#SoReal - 13 October 2020

Something Play

Play is the mediator of the invisible and visible.

- Dora M. Kalff

These two beautiful movies fuddle with the parameters of being and the intoxication being something else.


While the world is ablaze, a blind director asks her theater group to help her process her broken heart. In a chaotic and iconographic role play, the group embarks on its search for love's true nature, while the fear of the physical world's limitations are buried deep underneath the stage floor.

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US: Vimeo (free) UK: Vimeo (free)

Moments of Play

A visually rich travelogue from Bali, Brazil, England, Haiti, Spain and the U.S.A. presents a series of loosely linked observations of a strange and joyous human condition: moments of play.

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US: Doc Alliance UK: Doc Alliance

#SoReal - 2 October 2020

Something Tokyo

From time to time.

The clouds give rest.

To the moon beholders.

– Basho

This week's films emerge from hidden alleyways of Tokyo and look up to the sky.

Shinjuku Boys

Shinjuku Boys follows three onnabes - women who live their lives as men - as they work at Tokyo's New Marilyn club. In candid conversations, the speak about their lives, relationships and fears.

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US: Boiler Room 4:3 (Free) UK: Boiler Room 4:3 (Free)

Japan: A Story of Love and Hate

An insightful observation of the relationship between 56-year-old Naoki and his much younger girlfriend Yoshie, who took him after he lost everything in Japan's economic slump of the 1990s. This is an unusual love story of survival in the world's second richest economy.

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US: Amazon UK: Amazon

#SoReal - 24 September 2020

Something Dad

Familial relations are often in balance between the spoken and assumed, and between influence and difference. These two films foray into the distance, closeness and place of a complex father figure.

The Image You Missed

An Irish filmmaker grapples with the legacy of his estranged father, the late documentarian Arthur MacCaig, through MacCaig's decades-spanning archive of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

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US: Vimeo on Demand UK: Vimeo on Demand


Three sisters live alone in a small village family house in the high mountains of the Yunan region. When difficulties arise their father decides to take the youngest girls with him to the city and to leave the older one under the supervision of her grandfather.

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US: Doc Alliance UK: Doc Alliance

#SoReal - 15 September 2020

Something Desert

One fifth of the world's land surface is defined as desert, yet these arid places support very little inhabitance. In these films the desert is a theatre of human struggle.

Below Sea Level

About 190 miles southeast of Los Angeles and 120 feet below sea level, a commune of outcasts lives in the middle of the desert. Everyone has his or her own reason for being here, and especially a reason not to be somewhere else.

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US: Doc Alliance UK: Doc Alliance

El Mar La Mar

An immersive and enthralling journey through the Sonoran Desert on the U.S.- Mexico border. The film weaves together harrowing oral histories from the area with hand-processed 16mm images of flora, fauna and items left behind by travellers.

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US: iTunes / Doc Alliance UK: Doc Alliance

#SoReal - 5 September 2020

Something Lands

This week two analogue, yet faintly analogous perspectives of national psyche are informed by the rhythms and rigidities of a land and its people.

Early Years

A portrait of Jamaican-born artistic polymath Barbara Samuels. It features an account of her first-generation, diasporic experience in London, and her discovery of the liberatory possibilities for self-actualisation offered by an early entry into creative life.

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US: Mattflix (Free) UK: Mattflix (Free)

O'er the Land

A meditation on the milieu of elevated threat addressing national identity, gun culture, wilderness, consumption, patriotism, and the possibility of personal transcendence.

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US: E-Flux (Free) / Doc Alliance UK: E-Flux (Free) / Doc Alliance

#SoReal - 29 August 2020

Something Awakening

In these films the images are thoughts, and the thoughts are possibilities: awakenings to other realities and a dedication to the radical minds who birth them.

A Place of Rage

A celebration of the contributions and achievements of prominent African American women, the film features Angela Davis, June Jordan and Alice Walker. Within the context of civil rights, black power, lesbian and gay rights and the feminist movement, the trio reassesses how women revolutionized American society and the world generally.

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US: Vimeo on Demand UK: Vimeo on Demand

Points on a Space Age

Points on a Space Age explores the recent activity of the remaining members of the influential Sun Ra Arkestra since the passing of its founding member, Sun Ra and examines their current work (in the physical absence of Sun Ra) under the direction of Marshall Allen.

