Latest Documentaries

  • Ai Weiwei on the death of Diane Weyermann: ‘Like a bridge of hope washed away in the storm’
    by Ai Weiwei on October 21, 2021 at 3:00 pm

    The artist and film-maker remembers the pioneering documentary producer behind films such as RBG, The Square and An Inconvenient Truth, who has died aged 66Diane has left. When someone close passes away, we feel that a part of ourselves left together with them. A part of our understanding of the world, a link in our interpersonal network, our previous value judgment and actions in the past have all been misplaced because of the passing of a close friend.This sense of misplacement is sometimes very strong and clear, almost like the lack of a lit candle on the shore of a river or a pile of extinguished charcoal in cold weather. We cannot envisage it before people disappear from our life. When they do disappear, we suddenly become aware of the fact that the light and warmth, which vanished with their passing, are lost for ever. They are irreplaceable and will never return. No matter what happens in the future, whatever is lost is lost for ever. Continue reading...

  • In Our Paradise review – Bosnian sisters struggling to make it abroad in migrant tale
    by Phuong Le on October 21, 2021 at 9:25 am

    Claudia Marschal’s documentary about two sisters leaving the Balkans is short on the intimacy that film can deliver Featuring Indira and Mehdina, two Bosnian sisters who try to escape their life of poverty in their homeland, Claudia Marschal’s documentary observes the xenophobia and financial insecurity faced by immigrants from the Balkans, an area already troubled by a history of political turbulence. The “paradise” hinted at in the title, however, is a mirage, as the women and their families struggle to settle down in France and Germany.Indira and her young children are placed in an immigration centre in Germany where they apply for asylum – which is ultimately denied. As Indira is turned away from what she hoped to be a brighter future, Mehdina is arguably more fortunate, as she was able to emigrate to France – though, at the time, she was only 14 and already married. While people at home presume she has a better life in her new country, she faces constant money worries, forced even to sell her jewellery. Amid such hardships, the film’s most moving sequences involve the sisters’ children, most of whom are oblivious to the adults’ turmoil: Indira’s children, for example, can still enjoy a game of hide and seek in the cramped conditions in the immigration centre. Continue reading...

  • At the Ready: the Latino teens training to be border patrol agents
    by Veronica Esposito on October 19, 2021 at 6:36 am

    In a complex, eye-opening new documentary, El Paso high schoolers hold complicated reasons for wanting to become part of a divisive institution The US border with Mexico is a region unto itself, with its own culture, rules and politics. If that wasn’t clear before the 2020 presidential election, then it became so when Donald Trump, riding on a wave of Latino support, became the first Republican to win Texas’s border-hugging Zapata county in 100 years, despite getting trounced 58% to 41% among all of Texas’s Latinos. All of a sudden, Democrats were scrambling to understand how a man known for his virulent anti-immigrant, anti-Latino rhetoric and actions could appeal so strongly to this group.This is a dynamic that film-maker Maisie Crow dives into in her fascinating and delicate documentary At the Ready, which follows the lives of high school students in El Paso as they train to become border patrol agents. We get to know Cesar, Cristina and Mason (identified by a different name throughout the movie, but who comes out as a trans man in a coda following the credits). They are all Latinos, holding complicated, often contradictory reasons for wanting to train for a career in law enforcement. Continue reading...

  • Female directors wait longer than men for their big break, report reveals
    by Vanessa Thorpe on October 17, 2021 at 8:45 am

    A huge equality gap in top jobs and pay has been highlighted between women TV documentary-makers and male colleaguesTelevision documentary teams in Britain today are full of ambitious and capable women but most of them have to wait much longer than their male colleagues to become directors and earn a bigger wage.The findings of the campaigning group We Are Doc Women (WADW), released this weekend, have revealed that gender equality is still a goal, not a reality, in factual programme-making. Continue reading...

  • I Am Belmaya review – uplifting story of a Nepali woman following her film-making dream
    by Phuong Le on October 16, 2021 at 5:14 pm

    In the face of many obstacles, a Dalit woman proves her determination to forge a career as a film-makerAfter she took up film-making, Belmaya Nepali had to face disapproval from her husband and her highly patriarchal village in Nepal; but this was only one of the series of obstacles that the budding director has had to deal with. Having fallen in love with images thanks to a photography workshop, Nepali was orphaned at a young age, and suffered the stigma of being lower caste. Her camera was taken away when she was put into a girl’s home. Her formal schooling was undermined by discouragement from her brothers as well as her teachers, one even said she had “cow dung” for brain. Later, after repeated incidents of domestic abuse from her husband, her complaints and attempts to get a divorce were ignored by her relatives as well as the police.Despite her hardships, what emerges is someone with a determined will to follow her film-making dream. Nepali demonstrates an extraordinary sensitivity to her locale as well as to the social issues that lurk beneath daily life. Co-directed by Nepali and Sue Carpenter, the film shows Nepali in action as well as images of her surroundings seen through her own lens. Here, the approach appears to tip the balance towards outlining Nepali’s life journey and its emotional punch, with the perhaps unfortunate effect of sidelining her creativity. In differentiating sequences shot by Carpenter and Nepali, the film pastes a clumsily generic video-recording rectangle graphic over the latter’s footage; a distracting and possibly unnecessary device. I’d have liked to have seen more of Nepali’s own award-winning short films. Despite this, the film is a stirring look at the painful reality faced by Dalit girls in contemporary Nepal, as well as Nepali’s stunning achievements. Continue reading...

