DOCUMENTARY

Featured Short: "Tapes From The Revolutionary"

What happens when a documentary turns the camera back on itself? Or when its subject tries to hijack the film? In the rather unconventional Scottish short doc "Tapes From The Revolutionary", we see one such result of these unexpected escapades. The man behind the camera? Edinburgh-based filmmaker Scott Willis. The man that’s supposed to be front of the camera? Self-proclaimed communist revolutionary and camcorder aficionado, Andy. The result of the two artists’ clashing visions? Total understated genius. Quite the character, Andy was filming with a Hi-8 camcorder when Willis found him. Intrigued by the footage on Andy's tapes, Willis decided this exploration into why and what we film would be a good subject for a documentary. Well, it seems Willis may have underestimated the supposedly simple man with an old camera. What he discovers is that Andy is someone constantly fighting for that seat in the saddle behind the camera, hands on reins and riding off into a cinematic sunset of his own choosing. Willis is a trained filmmaker and Andy? Well, he fancies himself quite the documentarian. In the end, this 16-min short is bizarrely humorous, surprisingly poignant, and all a touch philosophical. Filling in the cracks are musings about the filmmaking process that keep revealing themselves in the most enjoyable, offbeat ways. A film that seemed to have somewhat of a defined purpose at the beginning suddenly goes off the rails, becoming increasingly experimental and all the more memorable in its quirks. With glimpses of Andy as well as the Willis of today and flashbacks of a young Willis from the past, what we get here is a self-awareness to film as a medium. By studying the subject of the film, the filmmaker starts to study himself and why he chose to even make films in the first place. Analog and digital cameras both reveal an underlying message on the evolution of the role of the lens. The storytelling choices Willis then puts into play create a sort of playground to show and be shown. Guards are down, the fourth wall is broken and a 360 degree film is born. If you appreciate experimental docs, film reflexivity, and the role of storytelling in general, this absurd yet lovable little short is a total must watch. Its extensive run on the international festival circuit should be enough to prove that Willis is certainly a talent to keep on your radar! In the end, two "directors" with two very different visions weave quite the tale, leaving the audience wondering, why do we choose to document our lives? What should we show? Who is our audience? What is it like seeing the world through someone else’s eyes? Find out by watching "Tapes From The Revolutionary” via Indie Street now!  

Ah, happiness. Such a strange, elusive beast. In the new feature documentary, The Happy Film, filmmaker and designer Stefan Sagmeister explores the emotion by putting himself through a series of self-guided experiments in order to find out if he can manufacture the feeling. For the past seven years, he has been operating on a weekly happiness 1-10 rating scale system and exploring three methods for finding happiness: meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy and psychotropic drugs. The quirky, thought-provoking film born from this endeavor recently premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. Interested? You can read WIRED’s review of it here.

VOD Feature Review: "Crafting a Nation"

Throughout the past decade, we have seen a massive explosion of new breweries and new brewing experimentations happening within the craft beer scene in America. Beer. It’s delicious. It’s everywhere. And who could complain? Over at Indie Street, we certainly are seeing (and enjoying) the advantages to this new world of endless liquid creativity. In fact, along with the growth of craft beer potential, we are also seeing an influx of inspired new filmic endeavours. While Thomas Kolicko’s “Crafting a Nation” is one of quite a few fascinating, beer-centric documentaries to pop up over the past couple of years, Kolicko’s film is unique. It’s an interesting project because, more so than focusing on the actual beer, it focuses on the stories of the people behind the brew. And not just one story is chronicled, but dozens are told from across the country. Over 40 breweries in the US are featured, from ones just starting up to some of the largest craft breweries like Schlafly, Sam Adams and Sierra Nevada, to name a few. Despite the impressive roster, the primary focus of the film rests on chronicling both the progress and setbacks of two brothers, their dream and the successful opening of their own place, the Black Shirt Brewing Co. in Denver. As we “brewery hop” across America, we constantly return back to their inspiring story. Like finding a new favorite amongst the sea of thousands of new beers, Kolicko’s film stands out because it’s not just about shoving beer-related facts down our throats - it’s about the more personal, more human aspects behind achieving your dreams and following your passions. And well, the beer gives it even more bonus points.  So grab a cold one (or two or three…etc.) and give this week’s inspiring VOD feature a watch!

