A group of brave individuals risk their lives to save Virunga National Park in Congo.
"Virunga" is a vibrant national park full of life and, to much dismay, a place of death. This breathtaking parcel of land happens to fall on a large oil deposit, and the battle between preservation and money plays out extraordinarily on screen. It's a shocking juxtaposition that lets its characters share their messages, from the adorable keepers and their family of gorillas, to the faceless business men contracted to incite war. A fine example of fearless journalism and heartfelt conservation. Primeval.
Everyday RebellionAnne Murphy
"Everyday Rebellion" follows three main stories, in the Ukraine, Wall St. and the Spanish neighbourhood assembly.
Although the film is heavy in ideology, the creativity of the protestors is inspiring, and the use of humour adds a light touch. Real footage of recent protests is used with effect. Many of the activists are readily identifiable as everyday people and the narration provides understanding of events, demystifying some the perceived rage of rebellion. You can't help wondering 'what next?' Could we do this every day?
The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron SwartzAnne Murphy
The story of Aaron Schwartz, a programming prodigy and information activist, who was facing indictment under the very laws he was campaigning to change when he took his own life in 2013.
This is a must see documentary, be outraged, despair, and then promise to change the world in your own way. Who would guess that a story of technology and access to information could be so emotionally involving? If only we all had as much integrity around our ideals for a better society and the sharing of knowledge as this maligned but inspiring young man. All round brilliant.
Seduced and AbandonedAnne Murphy
An exploration of several interconnected subjects: The Cannes Film Festival, cinema art, money, glamour and death.
It's said that a story has a start, a middle, and an end, but this doco is all middle with little set-up or context and no real conclusion. There are interesting conversations with well-known directors and other studio folk, even an actor or two. Movie buffs will enjoy this more than others. The business of film making is laid bare and it might not be surprising to find that in what should be a creative world it's money that does the talking. No happy ever afters.
Stories We TellAnne Murphy
A film that excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers.
Having "The Stories We Tell" labeled as a documentary understates the dramatic wonder threaded into this movie. When following her family fault lines, the director allows for interweaving of fact and fiction in a way that is transparent for the viewer, and it serves to intrigue. The story and the various family members who narrate it are compelling in a human and likeable way. The honesty of each in remembering their version is reassuringly recognisable and imperfect. Tall tales but true.
An unprecedented look inside the private world of J.D. Salinger, the reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye.
It's interesting to hear a writer's story told by others but you can't help recognising the irony of this set-up. The author who crafted one of literature's most enduring characters, giving voice to generations of disaffected youth, has little part in the telling of his story. "Salinger" is interesting and well edited but disappointingly shallow as a biography. It's not as engrossing as anticipated, and there must be more to story of the infamous recluse. He remains as enigmatic as ever.
Valentine RoadAnne Murphy
On February 12, 2008, in Oxnard, California, eighth-grade student Brandon McInerney shot his classmate Larry King twice in the back of the head during class.
Hours after watching "Valentine Road" tears may very well still well up; this outstanding documentary is deeply affecting. The crime is horrifying, a fourteen year old boy murdered by his classmate. The director reveals layers of complexity as the surrounding influences are explored. Society needs to change, not just one little boy who draws swastikas, after all, no-one is born homophobic. Our hearts aren't yet big enough to allow others to be themselves, and it's heartbreaking.
Pussy Riot: A Punk PrayerTom Jones
Three young women face seven years in a Russian prison for a satirical performance in a Moscow cathedral. But who is really on trial in a case that has gripped the nation and the world...
Russia is a bit cray-cray, and not in the good way. Footage of the country's response to Pussy Riot's protests is shocking. Without playing sides, this film traces the events leading up to, and following the arrest of three members of the female activist group. Through interviews with family members, and all access courtroom footage, you really get to know the women behind the brightly coloured balaclavas. They are highly articulate, resilient and funny. It's time, Free Pussy Riot!
First PositionAnne Murphy
A documentary that follows six young dancers from around the world as they prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix, one of the most prestigious ballet competitions in the world.
The physicality, athleticism and strength of mind of ballet students at the top of their art is extraordinary. Even so, in a world of reality TV competitions, the struggle to win has become all a bit clichéd. This is one for aficionados who will appreciate the achievements of the dancers, and for the rest of us this performance piece is heart-warming, if predictable, without being too tutu.