  • The Velvet Underground review – avant-garde cool brought back to life
    by Simran Hans on October 16, 2021 at 2:00 pm

    Todd Haynes uses Warhol-style split screen for this ideally pitched documentary about the influential 60s bandHow do you make a rock doc without any concert footage? In his electric portrait of the Velvet Underground, the film-maker Todd Haynes elegantly sidesteps this conundrum. Unable to rely on archive material of their gigs, he turns instead to the early films of Andy Warhol, their friend, publicist and one-time manager.The band came out of New York City’s avant-garde art scene in 1964 , so Haynes frames the film like a downtown gallery installation. A slideshow of still photographs runs in split screen alongside new interviews and clips from this period in experimental American cinema (the format is a homage to Warhol’s 1966 film Chelsea Girls). Warhol’s screen tests of founding members Lou Reed and John Cale, staring into the lens, play out in full. His black-and-white chiaroscuro closeups capture the Velvets’ confrontational cool. Continue reading...

  • Corporate Accountability review – collaboration with Argentinian state terror exposed
    by Cath Clarke on October 16, 2021 at 9:46 am

    Jonathan Perel’s low-key doc focuses on the companies, still in business, which collaborated with the killings and torture that followed 1976 coupJonathan Perel has made a stealthily powerful one-man documentary about corporate involvement in human rights atrocities during Argentina’s military dictatorship after the 1976 coup. It’s an account of how companies assisted in state terror: the kidnap, torture and murder of employees considered subversive, mostly trade unionists or political activists.Perel’s approach is startlingly – almost maddeningly – plain. Like a private detective, he parks his car outside 25 companies exposed by a 2005 government report about corporate accountability and the repression of workers during the regime. Over the footage he films from his car documenting the mundane comings and goings outside the buildings today, Perel calmly reads extracts from the report’s case studies. Continue reading...

  • Raphael Revealed review – 500th-anniversary survey of the Renaissance great
    by Andrew Pulver on October 15, 2021 at 7:45 pm

    While we’re waiting for the delayed National Gallery extravaganza, this wide-ranging documentary relays the full breadth of Raphael’s achievementsIn 2022, London’s National Gallery will finally get to mount its blockbuster Raphael exhibition for the 500th anniversary of the artist’s death – two years late, thanks to Covid. In the meantime, the Exhibition on Screen strand are offering this taster-cum-primer, which takes as its subject the 500th anniversary exhibition that did take place in 2020 in Rome, and much of which is travelling to London next year.Raphael Revealed is directed by Exhibition on Screen veteran Phil Grabsky, and it provides a typically smooth and erudite presentation, bringing together artist biography, historical context, knowledgeable talking heads and beautifully filmed closeups of the works themselves. With a subject so well worked over, there’s not much all that new to say, but the depth and brilliance of Raphael’s painting is restated again, along with some interesting details gleaned from his preparatory drawings and archaeological activities. Continue reading...

  • ‘The heaven of film-making’: how a Dalit orphan got to tell her own story
    by Rojita Adhikari in Kathmandu on October 15, 2021 at 2:48 pm

    A gift of a camera inspired Belmaya Nepali to rise above poverty and abuse to make documentaries• I Am Belmaya reviewBelmaya Nepali’s life changed for ever when, at 14, she was given a camera.The British film-maker Sue Carpenter had come to Pokhara, a tourist city in central Nepal, to run a photography project with disadvantaged girls living in an institution. One of those girls was Belmaya. Continue reading...

  • Mothers of the Revolution review – emotional return to Greenham Common
    by Leslie Felperin on October 13, 2021 at 12:00 pm

    With stirring testimony on offer from the organisers of the groundbreaking women’s peace camp, this doc doesn’t need its superfluous dramatic recreationsIf ever there was a film guaranteed to bring a tear to the eye of sentimental Guardian readers of a certain age, it’s this one. Essentially, it’s a straight-up talking-heads-and-archive-footage documentary about the Greenham Common women’s peace camp as told by some of the activists who were there, with a few dramatic recreations knitted in. These acted bits, shot on setups that mimic the look of early 1980s video footage and grainy Super 8, aren’t necessarily badly made, and in fact are almost convincing at moments as fake archive footage. But they do lower the tone and cheapen Briar March’s earnest, unabashedly emotional chronicle, which throws a long-overdue spotlight on a chapter in the history of civil disobedience.Narrated by none other than former MP Glenda Jackson, who provides a voice-of-God coherence to the story, the film tracks how the protest started as a march organised by, among others, Karmen Thomas, a mother who was shocked by the government’s absurd Protect and Survive campaign which promulgated the idea that people could save themselves in four minutes from a nuclear attack. At one point, she tells a great story about arriving at Greenham with others planning to chain themselves to the fence, only to be met by a policeman who assumed Thomas and comrades were cleaners arriving to work at the base rather than protest. Other interviewees include Rebecca Johnson, who discovered she had a knack for communicating and advocating in public, and Chris Drake, who ended up coming out as a lesbian while at Greenham. Forced to decide whether to let her ex-husband have custody of her kids or have them put into care when she went to jail, Drake had to make a crushing choice that she describes with dignity and not a scrap of self-pity. Continue reading...