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Monday, July 29, 2013

August Film Club: Documentary #1

Hey folks!  Riding the tonal wave created in Restrepo, we will be moving on to a film that is possibly even more serious than the last.  For our first August documentary, we will be watching Werner Herzog's harrowing descent into the world of capital punishment in his deeply moving and astounding film:  Into the Abyss.
Into the Abyss is a documentary film written and directed by Werner Herzog about two men convicted of a triple homicide which occurred in Conroe, Texas.  The film profiles Michael Perry, a man on death row convicted of murdering Sandra Stotler, a fifty-year-old nurse of German descent.  He was suspected, but never charged, in two other murders which occurred in Conroe, Texas, with his accomplice Jason Burkett.  Perry was convicted eight years earlier of the October 2001 murder, apparently committed in order to steal a car for a joyride.  Perry denies that he was responsible for the killings, blaming Burkett (also appearing the in film) who was convicted of the other two murders.  Burkett, who received a lesser life sentence for his involvement, likewise blames Perry.  Perry's final interviews for the film were recorded only 8 days before his execution on July 1, 2010.  The film also includes interviews with victims' families and law enforcement officers.  The film does not focus on Perry's guilt or innocence, and has a minimal amount of narration, with Herzog, unlike in many of his films, never appearing onscreen.

The film received generally positive reviews, currently holding a 91% certified fresh rating on out 101 critical reviews.

This is what I wrote immediately after watching the film for the first time:  "Into the Abyss, here is a sad, moving unbiased look at the death penalty; those involved in the crimes, the families of the victims, the guards, the chaplains, and the perpetrators themselves.  Though opposed to the death penalty, Herzog has no agenda, he simply lets them tell their stories, lets us reflect on the events that have transpired, and on their lives, and lets us have a glimpse into it all.  The "abyss" seems to refer less to capital punishment and more to the depths of pain and suffering human beings not only deal to one another but also endure."

We will be watching this wonderfully made film Thursday, August 15th at 6:15pm, hope to see you all there!

Here's the trailer:

Saturday, July 20, 2013

July Film Club: Documentary #2

Hey folks, thanks for those who were able to make it out to our film last Thursday.  For this coming Thursday, July 25th we will be watching the very moving, intense documentary entitled: Restrepo.

Restrepo is a 2010 documentary about the Afghanistan war, directed by American journalist Sebastian Junger and the late British/American photojournalist Tim Hetherington.  The film explores the year that Junger and Hetherington spent in Afghanistan on assignment for Vanity Fair, embedded with the Second Platoon, B Company, 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment (airborne), 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team of the U.S. Army in the Korengal Valley.  The 2nd Platoon is depicted defending the Observation Post (OP) named after a platoon medic who was killed earlier in the campaign, PFC Juan Sebastian Restrepo, a Colombian-born naturalized U.S. citizen.  The film follows the 2nd Platoon of Battle Company on a 15-month deployment in the Korengal Valley of northeast Afghanistan in the Nuristan area.  The Korengal flows north to the Pech, which then flows east to the Kunar River valley on the border with Pakistan.  the film chronicles the lives of the men from their deployment to the time of their return home.  The Korengal Valley was at the time regarded as "the deadliest place on Earth" (as stated in the documentary itself, trailers, and television commercials on the National Geographic Channel).

The film received the Grand Jury Prize for best documentary at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival.  It received a certified fresh rating of 96% on Rotten Tomatoes.  The late Roger Ebert awarded the film four out of four stars.

This is one of the most intense films I've ever seen, and probably the truest portrayal of modern combat and military service you will ever experience outside of actually serving.  You won't want to miss this harrowing, wonderfully made documentary.

Here's the trailer:

Monday, July 8, 2013

July Film Club: Documentary #1

Alright everybody, this month we're going to move into some different territory for our documentaries.  The first one will be Al Reinert's wonderful film, For All Mankind.

For All Mankind is a 1989 documentary film documenting the Apollo missions of NASA.  It was directed by Al Reinert with music by Brian Eno.  The film provides 80 minutes of real NASA footage, taken on the Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s.  The focus of the documentary is on the human view of the space flights, and the original mission footage is provided along with the voice of the astronauts, from interviews and form the actual mission recordings.  Among those providing narration are Jim Lovell, Michael Collins, Charles Conrad, Jack Swigert, and Ken Mattingly.  The film concentrates on the beauty of the earth as seen from space.  For All Mankind was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1990.
In the DVD commentary, Reinert explains that he made the film after learning that huge amounts of footage shot by astronauts had been archived by NASA without ever being seen by the public.  Al Reinert and editor Susan Korda sifted through six million feet of film footage, and 80 hours of NASA interviews to create the documentary.

This film holds a 93% certified fresh rating on the aggregate review site out of 15 critical reviews.

This film must be seen to truly appreciate its beauty and splendor.  The marriage of the images on screen and the soundscapes created by the gifted Brian Eno are oftentimes overwhelming in their majesty.  This is a film that every person on earth should experience.

We will meet Thursday, July 18th at 6:15pm, hope to see you all there!

Here's the trailer: