As the year draws to a close and festive season intoxicates busy young minds, it is rather important that we don't forget to spend time with more mature members of kith and kin. To serve as inspiration we offer two golden wonders. After a glass of sherry you'll either be dressing up or playing whiff-whaff with your grandparents tonight.
Advanced Style examines the lives of seven unique New Yorkers whose eclectic personal style and vital spirit have guided their approach to ageing.
Dir. Lina Plioplyte (2014)
The electric guitar has been around for little over eighty years. In that short period of history it has inspired some of the worst haircuts in the history of mankind and the best stories of people who were simply born to run. Here's a duet of great docs with acceptable hairdos.
A music documentary like no other, film makers Jukka Kärkkäinen and J-P Passi tell the story of Pertti Kurikka's Name Day: four very lovable punk musicians with learning difficulties who fight, fall in love, and become national heroes.
Dir. by Jukka Kärkkäinen, J-P Passi (2012)
Dir. Sacha Gervasi (2009)
During the festive season the sensorial assault of commercially charged environments is rather difficult to avoid. We are smothered with glitter and jingles. Reading about The Blind Film Critic and seeing the below filmic wonders are welcome reminders of just how touching sight and sound can actually be.
A deaf-blind poet and his devoted wife share a rich life together and communicate with a touch-based form of Braille.
Dir. Seung-jun Yi (2011)
Tragically blinded in a random New York City mugging, artist Hugues de Montalembert defied expectations and continued to work & travel the world...alone. The film is a poetic meditation on an extraordinary life without vision.
Dir. Gary Tarn (2005)
Protests against changing election rules in Hong Kong have tested China's resolve in recent weeks. Only to end in police violence and 'resistance is futile' statements from the government. This week we bring you two moving stories of growing pains in the town and country of China.
Annually, an estimated 130 million factories workers in China migrate from their city of employment back to the village they grew up in. This documentary spotlights married couple Chen and Zhang as they make their own journey.
Dir. Lixin Fan (2010)
Yung Chang returns to the gorgeous, now-disappearing landscape of his grandfather’s youth to trace the surreal life of a “farewell cruise” that traverses the gargantuan Yangtze waterway.
Dir. Yung Chang (2008)
As documentary nuts we often come across curious and wonderful anecdotes about them. Whilst reading about the glorious British docmaker Peter Watkins we learnt that he inspired John and Yoko's famous peace bed-in.
Documentaries aren't half bad when it comes to changing the world. All you need is love, hard work and a bloody good film. Here are two.
From the dealer to the narcotics officer, the inmate to the federal judge, a penetrating look inside America's criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy.
Dir. Eugene Jarecki (2012)
This has been a week of remembrance of things lost: Ceremonies around the world marked the centenary of World War I, and this shocking story of 43 missing students in Mexico has triggered a wave of public anger. Here are two moving films that give a voice to the missing.
Rithy Panh uses clay figures, archival footage, and his narration to recreate the atrocities Cambodia's Khmer Rouge committed between 1975 and 1979.
Dir. Rithy Panh (2013)
An anonymous body in the Arizona desert sparks the beginning of a real-life human drama. The search for identity leads us back across a continent to seek out the people left behind and the meaning of a mysterious tattoo.
Dir. Marc Silver (2013)
Travel is the movement between myth and memory. On our commute to work this morning we stared hazily at The Lady With The Little Dog and drifted into a jealous reverie of this wonderful Muscovite virtual library. Here are two lyrical stories of writers and writing.
A meticulously crafted true story of Bradford playwright Andrea Dunbar (The Arbor, Rita, Sue and Bob Too) and her daughter Lorraine.
Dir. Clio Barnard (2010)
This week the clocks fall back, nights come sooner and chlorophyll gives way to carotene shades on leaves all around. It's the time of year to sit back in your autumnal armchair and watch a damn good movie. Here are timely stories of dark days and noontime glories.
DARK DAYS explores the surprisingly domestic subterranean world of a homeless community living in a train tunnel beneath NYC.
