Tag Archives: documentary

DocuWatch: A Life Ascending

I apologize for the long hiatus. It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve posted. I have been keeping busy with work, scripts, and a new part time job, so I haven’t had a chance these past few weeks to sort out scheduling for keeping up with the blog. Even though I’m busy with so much work, I definitely don’t want to stop blogging about my passion for film and TV. So again, I’m sorry for slacking on Indies Unchained.

We definitely need all the help we can get, and we’re open for new writers to join our team. Check out Christina’s post on how to contribute to our blog.

I’ll be posting every Monday, but I’ll start off today with a quick post to get the ball rolling:

*Check out this remarkable documentary I recently watched. I will be promoting its iTunes release through my internship at Ptarmigan Films soon. But for now, I’ll give you guys a little tease of this great film, which has won several awards and has been featured in over thirty festivals worldwide, including the Banff Mountain Film Festival.

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Today’s Lesson: Everything’s Been Done Before

(The video from SouthParkStudios.com wouldn’t embed, so here’s the link to it: http://www.southparkstudios.com/clips/153489/2-month-old-mayonnaise)

So, this post is coming together much later than I’d wanted, and is going to be much shorter than I’d planned, for one simple reason: the two previous posts I’d started writing were already done here on Indies Unchained.

First, I’ve recently started reading Fahrenheit 451 for the first time (hey, it was never on our reading list high school), and I wanted to tie the unsettling future of a world gone so PC that books and all thought-provoking media were destroyed into the need for shocking films like the just-released Compliance. But then I found out there had already been a post about the startling film based on the real abuse of a McDonald’s employee because of a phone call by someone posing as a police officer. Continue reading

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Throwback Thursday: “Think Like A Doc”

Indies Unchained has been up and running for eight months now, which is something I’m very proud of. To highlight this accomplishment, I wanted to offer a sort of greatest hits segment featuring my highest viewed posts. This post was originally published in January. “Make a Movie like Spike” is now titled “The American Dream” and available for purchase on Amazon HERE. “Circumstance” is now available on Amazon Instant and DVD/Blu-Ray.


I had the opportunity to see a film called “Make a Movie like Spike” at the 15th annual Urbanworld Film Festival this past September. Everything about this film is absolutely inspiring, from the plot about young Black men in Los Angeles documenting their last days before deploying to Afghanistan to the story of its creation by actor-turn-filmmaker, Jamil Smith.


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Film vs. Digital: “Side by Side” conversation on iTunes

Official synopsis:
For almost one hundred years there was only one way to make a movie — with film. Movies were shot, edited and projected using photochemical film. But over the last two decades a digital process has emerged to challenge photochemical filmmaking. SIDE BY SIDE, a new documentary produced by Keanu Reeves, takes an in-depth look at this revolution. Through interviews with directors, cinematographers, film students, producers, technologists, editors, and exhibitors, SIDE BY SIDE examines all aspects of filmmaking — from capture to edit, visual effects to color correction, distribution to archive. At this moment when digital and photochemical filmmaking coexist, SIDE BY SIDE explores what has been gained, what is lost, and what the future might bring.

Although the film screened last month at the Tribeca Film Festival, you can still listen to the full discussion with director Chris Kenneally for free on iTunes HERE!

What I learned:

  • Digital filmmaking equals higher post-production costs, which means the overall aesthetic that once belonged to the cinematographer now rests heavily on the shoulders of the editor.
  • The common argument from DP’s about digital production sets is that it leads to less disciplined crews with carefree attitudes because they can shoot as much as they want. On the other hand,  you can feel the money running through the camera when shooting with film, which forces you to focus and shoot more economically. DP’s are also nervous because traditionally you don’t see what you’ve shot on film until after it’s been processed. With digital, everyone and their more can judge the dailies. Some argue this takes some power away from the cinematographer to craft worthy images.
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Unchained at Tribeca Online: “The Russian Winter”

I was ecstatic when I saw THE RUSSIAN WINTER featuring musician John Forte (The Fugees) would be included in Tribeca Film Festival online streaming collection. A big thank you to producer Dream Hampton for sharing the heads up via Twitter. My final thoughts from the film: God, this is really what second chances can mean! I saw the whole documentary as an invitation to Forte’s rebirth as a singer/songwriter and a free man. Yes, you get a clear idea that he hit the big times working with The Fugees and the artist/fans in Russia were very familiar with his work. The most intimate moment to me was when Forte described finding music again while imprisoned. One guitar allowed him to hear his voice for the first time and suddenly he transitioned from arranger to frontman. Side note: Did you know that Carly Simon was one of Forte’s biggest supporters for getting him out of prison? Me neither.
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Unchained at SXSW: “Marley”

The definitive life story of Bob Marley – musician, revolutionary, legend – from his early days to his rise to international superstardom. Made with the support of the Marley family, the film features rare footage, incredible performances and revelatory interviews with the people that knew him best. Directed by Academy Award Winner Kevin Macdonald.

