The documentary form of filmmaking has been around since the very beginning of the moving image. In well over a century, it has been transformed in a variety of ways, leading to some of the most innovative cinema. This is exactly why it is always so frustrating when someone takes an interesting individual or event and makes a documentary that takes nothing from this history, instead opting to utilize the same old cookie-cutter style of…
The ReelHeART International Film & Screenplay Festival is currently underway until Saturday, July 8 featuring events all over the city of Toronto. I’ve seen two of this year’s selected documentaries and while these films belong in separate categories, both have a comparable criticism.
There’s not much to say about Matt Schrader’s ever imaginatively titled Score: A Film Music Documentary. A documentary made in praise of the Hollywood elite composers (who, to be fair, deserve the praise), Score has the presentation quality of a TV special or DVD bonus feature with no original thoughts about its subject.
Close Ties (DIR. Zofia Kowalewska) The audience, from afar, watches a stubborn married couple in Zofia Kowalewska’s short-form doc Close Ties. They bicker about money and time spent in the bathroom just as often as they look at each other and give “that look” that they’ll always be there for each other.
Pardon me it this sounds silly, but I Called Him Morgan – a music documentary about jazz trumpeter Lee Morgan – has too much music. The music itself isn’t bad, but director/producer Kasper Collin has included so much of it that the tunes actually engulf the rest of this otherwise adequate film.
Nazis plundering art has been a subject of much consideration and curiosity ever since the objects began to be recovered. Plenty of focus has been placed on paintings that were lost and found in this way, and the reasons for it are plain to be seen: the paintings have famous, long-deceased names attached and, due to their singular status, they can only be experienced by a limited number of people and can be valued at…
Gimme Danger is by no means a groundbreaking documentary. It’s by-the-book filmmaking, full of talking heads and archival footage, and very much reminiscent of the punk rock films of Don Letts. The Letts comment, of course, is not a negative at all. Don Letts is a great person to emulate when searching for cinematic punk rock aesthetics.
The Violin Teacher is a conflicting feature. The music is beautiful and the message is inspiring, but the story’s pace constantly swings back and forth from tight captivation to a sluggish crawl. Sérgio Machado’s film is both the most uplifting film I’ve seen lately, and the most boring.
The biggest takeaway from Barbara Kopple’s electrifying doc Miss Sharon Jones! is Jones’ incredible energy and willpower. It’s marvellous to watch the soulful musician allow music to possess her, and it’s even more astonishing considering Jones’ exhaustive struggle with pancreatic cancer.
I approach this review with an unenthused sigh, knowing that my opinions on The Music of Strangers: Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble will sound pompous, crusty, and blasé.