Just in time for Oscar Sunday, lots of people are focusing in on one independent documentary filmmaker that seems to be doing things right. Joshua Oppenheimer and his debut film, “The Act of Killing”, was a fascinating, jaw-dropping look at the individuals that participated in the Indonesian genocide of the 1960s. His second film, Oscar-nominated “The Look of Silence”, follows up on the continuing impact of those horrors. Read his interview with Indiewire here and learn more about his films’ impact, his approach to filmmaking, and what’s next.

"Yellow Fever": Kenyan Short Tackles Allure of Whiteness

Kenyan filmmaker Ng'endo Mukii is the type of woman that can be expected to tell bold stories through a multifaceted lens. A sort of mixed-media film showcasing elements of animation, documentary narrative, and dancing, her award winning short film "Yellow Fever" is a beautifully choreographed hodge podge of concepts that weave together in perfect harmony. Using memories and interviews from Mukii's family members, "Yellow Fever" studies Westernization and Globalization's effects on African woman, their understanding of beauty standards and their own self-image. From discussing African hairstyles to skin bleaching trends, the film evolves to become a rather frank portrait. Used as Mukii’s thesis project at London’s Royal College of Art, this Kenyan short was a festival favorite and winner of the Silver Hugo for Best Animated Short at the 2013 Chicago International Film Festival. Interested in the concepts of skin and race as well as studying the destabilized standards of beauty within African communities, Mukii knows her subject well, and for this I believe we can trust her work to start a much needed discussion amongst all audience types. While you're at it, why not check out more of the best (and free!) short films on the web.

We’re just about midway through 2015, and that means taking stock of the cinematic year so far. In terms of feature films, it’s been a stellar year, with everything from “Inside Out” and “Mad Max: Fury Road” to “The Duke Of Burgundy” and “L’il Quinquin” making it one of the strongest first six months of a moviegoing calendar that we can remember  with a plethora of equally excellent movies having cropped up at festivals. But to focus on the fiction arena would be to miss whole swaths of great cinema, because the documentaries of the first half of 2015 have been excellent. Here's Indiewire's top picks for the 2015 so far. 

Here's Why This Filmmaker Risked His Life To Make A Film

The award-winning documentary Saving Mes Aynak was a hit at IDFA 2014 and Full Frame 2015, but more than just a documentary it's also harnessing an activist campaign to save this ancient site.

READ MORE: The Best Documentary Filmmaking Advice from Full Frame Documentary Festival

The film follows archaeologist Qadir Temori as he races against time to save this 5,000-year-old Buddhist archeological site in Afghanistan from imminent demolition. It's endangered not only by religious fundamentalists, but by a Chinese mining company chasing corporate profits.

In traveling to the region on his own many times, "Saving Mes Aynak" director Brent E. Huffman risked his life at the hands of landlines and Taliban fighters. 

"It felt like my duty, my obligation, to tell this story and to spread the story about the imminent destruction of this incredible site," said Huffman in a video on Indiegogo. Read Full Story

A STYLISTIC MASH-UP OF ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE, INTERVIEWS, AND ANIMATED SEQUENCES, the Kurt Cobain documentary, Montage of Heck, premiered at Sundance '15 to a stunned audience. Anyone could have crafted a documentary about a band. Director Brett Morgen's experimental, road-less-traveled approach does something that's much deeper: letting you feel as if you've pored through someone's scrapbook. You get the sense that Kurt would have liked this. As for his fans, be prepared to meet the man you admire, warts and all. Read more: http://www.rollingstone.com/mo

Indie Street is not completely supportive of the shockumentary approach where documentarians scare the viewers into changing their ways. Not because we don't agree with many of the messages of these films, but more so because the only ones watching the docs are typically those who more or less agree with the message. This newly released documentary "Plastic Paradise" brought to you by Virgil Films, is a well done piece, but even more importantly it has such a simple cause and action that can be taken by any person in society to help ignite change. Purchase the film on Vimeo on Demand.