Ben Berman embraced the chaos while directing “The Amazing Johnathan Documentary”

Ben Berman embraced the chaos while directing “The Amazing Johnathan Documentary”

Source:  The Hollywood Reporter

Ben Berman’s “The Amazing Johnathan Documentary,” about an ailing magician’s return to the stage was never intended as a nose-thumbing to the documentary form.

In fact, as Berman drove out to Las Vegas in 2017, seeking to gather material for a short film about illusionist John Szeles — The Amazing Johnathan in 2014 had declared in front of a live audience that he had cardiomyopathy and a year to live — there wasn’t much of a plan at all.

Berman saw an opportunity to document the return of a still alive-and-kicking Szeles announcing that he was coming out of retirement while mixing in interviews from comedy and magic act peers including Eric Andre, Penn Jillette, and Criss Angel.

As far as documentaries go, this was all pretty standard stuff.  Then — as Berman’s film lays out in glorious detail — everything went spectacularly wrong.

Read the story at The Hollywood Reporter.


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How “The Elephant Queen” filmmakers earned the trust of their majestic subject

How “The Elephant Queen” filmmakers earned the trust of their majestic subject

Source:  IndieWire

When Apple TV+ launches on Nov. 1, one of the first pieces of original content available will be nature documentary “The Elephant Queen,” about a beautiful, tusked matriarch of a family of elephants.

Directors Victoria Stone and Mark Deeble filmed in Kenya for four years straight, but it took a little while before they found Athena, their main character.

“To begin with, she wouldn’t let us close. But we could see that with her herd, with her family, she was a really calm, beautiful, temperate matriarch.  And we would just spend time with her,” Deeble told the crowd after an International Documentary Association screening of the film at the London West Hollywood, part of the IDA’s annual screening series.

Over the course of several weeks, Athena had allowed the small crew closer and closer, until they were about 40 meters from her.  One day, Athena walked away to let her calf stand between her and the crew.  That’s a rare occurrence for a mother.

Read the story at IndieWire.


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Watch “Easter Snap,” a new short documentary from 2019 Oscar nominee RaMell Ross

Watch “Easter Snap,” a new short documentary from 2019 Oscar nominee RaMell Ross

Source:  Field of Vision

With a baited handling of American symbolism, documentary filmmaker RaMell Ross, 2019 Oscar nominee for “Hale County This Morning, This Evening,” joins five men in Alabama as they resurrect the homestead ritual of hog processing under the guidance of and elder, Johnny Blackmon.

 

Watch “Easter Snap” above and read the story at Field of Vision.


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Todd Douglas Miller shares how more than 11,000 hours of audio and video turned into the 93-minute documentary “Apollo 11”

Todd Douglas Miller shares how more than 11,000 hours of audio and video turned into the 93-minute documentary “Apollo 11”

Source:  IndieWire

Any moon-landing conspiracy theorist who sees director Todd Douglas Miller’s mesmerizing documentary “Apollo 11,” which captures the 1969 lunar adventure of astronauts Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins, will feel put on blast.

Miller’s digital restoration of never-before-seen NASA footage marries the pulse-pounding Apollo 11 journey itself with the efforts of ground control to orchestrate a smooth trip.

At a recent International Documentary Association (IDA) screening in Los Angeles, and as a kick-off to the IDA’s annual awards-season lineup that looks back on the year’s best nonfiction films, Miller spoke to an audience in a conversation moderated by IndieWire Associate Editor Steve Greene.

Read the story at IndieWire.


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“Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool” director Stanley Nelson talks about his early career

“Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool” director Stanley Nelson talks about his early career

Source:  Variety

Stanley Nelson’s latest documentary “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool” is playing in theaters after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival.

But for the past 30 years, Nelson’s films, such “The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution” and “Tell Them We Are Rising: The Story of Black Colleges and Universities,” have detailed lesser-known stories of the African American experience.

He produced the 2017 short “Gavin Grimm vs.,” directed by Nadia Hallgren, about a trans boy who challenged his school board’s bathroom policy by filing a case that made it to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Nelson’s films expose injustices and pivotal moments in American history and have received multiple awards.

Read the interview at Variety.


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“It’s a choice to be a filmmaker or a human”: Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska discuss “Honeyland”

“It’s a choice to be a filmmaker or a human”: Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska discuss “Honeyland”

Source:  Filmmaker

The award-winning documentary “Honeyland” marks the second collaboration between directors Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska.

Set in Bekirlijia, a rural village in Macedonia, the film focuses on Hatidze Muratova, who follows ancient beekeeping traditions while caring for her ailing mother Nazife.

Despite her efforts to be self-sufficient, political and economic decisions have a profound effect on Muratova and her ability to survive.

Synopses of “Honeyland” can make it seem like a dull, self-righteous nature documentary.  Instead, it’s a film filled with contradictions and narrative reversals.

Characters make self-destructive, at times inexplicable choices, often under the guise of kindness and generosity.

Muratova, ostensibly a woman living on the edge of society, possesses a strong set of survivor skills and a wily grasp of cultural change.

Read the interview at Filmmaker.

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