List Film

Reviews & features: Documentary

Citizenfour

16 Oct 20143 stars

Laura Poitras' documentary on Edward Snowden captures history in the making

Citizenfour is a documentary that makes a loyalty card seem completely ironic. Thanks to people like whistleblower Edward Snowden, news headlines have been rife with the stories about big government tracking us. In this real life political thriller…

Interview: Biophilia filmmakers Peter Strickland and Nick Fenton

13 Oct 2014

The men responsible for filming Bjork's final concert talk about working with the superstar

In 2008, Björk embarked upon her eighth album, Biophilia, which turned into a massive multi-disciplinary multimedia project including an otherworldly live show. The final concert of her 70-date world tour took place at Alexandra Palace on 7 September…

Björk: Biophilia Live

13 Oct 20144 stars

A beautiful presentation of Björk's strange, beguiling vision from cinematographer Brett Turnbull

In 2008 Björk embarked upon her eighth album, Biophilia, which over the course of a few years turned into a massively ambitious multimedia project, including an otherworldly live show. The final concert took place in September 2013 after a 70-date world…

Interview: Edwyn Collins discusses new documentary The Possibilities Are Endless

9 Oct 2014

Orange Juice frontman on letting filmakers into his life and how social media changed his life

In 2009, Edwyn Collins sat down opposite me in the BBC Scotland’s green room at the Glasgow leg of the Children in Need appeal. The singer and producer was slowly returning to public life after a life-threatening stroke and we spoke for ten minutes; but…

Andoni Aduriz and Icíar Bollaín amongst highlights of first Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival

3 Oct 2014

Series of film screenings, talks, Q&A sessions and workshops to take place from 8–12 Oct

‘With 20,000 Hispanic speakers craving for Hispanic culture, the launch of the first Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival was a no-brainer,’ says festival director Marian A. Aréchaga, ahead of its launch at the Filmhouse next week. In collaboration with the…

Soul Boys of the Western World

29 Sep 20143 stars

Documentary charting the fluctuating fortunes of Spandau Ballet from George Hencken

Spandau Ballet might not seem the hippest subjects for a documentary. Formed in the late Seventies, they hit the charts in the early Eighties as the New Romantic scene blossomed, but this five-piece all-male band from Islington were hardly musical…

Still the Enemy Within

29 Sep 20144 stars

Documentary on the miners' strike from Owen Gower illuminates a passionately fought conflict

An interesting companion piece to the acclaimed comedy Pride, providing pertinent social history in the context of current debates about privilege, representation and poverty in modern Britain, Still the Enemy Within is a thorough account of the 1984-5…

The Last Impresario

22 Sep 20144 stars

This celebratory look at the life of Michael White brings together lots of famous faces

Glasgow-born Michael White is frequently dubbed the most famous man you have never heard of. A showbusiness mover and shaker, he has rubbed shoulders with everyone from Bowie to the Beatles and Mick Jagger to the Monty Python team. He has supped with…

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…