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US: Vimeo (free) UK: Vimeo (free)

#SoReal - 18 August 2020

Something House

The house forms the skeleton of society, its denial forms a society of skeletons. This week's films explore attachment, presence and place through allyship, poetics and protest.


An unflinching depiction of the powerlessness of individuals in the face of the cruel indifference of the state.

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US: Youtube (Free) UK: Youtube (Free)

Home Suite

John Smith takes us on a real time tour of the home from which he is being evicted, chronicling the history of the everyday items he has lived with and bringing them back to life.

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US: Vimeo (free) UK: Vimeo (free)

#SoReal - 10 August 2020

Something Wandering

"Many people nowadays live in a series of interiors… disconnected from each other. On foot everything stays connected, for while walking one occupies the spaces between those interiors in the same way one occupies those interiors. One lives in the whole world rather than in interiors built up against it." Rebecca Solnit

This week's films move through the world by foot: embodied eyes meander through the places and non-places of human geography.


Sprawling malls, theme parks, hotels and corporate centers worldwide are joined into one monolithic contemporary “superlandscape” that shapes the lives of two women caught within it.

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US: LUX Player UK: LUX Player

Let Each One Go Where He May

Composed of only thirteen moving shots, 'Let Each One Go Where He May' follows a Surinamese man as he travels from the city to the forest.

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US: Vimeo (free) UK: Vimeo (free)

#SoReal - 28 July 2020

Something Solidarity

What happened to the revolution? Where do we march in the internet? These two films reflect on historic revolutionary attempts from the battle on the street to the factory.

The Poor Stockinger, the Luddite Cropper and the Deluded Followers of Joanna Southcott

Mixing archive footage with newly-shot material in an evocative video essay that reflects on the life and times of the critic, historian and activist E.P. Thompson.

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US: LUX Player UK: LUX Player

The Battle of Chile

An epic and gripping documentary about the political turmoil in Chile in the 1970s, leading to revolution and the deposition of its democratically elected socialist president, Salvador Allende; a decisive event not only in the history of Chile but of the Cold War itself.

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US: Youtube (Three parts) UK: Youtube (Three parts)

#SoReal - 18 July 2020

Something Safe

Navigating performance, community, permission and safety, this week's films offer a lens and a strategy to subvert oppressive entities in public.

The Giverny Document

Filmed on location in Harlem, USA and in Claude Monet’s historic gardens in Giverny, France, The Giverny Document is a multi-textured cinematic poem that meditates on the safety and bodily autonomy of Black women.

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US: Youtube UK: Youtube

No Data Plan

Living in the United States illegally for over 20 years, Miko Revereza takes the Amtrak train from Los Angeles to New York in this critical moment of hostility against migrants in the country he has come to know as home. The journey seems daring, perhaps reckless, yet urgent and necessary.

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US: IFFR Unleashed UK: IFFR Unleashed

#SoReal - 9 July 2020

Something Here

What is a community without images? What is a home without safety behind doors? This week's films offer community perspectives that flicker and glitch between being here and being heard.

A Protest, A Celebration, A Mixed Message

Celebration is protest at Leeds West Indian Carnival. A look at forms of authority, ‘A Protest, A Celebration, A Mixed Message’ asks who is really performing. Following Mama Dread’s, a troupe whose carnival theme is Caribbean immigration to the UK, we are asked to consider the visibility of black bodies, particularly in rural spaces.

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US: Videoclub (Limited time) UK: Videoclub (Limited time)

The People's Account

A direct document of the Broadwater Farm Estate in Tottenham, the scene of serious rioting between police and the residents in 1984, from the point of view of the black community which lives there.

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US: Vimeo (free) UK: Vimeo (free)

#SoReal - 30 June 2020

Something Spoken

Words pass from a mouth to an ear, to a mind. What happens between is a mystery of articulation, and understanding. This week's films reflect on language, knowledge and communication with humour and spoken difficulty.

Atelier de Conversation

A dozen red chairs, an equal number of mutually disparate life stories. Just a room and a common language, however, become a means toward understanding as foreigners from all corners of the world meet each week at the Centre Pompidou in Paris for free lessons to hone their French.

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US: Doc Alliance UK: Doc Alliance

The Faculties

Students of different careers prepare to take final exams. Botany, anatomy, sociology, medieval philosophy, criminal law, morphology, theoretical physics and piano. Each one uses their own abilities to cope with the situation of oral exposure, the most common evaluative practice in the National Universities of Argentina.

