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With its mouth-watering comfort food and welcoming atmosphere, Rachel’s of Bad Axe is the kind of family-run restaurant you’d be lucky to find in your neighborhood or passing through any small town. But, in this case, Rachel’s, started by the Siev family 25 years ago and still going strong, stands for something much bigger. As filmmaker David Siev …
 
All you need to know about Ryan White’s (“The Keepers”, “The Case Against 8”) enthusiasm for taking on the project that would eventually become his awe-inspiring new documentary “Good Night Oppy” is that the Cabbage Patch doll he had as a kid was the astronaut version (currently selling on Etsy for up to $200). Couple this opportunity to revisit hi…
 
“At first, I was terrified”. These are not words you expect to hear very often from Laura Poitras, one of the world’s most fearless and acclaimed documentary filmmakers. Afterall, this is the filmmaker who took on the U.S. intelligence community with her Academy Award-winning film “Citizenfour” about NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. But shortly in…
 
When filmmakers Tamana Ayazi (making her feature doc debut) and Marcel Mettelsiefen (“Watani: My Homeland”) set out in early 2020 to shoot a film about the new generation of young, well-educated Afghans, they knew they wanted to find a strong woman to tell this story. Instead, they encountered a force of nature: Zarifa Ghafari, the 26-year-old mayo…
 
Elvis Mitchell, longtime host of KCRW’s “The Treatment”, and producer of “The Black List”, joins Mike to discuss his new documentary “Is that Black Enough for You?” The film recounts an explosion of Black Film which occurred mainly in the period of 1968-1978, placing it within the context of both the prior failure of Hollywood to provide real repre…
 
From its lyrical opening shot of rats scurrying across an empty, moonlit lot somewhere in New Delhi, Shaunak Sen’s (“Cities of Sleep”) thoroughly original new documentary “All that Breathes” makes it clear that generous helpings of the cinematically sublime will be served up along with gritty doses of reality. The film follows Nadeem and Saud, two …
 
When your dad — who is also your best friend and your family’s source of inspiration — announces that he has made the decision to die, the immediate reaction is shock and revulsion. But, after careful consideration and discussion, it became clear to the Timoner family that paterfamilias Eli, who had been battling very severe illness and a rapidly d…
 
Can we all agree that the date of August 20, 2015 should be enshrined as one of the most important in the history of documentary? In case you’ve forgotten, that’s the date that “Documentary Now!” burst on the scene with the airing of its first episode: “Sandy Passage”, an unforgettable debut starring Fred Armisen and Bill Hader parodying the Maysle…
 
It’s not really about the ship. The first thing you have to understand about Margaret Brown’s (“The Great Invisible”, “The Order of Myths”) brilliant new Netflix documentary “Descendant” about the Clotilda, the last known ship to arrive with enslaved Africans in the U.S., is that it’s not primarily about the search for and discovery of this histori…
 
“It’s a caper story, a heist movie, with women at the center. They were outlaws.” So says Tia Lessin (“Trouble the Water”), one of the directors of “The Janes”, the thoroughly engrossing new HBO documentary about… abortion. Set in Chicago, in the late 60’s and early 70’s, “The Janes”, also directed by Emma Pildes (“Jane Fonda in Five Acts”), tracks…
 
Four young men arrive in South Africa from their native Zimbabwe and find each other through their love of–and professional dedication to–wine. Tinashe the big picture philosopher; Pardon the competitive jokester; Marlvin, pious and warm; and Joseph, the stalwart leader of Team Zimbabwe--all will overcome the obstacles facing them as refugees to ar…
 
Ben Crump knows what it’s like to be in the eye of the storm. As a civil rights attorney representing families in some of the most high-profile cases involving police killings in recent years (including George Floyd and Breonna Taylor), Ben is constantly in the spotlight. But as Nadia Hallgren’s (“Becoming”) powerful and incisive documentary portra…
 