Dir. Marc Singer (2000)
Oscar Wilde once bluntly remarked 'Fashion is a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.' Many would disagree, and as this exhibition at London's Design Museum displays, fashion can offer a beautiful language of power and subversive negotiation. These two behind the scenes films hold up an honest mirror to power and ugliness of the fashion world.
Have you ever wanted to sit on the front row of a catwalk fashion show? The September Issue puts you in the shoes of the world’s most influential woman in fashion, Anna Wintour, icon and editor of U.S. Vogue magazine.
Dir. R.J. Cutler (2009)
An animated journey into the director's memory as he attempts to recollect horrors of the 1982 Lebanon war.
Dir. Ari Folman (2008)
After eighteen months of campaigning an iconic London skatepark has been saved from redevelopment. The plans were met with 27,286 planning objections, making it the most unpopular application in history. These two docs show just how far skateboarding has come in the last 40 years. Good times.
An energetic portrait of the world of roller boarding in the German Democratic Republic. This Ain't California is a real joy ride, and not only for skateboarders or anyone else who experienced life on either side of the Berlin Wall.
Dir. Marten Persiel (2012)
The admiration of recent ruins stretches as far back as Piranesi's romantic etchings. After reading about these Mexican artists on their back-to-the-future foray and listening to this podcast we're convinced that our sense of nostalgia has formed an even shorter historic memory. Industrial glories fall into ruin faster than ever before and these two films offer playful reflections of hope for changing urban characters.
Sculpts a dreamlike collage of a grand city teetering on the brink of dissolution.
As Detroit's houses are demolished by the thousands, automobile-company wages plummet, institutions crumble, and tourists gawk at the "charming decay," the film's vibrant, gutsy characters glow and erupt like flames from the ashes.
This fascinating documentary offers a revealing and intimate insight into the creative process of acclaimed artist Anselm Kiefer. Beautifully shot, the films tracks Kiefer as transforms the environs of an abandoned silk factory in southern France with an ongoing series of monumental installations.
Dir. Sophie Fiennes (2010)
Told without dialogue, narration, cast or characters this captivating film is entirely composed of nature imagery, manipulated in slow motion, double exposure or time lapse, juxtaposed with footage of humans' devastating environmental impact on the planet. These arresting images are illuminated with a film score by Philip Glass.
Dir. Godfrey Reggio (1982)
A bluntly honest, deeply moving record of the last months of architect Neil Platt's life, as he succumbs to motor neurone disease.
Dir. Morag McKinnon and Emma Davie (2013)
Check out these colour-packed portraits of small shops and their assistants. Vladimir Antaki documents the disappearing dusty mom-and-pop stores and cluttered corner shops in cities around the world. This week we bring you stories of their adversaries: the dystopian dreams of the superstore.
Two students commission a leading advertising agency to organize a huge campaign for the opening of a new supermarket named Czech Dream. The supermarket however does not exist...
Dir. Vít Klusák, Filip Remunda (2004)
A dirt digging journey into the unscrupulous business practices of Wal-Mart, the world's biggest retailer. The film features interviews with current and former employees as well as owners of small businesses who have been affected by the giant's expansion.
Dir. Robert Greenwald (2005)
An immersive documentary that takes you deep inside the dangerous world of commercial fishing. The film captures the harsh, unforgiving world of the fishermen in starkly haunting, yet beautiful detail.
Dirs. Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena Paravel (2012)
Five unflinching portraits of heavy manual labor from across the globe. These loud, colourful, rhythmic, and messy visions are increasingly less visible in our technological 21st Century.
Dir. Michael Glawogger (2005)
File somewhere between mad ramblings and profundity
This free-form documentary about fakery focuses on the notorious art forger Elmyr de Hory. A vintage gem brought to you by this larger-than-life legend of cinema.
Dir. Orson Welles (1973)
A portrait of passion, performance and artistry
The film dives head-first into the world of independent pro wrestling. The director follows a ragtag group of wrestlers in North Carolina over the course of a week leading up to a big show.
