True Lies: How documentary filmmaking set the stage for reality TV.

That was 2006. Since then I haven’t made another reality show, but I am making documentaries, and I keep asking myself if they are really that much different. After all, documentary filmmakers are also purveyors of a tell-all, show-all, know-all culture. Everyday life has become pop-culture entertainment, exploited as much by big TV networks and social-media companies as by the Jacks and Jills who offer up their lives in exchange for being noticed.

Keep reading …

True Lies: How documentary filmmaking set the stage for reality TV.

That was 2006. Since then I haven’t made another reality show, but I am making documentaries, and I keep asking myself if they are really that much different. After all, documentary filmmakers are also purveyors of a tell-all, show-all, know-all culture. Everyday life has become pop-culture entertainment, exploited as much by big TV networks and social-media companies as by the Jacks and Jills who offer up their lives in exchange for being noticed.

Keep reading …

The life of protest singer Phil Ochs plays out like a silver-screen Western in Kenneth Bowser’s documentary, Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune. “Left-wing politics was his career,” says one friend, “but … what was in his heart was not left-wing politics at all. It was John Wayne and Gary Cooper.” Keep reading …

The Accidental On-Purpose Documentarian: “We’ve set the bar so low that we don’t feel any pressure from the  outside,” says Mika Rättö, front man of an obscure Finnish experimental  rock band called Circle, at the beginning of Esko Lönnberg’s  meta-meta-documentary, Man with a Video Camera.
To be sure,  Rättö’s words aren’t very reassuring to someone just sitting down to a  50-minute-long film with a jumpy timeline and English subtitles. But for  artists, musicians, and documentary buffs with even a junior  varsity-level of intellectual stamina, Man with a Video Camera is an interesting, experimental peek into what is often seen as an impenetrable subject: the creative process.
Keep reading …

The Accidental On-Purpose Documentarian: “We’ve set the bar so low that we don’t feel any pressure from the outside,” says Mika Rättö, front man of an obscure Finnish experimental rock band called Circle, at the beginning of Esko Lönnberg’s meta-meta-documentary, Man with a Video Camera.

To be sure, Rättö’s words aren’t very reassuring to someone just sitting down to a 50-minute-long film with a jumpy timeline and English subtitles. But for artists, musicians, and documentary buffs with even a junior varsity-level of intellectual stamina, Man with a Video Camera is an interesting, experimental peek into what is often seen as an impenetrable subject: the creative process.

Keep reading …

Disability doesn’t preclude exceptional creativity, the eye-opening documentary Make shows. Four self-taught artists with various life-altering conditions—Down syndrome, schizophrenia, blindness, and psychological problems—channel their visions with pure purpose and no pretense. Keep reading …

Unlike some VH1 pop-doc, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 was created from archival footage  discovered in a Swedish TV station. It blends beautifully shot vérité  moments of urban life with intimate interviews with the era’s most  famous icons, such as Stokely Carmichael talking side by side with his  mom, and an impassioned prison one-on-one with Angela Davis. Read more …

Unlike some VH1 pop-doc, The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 was created from archival footage discovered in a Swedish TV station. It blends beautifully shot vérité moments of urban life with intimate interviews with the era’s most famous icons, such as Stokely Carmichael talking side by side with his mom, and an impassioned prison one-on-one with Angela Davis. Read more …

The Crockpot: A Weekly Link-Digest from Utne

Nothing beats the smell of paint fumes in the morning. So check out Atlas, a documentary on a few L.A.-based graffiti writers only recently digitized.

Musical obsession of the day: Jóhann Jóhannsson’s somber and bombastic score for The Miners’ Hymns, an experimental film documenting hardships of the U.K.’s pit mine laborers. Read Utne’s review.

Read our review of Bhutto, a lively portrait of the “Kennedys of Pakistan.”

A little embarrassed to have missed this, but yesterday was the five-year anniversary of legendary hip-hop producer J Dilla’s passing. We featured “Louder (Blast Your Radio Theme),” a track pulled from studio-sessions of the unfinished Dilla/Madlib collaboration, on the latest Utne Reader digital music sampler. The documentary above gives insight to his life and career. (H/T Reviler.)