What happened to Sinead O’Connor? It can be too easy to misremember the “after” story, of how quickly in the wake of her appearance on Saturday Night Live in October of 1992, this once megastar largely disappeared from the brightest lights of the world stage . But it also is too easy to ignore the “before” story of what brought her to fame early in…
 
He survived a government-orchestrated poison attack. He pranked the Russian security agency. He endured (and continues to endure) solitary confinement in a remote gulag. Oh, and he also made some pretty cool TikTok videos. His name is Alexei Navalny, and, as Russia’s leading opposition figure, he will use whatever means possible to try to end the a…
 
“I was drowning”. Acclaimed filmmaker Brett Morgen (“Kurt Cobain Montage of Heck”, “The Kid Stays in the Picture”) knew he was in deep trouble creatively when he sat down to write the script for his latest documentary and days stretched to weeks and then months. When your film subject’s own creative output is as varied, unpredictable, and brilliant…
 
A mustard-colored Porsche races through the streets of Washington, DC. A crazed political operative holds a pencil to the throat of a former presidential advisor. An orgy hosted by a prominent businessman rages through the night. Does this sound like a documentary about Watergate? Well, it’s not actually. These entertaining, adrenaline-fueled momen…
 
The Hollywood Reporter’s Executive Editor of Awards Scott Feinberg joins Mike and Ken to break down this year’s Emmy nominees in all the major documentary categories, including Outstanding Documentary Program; Outstanding Series; Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking; and Outstanding Directing. After considering all the angles, Scott pulls no…
 
When the writer Glenn Kurtz stumbled upon an old home movie buried in his parents’ closet in Florida, he inadvertently discovered a whole world that, tragically, had been nearly erased from history. Returning as a tourist in 1938 to the small village of Nasielsk outside Warsaw where he grew up, his grandfather David Kurtz brought with him a brand n…
 
Not yet 19 years old, a young man named Bitaté Uru-eu-wau-wau is approached by an elder, who tells him, ready or not, it is time for Bitaté to become his community’s new leader. With Brazil’s election of a right-wing president on the horizon, bands of illegal settlers clearing forests, and the impending disaster of climate change, how in the world …
 
In the delightful and, yes, delicious CNN Original Series “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” the beloved actor/writer/director is constantly on the move, setting out to discover what makes each of Italy’s 20 regions unique. By the end of season two, Stanley had tramped across nine of them, and along the way, sampled enough pasta and salumi to fee…
 
When Claude Motley got shot… everything changed. Not just for Claude, whose jaw was shattered by a bullet fired through his car window, but for Nathan, the 15-year-old youth who pulled the trigger and for Victoria, the woman who shot Nathan when he tried to rob her, too. These tragic events in Milwaukee in 2014 unleashed a chain reaction of trauma …
 
After pop star Britney Spears’ controversial 13-year conservatorship finally came to an end in November 2021, Spears credited the #FreeBritney movement: “I honestly think you guys saved my life.” Filmmakers Samantha Stark and Liz Day also played no small role. When their documentary “Framing Britney Spears” premiered in February of that year, it sp…
 
He pops up often in your social media livestream, appearing from just about every corner of the globe. His head bobbing up-and-down in the frame, his voice slightly frantic, he reports in real-time from the frontlines of whatever new catastrophe has left thousands – or even millions — of people in desperate need of food and to describe what’s being…
 
Legendary Director Peter Jackson joins Mike to discuss the Emmy-nominated “The Beatles: Get Back”. Peter discusses why after a career that has spanned “Heavenly Creatures,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit,” and “King Kong,” he turned to documentary filmmaking with "They Shall Not Grow Old." And how the techniques that he employed in turning th…
 
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. They were America’s most beloved couple and Hollywood’s ultimate power couple. But when the studio lights were turned off, what was it like being the “real” Lucy and Desi? How did their relationship inform everything they did — from creating the groundbreaking sitcom “I Love Lucy” to running one of Hollywood’s most succ…
 
