List Film

Reviews & features: Documentary

Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival 2014: Film highlights

19 Sep 2014

The annual arts fest features screenings of Ana Ana, The Crash Reel and Silver Linings Playbook

How’s your mental health? There is every chance you might have a lengthy answer to that question; and no less chance that you’d like to keep it to yourself. Mental health issues are vastly prevalent, but carry a stigma that can make them a good deal…

Night Will Fall

15 Sep 20143 stars

Andre Singer's documentary acts as a sobering reminder of the horrors of the Holocaust

That the Holocaust is so frequently invoked in justification of a raft of contradictory positions (not least, as ‘Godwin's Law’ reminds us, as a self-righteous point-scorer in online debates) is all the more reason for frequent reminders of its…

20,000 Days on Earth

15 Sep 20144 stars

This eclectic pseudo-doc paints a fittingly askew portrait of the musician Nick Cave

20,000 Days on Earth spins the seductive, semi-truthful story of Nick Cave. It's an existentialist pseudo-documentary, taking in love, death and memories as well as the art of song-writing, storytelling and performance. With its theme of self…

At Berkeley

8 Sep 20144 stars

An epic but enlightening documentary from Frederick Wiseman looking at the revered institution

The veteran documentarian Frederick Wiseman applies a methodical but delicate touch to his examinations of American institutions, depicting the lives of workers and participants in aspects of public life in long observational takes without voiceover or…

Finding Fela

1 Sep 20142 stars

Alex Gibney's inconsistent documentary melds the life and music of Nigerian star Fela Kuti

Comparatively speaking, Fela Kuti did for African music what Djibril Diop Mambéty did for African cinema. Using his art as a means not only to battle against the harsh realities of neo-colonialism but to connect with other cultures, he created a…

The Internet's Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz

26 Aug 20144 stars

A gripping and revealing documentary that tells the heartbreaking story of an internet legend

As digital culture matures, stories about its innovators and pioneers proliferate, preparing to become its myths. What adds nuance is the fact that these entrepreneurs were not the thrusting alpha males who went into space, invented modern advertising…

Dinosaur 13

11 Aug 20144 stars

Todd Douglas Miller's dinosaur documentary takes in the shocking fallout from a fascinating find

A crowd-pleaser at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, Todd Douglas Miller's riveting documentary tells the true story of the legal battle surrounding 'Sue', the world's largest, most complete T-Rex skeleton and the thirteenth ever discovered. After the…

Who is Dayani Cristal?

22 Jul 20142 stars

Well-intentioned documentary hampered by the presence of movie star producer Gael Garcia Bernal

'The dehumanisation of migrants is something which has allowed this to happen' comments a co-ordinator of the Missing Migrant Project as we watch the cremation of an unidentified individual in Marc Silver’s debut feature Who is Dayani…

I Am Divine

16 Jul 20144 stars

Affectionate documentary offers a fresh perspective on the outrageous drag star

Divine – who died in 1988 aged just 42 – was a whole lot of woman onscreen and a whole lot of man off it. He might not have lived long but he burned with a fierce, hypnotising flame. Jeffrey Schwarz's affectionate documentary presents the man they…

Supermensch: The Legend of Shep Gordon

8 Jul 20143 stars

Affectionate and engaging Mike Myers-directed tribute to talent manager falls short

Actor Mike Myers makes his directorial debut with this engaging documentary about talent manager Shep Gordon, whose eclectic list of clients included the likes of Alice Cooper, Blondie, Luther Vandross and Groucho Marx. The obvious affection Myers feels…

‘Til Madness do us Part

3 Jul 20143 stars

Challenging documentary from Wang Bing about life in a Chinese psychiatric hospital

Filmed in a psychiatric institution in southwest China, which homes 200 male and female inmates who have committed anything from murder to nothing more offensive than being seen as a social misfit, Wang Bing’s arduous four hour documentary makes for…

Tony Benn: Will and Testament

1 Jul 20143 stars

A one-sided doc that nontheless presents a neat, warm summary of Benn's long and eventful career

A documentary expressly timed to mark the death of a figure revered by the filmmakers is hardly likely to achieve impartiality – not that this film aims for it. If it relies too much on its subject’s own modest assessments of his own legacy to be called…

Doc of the Dead

26 Jun 20143 stars

Lightweight zombie doc featuring interviews with George A Romero, Simon Pegg and Bruce Campbell

Zombies are definitely in vogue – they are the monster of the moment, chomping their way through movies, books, comics and TV. The Walking Dead is currently the highest rated show on cable in the US while 2013’s World War Z was the biggest budget horror…

