LRFF Releases 2015 Cinematic Non-Fiction Lineup
There is something happening in documentary. Adventurous filmmakers are taking cues from great movies of the past to create uninhibited work that is redefining nonfiction cinema. Stories are being told, images are being recorded and the old dogmas of documentary are being gleefully disregarded. In this parallel universe, the complex relationships with real people and real situations that arise in the filmmaking process are explored, transformed and re-imagined. In these works of art, the “issues” introduced can’t be solved by going to a url at the end of the credits. These films, these characters and these captured realities are alive with cinematic energy and this historical moment can’t be denied. The Cinematic Nonfiction competition aims to celebrate the best of the year of this new breed of documentary. Unforgettable characters will be met, amazing tales will be told and forms will be expanded.
LRFF2015 passes are available online for purchase HERE.
Curated by LRFF guest programmer Robert Greene, the LRFF2015 Cinematic Non-Fiction Lineup includes:
Breaking a Monster, (93min), USA
Director – Luke Meyer
Twitter – @BreakingaMonstr
This rock n roll story of teenage African American metal band Unlocking the Truth and their white, old school manager Alan Sacks is sharp, precise and finely-tuned where many music documentaries are fatuous and self-congratulating. Veteran filmmaker Luke Meyer (Darkon) finds just the right observational moments to visually articulate the kids’ gloriously complex rise through the music industry. Meanwhile, the badass trio of 7th graders that make up the band manage to look wiser and cooler than everyone else. This is fun, perfectly crafted nonfiction cinema.
I am the People, (111min), France
Director – Anna Roussillon
A look at the tumultuous events of Egypt’s revolutionary recent past from the point of view of a family living far from Tahir Square, I AM THE PEOPLE is a profound act of cinematic humanism. Few films have so deftly placed world-altering political upheavals in the context of real people’s lives the way Roussillon’s first feature does. Villagers work, make bread to eat and then sharply debate the potential consequences of Mubarak’s fall and the election of Morsi, which all plays out on their TV’s. Roussillon’s eye for unexpected beauty and her easy, playful, sometimes feisty relationship with her subjects make this one of the most radical, quietly surprising debuts in recent memory.
Of Men and War, (143min), France/Switzerland
Director – Laurent Bécue-Renard
Twitter – @OfMenandWar
A staggering, masterful achievement, Bécue-Renard’s portrait of a California treatment center for PTSD-afflicted veterans of the Iraq war is patient, understated and emotionally dense. The film uses clear-eyed observation to place us in the room with these battered, proud men as they undergo psychological care. The exchanges are tense and always revelatory, but never clichéd. We also step out of the treatment room to witness the effects of war on the men’s families and broader lives. Never before have the effects of combat been presented in such an authentic, empathetic and impactful way.
Sweaty Betty, (93min), USA
Director – Joe Frank & Zack Reed
Is this film a sly prank? Is it the most amateurish movie to ever play the venerated SXSW Film Festival? Or is it a radical, handmade act of artistic defiance meant to reclaim a seemingly lost independent film aesthetic? That I don’t know the answer intrigues, frustrates and ultimately excites me. This sincere, messy, documentary/fiction whatsit manages to humanize characters that often get portrayed in the simplest, most destructive ways. It also looks like it was dropped from the sky untouched, like a found piece of (barely) edited home movie, magically imbued with a strange, living, everyday poetry. Two single, African American fathers get a dog. Two others in their neighborhood have a giant pig. That’s SWEATY BETTY.
(T)ERROR, (93min), USA
Director – Lyric R. Cabral, David Felix Sutcliffe
Sundance Special Jury Prize for Break Out First Feature, Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Full Frame Film Festival
Cabral and Sutcliffe’s award-winning debut feature is equal parts riveting cinematic narrative and shocking work of investigative journalism. The film tells the unbelievable story of Saeed “Shariff” Torres, an FBI informant with a dark past, who begins to track a man his bosses think is a potential domestic terrorist. That the film even exists is perhaps a miracle of serendipity, that it becomes such a complex, troubling, infuriating, ambiguous, mesmerizing experience is due to the clarity, resourcefulness and intelligence of the filmmaking.
The Chinese Mayor, (86min), China
Director – Zhou Hao
A nearly-unprecedented glimpse into local Chinese politics, Hao’s film is subtly self-aware, low-key and quietly devastating. With unbelievable access, Hao follows Datong mayor Geng Yanbo as he attempts to work against the system, amidst controversy and constant setbacks, to reimagine one of China’s most polluted cities. When the mayor’s ambition meets the realities of a poor and desperate population, a camera is improbably present, giving is an illuminating and essential view of China from the ground view.
Tired Moonlight, (76min), USA
Director – Britni West
Best Narrative Feature, Slamdance Film Festival
West’s first feature, which won the Grand Jury Prize at Slamdance, is a strange and glorious mix of idiosyncratic fiction, observational landscape documentary and bad poetry that is as fun as it is unclassifiable. Burnt-beautiful and flowing like a kinky creek, this 16mm portrait of West’s hometown in Montana is an affecting reminder that cinema can and should be the territory of the artist creating new forms by capturing and editing the particular world she inhabits. It may be called a “hybrid” by some, but no other film in recent memory demonstrates more beautifully that the divide between fiction and documentary is often meaningless.
Uncertain, (82 min) USA
Director – Ewan McNicol & Anna Sandilands
Twitter – @uncertainfilm
UNCERTAIN is a film about the multifaceted, complicated and sometimes hilarious relationship between man and nature. Uncertain, Texas is a town in between things, a place where people go to escape from their past… or try desperately to leave. In the middle of Uncertain is a body of swampy water, the lifeblood of a town already barely hanging on, which is being choked by an out-of-control botanical pest. Sandilands and McNicol masterfully weave many characters’ stories together and find pathos, humor and warmth in the midst of desperate times for this strange, wonderful place. UNCERTAIN is a kind of character-driven, environmental tone poem.
Western, (93min), USA
Director – Ross Brothers
U.S. Documentary Special Jury Award for Vérité Filmmaking Sundance Film Festival and Lone Star Award SXSW Film Festival
Twitter – @rossbros
The Ross brothers’ third film, like their previous two (45365 and TCHOUPITOULAS), is a patient and poetic study of a place that plays like an immersive, if understated, work of literature. Taking place on the US-Mexico border, in a town called Eagle Pass, Texas, WESTERN conjures the symbols of the old shootout genre, yet remains tethered to the vivid now. At once a tuneful song, a subtly entrancing narrative and a smart observational portrait, WESTERN confirms the Rosses as being among the most important filmmaking teams in America.