Frederick Douglass was not only one of our greatest activists, he was a great writer, an artist who worked in words. Director Julie Marchesi (P.O.V., American Masters, African-American Lives) and producer Seun Babalola (NOVA, The United Shades of America, Africa Everywhere) explore the growth of his mind and the power of his words in their Emmy-nom…
 
“Nazaré”. To those who follow the world of big wave surfing, the word speaks for itself. A once sleepy fishing village on the coast of Portugal, Nazaré has now become one of the world’s preeminent big wave surfing spots. It’s also the most likely future location for that most elusive of all surfing dreams: the 100-foot wave. As the hunting ground o…
 
George Carlin wasn’t just a comedian, he was one of the great American artists of the later half of the 20th-Century, and he was shaped by and interacted with the great events of his day with intelligence, wit, and an ever-adapting nature. That’s what co-director Michael Bonfiglio (with Judd Apatow) of “George Carlin’s American Dream” explains when…
 
Racking up win after win, Mack Beggs is well on his way to an undefeated season and a second consecutive Texas state high school wrestling crown. But, far from being recognized as the top athlete that he is, Mack finds himself the target of criticism from parents, social media trolls and national commentators. As a young trans man, Mack wants nothi…
 
With 55 million matches to date, Tinder advertises itself as the world’s most popular dating app. But, back in 2019, it was one match in particular — between a Norwegian woman living in London and a charming, self-described “Prince of Diamonds” — that became a viral sensation. It turned out that “Simon Leviev” was no prince, but a convicted con art…
 
It’s more than a song. As Dayna Goldfine and Dan Geller (“Ballet Russes”, “The Galapagos Affair”) point out in their new documentary, Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” is a journey. A journey of artistic and spiritual discovery, a 7-year Odyssey of composition, and, once all but lost, an even longer journey to find its place as one of our most admired s…
 
Coined by a Harvard psychologist in the 1980s, the “Martha Mitchell Effect” describes a process in which a person’s beliefs are initially labeled as delusional but later turn out to be true. But who was the real Martha Mitchell? What were her claims about Watergate? And why, until now, has she been largely erased from our collective memory? Opening…
 
Love and Lava, Magma and Matrimony. Sara Dosa’s (“The Last Season”, “The Seer and the Unseen”) “Fire of Love” encourages such puns, and that’s no accident: The film explores the relationship of Katia and Maurice Krafft, married volcanologists as they chart the world's volcanoes from the late 1960s until their untimely deaths in 1993. It’s a film th…
 
Sha’Carri Richardson is fast. Really, really, really fast. At the 2021 U.S. Olympic trials, Sha’Carri, only 21 at the time, ran the 100-meter finals in 10.84 seconds, more than a tenth of a second faster than her closest competitor. In “Sub Eleven Seconds”, his artfully crafted documentary portrait of this superstar athlete at a moment of peak perf…
 
In a small town in India, a cow vigilante group seeks to recruit teenage boys to join its ranks. Who are these so-called cow vigilantes and how are they using the welfare of the cow, which is sacred to India’s majority Hindu population, to fan the flames of nationalist extremism? In Varun Chopra’s fascinating, multifaceted and provocative new short…
 
Like a freshly sculpted work of clay, director Rebeca Huntt’s stunning documentary debut BEBA captures in real-time her family’s fluid interpersonal dynamics; the complicated legacies of inherited national, ethnic and racial identity; and her own brewing caldron of coming-of-age dramatics. To call it a “personal film” is both a wild understatement …
 
A phone call between mother and daughter. A bad dream. Home movies. Seems simple, yet Ash Goh Hua’s short documentary “The Feeling of Being Close to You” expertly navigates physical and emotional space to provide a compelling, affecting story of attempted reconciliation. “The Feeling of Being Close to You” will play at the The Palm Springs Internat…
 