Les InvisiblesTom Jones
Several elderly homosexual men and women speak frankly about their pioneering lives, their fearless decision to live openly in France at a time when society rejected them.
The lives of elderly gay men and women are rarely depicted, (hence the title) and unfortunately this film fails to provide any new light on the subject. For the most part, the interviewees look directly at the camera and tell the stories of their pasts, stories we have kind of heard before. The moments where we do get a glimpse of their lives today are compelling, but are cut too short. It's a gay old world - emphasis on the old.
The ImposterAnne Murphy
In 1994 a 13-year-old boy disappeared without a trace from San Antonio, Texas, three and a half years later he is found alive, in a village in southern Spain with a story of kidnap and torture.
Truth is often stranger than fiction as this jaw-dropping documentary proves. The story would be disconcerting as fiction, and it is cruel and heart-wrenching as the truth. There are as many twists and turns as in a suspense-thriller, and while watching the audience will have to remind themselves that no-one could possibly make up this improbable plot. The spoiler is in the title.
West of MemphisAnne Murphy
In 1993 three boys were murdered in West Memphis and three teenagers were convicted of the crime in an extraordinary failure of justice.
Holy snapping turtles, the story of attaining freedom for the men known as the 'West Memphis Three' makes a compelling documentary. The cause was picked up by so many people that this is regarded as the first case of crowd-sourced justice. The crime and the trial that followed are meticulously reviewed on the screen, stirring our values around fairness and integrity to a state of disbelief and outrage. Arkansas law enforcement stands accused of going west.
All the Way Through EveningAnne Murphy
The story of the HIV/AIDS crisis in New York City. As you've never heard it before. A musical documentary.
"All the Way Through Evening" documents the rehearsals and preparation of the 20th World AIDS Day concert program to be hosted by an East Village pianist. Her task is a tribute to composers and singers lost from a classical arts community that was ravaged by HIV/AIDS. The concert is both a labour of love and a commemoration of friendships that endure beyond the confines of mortality. The pieces performed are relatively unknown but will fill an evening for aficionados.
Step Up to the PlateAnne Murphy
French chef Michel Bras is handing over his restaurant to his son, Sebastien, who has been working with him for 15 years.
Great reverence is shown for the aesthetics of food and the creation of a special meal in this quiet observational movie. The director has filmed with both artistry and simplicity, the story of one dish in a style that compliments the ritualistic approach of the chef and his son. "Step up to the Plate" shows slow-food at its slowest, and 'foodies' will know they're watching something very special being served up. Sit up at the table for a culinary treat.
The Queen of VersaillesAnne Murphy
Follows a billionaire couple as they begin construction on a mansion inspired by Versailles.
A riches-to-rags story unfolds as the economic downturn hits the US during the filming of this documentary. The business empire of one mogul and his trophy wife almost evapourates as the cameras roll. The director maintains a sympathetic eye making this compelling, if confronting, viewing. It must have been tempting to create more cynical expose, but the subjects are allowed some likeability. As it is "The Queen of Versailles" is a watchable, if somewhat appalling, peek into the American dream as it crumbles. Eating cake.
Children of the RiotsAnne Murphy
In December 2008, 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot by police, and his death prompted thousands of young people to take to the streets in riots that lasted for three weeks.
Almost three years later dissent and riots continue in Greece amid a political environment of relentless austerity measures. A generation growing up amid ongoing unrest are looking for creative ways to live through cycles of violence and protest while seeking a better world. "Children of the Riots" follows the stories of young people drawn into conflict, and does not offer answers except to note that dreams are bullet proof.
Searching for Sugar ManAnne Murphy
Searching for Sugar Man tells the incredible true story of Rodriguez, the greatest '70s rock icon who never was.
This well constructed documentary tells of a search for the artist who was largely unknown where he lived in the USA. The story of a humble man and his music is an almost mythic tale, set to an uplifting original beat. Anyone who owned a Rodriguez album in the 1970's probably wore out the vinyl grooves playing the record again and again. Almost better than the memorable lyrics is this astounding story of the man behind them. "Sugar man you're the answer…".