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US: Doc Alliance UK: Doc Alliance

#SoReal - 22 June 2020

Something Somebody

Perhaps the most difficult terrain to know and accept is the surface and depth of one's own body. This week's films explore grounding interiors, complicated distances, and shifting self, in a world that is less than accepting.

Room For a Man

A young filmmaker who shares a Beirut apartment with his mother and pet dog attempts to reconstruct his identity by renovating his bedroom. But as the Syrian construction workers come and go in the freshly embattled household, new questions, old arguments and unexpected passions get stirred. What emerges is an intimate essay about the meaning of masculinity and a young man’s search for acceptance across two continents.

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US: Aflamuna (free) UK: Aflamuna (free)

The Joy of Life

A blending of documentary and experimental narrative strategies, combining stunning 16mm landscape cinematography with a bold, lyrical voice-over to share two San Francisco stories: the history of the Golden Gate Bridge as "suicide landmark," and the story of a butch dyke in San Francisco searching for love and self-discovery. The Joy of Life is a film about landscapes, both physical and emotional.

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US: iTunes / Vimeo UK: iTunes / Vimeo

#SoReal - 15 June 2020

Something Deep

As racist statues are rightfully submerged this week's pairing of films portray submersion as a rite of passage and water as a body for community.

Ama San

The film follows the everyday lives of three women of different ages who have dived together in the sea around a small fishing village on the Shima peninsular for 30 years. Shot between the silent, underwater world and rural life on land, this film is a unique portrait of a tradition that is not expected to survive much longer.

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US: Doc Alliance UK: Doc Alliance

Ten Meter Tower

A 10-meter diving tower. People who have never been up there before have to choose whether to jump or climb down. The situation in itself highlights a dilemma: to weigh the instinctive fear of taking the step out against the humiliation of having to climb down. Ten Meter Tower is an entertaining study of the human in a vulnerable position.

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US: Youtube (free) UK: Youtube (free)

#SoReal - 8 June 2020

Something Unseated

Through weeks of vital turbulence, displayed rupture, and solidarity with black lives, it's equally vital to reflect upon, unsettle and upturn your own seat of power. At every strata: from the Chair of the Board to a chair of cardboard on the street, there is a necessary struggle to overcome. These two films portray the distance of relational understanding, and the will or lack of, for some humans to progress.

The Task

In this studied staging the filmmaker creates an immersive three-day Group Relations conference—an intricate feedback apparatus designed to surface and reflect upon unconscious group phenomena—around which he conceived a complex filming structure. Twenty-eight participants representing a cross-section of Chicago participate in small and large group encounters, the group enacts a temporary institution whose purpose is to study itself and examine the identities, roles, desires and biases that individuals import into the group.

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US: Direct - PW: doublebind UK: Direct - PW: doublebind

The Color of Fear

An insightful, groundbreaking film about the state of race relations in America as seen through the eyes of eight North American men of Asian, European, Latino and African descent. In a series of intelligent, emotional and dramatic confrontations the men reveal the pain and scars that racism has caused them. What emerges is a deeper sense of understanding and trust.

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US: Vimeo (free) UK: Vimeo (free)

#SoReal - 2 June 2020

Something Material

As objects move, constructions fall, and out of their ruins a new spectacle of the scaffold is bolted in place. This week's poetic pairing traces movements and histories through objects, and material culture in the country of Lebanon.

The Drift

This film traces the shifting economies of objects in contemporary Lebanon. The film moves between three main characters: the gatekeeper of the Roman temples of Niha in the Beqaa Valley; a young mechanic from Britel, a village known for trading automobile parts; and an archaeological conservator working at the American University of Beirut.

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US: Chisenhale (Free) UK: Chisenhale (Free)

Taste of Cement

A portrait of workers in exile. An empathetic encounter with people who have lost their past and their future, locked in the recurring present. This essay documentary portrays Syrian construction workers building new skyscrapers in Beirut on the ruins caused by the Lebanese civil war. At the same time their own houses are being bombed in Syria.

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US: Doc Alliance UK: Doc Alliance

#SoReal - 26 May 2020

Something Hospital

A healthy human eye can distinguish and be lit up by 17,000 different colours, but so often the minds behind them fall to an illness: discriminating the difference of a few. These films look behind the thick skin of sick power to reveal a skeleton of human care.

I am Somebody

A short political documentary by Madeline Anderson about black hospital workers on strike in Charleston South Carolina. This was the first half-hour documentary film by an African-American woman in the film industry union.