Dir. Robert Greene (2012)
A stunning portrait of a musical genius that nearly slipped away.
The film artfully melds current footage, vintage performances, home movies, and dozens of recorded audiotapes from Johnston's life. His poetic songs tell their own passionate, haunting, and truly unforgettable story.
Dir. Jeff Feuerzeig (2005)
A truly endearing portrait of two wild souls
An old mother and her middle-aged daughter, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, live their eccentric lives in a filthy, decaying mansion in East Hampton. A modern classic.
Dirs. Albert Maysles, David Maysles (1976)
As politicians play chess and chess plays politics one country appears to have mastered the art of checkmate - Russia. One thing they can't embargo however is great documentary cinema. So put down the Tolstoy and turn on the tinternet for these creative visionaries.
The best use of balaclavas. Ever.
The incredible story of 3 young women: Nadia, Masha and Katia. But who is really on trial in a case that has gripped the nation and the world beyond - young artists or the society they live in?
Dirs. Mike Lerner, Maxim Pozdorovkin (2013)
One of the most innovative and influential films of all time.
A man travels around the turbulent soviet cities of Kiev, Kharkiv and Odessa with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention. This film is a visionary blast 24 times a second.
Dir. Dziga Vertov (1929)
Last weekend a court ruling in Uganda gave a small glimmer of hope that anti-gay laws may be overturned. Such changes don't come about by chance, they happen because activists stand up for their rights. These two emotional stories show us exactly what that means and why dignity matters.
A stirring, heartbreaking and thoroughly infuriating story
In Uganda, a new bill threatens to make homosexuality punishable by death. David Kato - Uganda's first openly gay man - and his fellow activists work against the clock to defeat the legislation while combating vicious persecution in their daily lives.
Dir. Katherine Fairfax Wright, Malika Zouhali-Worrall (2012)
A beautifully constructed portrait
This deeply moving document of the successful career and assassination of San Francisco's first elected gay councillor was one of the first feature documentaries to address gay life in America. It’s a work of advocacy itself, bringing Milk’s message of hope and equality to a wider audience.
Dir. Robert Epstein (1984)
From Ukraine to Thailand to Egypt a generation of protesters has learnt that new problems need new tactics and a fresh creative arsenal to oust power. This makeshift tear-gas mask was used in Turkey and Venezuela and now resides with a collection of disobedient objects at London's Victoria & Albert Museum until February. In their honour we bring you two rebellious docs.
A blazing insight into civil rights history.
This creative doc mobilizes a treasure trove of 16mm material shot by Swedish journalists who came to the US drawn by stories of urban unrest and revolution. The result is a powerful soundtrack of unforgettable rhetoric.
Dir. Göran Hugo Olsson (2011)
Troublemaking has never been so fun
Two gonzo political activists pose as top executives of giant corporations, lie their way into big business conferences and pull off the world's most outrageous pranks.
Dir. Andy Bichlbaum, Mike Bonanno (2008)
One hundred and sixty years ago Henry David Thoreau embarked upon a simple life in natural surroundings. The resulting book, Life in the Woods, was a testament lonesome bliss: a philosophy of solace that has permeated into modern life, but not all of us are content with it. Here are two offbeat and beautiful films that honour the simple life. Retreat and enjoy.
Curious, unnerving and fascinating
Using a 16mm camera and hand-processing the footage himself, artist Ben Rivers documents the solitary existence of Jake Williams, a man who lives in isolation in the middle of the forest in remote Scotland.
Directed by Ben Rivers
Loving, tender and offbeat
Octogenarian Jorgen Lauersen Vig owns a tumbledown castle in Denmark and dreams of transforming it into an orthodox Russian monastery. But a nun insists on renovations, which could prevent Vig's dream from coming true.
