‘Super, Girls’ Goes Behind the Scenes of Singing Contest in China

National televised singing contests raise the hopes of young singers and fill their heads with dreams of fame and fortune. “Idol” franchises bank on these hopes and dreams in countries around the world. For a couple years China offered the “Super Girl” singing contest, and Jian Yi’s Super, Girls (2007) follows 10 girls who auditioned during the… Read More ‘Super, Girls’ Goes Behind the Scenes of Singing Contest in China

‘Tell Me and I Will Forget’ Gets Lost in Voiceover Narration

While Justin Salerian’s Tell Me and I Will Forget offers an interesting look at South Africa, the 2010 documentary suffers from the burden of too much voiceover narration. Tell Me and I Will Forget attempts to show South Africa through the eyes of emergency workers employed by both public and private companies. The picture reveals a depth of… Read More ‘Tell Me and I Will Forget’ Gets Lost in Voiceover Narration

Herzog Finds Antarctica Fascinating in His Own Way in ‘Encounters at the End of the World’

Only Werner Herzog could make Antarctica into a fascinating place I would like to visit, as he does in the documentary Encounters at the End of the World. Herzog’s 2007 documentary includes what you might expect of him: intellectual voiceover, intriguing stories, and immense landscapes all bundled with a sense of wonder infused with a dose… Read More Herzog Finds Antarctica Fascinating in His Own Way in ‘Encounters at the End of the World’

‘Bronies’ Shows the Positives of Fan Cultures

A bit back I posted a Tweet looking for more light-hearted documentaries. Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony certainly fits that bill. Laurent Malaquais’s 2012 documentary is about the fan culture that grew around an unlikely show: “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.” My Little Pony is a Hasbro toy franchise that started… Read More ‘Bronies’ Shows the Positives of Fan Cultures

‘Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth’ Offers Poetic Portrait of Famous Author

Pratibha Parmar’s documentary Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth is a poetic portrait to the Pulitzer Prize-winning writer. Using interviews, extensive archival materials, and readings from Walker’s works, Parmar’s documentary tells Walker’s life story from her birth in the deep South to her current peace along the ocean. Walker herself plays a key role in recounting her own… Read More ‘Alice Walker: Beauty in Truth’ Offers Poetic Portrait of Famous Author

‘Sin by Silence’ Advocates without Losing Sight of Humanity

Individuals and their stories lie at the heart of social issues, and the best advocacy documentaries find ways to balance these stories against the larger issues without losing sight of those people’s humanity. For me, Sin by Silence and the advocacy accompanying it represent this balance well. Sin by Silence is a 2009 documentary directed by Olivia Klaus.… Read More ‘Sin by Silence’ Advocates without Losing Sight of Humanity

Passion is the Victory in ‘The Fruit Hunters’

The lingering opening to Yung Chang’s 2012 documentary The Fruit Hunters evokes a passion for the fruit it shows as the voiceover asks, “Is it strange that when I look at certain fruit, I find myself… a bit… aroused?” Based on Adam Leith Gollner’s book, The Fruit Hunters follows these seekers as they search for rare fruits, to save… Read More Passion is the Victory in ‘The Fruit Hunters’

Yidl in the Middle: Growing Up Jewish in Iowa

Identity is a constant negotiation — among questions of sex, faith, and geography — in Marlene Booth’s Yidl in the Middle: Growing Up Jewish in Iowa. Yidl in the Middle is an autobiographical documentary about Booth’s experiences with growing up Jewish in what some might consider idyllic Iowa in the 1950s and 1960s. Booth’s narration… Read More Yidl in the Middle: Growing Up Jewish in Iowa