Posts Tagged ‘Doco’

Review – The Imposter (2012)

Monday, March 11th, 2013
The Imposter - Close Up

When is the truth really the truth when not even those who know can tell it.


This documentary with reenactments won a prize at Miami International Film Festival as well as being a Grand Jury finalist at Sundance, so I was interested in seeing it. If I had of just seen this as a fiction based on a true story, I would never have believed it. We are such odd creatures, driven by motivators others do not, cannot, possibly hope to understand.

The Imposter tells the true story, with interviews from the key players, of a young french man who pretended to be a missing American teenager in the late 90’s who had been missing for a few years. What follows raises questions you desperately want to ask but also don’t want answered. That such a fraud was able to be perpetrated at all asks still more questions, but in the end, all you are left with a feeling of profound sadness. A beautifully crafted but incredibly profound sadness.


Fantastically edited making you reconsider your own assumptions.
Reenactments are not overdone and edited tightly with the interviews.
Real people are often far more compelling than anything fictional.
The twists and turns of truth.


The constant disbelief, even though you know it is true, leaving with that sadness that continues to resonate.

This negative is actually a very strong reason to see the film – because of its challenge to you and how your feelings towards to participants change throughout the film. 4



Review – Community – Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking (S02Ep16)

Friday, February 18th, 2011

Not ABED, just Abed, talking to camera.

This week:
Abed is making a documentary which follows the aftermath and fall out of Pearce’s park bench adventure. There is bequething, Levar Burton, a punch up and the Explainibrag.

Kunta Kinte jokes.
Community once again breaking the mold of the 30 min sit com.
The documentary voiceover.
Took them out of their comfort zone of Greendale.
Troy’s emotional ride.
Annie’s rational.

The funniest parts weren’t the characters.
No Starburns.
No Chang.

I know I haven’t reviewed the last few eps of Community. With so many others outstanding, my focus was elsewhere, but after such a great twist on the genre, I had to, especially after I tried to watch CBS’s new sitcom Mad Love. I couldn’t even make it to the opening credits. Even when Community is above its own par, it is still strokes ahead of anything else.


The 2011 Oscars – Panda’s Wish List

Wednesday, January 26th, 2011

I do hope you get up, Jackie, but unlikely.

Well the noms are out.

I am not going to say who is going to win, but I am going to say who I would like to win / should win if I was in charge.

  • Best Motion Picture of the Year: The King’s Speech
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role: Colin Firth for The King’s Speech
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Jennifer Lawrence for Winter’s Bone
  • Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role: Geoffrey Rush for The King’s Speech (very close second is John Hawkes for Winter’s Bone)
  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role: Jacki Weaver for Animal Kingdom (always meant to write a review… whoops)
  • Best Achievement in Directing: Tom Hooper for The King’s Speech (so pleased Inception wasn’t nominated here)
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen: The King’s Speech
  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published: Winter’s Bone
  • Best Animated Feature Film of the Year: How to Train Your Dragon (my go to movie after a long day)

Unfortunately I haven’t seen anything nominated in Best Foreign Language Film of the Year category and the only doco I saw nominated for Best Documentary, Features was GasLand which I don’t think should win.

There you have it.
Very The King’s Speech focused, and avoiding The Social Network and Inception. While I enjoyed The Social Network’s writing, I loved The King’s Speech more. I think The Black Swan will get up in art direction or something and Portman is prolly going to pick up a little guy.

I think I will get Colin Firth for Best Actor and that is about it for my preferences.

Bring on awards night (or afternoon as it is for us).

PS. True Grit is released TODAY in Australia, so I am heading down this afternoon to my local – so this may change after seeing it.

Review – Come Fly With Me (S01Ep03)

Monday, January 10th, 2011

Penny on the look out for people travelling above their class.

This week:
We meet three new characters, a baggage handler father and son team, and Great British Air’s First Class Cabin Crew member, Penny. Precious doesn’t work and praises the Lord, that ugly married couple have a bad holiday, Tommy gets promoted and nothing really funny happens.

The baggage handlers made me smile.
Tommy’s three stars and his training the new guy (same joke though).
Fearghal’s Italian meal.
Rupert Grints. (sic)

Same jokes as the past few weeks.
Melody and Keeley didn’t really gel this week.
Customs joke has been done to death.
Lack of interest in most of the characters.
Same old same old.

A person I follow on The Twitters said it was a brilliant episode, yet I found it lack luster yet again. Either they aren’t taking the jokes far enough or I am just not recognising the jokes. I really hope it steps up this week, as it is in a downward helix at the moment.


Review – Come Fly With Me (S01Ep01)

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Looks like someone has been getting lessons from the TSA.

This is the new show by Matt Lucas and David Walliams – the brilliant minds and performers who brought us Little Britain. Using an aeroport, they introduce a wide variety of characters and we follow them through their day, a la Airport UK.

This week:
We get to meet the cast of characters.
Loved the stereotyping – so wrong yet so right.
Pussy Wagon!
Dog popsicle.
Martin Clune (very funny to me as we were talking about a guy who looks like Martin Clune while walking back from the NYE Fireworks last night).
Checkin chicks.
Pat downs.

