are left with yes, a lot of people have thoughts on this case, and a lot of things are plausible, but technically, we still have no fucking clue why this girl is dead, and we will likely never know.

2 out of 4.

A Murder In The Park

You know what is exciting nowadays? Getting people cleared of all charges from prison when they were innocent. Now, ideally, they would have never been in jail. And they would have been freed way sooner than 20 or so years in jail. Or way sooner than hours before execution. But every false person imprisoned that gets freed is worthy of celebration and a reminder that our justice system blows.

Technically this documentary came out in 2014 before Making a Murderer, but it is still a subject that a lot of people enjoy hearing about. The Innocence Project has been around since 1992, after DNA evidence helped clear a lot of people wrongly accused in the past. And A Murder In The Park is about Anthony Porter, accused of killing two teenagers in a Chicago park at night in 1982.

It wasn’t until the late ’90’s when a journalism class from Northwestern University and their professor decided to examine the case, found some holes, and made their findings public. They found out a witness recanted his testimony because he couldn’t have seen it, they put some more deniability in it, and even got someone else to confess to the crime. A pretty open and shut case. Porter was freed just a few days before sentenced to death.

Because of how close of a call it was, the state of Illinois decided to finally abolish the death penalty. Just imagine if an innocent person was killed by the government. (Psst, it is bound to have happened by now).

However, what if…what if Porter actually did do the killings, and him getting freed put a different, actually innocent person behind bars? That would be crazy, that couldn’t be real life…

Park Murder
That headline is certainly bold and emotion filling.

It turns out that a few journalism students and a professor with an agenda might not be as good at catching criminals as a police force. One person maybe recanted his testimony, but the police had five other people who saw the crime and agreed it was Porter. The guy they got to convince to the murder did so under duress. A private investigator was called in and he coerced the plea, much like a cop would do at their own building.

So they employed similar tactics that the police did, but this time they put an innocent man in jail to prove a point. Well, if their point was to get rid of the death penalty, they succeeded at that, and did a great thing. But the tactics used were deceitful.

A community could no longer trust their local police force. More lawsuits were held over this, and eventually, the “Real killer” was put free too thanks to all the fucked up shit that was behind the scenes. In the end, the criminal justice system was made helpless as one of their good arrests put doubt into the program and made the crime now completely untouchable due to all the shit that went down.

The documentary highlights an interesting story, but it does feel like a made for TV special. It was on Showtime originally, but the production quality just doesn’t feel like it is there. It presents the facts and tells a story, one that makes you want to question every criminal report you see from now on. And people who argue against it.

2 out of 4.

Tower

On August 1, 1966, a man climbed the clock tower at the University of Texas in Austin and opened fired on people. Charles Whitman, a former marine, probably suffering from PTSD, took his sniper rifle and few other guns and decided to just go on a killing spree.

The entire event lasted over an hour and a half. 14 people were killed during this time, and his mother and wife were shot before he went into the tower. This was before TV was really big still, before people had their own cameras to document the footage, and was told mostly through radio broadcasts.

Tower is a documentary trying to recreate the scene of that day, through testimony given from survivors, through the police on the scene who helped end the attack, and some archival footage.

And a lot of it is also told through animation, using newer rotoscope technology.

Tower
If this happened nowadays we would probably just bomb the tower.

This is a hard documentary to really spend a lot of words describing, so I will decide to keep the entire thing brief. The animation was interesting, but I don’t know how much it helped to tell the story. I focused more on the art and less on the words being said. Also some technical decisions early on made it hard for me to remember who was who when the interviews and stories began to switch around and describe the same events.

It didn’t bring in much politically, and I expected it to go hard also after Vet care and PTSD research, but instead it just told the events and the events only.

It is however incredibly informative, and if you only know about these events from pop culture references (like me) then you will learn about one of the biggest stories of the time when it came to a mass shooting. If you are already familiar, you may enjoy the personal approach to the topic. Besides, it is only 90 minutes and not a big strain on your schedule.

3 out of 4.