Cathedrals of Culture

23 Jun 20143 stars

A '3D film project about the soul of buildings' featuring moments of inspiration and poignancy

This documentary portmanteau film comes laden with a pretentious subtitle (‘a 3D film project about the soul of buildings’) and a 165-minute running time, but for audiences willing to dive in regardless, it’s an interesting and unique film experience…

Finding Vivian Maier

23 Jun 20144 stars

An amusing, poignant and disturbing documentary about a talented and secretive street photographer

By turns amusing, poignant and disturbing, this documentary investigation into the work and life of the previously unknown but now posthumously-celebrated street photographer is never less than thoroughly intriguing. Looking for some visual material to…

Ai Weiwei: The Fake Case

23 Jun 20143 stars

A welcome chance to catch up with the quirky artist’s heroic struggle for freedom

Following hard on the heels of Alison Klayman’s Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry comes another feature length documentary about the Chinese artist and political activist, this time by Andreas Johnsen, who made the 2009 documentary Murder about anti-abortion…

Is the Man Who is Tall Happy?

23 Jun 20144 stars

Michel Gondry and Noam Chomsky examine the complexities of self-expression and conversation

Two men with unusual skillsets – a filmmaker whose work incorporates both mathematical precision and handknitted whimsy, and a scientific thinker who is also an impassioned social and political activist – discuss childhood, language, meaning and love in…

A Dangerous Game

18 Jun 20143 stars

You've Been Trumped follow-up explores global perspective on corporate aggression, but pulls punches

Film-maker Anthony Baxter struck a chord worldwide with his documentary You've Been Trumped!, in which he documented the bully-boy methods used by millionaire Donald Trump to stop Baxter from investigating his proposed plans for Scottish golf-courses.

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar

16 Jun 20143 stars

A beautiful but over-simplified family-friendly nature doc narrated by Morgan Freeman

At 40 minutes, David Douglas’ slender, family-friendly IMAX lemur doc is a hark back to the format’s days as a short-form edutainment outlet. Friendly, photogentic primates leap across the massive screen while Morgan Freeman’s subterranean tones…

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014: A Dangerous Game continues story started in You’ve Been Trumped

10 Jun 2014

Director Anthony Baxter's Donald Trump golf documentary highlights corporate aggression worldwide

George Orwell said ‘journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed – everything else is public relations’. The prominence of Anthony Baxter’s 2011 documentary You’ve Been Trumped was largely due to saying something that billionaire…

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014: When Michel Gondry met Noam Chomsky

10 Jun 2014

The distinctive filmmaker's latest project is an animated conversation with the political theorist

Arguably the best thing to have come from Versailles since the peace treaty, writer and director Michel Gondry returns to the fray with two new feature films. The idiosyncratic auteur behind Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind let his own high…

Edinburgh International Film Festival 2014: Take a trip to the Island of Lemurs

10 Jun 2014

Writer-producer Drew Fellman discusses the IMAX doc, which is narrated by Morgan Freeman

It’s a cute, furry, animals-acting-like-humans narrative that could have been lifted straight from a Disney storyboard: a group of primates, fearing extinction on the mainland, board a naturally made raft and set sail for distant shores. ‘It’s the sort…

Made in America

20 May 20143 stars

Ron Howard directs a behind-the-scenes look at Jay Z's titular music festival

In 2012 hip hop mogul Jay Z hosted the inaugural Made in America music festival in central Philadelphia. Calling on his celebrity friends Ron Howard was on hand to film the two days of rap, indie, rock and dance music. However this is more of a…

Aidan Moffat, Paul Fegan and more collaborate on Where You're Meant To Be film and tour project

13 May 2014

James Graham, Jenny Reeve and Stevie Jones will also contribute to the project, part of Culture 2014

One Monday night a few weeks back, a boat set sail down the River Clyde. Free whisky and bawdy auld songs ensued, courtesy of Aidan Moffat and his band of bards – James Graham (the Twilight Sad), Jenny Reeve (Bdy_Prts) and Stevie Jones (Alasdair…

Pantani: The Accidental Death of a Cyclist

13 May 20143 stars

An artfully-constructed sport doc that fails to find its focus

The death of Italian road race champion Marco Pantani in 2004 was a key moment in the history of cycling; a folk hero to millions, Pantani was a troubled individual who styled himself as ‘the pirate’ but ended up being hounded from the sport he loved by…