Was a little slow to get going.
I didn’t like the character Omar – but I think it is a take on the guy who started EasyJet.

I can see this being a show that quickly becomes a part of our lives in the same way Little Britain brought us so many lines and characters. This episode didn’t see us meet all the characters just yet, so there is more new ones to come, but I already have my favourites. Just like in Little Britain, some characters have their own arcs that they will be playing out. The one character I really wished they had of done is the guy who looks after the pets/animals in the Airport UK show. I think that would have been a hoot.


PS. Not sure who will be releasing this in Australia – but my guess would be SBS or ABC.

Review – GasLand – #BIFF

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Depressing in its telling but motivating in what it leaves in you.

I missed this doco during BIFF – it was clashing with something and opted against this controversial journey documented by Josh Fox.

Often in docos I am more interested in the motivators (of the documenter and the documented) than the story they actually tell. This was one of those docos for me. Fox owns a property in Pensilvania and had received an offer for drilling rights on his property. He decided to find out what the outcomes might be if he signed – what he found he didn’t like, and documented his voyage of discovery.

It is worth nothing that this piece is entirely from the side of Fox and those opposed the drilling. As such, often the editing is extremely unflattering and detrimental to the gas companies. There is certainly a problem but it was the motivation of the companies involved and the power of their money and as a consequence, their reach, that I found incredibly depressing. I am certainly concerned that there can be such negative impacts on millions for the benefit of some – and that rings true for what recently occured in Queensland, where high levels of carcinogenic chemicals were reported in water around the coal seam gas exploration sites. Just yesterday, Farmers on the Darling Downs locked out exploration teams. From what I have read, it is a slightly different process to the US, but the drive of shareholder returns > all it seems these days. (Oh I am starting to sound like a Socialist Panda). In truth, I don’t trust the government or “the corporations.”

It is a personal journey.
The style – often it costs a lot to have production look that rough – this felt authentic.
The people Fox meets – often their abiding sense of humour.
The frustrations people feel and the clear lines in government.

Too one-sided for me to really love this doco.
When it went from journey to preaching/activist it lost it power for me.

This is a long doco, that I found dragging. The same over and over – but then that is the point he is trying to make. That being said, I wouldn’t be revisiting this show again any time soon. If it does anything well, it makes the audience want to understand more.


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Review – The Red Chapel – #BIFF

Wednesday, November 17th, 2010
Simon, Mads and Mrs Pak present the pizza oven device

Poor Mrs Pak has no idea what is really happening.

This is a hard movie to describe. I have seen a few people try – but it doesn’t quite get to how I see it.
In short, two Korean born Danish comedians (Simon and Jacob) return to Korea but go to North Korea, not South Korea. They are accompanied by their “manager” (Mads Brugger) under the pretence of putting on a comedy show for the North Koreans in a cultural exchange – possibly the worst show ever produced. In truth, they are there to show the darkness that pervades North Korean society by their interactions and Simon who as a (self labelled) spastic is a living representation of what is never allowed in North Korea – perfect children only please.

The movie works on many layers and asks the viewer many questions, often ones that are very uncomfortable, while at the same time filling you with shock, awe and laughter by what they are prepared to do to get their point across – and how eagerly the North Koreans lap it all up. Mads Brugger does realise that he is also manipulative and cruel in forcing his comedians past their level of comfort and ethics – putting on a face for their hosts, while at the same time the North Koreans are being manipulative and cruel under the guise of helping and love for their guests and their Dear Leader. There are a few moments in the documentary where you think – no, there is no way – but there it is, unfolding out in front of your eyes.

The impact on Simon was heartbreaking. Seeing a “perfect” world where everyone is happy, beautiful and loved that he can never be a part of is so emotional and honest. Then to see how Mads continues to manipulate and force him to push forward is just as heartbreaking. It should be noted that Simon is the only one in North Korea who can speak their mind. Not only is he speaking Danish (their handler speaks English) but he is speaking “Spastic Danish.” So while Mads and Jacob are careful in what they say, even in Danish, Simon tells it like it is – the only time he dissembles is in English and in letters. You laugh as Mads deliberately lies as he translate, but at the same time you squirm on the inside.

The manipulation of the North Koreans knows no bounds. From a bus load of pretty girls for the boys to picnic with to totally redoing their comedy show including patriotic sentiments and hiding Simon’s disability, it leaves you gob smacked. Watching though, it is impossible to forget that these people’s lives, and those of their families, depends on making this work to make North Korea shine. I do have real fear in my heart for the North Koreans involved, especially Mrs Pak. Then you think about the entire population of the country – living in fear, lies and mistruths – always watching what they do and say – even their children. It is no life to live like that.


The march.
The uniforms.
The filming style.
The honesty.
The pain.
The hopelessness.
The tears.
The table.
Simon saving Mrs Pak.

Did they really think about the fall out back in North Korea?