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US: Youtube UK: Youtube

Midnight Family

In Mexico City's wealthiest neighbourhoods, the Ochoa family runs a private ambulance. As they try to make a living in this cutthroat industry, they struggle to keep their financial needs from compromising the people in their care.

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US: Youtube / Amazon UK: Amazon / Curzon Home

#SoReal - 19 May 2020

Something Radiant

Some doors open again, and fields of light pour through porous windows. The simple joy of outward seeing, of glancing movements in changing light, coincidence of colour, and broken shadows hit the eye with a warm radiance. Here are moments of cinema for retinal reverie.

blk boy flight (me & my cousins)

JOY. in a word, a film expressing JOY. Showing that there are other coins and other sides to the blk. boy. man. narrative than have been and are being shown.

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US: Vimeo (free) UK: Vimeo (free)

Hale County This Morning, This Evening

Intimate and personal moments from the lives of the black community of Hale County, Alabama, forming an emotive impression of the historic South, trumpeting the beauty of life and consequences of race, while simultaneously existing as a testament to dreaming - despite the odds.

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US: Amazon / iTunes / YouTube UK: Amazon

#SoReal - 14 May 2020

Something Displaced

Sometimes a movement is required to stay where we are. These images offer a lens of refracted belonging, shifting grounds, and poetic presence. Take a seat and be stirred.

Dislocation Blues

An incomplete and imperfect portrait of reflections from Standing Rock. Cleo Keahna recounts his experiences entering, being at, and leaving the camp and the difficulties and the reluctance in looking back with a clear and critical eye. Terry Running Wild describes what his camp is like, and what he hopes it will become.

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US: Direct UK: Direct

Evaporating Borders

A lyrical essay in five parts, Evaporating Borders is told through a series of vignettes that explore the lives of political and economic refugees on the island of Cyprus. The film explores the themes of displacement, belonging, identity, and migration.

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US: Doc Alliance UK: Doc Alliance

#SoReal - 6 May 2020

Something Division

A plasterboard perimeter, a barbed wire border, a stonewall separation: All of these man-made boundaries can fall to positive permeation.

Walled Unwalled

A performative film that presents narratives derived from legal cases based on evidence heard or experienced through walls.

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US: Youtube UK: Youtube

Border Fence

A documentary about borders, populism, fences, and absurd consequences.

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US: Doc Alliance UK: Doc Alliance

#SoReal - 30 April 2020

Something Club

Day turns into night, and the night turns the day. As nightclubs hum silent, and bodies dance apart, this week's films shake the streams with a political art.

Everybody In The Place: An Incomplete History Of Britain 1984-1992

A re-evaluation of acid house, a musical phenomenon that owed its emergence to the social and political landscape of 1980s Britain.

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US: Youtube UK: Youtube


The story of Los Angeles’ black lesbian strip club scene and its genesis. Owned and operated by women, underground and illegal in nature, the club Shakedown is the darker, faster, younger iteration of this dance culture.

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US: Direct UK: Direct

#SoReal - 25 April 2020

Something Vignette

At a required distance our fragments of social interaction, of recognition, of coming to know other normalities, are ingested through minor observation and overheard conversations. These films of looking and listening create connection, and meaning through such chance encounter.

The Hottest August

A film about climate change, disguised as a portrait of collective anxiety.

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The Illinois Parables

Regional vignettes about faith, technology and exodus.

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US: Doc Alliance UK: Doc Alliance

#SoReal - #SoReal - 20 April 2020

Something Inside

The kitchen, the dining room, the bedroom, and the bathroom. Move a chair from here to there, try a new recipe, and open a world from the inside out. Something Real is back in your inbox.

I Signed the Petition

A raw and humorous conversation between two friends about the effectiveness of publicly supporting the cultural boycott of Israel.

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US: The Atlantic UK: The Atlantic

Hotel Diaries - Dirty Pictures

Seated in a hotel room the filmmaker encounters a series of problems involving a ceiling, a video camera and the occupation of Palestine.

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US: Vimeo UK: Vimeo

#SoReal - Friday 13th January

Something Boutique

Avoid the January sales and pick up this 2 for 1 offer instead. Doyenne of documentary Agnès Varda and dearly departed Albert Maysles create beautifully eccentric tributes to local legends and their métiers - from the humble to the haute couture. Explore the shops that time forgot on a picturesque street in Paris and get to know nonagenarian fashion icon Iris Apfel as she struts her stuff down the sidewalks of New York.


