A documentary about the role of Sherpas on Everest was being filmed in 2014 when an ice fall resulted in a significant loss of life.
The ways of Sherpas and mountain climbers are brought into sharp relief in this engrossing social commentary. Much of what we witness beggars belief, as the camera captures entrenched exploitation, all exacerbated by different belief systems and communication styles. Day-to-day activities highlight the inequalities, climbers enjoy a hot towel and a cup of tea brought to their tent, while Sherpas carry supplies including a toilet up the mountain. Appalled in Nepal.
City of GoldAnthony Macali
A documentary about famous LA food critic Johnathon Gold.
"City of Gold" is an admirable documentary about a wonderful writer, whose commentary on food transcends boundaries in multiple ways. Apart from his utterly brilliant style, and encyclopedic knowledge and passion for his hometown, he is famous for shining the spotlight on some of the smaller restaurants. Not one to discriminate, Mr. Gold values cooking as a service to a community, and provides a telling insight into multicultural society, where food can bring people together. This guy really likes tacos.
The WolfpackAnthony Macali
Not permitted outside of their apartment, the Angulo brothers only escape is their film collection.
"The Wolfpack" is an intimate look at a large family sadly confined to the boundaries of their apartment. Home-schooled by their devoid mother, the children's only view of the outside world is through the skewed reality of cinema, which could only contribute to their weird behaviour. It's hard to watch, especially as the young brothers gradually realise the misery of their imprisoned existence. Even more heartbreaking is their tethered creative talents, limited to charming re-enactments of famous movies. An agonising insight into social suppression.
Rules of the GameAnne Murphy
An employment agency in the North of France mentors young people through their job search efforts.
We follow three marginalised young people in their efforts to prepare for job interviews. It's easy to snicker at the disenfranchised youth for now knowing how to pitch their experience and skills to prospective employers. The filmmaker's fly-on-the-wall approach is even handed in that it appears non-judgemental. On the surface the struggles and responses of the kids look a bit funny, and it might have been easy to mock them, but the underlying societal issues are no laughing matter.
Deep WebAnthony Macali
A documentary about the 96 per cent of the internet that goes unindexed by search engines.
"Deep Web" is a highly informative and educational insight into the little known and hidden portion of the World Wide Web. The less you know beforehand, the more you will be astounded at 'Silk Road', the illicit drug marketplace at the centre of this investigation, and its equally fascinating libertine founder and administrator. Ultimately the film raises a discussion about privacy in a digital world, and neatly highlights the gaps in today’s Internet freedom. Can the good guys hack the bad guys?
A documentary about fashion icon Iris Apfel from legendary documentary filmmaker Albert Maysles.
The subject of "Iris" is the elderly and the eccentric... with a distinctive sense of style. Much is made of her age and that of her even more elderly husband, being over 80 years old somehow makes them curiosities. She is a voracious shopper who enjoys a lavish lifestyle, and one of the truly curious things about this woman is her ability to do little apart from shop for clothes and jewellery. Despite its frivolous nature this is a must see for fashionistas of all ages. It's all in the eye of the beholder.
I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney StoryAnne Murphy
Caroll Spinney has been Sesame Street's Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch since 1969; at 78-years-old, he has no intention of stopping.
What do you imagine the puppeteer who has spent more than forty years under a big yellow feathered costume is like? Apparently you need more than fine feathers to make a fine bird, and it helps to have a nice man in there somewhere. As the movie tells it, the nice man has a nice wife, nice kids, a nice job, and funky orange leggings. What else do you need to know? This bio-pic won't ruffle any feathers, he ain't no angry bird.
A documentary on the late singer-songwriter Amy Winehouse, who died of alcohol poisoning in 2011.
It is hard not to be curious about Amy Winehouse and her demise, but you can't help but feel a sense of irony watching this compelling portrait of a talent who didn't come to terms with fame. Does the doomed singer's story on the big screen subject her to even more public scrutiny? Film footage, drawn from public archives and family sources, is used to create an intimate and affecting story of a woman for whom love was a losing game.
Banksy Does New YorkAnne Murphy
Documentary chronicling the famed street artist's "31 works of art in 31 days" in New York City.
"Banksy does New York" is lively and interesting, but stumbles a little when it shows tweets on the screen. Using social media to evidence the excitement and hype surrounding the artist's self-proclaimed residency in New York, works better in some forms than others. Even so this documentary is thought provoking, continually asking "who is the artist?" and "what is art?" There is no question however this enigmatic artist is smart, political, and satirical. It's Banksy doing what Banksy does.
Particle FeverJan Di Pietro
Physicists are on the cusp of the greatest scientific discovery of all time - or perhaps their greatest failure.
High drama plays out in this film through vigorous debate, ambition, and a hardcore desire to find the truth – about everything. The scientists crusading for cosmic knowledge at the core of "Particle Fever" are the real story here, and the ultimate winner is physics, as it fully consumes its worshipers. These die-hard geniuses are stuck in a fever of ignorant pursuit, hurtling towards a likely end of nothing, but relishing every second of the journey. So goes life.
Advanced StyleAnthony Macali
Advanced Style examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to aging.
"Advanced Style" is a lovely documentary that will invigorate and enliven. As it fleetingly delves into the profiles of the stylish ladies who make up this blog-inspired film, we get exposed to some deeply creative and driven elderly women that one might not normally notice walking down the street. We also learn that with age comes a great sense of humour, with the interviewees encouraged to share stories just a little more philosophical than the contents of their wardrobe. A passion for fashion.
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 PrayerThomas 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 InvisiblesThomas 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.