This was my “life changing” moment of the festival – every year you want one – you don’t always get it – and this year I was beginning to think it was going to be one of those years where I picked the wrong movies. Then I saw The Red Chapel. It touched me in ways I can’t put into words – infact I have tears behind my eyes as I write this, then I will smile and laugh as I remember a particular obtuse moment. I have wanted to go to North Korea for many years, and have looked at various tours to go – but couldn’t bring myself to give my western currency to the regime… for the same reason I have never gone to Indonesia or Burma/Myanmar. After seeing this documentary I desperately want to go, while at the same time horrified by what I saw and what I would experience.


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Review – Freakonomics – #BIFF

Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
Gibney Pure Corruption

A perfect shot reflecting the balance of the two major concepts explored in this piece.

Takes a number of different ideas, based in and around economic/statistical concepts and attempts to communicate those formulated thoughts to the audience. Some are used are “fillers” to set the theme for the upcoming short or to explain that what we think to be true may not necessarily be true.


Gibney’s Pure Corruption – by far the most interesting and informative of the segments that also wasn’t trying too hard.
I liked the opening and closing credits.
The research behind Spurklock’s piece.

I really didn’t like Jarecki’s style – dealing with issues such as crime and abortion with a hipster narrator and base animation didn’t do anything for me.
Drawing on people’s own racist mindsets for jokes.
Relying on schadenfreude.
Ewing and Grady’s over managed incentive piece on education.

Look, it isn’t a bad film per se, it just didn’t have that cohesion that a good multi-directorial documentary needs. They tried to do it, but it didn’t really come off. To me, the to camera banter felt like add ins on a DVD that had all the segments on it – they didn’t really tie them together or engage me.
Further to this I felt that most segments lacked resolution – if they were meant to be a mini movie in the greater movie/documentary within a documentary – surely the basic structures need to be followed. I think that is why I liked Gibney’s Pure Corruption so much. It set the scene – I met the protagonists, I felt empathy for the players, it related back to something I knew and then tied it all up neatly – all while being beautifully shot and lyrically narrated.

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Review – Cane Toads: The Conquest #BIFF

Thursday, November 4th, 2010

Send 'em back to Hawaii, to Barack Obama!

Tonight I was invited to attend the opening night of the St.George Brisbane International Film Festival. The film was a 3D doco about Cane Toads with a relaxed after party at a very cool inner-city space.

It is hard to think that I would be saying that a documentary about CaneToads was “delightful.” However it was a delightful little flick.

One thing I like about documentaries is that often the participants say and do things you could never script.  Cane Toads (or Avatoad as it has been called as it is in 3D) is exactly that. The talent is a hoot. Real Aussie characters – often with no self consciousness, and usually passionate about what they are discussing. This doco does track the migration of the Cane Toad from a sleepy Northern Queensland town to being the dominant force that it is now, but does it in a non-preachy and entertaining way.

Seeing Dobby (cross breed dog) having what can only be described as a good trip from licking the toads.
The editing takes the mundane and makes it magical – Marshall(?) the white dog’s story.
Tip Byrne.
Quirky arcs.
Nice tie backs.
Excellent score.
NT’ers make Qld’ers look anything but parochial.

Not enough science for me to really love it.
Dragged in parts.
Didn’t discuss the negative impact of the toad much.
Didn’t cover how “well meaning” toad hunters often kill our native amphibian friends .

A highly enjoyable flick – that was in 3D. Funniest thing about it being in 3D were the ppl who had never seen a 3D movie before. Otherwise, it was just a well executed gimmick. To be honest I wouldn’t have gone if it wasn’t free, and as I am not a 3D devotee I wouldn’t have gone at regular release. But to those who love 3D, it is well done, and not too many 3D for 3D’s sake and worth catching when it has a limited national release early next year (2011).

PS. Gotta love the guy who brought his pet cane toad with him,

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My Viewing Choices for the Brisbane International Film Festival (#BIFF)

Sunday, October 31st, 2010

Somewhere only we know thanks to BIFF (HT @ Keane)

Yes ppl (read Panda Lovers), it is BIFF time again.

What am I off to see this time round?

The American (leaving a relation’s 16th birthday early to get there)
Red Hill
I Am You
Uncle Boomnee Who Can Recall His Past Lives
I Love You Phillip Morris
The Red Chapel
I have added:
Reign of Assassins
Still two more till I hit my 10, but so many others I want to see.
ADDITION: I was invited to go to the opening night event of BIFF and their after party – so I am now seeing Cane Toads: The Conquest as well.

What have I seen already and recommend? Click the thoughts in brackets for my reviews on them. I will add as I see more.
Jucy (great little wom rom com and when you factor in the budget it is pretty dang impressive)
Fair Game (enjoyable piece of film with amazing acting by Penn and Watts)
Cane Toads: The Conquest (light hearted telling of the cane toad invasion of Qld and the NT)
The American (a somewhat predictable yet emotionally driven movie with outstanding scenery)
I Am You (Do. Not. Go. It. Is. Terrible)
Uncle Boomnee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (No idea what it was about)

Also check out ABC Local Radio 612’s morning film reviewer’s picks here.

You can book on line or use their awesome iPhone/iPod/iPad app (search BIFF10) which talks to your calendar (or you can RSS to your bookings which then updates your calendar).

See you at BIFF.
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