Documentary

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Documentary Music

Landfill Harmonic: An Upcoming Documentary About the ‘Recycled Orchestra’ in Cateura, Paraguay

April 11, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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Cateura, Paraguay is a small city that has grown atop a massive dump. It is regarded as one of the poorest slums in Latin America, a village where people live among a sea of garbage. Incredibly, the landfill itself is the primary form of subsistence for many residents, who pick through waste for items that can be used or sold. Prospects for most of the children born in Cateura is bleak as gangs and drugs await many of them. But then one day, something amazing happened.

A garbage picker named Nicolás Gómez (known as “Cola”) found a piece of trash that resembled a violin and brought it to musician Favio Chávez. Using other objects collected from the dump, the pair constructed a functional violin in a place where a real violin is worth more a house. Using items gleaned completely from the dump, the pair then built a cello, a flute, a drum, and suddenly had a wild idea: could a children’s orchestra be born in one of the most depressed areas in the world? As you can guess, the answer was yes.

Now a group of filmmakers, producers, and photographers are trying to tell the story of the orchestra through a documentary titled Landfill Harmonic. The orchestra seems poised to offer many of the children opportunities outside of the slum— they are already planning a multi-city tour around the U.S. The movie is currently being funded on Kickstarter and just passed the halfway mark today. Watch the video above and you can learn more over on their Facebook. Backed!

 

 



Documentary Photography

Finding Vivian Maier: A New Documentary About One of the World’s Most Mysterious Street Photographers

February 16, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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In 2007 Chicago 26-year-old real estate agent (and president of the Jefferson Park Historical Society) John Maloof walked into an auction house and placed a $380 bid on a box of 30,000 prints and negatives from an unknown photographer. Realizing the street photographs of 1950s/60s era Chicago and New York were of unusually high quality he purchased another lot of photographer’s work totaling some 100,000 photographic negatives, thousands of prints, 700 rolls of undeveloped color film, home movies, audio tape interviews, and original cameras.

Over time it became clear the photos belonged to a Chicago nanny named Vivian Maier who had photographed prolifically for nearly 40 years, but who never shared her work during her lifetime. Since the discovery Maier’s photographs have received international attention with collections touring in cities around the world as well as the publication of a book. Now, a documentary called Finding Vivian Maier directed by Maloof and Charlie Siskel is nearing completion and the trailer above is a tantalizing preview of what promises to me a fascinating film. Can’t wait. (via gapers block)

 

 



Amazing Design Documentary

The Centrifuge Brain Project: A Documentary About Impossible Amusement Rides

February 4, 2013

Christopher Jobson

In this brilliantly fun mockumentary from German filmmaker Till Nowak, a man named Dr. Nick Laslowicz from the Institute for Centrifugal Research (ICR) recounts his “achievements in the realms of brain manipulation, excessive G-Force and prenatal simulations,” stating unequivocally that “gravity is a mistake.” What follows is a series of increasingly terrifying and equally absurd roller coasters that fling passengers into the sky in an attempt to theoretically improve their cognitive function. Pulling no stops, the fictional ICR has a fully active Facebook page and website, though in reality the film has won numerous awards in screenings around the world in the last year. (via the creators project, swissmiss)

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Art Documentary

Meet Mark Landis, One of the Most Prolific Art Forgers in U.S. History

January 22, 2013

Christopher Jobson

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The Avante/Garde Diaries recently released these two brief clips of an interview with master art forger Mark Landis who for the last 20 years created dozens if not hundreds of convincing art forgeries including works by Picasso which he then donated to institutions around the United States including over 50 art museums. Landis would often arrive at the museums dressed as a jesuit priest with elaborate stories of how he had acquired the artworks he subsequently donated. Incredibly, after a 2007 investigation it was determined that Landis may not have actually broken any laws. He never once tried to profit from the fake artworks but instead seemed to gain enough satisfaction from fooling curatorial staff members at various institutions. While the interviews above by the Avante/Garde Diaries are not a comprehensive documentary, they are a fascinating glimpse into the world of this rather bizarre man.