Storm Surfers 3DAndrew O'Dea
A 3D adventure into the world of big wave surfing with Aussie tow-surfing legend Ross Clarke-Jones and two-time World Champion Tom Carroll.
"Storm Surfers 3D" is a character-driven documentary that transcends the surfing genre. There's an element of genuine story-telling as we revel in the raw honesty and boyish nature of two mates and their lifelong quest to ride the biggest waves. The proportions of the film are epic, but its brilliance lies within the camerawork and an innovate 3D format that is able to project the enormity and raw power of the ocean never so immensely realised on camera before. Drop-in and see this one.
The AmbassadorAnthony Macali
A journalist attains fakes diplomacy to infiltrate the Central African Republic and smuggle diamonds.
"The Ambassador" is a captivating documentary, daring to go where no one has gone before. The mission of the director is frankly quite mad, spending many thousands of dollars to sneak into the powerful (and political) circles of an African country rich in resources, and a history of rebellion and corruption. It's a journey of constant tension, and despite being confusing at times, remains a remarkable account, especially with the limited hidden footage and audio at hand. There are no rules.
Into the AbyssAnthony Macali
Conversations with death row inmate Michael Perry and those affected by his crime serve as an examination of capital punishment.
"Into the Abyss" is a clear indictment on the death sentence being both nonsensical and cruel. The case at the centre of this documentary study is a deeply saddening one, where victims and perpetrators have been haunted by their decisions and sorrow for over a decade. No stone is left unturned in the hands of a director who does not shy from the confronting questions, unveiling a tragic history of crime and violence in a troubled community. An eye for an eye.
A documentary on peer-to-peer bullying in schools across America.
We know the endemic nature of the issue and we know the damaging consequences, yet still kids are expected to stand up to bullies on their own. "Bully" personalises the problem by showing how it is often brushed over, dismissed, tolerated or explained away. It's damning that we might look, rather than stare down, the torment meted out on children by their peers. The film-maker powerfully models change that's needed by reporting concern and evidence around one of the film's subjects, standing up for, and standing with, one boy. Olly olly oxen free...
Yoga was brought to the west from India by a lineage of male teachers, now there's a generation of women who are leading the way and they're radically changing people's lives.
"Yogawoman" extols the benefits of the practice of yoga and it is a bit like watching a 90 minute infomercial as teacher after teacher talks about the improvements she has gained. The repetitive messages are not followed through with any in depth information about the foundations or philosophy of the art. Watching may confirm the beliefs of practitioners but it may struggle to engage others. Strike out a pose.
Katy Perry: Part of MeWendy Slevison
A documentary that chronicles Katy Perry's life on and off-stage, following her journey from childhood to one of the world's most popular female singers.
"Katy Perry - Part of Me" has lots of music and concert tour footage, which will certainly appeal to fans. Yet there are also many humorous and heart-rending insights into Katy the daughter, granddaughter, sister, friend and wife that add a very personal aspect to the documentary format. When the sudden trajectory of her career takes its toll on her personal life, Katy’s pain and anguish is palpable, and unpretentiously shared with her audience. Katy Perry is only part "Pop Princess".
An examination of the life of acclaimed 'horse whisperer' Buck Brannaman, who recovered from years of child abuse to become a well-known expert in the interactions between horses and people.
This engaging documentary centres on a horse whisperer who says that rather than helping people with horse problems, he helps horses with people problems. The modest and authentic cowboy is kind in his methods and demonstrates an incredible rapport with and respect for the horses he works with. The message delivered is how to break cycles of abuse with sensitivity, the effect is life affirming and uplifting. Home, home on the range…
Sympathy for the DevilAnne Murphy
Jean-Luc Godard's Sympathy for the Devil uses both documentary and staged sequences, alternating between an inside look at a rock band's recording process and reflections on politics.
Watching "Sympathy for the Devil" is like opening a time capsule and being transported back to 1968. The viewing is patchy as the camera moves from a recording studio to a yard of car wrecks. The Rolling Stones reveal themselves as incredibly professional as they create their magic, a stark comparison to the intellectualising revolutionaries who become quite tedious to watch. Back in those days, even Jagger didn't move like Jagger, but he was compelling musician.