As our local film programmers go through their annual “True/False postpartum,” here are some of the documentaries you can expect to see in Maine this year. (And one, lord willing, you won’t.)
REPORTER Director Eric Daniel Metzger follows New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof through the war zones and humanitarian crises of Afghanistan, Sudan, and the Congo. Metzger’s film is as beautiful and unsettling as it is philosophically rigorous; he’s deeply aware that making a 90-minute film about the world’s most depressed areas cannot capture the breadth of these people’s suffering, but that confession alone gets him close. (It’s a predicament that dovetails perfectly with Kristof’s: can telling one victim’s story illuminate the trials of an entire culture?) True/False’s best film.
BIG RIVER MAN An overweight, alcoholic Slovenian (Martin Strel) ventures to swim the entirety of the Amazon River after conquering the Yangtze, the Mississippi, and the Danube. John Maringouin’s film is just as outrageous and entertaining as its premise, at times playing like the final half hour of Apocalypse Now on steroids.
WE LIVE IN PUBLIC In her follow-up to the cult classic Dig!, Ondi Timoner introduces the world to Josh Harris, an early-Internet “visionary” who hasn’t done anything relevant in at least five years, their claims to contrary notwithstanding. Timoner’s shallow, suspicious-of-culture-whoredom-but-entirely-culture-whoring film attempts to frighten its audience with a dystopian view of our “inevitable” future — we live on webcams, our thoughts don’t belong to us — and it was enraging to watch hundreds of twentysomethings take the bait.
ROUGH AUNTIES A one-person crew (the prolific Kim Longinotto) takes a verité look at the work and domestic lives of the women of Bobbi Bear, a humanitarian organization in South Africa that works to imprison child rapists and abusers, and to help young victims recover. Longinotto’s uncannily intimate approach yields a film that is, for its entire running time, both nearly emotionally unbearable and utterly inspiring.
THE YES MEN FIX THE WORLD The titular Yes Men (Mike Bonnano and Andy Bichlbaum) are most recently known for creating a fake edition of the New York Times with headlines like “Iraq War Ends” and “Maximum Wage Law Succeeds;” their inventively made, relentlessly hilarious film, co-directed by Kurt Engfehr, proposes (and confirms) the notion that irreverent pranks actually can incite change.
NECROBUSINESS This Polish entry, by Richard Solarz and Fredrik von Krusenstjema, doesn’t quite do justice to its fascinating subject matter — a scandal involving bribery and scheming between paramedics and undertakers — but a few well-edited courtroom sequences and an appropriately bleak central European aesthetic make the film worth a look.
FORGETTING DAD Co-director Rick Minnich investigates his father’s uncured bout of (possibly staged) amnesia, which resulted in the father abandoning his family for a house in the woods of Oregon. The film’s speculative first half is fully compensated for by the revelations of its climax.
BURMA VJ Largely comprised of video footage covertly shot by reporters from the Democratic Voice of Burma, Anders Ostergaard delivers an essential glimpse into a closed country.