Last year curators Matthew Leininger and Aaron Cowan collected some 90 forged artworks by Landis, as well as his “jesuit father” costume (donated by the forger himself) and held an exhibition called Faux Real at the Dorothy W. and C. Lawson Reed Jr. Gallery in Cincinnati.

 

 



Art Documentary

An Austin Man Builds a Cathedral of Junk

September 20, 2012

Christopher Jobson

This is a fascinating and touching glimpse into the ongoing art installation of Austin, Texas resident Vince Hannemann (aka the Junk King) who since 1989 has been collecting thousands of discarded objects and turning them into a giant cathedral of junk. In 2010 the city closed the structure claiming it was unsafe and demanded Hannemann obtain proper building permits for his “auxiliary structure”. He was then forced to remove nearly 60 tons of materials before finally obtaining the approval from an engineer. Over seven months hundreds of volunteers stopped by to lend a hand and the cathedral has begun expanding once again. Shot and edited by Evan Burns. Last photo by Blake Gordon. (via vimeo)

 

 



Craft Documentary

Everything is Incredible: A Man Ravaged by Polio Spends his Life Building a Helicopter from Trash

September 11, 2012

Christopher Jobson

I honestly have no idea where or when I first saw this film, but it’s stuck with me for over a year, and unable to find it again after searching the past few days I turned to Jason Sondi over at Vimeo. Armed with my vague description, and despite never having seen it himself, he found it in about 10 seconds.

Everything is Incredible is a short documentary by Tyler Bastian, Trevor Hill and Tim Skousen about a man named Agustín from Siguatepeque, Honduras who was struck with polio at a young age. His body ravaged from disease, he was left unable to walk and spent most of his life working as a shoemaker in what is described as near-poverty. Possibly plagued by childhood dreams of flight, in 1958 he embarked on his life’s work: the construction of a crude, custom-designed helicopter made completely from trash with the exception of a few pieces of rebar purchased from a hardware store. Even the chains he uses to power the propeller were forged by hand. The filmmakers do a wonderful job interviewing local residents and family for their reactions that vary from hope to despair. I find this video to be both very beautiful and very sad as it discusses what is gained and what is sacrificed through the act of devotion and creation, yet I’m left feeling a profound sense of love for Agustín, which is perhaps why it’s stuck with me for so long. Definitely worth 10 minutes of your time. Thanks Jason.

Also, if you liked this, check out the exceedingly bizarre Welcome to Planet Earth: The UFO Welcome Center.

Update: In response to recent attention the filmmakers have launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise enough funds help Agustín with living expenses by purchasing the helicopter and his home. He will of course retain both through the end of his life, but with the funds raised from the campaign the helicopter itself would be preserved in his memory. Go donate, I did.

 

 



Amazing Documentary

Samsara: 5 Years, 25 Countries, 100 Filming Locations

July 27, 2012

Christopher Jobson

Samsara is the first film by director and cinematographer Ron Fricke (Koyaanisqatsi, Baraka) in nearly 20 years. Following in the footsteps of his earlier work, it will be completely devoid of dialogue and text, relying solely on compelling visuals shot on 70mm film.

Samsara is a Sanskrit word that means “the ever turning wheel of life” and is the point of departure for the filmmakers as they search for the elusive current of interconnection that runs through our lives. Filmed over a period of almost five years and in twenty-five countries, Samsara transports us to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites, and natural wonders. By dispensing with dialogue and descriptive text, Samsara subverts our expectations of a traditional documentary, instead encouraging our own inner interpretations inspired by images and music that infuses the ancient with the modern.

I am ridiculously excited to see this film. It opens in the U.S. on August 24th in a few cities and then has a larger release on September 7th so check release dates. Do yourself a favor and watch the trailer above full-screen.

 

 

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