Directed by Pernille Rose Grønkjær
As 'Dawn of Planet of the Apes' tops the US Box office we indulged in less fanciful stories of complicated human and primate co-habitation. We listened to this radio treasure about Lucy the chimpanzee and watched these two great docs. Here are the missing hyperlinks.
Hilarious, poignant, and heartbreaking
This moving film tells the story of a chimpanzee taken from its mother at birth and raised like a human child by a family in a brownstone on the upper West Side in the 1970s.
Directed by James Marsh
A captivating study of an enigmatic animal
Born in the jungles of Borneo, Nenette is a 40-year-old orangutan, and the oldest (and most beloved) inhabitant at the Menagerie du Jardin des Plantes in Paris.
Directed by Nicolas Philibert
This week noctilucent clouds passed over Europe producing a twilight show for open eyes. These rare glows are visible only when illuminated by sunlight from below the horizon. Here are two great docs about journeys and horizons, shining a light on the seen and the unseen.
A gorgeous, moving, and deeply personal odyssey.
In Chile's Atacama Desert, astronomers peer deep into the cosmos in search for answers concerning the origins of life. Nearby, a group of women sift through the sand searching for body parts of loved ones, dumped unceremoniously by Pinochet's regime. This film melds the celestial quest of the astronomers and the earthly one of the women.
Director: Patricio Guzmán
A complex magical journey into time and memory.
Sans Soleil is nothing less than a mind-bending free-form travelogue that journeys from Africa to Japan. It's a meditation on the nature of human memory, showing the inability to recall the context and nuances of memory and how, as a result, the perception of personal and global histories is affected.
Director: Chris Marker
The glorious Tour de France spins into action this week, taking the rather un-French land of Yorkshire as it's point of departure. So, fellow cyclists of the world, step out of your inbox and "on yer bike" to the nearest VOD platform to catch one of these cycling doc classics.
Smartly constructed and scathingly sharp
Laying bare the theatre of the Tour de France, this documentary chronicles the sports legend Lance Armstrong's improbable rise and ultimate fall from grace.
Directed by Alex Gibney
A psychological and dramatic study of battling cyclists
The film follows the French Paris-Roubaix spring classic race, notorious for the hellish paves and cobbled roads, beautifully shot from the mesmerising perspective of participants, organizers and spectators.
Directed by Jørgen Leth
This has been a turbulent week to reflect on media freedom as an Iranian documentary filmmaker and three journalists in Egypt head to jail for doing their jobs. So we offer two recent voices of filmic resistance from the region, two filmmakers trying their utmost to document their world in the face of censorship.
An extraordinary work of both cinematic and political activism
5 Broken Cameras is a deeply personal, first-hand account of non-violent resistance in Bil'in, a West Bank village threatened by encroaching Israeli settlements.
Directed by Emad Burnat and Guy David
A film shot partially on an iPhone and smuggled into France in a cake
This is Not a Film depicts the day-to-day life of acclaimed director Jafar Panahi during his house arrest in his Tehran apartment. While appealing his sentence - six years in prison and a 20 year ban from filmmaking - Panahi reflects on the meaning and the art of filmmaking.
Directed by Jafar Panahi and Mojtaba Mirtahmasb
World Cup fever has gone into full throttle this week with the usual bizarre refereeing decisions and poor results for England. Less predictably, this tournament has highlighted wider issues within Brazil with images of social inequality and protest as well as the glitz and goals.
Here are a couple more true tales from behind the scenes of Brazil and the beautiful game.
A dramatic examination of the social impact of soccer across the world
Six stories are followed from five continents, each one connected to the 2006 FIFA World Cup, all bound together by a transcendent passion for soccer.
Directed by Michael Apted
A story of the transformative power of art and alchemy of the human spirit.
Brazilian artist Vik Muniz visits the world’s largest landfill to create stunning portraits of catadores — garbage pickers — from the material they collect.
Directed by Lucy Walker
Suburbia continues to inspire creative escapism globally, nowhere more so than amongst North America's growing population in city peripheries. Long live the land of commuter queues, quirky cul-de-sacs, dead end dudes, and asphalt ridden empires of unlikely heroes with spirited stories.