Hollyn and Colie are range riders. Every day during the summer, these highly skilled hired hands ride their horses across the remote, rugged Idaho mountains, pushing cows across sky-high ridges to their final destination. It’s hard work for low pay, but the rewards are plentiful: the thrill of the open range, the symbiotic relationship with their a…
 
As part of our focus on NextGen filmmakers — up-and-coming talents in the documentary world — “Top Docs” is pleased to be partnering with the 28th Palm Springs International ShortFest (June 21 – 27) to feature several filmmakers with outstanding documentary shorts in this year’s festival. In this episode, Ken talks to Pavel Mozhar, director of the …
 
What more can be said about Andy Warhol? Campbell’s Soup. Marilyn Monroe. Pop Art. The Factory. Fright wig. 15 minutes. Connect the dots and you feel pretty confident in your short-hand knowledge of who Warhol was and his place in modern art and contemporary culture. But, as much as Andy Warhol is a household name when it comes to 1960’s celebrity …
 
An expat journalist reflects on the recent revolutions that have transformed her native Ukraine. A filmmaker, looking for spiritual advice, goes to a secretive Buddhist monastery in Kyoto. A mother grieves for her young son and seeks answers about why childhood drownings are shockingly common. A young dancer finds her way back to performing after e…
 
“If it ain’t Boeing, I ain’t going” was a phrase uttered by generations of pilots in reference to the storied Seattle-based company that was virtually synonymous with American engineering know-how. But, in 2018, a practically brand-new Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft crashed soon after takeoff in Indonesia, followed five months later by a second 737 MAX …
 
Long before Kanye West became one of the most famous people on the planet, he was a 19-year-old up-and-coming producer of beats trying to make a name for himself in the local Chicago rap scene. Enter comedian Coodie Simmons, host of a local cable access show, who — taking inspiration from the landmark documentary “Hoop Dreams” — decided to turn his…
 
In “Sirens”, Rita Baghdadi (“My Country No More”, “City Rising”) joins to Mike to discuss her portrayal of the all-women Lebanese heavy metal band Slave to Sirens, with a focus on Sherry, the virtuosic lead guitarist, and Lilas, the rhythm guitarist who is the charismatic center of the band. As much a coming of age story as a rock doc, “Sirens” exp…
 
“He's not a dusty antique from the past; he's the beginning of now” That’s how Marc Shaffer describes the subject of his film, Exposing Muybridge. Mike and Marc explore the strange and varied career of Eadweard Muybridge (just one of the many versions of the name he gave himself over the years). Born in Britain, he moved to New York to sell books, …
 
In 1976, a curator at Harvard’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology & Ethnography discovered a long-forgotten item stored away in the museum’s collection: a series of stark but stirring daguerreotypes taken in 1850 that are believed to be the oldest photographs of enslaved Africans in the U.S. While the discovery made headlines across the country, they d…
 
While over the decades, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has periodically been front page news in America, for the most part, the issue has not taken center stage in U.S. politics. But what if it turned out that, unbeknownst to the vast majority of Americans, state legislatures throughout the country have been approving bills that not only took a s…
 
In this installment of Anatomy of a Scene, “Ailey” director Jamila Wignot describes the creative process behind a key sequence in her remarkable portrait of American dance legend Alvin Ailey. After building his hugely successful dance company from scratch, Ailey felt an ever-increasing amount of pressure and eventually broke down. Jamila and her te…
 
In this powerful Anatomy of a Scene featurette, “Attica” director Stanley Nelson, recently awarded the DGA Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Documentary, focuses on a climactic sequence near the end of the Oscar-nominated film. Stanley takes us inside the prison yard at Attica after authorities have re-taken control of the yard and p…
 
It starts like a modern day fairy tale: from the cotton fields of Mississippi, to three national collegiate championships, to scoring the first basket in Olympic history. But despite all her plaudits, when all that had passed, Lusia Mae (Lucy) Harrison felt she could pursue the game no further. In his Oscar-nominated short, “The Queen of Basketball…
 
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