An account of the daily lives of shopkeepers on a short stretch of the Rue Daguerre, a picturesque street in Paris.

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US: Fandor UK: Fandor


An affectionate portrait of Iris Apfel, the beloved 93-year-old New York style maven.

Dir. Albert Maysles

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US: Googleplay / Vudu / Netflix UK: Netflix

#SoReal - December 21st

Something Subzero

Our coolest subscribers will have spotted that Something Real has been put on ice for a spell. While our doc-endorsing digits thaw out fully in time for the New Year, wrap up warm to discover two frosty films brought in for you from the cold.

The Epic of Everest

The original record of Irvine and Mallory's doomed Everest expedition of 1924, crafted from beautifully restored footage and set to a specially commissioned new score.

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US: Netflix / Fandor UK: BFI Player

Village at The End of The World

A year in the life of a remote Inuit fishing village in Greenland, where a tiny community struggle for existence against environmental and economic adversity.

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US: iTunes UK: iTunes / Amazon

#SoReal - October 21st

Something Streets

Where we grow, the spaces we share and the streets we walk shape who we are. We in turn decorate the character of that place. See this NYT article on a New York state of mind, and these incredible portraits of the city's people.

Los Sures

A beautiful, vibrant record of a largely Puerto Rican & Dominican community in South Brooklyn of the 1980s.

Dir. Diego Echeverria (1984)

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US: Vimeo on Demand / Googleplay / Youtube / Amazon UK: Vimeo on Demand

Field Niggas

An hour-long nocturne portrait of a Harlem street corner with near-hallucinatory intensity.

Dir. Khalik Allah (2015)

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US: Vimeo (Free) UK: Vimeo (Free)

#SoReal - October 7th

Something Risky

Sharing stories from the frontlines continues to put journalists at risk from Syria to Russia and beyond. These two films question the dangerous boundaries of truth, trust and journalism.


A real-life thriller, (T)ERROR is the first documentary to place filmmakers on the ground during a live FBI counterterrorism sting operation.

Dirs. Lyric R. Cabral & David Felix Sutcliffe (2015)

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US: Netflix UK: Netflix

El Sicario, Room 164

Mexico's drug cartels are shockingly illuminated in this striking documentary. "El Sicario" is a frank portrait of an individual who was a hitman for 20 years.

Dir. Gianfranco Rosi (2010)

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US: Amazon UK: DocAlliance

#SoReal - September 26th

Something Talkies

It's been a busy few weeks in filmlandia with some directors collecting gongs at The Emmys and others launching Oscar campaigns at TIFF. Behind all this polished metal are people who love making and talking about film. Here are some to watch tonight.

Hitchcock / Truffaut

A love letter to cinema and two if its renowned talents. This illuminating documentary explores the art and influence of Alfred Hitchcock through his famed 1962 interview with French auteur François Truffaut.

Dir. Kent Jones (2016)

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US: HBO GO UK: Curzon Home / iTunes / Amazon / Googleplay

Life Itself

A documentary film that recounts the inspiring and entertaining life of world-renowned film critic and social commentator Roger Ebert – a story that is by turns personal, funny, painful, and transcendent.

Dir. Steve James (2014)

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US: Netflix / iTunes / Googleplay / Youtube UK: Netflix / Amazon / Googleplay

#SoReal - September 7th

Something Refuge

The perilous state of existence for refugees trying to reach Britain has only worsened in recent weeks. These two stories document the trials of movement and recognition of migrants.

The Journey

A six-part documentary about the dangerous paths of Syrian asylum seekers in the E.U.

Dir. Matthew Cassel (2016)

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US: New Yorker UK: New Yorker


In this autobiographical work Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Jose Antonio Vargas becomes a crusader for immigration reform.

Dir. Jose Antonio Vargas (2013)

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US: Direct / iTunes / Youtube / Googleplay UK: Direct

#SoReal - September 3rd

Something Fontastic

A recent study suggests that our trust in the words we read is affected by how they are printed. Get to know your Arial from your Optima this weekend.


A film about a typeface that delves into the world of graphic arts and takes a deeper look into style changes and the controversies over the role of graphic designer since World War II.

Dir. Gary Hustwit (2007)

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US: iTunes / Amazon UK: iTunes


Artists and craftsmen meet at a museum and print shop in rural Wisconsin to practice modern designs and traditional techniques.

Dir. Justine Nagan (2009)

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