Theme of the Week: Documentaries

I’m not the biggest documentary fan – I’ve only seen about 100 feature length documentaries – however, this came at a good time as I have to make a short documentary for TAFE. I like very few documentaries as I tend to immediately lose interest if I’m not interested in the subject matter (unlike fiction films where there are many other elements to make it enjoyable).

Land des Schweigens und der Dunkelheit (1971)


I dislike or hate all of Herzog’s fiction films (only seen 6, but all of them were horrible), yet I tend to like his documentaries. Grizzly Man is still my favourite of his films. Although I’ve briefly thought ‘wouldn’t it be horrible to be deaf and blind’, I’ve never really considered it and this film is quite effective at showing the isolation of it. I couldn’t imagine ever living that lifestyle and would frankly rather die than live that kind of existence. And that isn’t to demean their lives; they have remarkable strength and persistence. I just can’t imagine how I could ever find satisfaction living that way. The guy who had been deaf and blind since birth and couldn’t talk was the most interesting part of it for me, it was absolutely bizarre. The music made it a bit cheesy at times and although an interesting subject, I didn’t find it particularly powerful or amazing (it’s hard to move me, though).

Nightmares in Red, White and Blue: The Evolution of the American Horror Film (2009)


A basic, but good, documentary on the popularity of American horror films. Anyone with a decent grasp of the genre won’t find anything new here, but it’s pretty good for beginners. I enjoyed it mostly for comments from some of the people interviewed – I particularly agreed with Mick Garris’ comment “If you meet all the people who make horror films, you discover they are very non-violent, they’re politically active and knowledgeable and anti-war. They have opened themselves up to all of these possibilities, and it’s the people repressed them who are the ones you have to look out for.” since I use that as an argument whenever I’m defending the genre. Those that close their eyes and look the other way are the people that I’m wary about. I also liked George Romero’s comments on his films, backing up, again, my defense of those films and zombie films in general; that zombies can be anything, it’s the people you should be focusing on. I also liked just seeing clips of my favourite films. I spent a lot of the doc going ‘omg I love that movie!’. It’s only 90 minutes and can be a bit overly political at times, but is a fun documentary that covers some of the very basics of the genre. It’s nice to just hear people being positive about horror for once since everyone else I speak to just look down on it.

Rewind This! (2013)


I often get nostalgic for the days of VHS. I used to love going to the video shops with my dad when I was a kid and looking at every single horror movie there. Once DVDs came out I stopped going to the video shop as much, there’s nothing fun about looking at DVDs and I agree that cover art has gone from fecking amazing to I can’t even tell the difference between films anymore. The last movie I watched on VHS was, I think, Basket Case in 2004 (so I squeed a bit when it appeared in this doc). I still have some old videos that mean something to me, but I could lose any of my DVDs and Blurays and wouldn’t care. The doc is mostly a nostalgic look at the early days of VHS (before my time), offers a bit of an interesting history of how its popularity came about and its effect on independent films. The constant music throughout, even during the interviews is really annoying. As much as I like that kind of retro sound, it was just distracting. And Frank Henenlotter seems awesome. For some reason I thought he would be strange, but he seems like a cool dude.

Nostalgia de la luz (2010)


So incredibly dull that I could barely focus on it at all. I’ve pretty much forgotten it all now. It sounded interesting to me and looked like it was visually impressive, but the visuals are flat and boring and it offered nothing else. Some people are calling it deeply profound and philosophical, but perhaps they watched a different film.

Portrait of Jason (1967)


Perhaps important for LGBT film history, but offers very little otherwise. It’s basically just a dude talking about himself and his life for 100 minutes, but he – and his life – just aren’t very interesting. There’s not much of cinematic interest either and felt like there was no point.

When We Were Kings (1996)


I watched this one afternoon and when I went online after finishing it, the news that Muhammad Ali had died was everywhere. That was pretty weird. I knew very little about Ali beforehand and had no knowledge of the fight. It was decent, but not very deep. I still don’t know a whole lot about Ali. But I understand more about the beginning of Ali’s fame and popularity.

The Act of Killing (2012)


I’ve been looking forward to this for some years, but I found it pretty disappointing. I just found it boring and not as powerful as it really should’ve been. I just had no interest in it.

The Hellstrom Chronicle (1971)


So I think this is like a mockumentary, but is classified as documentary for some reason. I felt its ‘humour’ was a bit unfocused. But the imagery of the insects and the use of music and sound was pretty incredible. Some of it was pretty creepy and disturbing.

Best Film of the Week:

Most films were decent, but I give a slight edge to Rewind This! as I felt I gained the most usable knowledge and insight from it.

Worst Film of the Week:

Nostalgia de la luz; so boring that it’s barely watchable.

Next week I’ll be working on films on the iCM Forum’s 500<400.

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