Personally, I know 3 or 4 Bob Marley songs and usually I think of him as a an image on a poster or T-shirt worn by the white kids at my college. Nonetheless, I was looking forward to the screening of MARLEY. I am a big fan of music documentaries because well they have great soundtracks and if done right, they go beyond your typical “MTV Behind the Music”. MARLEY actually went above and beyond my expectations. The film uses both personal/news/concert footage of the musician, interviews with former band-mates/loved ones and B-roll footage of his village in Jamaica (including the most beautiful aerial views of the island I’ve ever seen) to paint a picture of such an iconic man. What did I learn? I learned about the obstacles a filmmaker must overcome if they are going to tell a story about a figure that is revered by the world. You hear “Someone made a doc about Bob Marley” and automatically think well what else is there to know? I now realize that a great filmmaker has to dig deeper than their predecessors to find that one story no one has ever heard. This particular filmmaker, Kevin Macdonald, started with Marley’s family, including his son Ziggy who granted him access to pretty much Bob’s entire life. Learning that his father was a White man or that he may have died from cancer that could have been prevented by an improperly treated soccer injury, or even that his wife was sort of okay with his womanizer persona added depth to an individual who in my mind had essentially been reduced to a radical Rasta-man with dreadlocks smoking a joint. I walked away from the screening enlightened at how Bob Marley was so much grander than that.

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Unchained at SXSW: “The Imposter”

In 1994 a 13-year-old boy disappeared from his home in San Antonio,Texas. Three and a half years later he is found alive thousands of miles away in Spain with a shocking story of kidnap and torture. His family are overjoyed to bring him home. But all is not what it seems. He bears many of the same marks but why does he have a strange accent? Why does he look so different? And why doesn’t the family notice these glaring inconsistencies? It’s only when an investigator starts asking questions that this astonishing true story takes an even stranger turn…

People, if someone claims to be your long-lost son, demand a blood test immediately. It’s just common sense. Similar to DREAMS OF A LIFE, this film really intrigued me with the use of reenactments. I really wish I’d stayed for the Q&A with director Bart Layton to learn more about this ludicrous true story. To summarize, the documentary blends live interviews with actor reenactment to tell the case of a missing American boy found a few years later in Spain. However, cue *dun dun dun* music, he is not the missing boy, but in fact a 23-year-old French con man. I missed this film at Sundance and I got up extra early to make sure I saw it at SXSW. What did I learn? The art of pacing. This documentary could have easily been a narrative due to the well-executed storytelling techniques. At first, the audience is given the standard six o’clock news synopsis from the real missing boy’s family. Then we’re thrust into meeting the reenactment actor playing the French con man, who portrays almost as a narrator of the case. Inter-cut between that are real photos, reenactments with actors playing the family, government officials and a younger version of the con man. Are you lost yet? At one point the present day con man speaks to the actor playing the younger version of himself which breaks that fourth wall so disturbingly perfectly. Surprisingly, there’s a lot of humor in the final third act twist, which is a reveal I saw coming but was still locked in until the very final scene. This is a must-see film if I’ve ever seen one.

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Unchained at SXSW: “Dreams of a Life”

“Dreams of a Life” is an imaginative and multilayered quest to go beyond the newspaper reports and solve the mystery of who thirty-eight year old Joyce Vincent was and why she lay undiscovered for three years after her death in one of the busiest parts of London.

First off, my God, people check in on your loved ones consistently. The haunting reenactments of the actress playing Joyce Carol Vincent on screen were remarkable. As a viewer who really only heard of the film via Shadow and Act, I was instantly drawn into the portrait of this beautiful, yet sad woman. What did I learn? I now have a greater appreciation for filmmakers who take on depicting the real life accounts of a person. The structure of the film was very risky. How do you bring visual images to the stories of a dead woman’s friends and co-workers? How much can you stretch the truth to create a cinematic experience and not an “E! True Hollywood Story”? There are points in the film where I really thought the actress was Joyce, especially in this particular scene which was inter-cut in the film of the woman sitting down to wrap her Christmas presents, which was how the officials found the real Joyce’s body after she died. Audiences may be unsettled by the fact that the film does not reveal the true cause of Joyce’s death, but to me that wasn’t the point. This young woman had abusive boyfriends, severe asthma and ulcers, was estranged from her family and very much guarded with her past. Her body was so badly decomposed after three years that the investigative officials may never know the truth. In my eyes, the filmmaker Carol Morley were able to give a public acknowledgment of Joyce’s short life. I know I will never forget her story.

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Unchained Movie Nights!

Nothing good at the megaplex this upcoming Valentine’s Day? Well, look what I found out via Twitter. PBS is offering you the chance to see two very amazing documentary films (SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME on 2/13 and THE INTERRUPTERS on 2/14) right in the comfort of your own living room!

First on the small screen is SLAVERY BY ANOTHER NAME, a compelling look at  the ever-restrictive life of freed slaves during reconstruction. Directed by Sam Pollard, SLAVERY recently screened at Sundance last month. I kept kicking myself that I didn’t get to see it but now here’s a chance for us all to catch it. According to the film’s site, you can watch it on all PBS stations, Feb. 13, at 9 p.m. Eastern, 8 p.m., Central. 

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Think Like a Doc

I had the opportunity to see a film called “Make a Movie like Spike” at the 15th annual Urbanworld Film Festival this past September. Everything about this film is absolutely inspiring, from the plot about young Black men in Los Angeles documenting their last days before deploying to Afghanistan to the story of its creation by actor-turn-filmmaker, Jamil Smith. Whether you’re lucky enough to see this dynamic hit at a festival near you or just hear Smith himself speak so passionately about his love of film, you wanna go along for the ride. I even began to use one of the many gems of knowledge he stated at the festival luncheon as my own creative mantra —

“It’s God’s irony when it comes to film: the more personal we make it, the more universal it becomes.”

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