La DanseTom Jones
The film follows the production of seven ballets by the Paris Opera Ballet.
At first, "La Danse" feels like a realistic and unpretentious glimpse into the Paris Opera Ballet. There's no commentary, no interviews and very little editing. However, at the two and half hour point, it could be accused of lazy film making and bordering on self indulgent. The talent and physiques of the dancers are to be marvelled, but an entire movie on this subject is unnecessarily long.This is one fly-on-the-wall film where you wish someone would hurry up and squat the fly.
Last Train HomeTom Jones
A family embarks on an annual journey along with 200 million workers to reunite with their family.
To all who think New Years is overrated, your pessimism will pale in comparison to the endeavors made by the Chinese migrant workers who get home to celebrate their Chinese New Years. The footage captured in this movie is mind blowing. From the aerial shots of the crowds waiting (sometimes days) to board the trains to the more intimate moments depicting Chinese family life, it is astonishing to think that this film is real. A compelling documentary, which realises despite all cultural differences, for everyone, there's really no place like home.
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.
Life in a DayWendy Slevison
A documentary shot by filmmakers all over the world that serves as a time capsule.
The scope of the task was immense. Two award-winning filmmakers took 4,500 hours of footage, representing 80,000 lives from 192 countries, and crafted it into a fascinating 90-minute glimpse into parts of our world that we may otherwise have never experienced. Enthralling in its simplicity, while sharing powerful moments of raw humanity, this awe-inspiring achievement bears witness to the spirit that unites us all. The gamut of emotions is experienced as deeply personal stories are shared with the entire world, making this a day to remember.
Matchmaking MayorAnne Murphy
A generation of singles in their 30s live in a medium-sized Slovak village, and their mayor sets out to bring them together.
Marrying is not everyone's goal and there is some pressure to conform to please families and traditional life. The unmarried locals look quite uncomfortable playing along with the Mayor's plans. This is a documentary filled with glimpses of a lifestyle unfamiliar to city dwellers in our sophisticated on-line world. The audience was tickled throughout by the real life characters, but the filmmaker's style is a little gentle to sustain interest. A long build and no punch-line. Imperfect match.
An indictment of closeted politicians who lobby for anti-gay legislation in the U.S.
This is a fascinating consciousness-raising documentary presented through interviews and film clips. The movie is a compelling compilation of vignettes that are on public record. The filmmaker relentlessly exposes the hypocrisy of closeted politicians who vote against the civil rights of the gay and lesbian community. In doing so, the constituencies whose prejudices are pandered to are also shamed. The ethical quagmire isn't navigated with a strictly even hand but with a sense of injustice and anger. The situation is indeed outrageous.
Page One: Inside the New York TimesAnthony Macali
Unprecedented access to the New York Times newsroom.
"Page One" is a fascinating insight into the inner sanctum of 'The Times', which we discover is more than a paper factory, but a renowned American institution. The film traces the history of some of its more colourful characters, acknowledging their commentary and fears for the future in a business destined for destitution. Most importantly, this documentary expertly covers all the recent developments to shake the industry, from wiki-leaks and twitter, to the iPad and the news online, all with genuine apprehension and humour. If this paper interests you, then it's definitely a good read.
Project NimWendy Slevison
The story of Nim, a chimpanzee who was the subject of a 1970s experiment to see if an ape could learn to communicate with language if raised like a human child.
This is a brilliant telling of a harrowing and complex tale. Initially captivating due to the very cute subject, the mood soon shifts as we learn more about the arrogant and shameless exploitation of this remarkable animal, with no regard for any consequences. As Nim grows and becomes unmanageable due to his size and strength, he is cruelly discarded. You could hear a pin drop in the cinema as the audience absorbed his appalling plight. "F" for the Project; "A" for this film.
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!
Bill Maher's take on the current state of world religion.
"Religulous" would be a documentary but for its unbalanced, mocking tone. Comedy is given priority over facts and there are many amusing but unnecessary cheap shots. At times the disdain of the interviewer for the people interviewed is disquieting. Not so much investigative as much as lampooning in tone, too often the aim seems to be to provoke and dismiss rather than attempting to open debate. Nonetheless the topic is bravely tackled and worth seeing for some of the 'only-in-America' tableaus. Warning: Disturbingly dogmatic.
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.
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…".
A documentary on Brazilian Formula One racing driver Ayrton Senna, who won the F1 world championship three times.
If you have any spot of intrigue for racing, then you will adore "Senna". He was a purist and a gentleman, who faced his biggest battles off the track in his fast and short-lived career. Ayrton's relationship with Prost is unrivalled, fiercely competing with one another despite their team alliance, and world championships marred by controversy, politics and the French. The result is unflinching drama, given credence by vast and captivating footage of races and interviews. A man of genius.
A documentary comparing the highly profitable American health care industry to other nations, and HMO horror stories.
This film will convince you that America has the worst health care system in the world, and that France is a good country to live in. There is nothing more powerful than showing the price tags of body parts, supplemented by uncovering the greed and corruption of the government and insurance companies. How can the same medicine be 2400% more in the US than Cuba? This highly entertaining documentary will make a socialist out of you.
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.