‘Hard Earned’ Shows the Challenges of Making a Living and a Life

Economic stories that focus on numbers — employment rates, job creation rates, wages, and inflation — fail to show the real price, the human costs, of financial realities. Hard Earned, an upcoming documentary series from Kartemquin Films, tells stories about people working to make a living and working to make a life following the economic… Read More ‘Hard Earned’ Shows the Challenges of Making a Living and a Life

Engaging the Battle for ‘Hearts and Minds’

For the years during the war and for almost a decade after, Vietnam remained an almost untouched subject in the American popular media. Extensive television coverage of men fighting in the bush provided a collective experience accompanied by newscasters’ observations, but not until the late in the 1970s did memoirs, novels, and films begin to… Read More Engaging the Battle for ‘Hearts and Minds’

‘Grizzly Man’ and the Filmmaker-Subject Relationship

Grizzly Man (2005) is as much about the filmmaker-subject relationship as it is about the subject himself. The subject is Timothy Treadwell, a bear enthusiast who spent 13 summers living among them and recording more than 100 hours of video with them and himself. Treadwell and his then-girlfriend Amie Huguenard met their untimely deaths when… Read More ‘Grizzly Man’ and the Filmmaker-Subject Relationship

Getting Down in the Trenches in ‘The War Room’

In 1960 presidential candidates John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon met on national television for the first in a series of debates. This meeting proved the latter’s downfall for while Kennedy, tanned and relaxed, impressed audiences with his confidence and poise, Nixon, pale and haggard, lost credibility because of his tired appearance. Unique at the… Read More Getting Down in the Trenches in ‘The War Room’

An Invitation to Witness in ‘Cameraperson’

Cameraperson is an audiovisual memoir of documentary camera operator Kirsten Johnson’s 25-year career. It features a pastiche of images and occasional titles, but no voiceover or staged interviews. The film results in a deep meditation on creating documentary images and sound and their ethical implications. Cameraperson opens with a title that reads “For the past… Read More An Invitation to Witness in ‘Cameraperson’

A Simple Question Belies Depths in ‘The Jinx’

Sometimes an interview question seems so simple that it belies the cultural depths that inform it. A question like this appears in Andrew Jarecki’s The Jinx: The Life and Murders of Robert Durst (2015). This six-episode HBO series retraces the unsolved murders linked to Durst through archival footage, reenactments, and interviews, including with Durst himself.… Read More A Simple Question Belies Depths in ‘The Jinx’

The Challenges of Getting and Staying ‘In the Game’

Sport documentaries are one of the oldest and most popular genres of the form. Some of the earliest films recorded boxing matches, as the sport’s confined area and bright lighting paired well with camera capabilities at the time. Later documentaries highlighted the spectacles of athletes and their abilities. Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia (1938) and Kon Ichikawa’s… Read More The Challenges of Getting and Staying ‘In the Game’

Three Docs on Ice: Science, Spectacle, and Storytelling

Dena Seidel’s Antarctic Edge: 70 Degrees South recently became available on iTunes. Its topic and telling found me watching two other related documentaries: Chasing Ice and Encounters at the End of the World. All three address in part glaciers and climate change. What differs among them is their focuses on science, spectacle, and storytelling. Science… Read More Three Docs on Ice: Science, Spectacle, and Storytelling

‘We the Economy’ Answers Complex Questions in Short Episodes

The economy this. The economy that. So much news coverage talks about the economy, but for those who avoided that class in college, what does “the economy” mean? We the Economy, a new online documentary series, offers some engaging explanations. We the Economy consists of 20 short videos organized around a series of questions that… Read More ‘We the Economy’ Answers Complex Questions in Short Episodes