A sparkling chronicle of crazed youth.
The transmissions of a lost kid falling in love in the suburbs of Fullerton, California. Featuring skateboarding, the usual drugs, and stray glimpses of unusual beauty.
Directed by Tristan Patterson
Dramatic records of quirky characters, changing landscapes and epic voyages have a long history in the icy regions. 2014 marks the centenary of slick-hair Sir Shackleton's early Antarctic voyage captured in this incredible footage. This week we defrost a couple more recent polar classics and serve them direct to your inbox.
A poignant study of the human psyche amid haunting landscapes.
Set in the awe-inspiring polar landscape, McMurdo, Antarctica is home to a hidden society where a thousand men and women live among some of the world's most beautiful and unexpected natural wonders. Now for the first time an outsider has been permitted into this extraordinary place.
Directed by Werner Herzog
The story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history
Acclaimed photographer James Balog was once a skeptic about climate change. But through his Extreme Ice Survey, he discovers undeniable evidence of our changing planet.
Directed by Jeff Orlowski
We came across these psychedelically saturated polaroid images of Dreamlands and Wastelands recently launched in a new book edition and drifted into a reverie that needs to be shared. Hinterlands are the glorious provinces of myth, magic and surreal lives. These two creative films illuminate a Californian desert and the wilderness of Wales.
Take a lyrical ride through this backyard beach.
A tender, often funny and sometimes heartbreaking portrait of the idiosyncratic residents of California’s Salton Sea ...in the middle of the Colorado desert. Join a motley cast including a bipolar seven-year-old, a lovelorn high school football star, and an octogenarian poet-prophet.
Directed by Alma Har'el
A poetic journey into a world of stuffed owls, sheep and fire.
Set in a small farming community in mid Wales, this is a landscape and population that is changing rapidly as small scale agriculture is disappearing and the generation who inhabited a pre-mechanised world is dying out.
Directed by Gideon Koppel
In a week where we learned that lab rats are afraid of male technicians, short men live longer and their toothpaste may be making men infertile, we too reflect on the male of the species. We offer two stories of the men who would be king - of the kitchen and the video arcade. They are the heroes who take small things very, very seriously indeed.
An epic David and Goliath battle over the joystick
Steve Weibe is a laid-off Boeing engineer who buys a 1980's Donkey Kong arcade machine and installs it in his garage. He starts to devote every waking hour to beating the reigning world champion (and self-proclaimed "Sauce King" of Florida) Billy Mitchell's old high score of 874,300. But Mitchell isn't going to relinquish his crown that easily. A perfect character-driven comedy.
Directed by Seth Logan
Flour, sugar and tears - an ode to perfectionism
16 pastry chefs are trying to win France's most prestigious craftsmen award: the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, awarded by French President. A kind of French pastry Olympics - it happens every 4 years. The men have prepared obsessively and now they must create a buffet of masterpieces, over 3 days, whilst being closely scrutinised by a team of judges. No women have ever competed.
Charm and insight from master filmmakers D.A Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.
Ai Wei Wei's new show has opened in Brooklyn and if you can't make it, don't worry neither can he - having been denied a passport. The man may have been stopped but his work and ideas continue to cross borders - check out his tiny model from the exhibition showing his own imprisonment. This week we offer you stories of more fearless artists punching through adversity.
A reflection on love, sacrifice, and the creative spirit.
This candid New York story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of renowned Japanese "boxing" painter Ushio Shinohara and his artist wife, Noriko as they battle with creative life and creative love.
Dir. Zachary Heinzerling (2013)
A mesmerizing portrait of the pioneering and controversial performance artist.
This film follows the unceasingly powerful artist as she prepares for what may be the most important moment of her life: a major new retrospective of her work, taking place at The Museum of Modern Art and a possible moment of weakness.
Dirs. Jeffrey Dupre, Matthew Akers (2012)