More and more often, documentary filmmakers are turning to animation to tell stories—or parts of stories—that can’t be represented in any other way. In the case of the compelling new film FLEE, the storyteller spent much of his life since childhood in the shadows as an illegal Afghan refugee, and even now does not feel comfortable sharing his last name, or his face. It’s understood that traditional documentaries involve some degree of manipulation, and animated nonfiction films provide even more leeway to let imaginations take flight.
Co-Directors Stanley Nelson and Traci Curry brilliantly reshape race narrative in ATTICA by giving voice to the unheard minorities and disrupting the dominant historical narrative. It is a strategy that Nelson has used in his many films including THE MURDER OF EMMETT TILL, JONESTOWN: THE LIFE AND DEATH OF PEOPLE’S TEMPLE and MILES DAVIS: BIRTH OF THE COOL.
Just as reading a great short story can have an impact in a relatively few pages, short films also can entertain, inform and challenge us with limited running times. Most of our favorite filmmakers started their careers making short subjects. Which of this year’s Oscar™ nominated creators will be the makers of the next breakout independent film on their way to a studio blockbuster? You can watch and place your bets. And remember that this year the public has seen all nominated movies the same way most Academy members have been watching them for years—at home.
You may assume that the stars in this delectable new documentary feature are human; and some of them are. But when you experience an exhilarating dog’s eye-view of a hunt to find the rare and wondrous fungus and hear the excited snuffling sounds of success, you understand that there would be no truffle hunt without some very canny canines. Both they—and the aromatic white Alba truffles they hunt—are worth their weight in gold.
American director Philip Kaufman is hard to pin down: a visual stylist who is truly literate, a San Franciscan who often makes European films, he is an accessible storyteller with a sophisticated touch. Celebrated for his vigorous, sexy, and reflective cinema, Kaufman is best known for his masterpiece The Unbearable Lightness of Being, the astronaut saga The Right Stuff and an eclectic series of films including The Wanderers, Henry & June, The White Dawn and his remake of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.
Sam Shepard as Chuck Yeager, the first man to break the sound barrier; on location with Phil Kaufman for The Right Stuff.
For twenty years my office was in the Saul Zaentz Building in Berkeley. In addition to the movies Saul produced, there were award-winning documentary filmmakers plus post-production talent set in a wonderful environment there that resulted in high profile narrative filmmakers preferring to do their post-production at the facility rather than at the Hollywood studios. You might see a celebrity.
One day in early 2000 I was going to lunch with director Gus Van Sant. Landmark has been an early supporter of his work launching “Mala Noche” and “Drugstore Cowboy” when others were not interested. As the elevator door opened on the ground floor I looked out at the people waiting to get on and in my mind I could hear my bad impersonation, “Bond—James Bond.”