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…".
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Art of FlightAndrew O'Dea
Two years in the making, this documentary gives iconic snowboarder Travis Rice and friends the opportunity to redefine what is possible in the mountains.
Quite simply the perfect balance between narrative and action, "The Art of Flight" contains some of the most spectacular live-action production values imaginable. The film's unbelievable camerawork is matched only by the grandeur of its cinematography. It enables the viewer to fully immerse themselves in the terrifying beauty of the mountains and the technical brilliance of the snowboarders that traverse them. Adventure is what you make it, so enjoy the ride!
The Greatest Movie Ever SoldAnthony Macali
A documentary about branding, advertising and product placement that is financed and made possible by brands, advertising and product placement.
The self-proclaimed "Greatest Movie Ever Sold" is far from it, though it does provide an interesting exposé into the unfamiliar advertising industry. The director/ documenter's lack of charisma is redeemed by his resourceful and determined displays, especially when forced to sell his idea to the advertising companies themselves with the aid of some amusing place cards. In the end, it's hard to tell if the financiers or film-makers come out on top, although as an audience, we're not 100% sold.
The Hollywood ComplexAnne Murphy
Spring heralds pilot season in Hollywood, and that means audition time as aspiring actors come to town with their Moms, desperately seeking that elusive call back from casting.
The scale of the 'wanna-be' industry is surprising, teeming with agents, drama-teachers and photographers, all fed by the sheer numbers of kids hoping to be discovered. While we can chuckle and scoff at the onscreen antics of the children and their parents, there is something very unsettling beneath the 'fun'. The opportunistic nature that all of the parties have in common suggests that many do not come away unscathed. Certainly no-one sings "Hooray for..."
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.
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.
The InterruptersAnne Murphy
The moving and surprising stories of three Violence Interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once participated in.
This fly-on-wall style documentary was filmed over the course of a year. The camera lens is firmly fixed on the problem of street shootings and the community building interventions of the dedicated outreach group CeaseFire and their Violence Interrupters who confront the problem by talking directly with the kids in the war zone. Speaking of talking, it's helpful that some of the dialogue is subtitled, and there's no doubt about the authenticity of the content. Interrupting an epidemic.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of QuartersAnthony Macali
Diehard video game fans compete to break World Records on classic arcade games.
While the premise might not appeal to all, "The King of Kong" goes much further than exploring a simple video game; it's about competition at a world class level. It's arrogant Billy Mitchell, a messiah of the arcade world with many disciples - at his whim against Steve Wiebe, an innocent family man craving to be number one. It's this rivalry, unique characters and a welcome insight into the world of freaks and geeks that makes this a documentary of the highest level.
The LookAnne Murphy
A biographical study of legendary actress Charlotte Rampling.
It is interesting to imagine different actors starring in their own documentaries, and few would enchant and enthral like the central figure of "The Look". This documentary is produced in chapters, each a conversation with one of her collaborators. The result is as an intimate portrait of an enigmatic actor and a career that spans more than 40 years. Her intelligent musings about aging, love and death provide insight into a life lived on the big screen. This unconventional woman is worth a look.
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.
The Red ChapelAnthony Macali
Two Danish comics, one of them a spastic and both born in Korea, join the director on a trip to North Korea, where they have been allowed access under the pretext of wanting to perform an act.
"The Red Chapel" provides a rare glimpse into a hellish world. The hosts, who happen to police the crew on their visit, appear dutifully polite, but it becomes apparent their overstated hospitality is a mask of fearful obedience to the dictatorship. Our protagonists walk a fine line between injecting their comedy into the regime and heeding to the Great Leader, apprehensive in their attempts to salvage their show overtaken by propaganda. An eye-opening insight into a country of no humour.
The September IssueCourtney Slevison
A documentary chronicling Vogue Editor-in-chief Anna Wintour's preparations for the highly anticipated 2008 fall-fashion issue.
"The September Issue" is an engrossing look at the world of high fashion, with renowned ice queen Anna Wintour at its centre. As the issue begins to come together five months before its release, what makes this doco so entertaining is observing the inter-office bickering and Wintour's minions quivering under her inscrutable eye. Unexpectedly intriguing, this film is interesting viewing that anyone, despite their level of interest in fashion, can appreciate.
The Tall ManAnne Murphy
A documentary, set on Palm Island where on the day Cameron Doomadgee was arrested for swearing at a policeman and was found dead in a watch-house cell forty-five minutes later.
"The Tall Man" is a documentary that persuasively recreates a death in custody one statement at a time through interviews and first person accounts. As each witness account is carefully scrutinised, a grim and unsettling story emerges. Trials and inquests are revisited and accounts unravel. We may not be able to determine exactly what happened on that one night in 2004, but we can definitely draw our own conclusions. Short on truth.
The Topp Twins: Untouchable GirlsAnne Murphy
A profile of the world's only comedic, singing, dancing, lesbian twin sisters.
"Topp Twins" evokes the '100% Pure New Zealand' tourist campaign that showcases the pure hearts and honest lifestyles that are recognisably typical of our imaginings of life in nuclear-free New Zealand. This documentary chronicles the careers of two remarkable characters that are both subversively and overtly political, and the tone is musical and humorous. The movie is threaded with a cabaret performance, recent and archival footage cleverly edited to tell this down to earth, and at times quite moving, story. Topp viewing.
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.
This Way of LifeAnne Murphy
A lionhearted father struggles valiantly to create a life of idyllic simplicity for his family.
The central character in this engrossing documentary tells us that he lives for a living and we learn that trying to lead a simple life is not so simple. Even so, the contentment revealed when idealistic parents speak from the heart touches a yearning for a different way of life. Creating interest are plenty of children and animals, not to mention the stormy New Zealand coastal setting, which is simply stunning. You mightn't choose this way of life, but don't let that stop you from watching it.