This week’s relatively small crop of new documentary openings, which includes one brilliant, necessary work not hitting theaters until next Wednesday, is all filled with America-ness. We’ve got teachers, teachings, bravery and bumptious buffoonery. The last is a Brit, but he’s chasing a certain American like a redcoat in pursuit of a gun-blasting Paul Revere. Here are your four new theatrical releases followed by the weekly list of docs still in cinemas:
Narrated by Matt Damon, produced by Dave Eggers, directed by Oscar winner Vanessa Roth (“Freeheld”) and featuring a title track by The National, this film is part of the cross-platform campaign of The Teacher Salary Project. By following four individual teachers, Roth (with co-director/editor Brian McGinn) looks into the current education crisis and possibility for reform.
Opens in NYC at AMC Empire 25 and in L.A. (Santa Monica) at AMC Loews Broadway 4. For upcoming releases in other cities, check the film’s screenings page. Or plan your own.
Patrick Takaya Solomon’s debut documentary is not a biography of mythologist Joseph Campbell. Credited as “based on the teachings of Joseph Campbell,” it features “Twilight” director Catherine Hardwicke, “Parks and Recreation” actress Rashida Jones, “A Beautiful Mind” screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, pro skateboarder Tony Hawk, Fleetwood Mac’s Mick Fleetwood, Deepak Chopra and many scholarly authors talking about how Campbell’s findings can translate to our everyday lives, in a self-help/motivational sense.
There are also “supercut”-style montages of Hollywood movie clips illustrative of Campbell’s study of the hero’s journey, which shows parallels between popular films like “Star Wars,” “The Matrix” and, of course, “Twilight.”
Opens in L.A. (Santa Monica) at the Laemmle Monica 4. For upcoming releases in other cities, check the film’s coming soon page.
“Hell and Back Again”
Rounding out a great group of recent nonfiction films about soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, which includes “Restrepo” and “Armadillo,” this one similarly plays like a narrative drama and is actually structured in a way that warrants comparisons to “The Deer Hunter” (even more than “Where Soldiers Come From”). Directed cinematically by embedded photojournalist Danfung Dennis, the film follows U.S. Marine Sgt. Nathan Harris during his tour in southern Afghanistan, including an intense firefight with the Taliban, and his return home to North Carolina. Dennis cuts back and forth, which makes the war footage function like flashbacks.
The film won both the World Cinema Grand Jury Prize for Documentary and the World Cinema Cinematography Award at Sundance and was named best documentary at the Moscow International Film Festival.
Opens October 5 in NYC at Film Forum. For upcoming releases in other cities and current film festival appearances, check the film’s In theaters/Special Screenings page.
Nick Broomfield (“Kurt & Courtney”) returns to his old documentary style after dipping into narrative films in the past decade, and he’s back to his usual tabloid-like first-person shtick, this time for an inquiry into the life of Sarah Palin. You either love him or hate him — I happen to love his genuine curiosity, even if ultimately his works tend to be more about him than his subject. Neither a real hit job nor a “Roger and Me” wannabe, Broomfield’s latest further delves into issues for investigative documentary with a knowing reflexivity. In the end this one is really about the price of talking, in more ways than one.
Opens in NYC at the Angelika Film Centar and in L.A. (Santa Monica) at Laemmle Monica 4.
Expanded releases this week (older films, new cities, some also still playing elsewhere). Links go to screening calendar listings:
“The Autobiography of Nicolae Ceausescu” - Astoria (NY) [10/1 only], Pleasantville (NY) [10/4 only], Annandale (NY) [10/5 only], Cambridge (MA) [10/6-10/8 only] - all of these feature director Andrei Ujica
“Beats, Rhymes & Life” - Santa Cruz (CA), Hartford (CT)
“Bill Cunningham New York” - Irvington (NY) [10/5 only]
“The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975” - Cambridge (MA), Washington (DC), Pasadena (CA), Woodstock (NY) [10/1 only], Rhinebeck (NY) [10/2-10/3 only],
“Buck” - Homer (AK), Peekskill (NY), Hanover (NY), Portsmouth (NY), Montgomery (AL) [opens 10/2], Franklin (TN) [opens 10/5], Kilgore (TX) [opens 10/5],
“Connected” - Los Angeles (CA)
“El Bulli: Cooking in Progress” - Pasadena (CA), Los Angeles (CA), Encino (CA), Claremont (CA) [10/1-10/2 only]
“A Good Man” - Milwaukee (WI) [10/1-10/2 only, for Milwaukee Film Festival]
“Granito: How to Nail a Dictator” - Los Angeles (CA), Portland (OR) [10/6 only] Vancouver (BC) [10/2, 10/5 and 10/13 only, for Vancouver Film Festival], New York (NY) [10/5 only, for Human Rights Watch Traveling Film Festival], Mexico City (Mexico) [10/5-10/8 only, for Festival Internacional de Cine Documental de la Ciudad de Mexico]
“Incendiary: The Willingham Case” - Washington (DC)
“The Interrupters” - Austin (TX), Boulder (CO), Spokane (WA), Homer (AK), Bellingham (WA) [10/1-10/3 only], North Charleston (SC) [10/1 only], Rockland (ME) [10/4-10/5 only], Glasgow (UK) [10/5-10/7 only], Leeds (UK) [10/5 only], Ashland (WI) [10/6 only]
“Life in a Day” - Ashland (OR), Williamsburg (VA), Hunter (NY) [9/30-10/2 only], Belfast (ME) [begins 10/1], State College (PA) [begins 10/3], Ogden (UT) [begins 10/6]
“Magic Trip: Ken Kesey’s Search for a Kool Place” - Norfolk (VA) [begins 10/5]
“The Man Nobody Knew: In Search of My Father CIA Spymaster William Colby” - Vancouver (BC)[9/30 and 10/13 only, for Vancouver International Film Festival]
“Page One: Inside the New York Times” - Blacksburg (VA)
“Pearl Jam Twenty” - Philadelphia (PA)
“Resurrect Dead: The Mystery of the Toynbee Tiles” - Palo Alto (CA) [9/20 & 10/2 only, for Palo Alto International Film Festival], Los Angeles (CA), Albuquerque (NM) [begins 10/3]
“Thunder Soul” - Palm Springs (CA), San Francisco (CA)
“We Were Here” - Palm Springs (CA) [9/23 only, at Cinema Diverse fest]
“The Weird World of Blowfly” - Miami (FL)
“The Whale” - Los Angeles (CA)
“Where Soldiers Come From” - Detroit (MI) [9/30-10/2 only]
Also still in theaters:
If you would like a film’s opening or expansion included in the weekly Docs In Theaters post, click the contact link on the right and send me an email.
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