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Posts Tagged ‘documentary’

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This incredibly moving documentary tells the story of the early days of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco in the early 1980s, by people who lived through it. Four gay men and one female AIDS nurse recount the terror, the heartbreak and the anger at seeing their friends die, at the complacency of the government and the prejudice against the gay community. The film will break your heart and make you angry – in just three years in San Francisco along 15,500 young men died of AIDS – and the government did nothing. (In fact, it wasn’t until 1985 when Reagan’s friend Rock Hudson succumbed to the disease that the then president even uttered the term ‘AIDS’).

As upsetting as it is to watch, this is a story that needs to be heard, and it is filmed with courage and compassion. I urge everyone to watch it.

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Morgan Spurlock, best known for his documentary Supersize Me, approaches a new subject with this documentary film – product placement and advertising. He aims to show the viewer the process of how products come to featured in blockbuster films, and the compromises that the film-makers have to make in order to receive the money from the product makers. The twist here is that this whole documentary film is paid for by those who make the products he features in this film!

It’s an interesting concept, and there are a lot of laughs, as Spurlock approaches many companies to see if they would be interested in having their products placed in his film, for a sizeable fee. Many companies – including McDonalds, Coke and Pepsi – didn’t even return his calls. Many did – Volkswagen, for instance – but only to say that they weren’t interested. However, he did manage to interest several other companies in taking part, including: Pom Wonderful, Mane ‘n Tail (who did not pay to be included, but provided free product to be shown in the film), Sheetz, Amy’s Kitchen, The Aruba Tourism Authority and Ban Deodorant.

For me, the most interesting aspect of the film was how companies make the film-maker bend to their will, when it comes to depicting their products. Understandable in a way – who wants their products to look useless or inferior to others on the market? However, at one point in the film, Spurlock approaches Pom Wonderful with three ideas on how he was going to feature their product (a drink made from Pomegranate juice) in his film. They shot down all three ideas, and basically told him how they wanted it shown. In other words, for the money they pay, the manufacturers of products can have a significant impact on how a story is told. So the film-maker has to compromise his integrity and ‘sell out’ at least a little.

It’s an interesting documentary – Spurlock is always an engaging and witty presenter. However, while I enjoyed watching it, I didn’t really feel that it told me anything that wasn’t already obvious to anyone who gave a bit of thought to the subject (although, how many of us really do think about it?). Of course, manufacturers will want their products shown in the most positive light, of course, they’re going to pay for the privilege, and in that case, then naturally they will have some say over the completed film. Spurlock shows his pitches to various companues, and also talks to a number of film-makers, producers and other experts, to get their thoughts on the subject.

It all kinds of folds in on itself though, if you really think about the concept. The film actually is Spurlock asking people to finance his film. They’re financing a film, which is basically him asking them to do that! Nonetheless, it’s entertaining and witty, and worth watching, especially if you are a fan of Spurlock’s other work.

Year of release: 2011

Director: Morgan Spurlock

Producers: Keith Calder, Jeremy Chilnick, Elyssa Hess, Eliza Hindmarch, Abbie Hurewitz, Jonathan McHugh, Morgan Spurlock, Sebastian Weinberg, Jessica Wu

Writers: Morgan Spurlock, Jeremy Chilnick

Main cast: Morgan Spurlock, Noam Chomsky, Peter Berg, J J Abrams, Quentin Tarantino

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This is the genuinely entertaining tale of French wirewalker Philippe Petit, who in 1974, commited an astonishingly audacious act when he managed to get a wire across the roofs of the World Trade Centre, New York, and walked across it several times.  The act was of course illegal, but it amazed and delighted people so much that the punishment taken against Petit was incredibly minor (in fact, he became an instant celebrity)!

This film charts the whole event, from the first idea of it, to the actual carrying out of it (for which Phillipe and his team had to carry out acts of subterfuge and deception).  The story is told by Phillipe himself, and the friends who helped him. Phillipe is an engaging and excitable narrator, and the footage taken from the actual events is fascinating.  Even though we know that he carried out the wirewalking extremely well (he is after all narrating the story, so we know that he survived it!) there are still some genuinely heartstopping moments when you see him step out onto the wire.

It wasn’t the first time he had done such a thing – he wirewalked across Notre Dame, and over the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and these events are covered in the story.

Phillipe appears to feel when he is on the wire, whether it be his practice wire, or during any one of his daring acts.  He displays more ease and elegance than many people do on the ground!

All in all, this is a fascinating tale of an audacious, outrageous and simply brilliant performance – well worth watching.

Year of release: 2008

Director: James Marsh

Writer: Philippe Petit (book)

Main cast: Philippe Petit, Jean Francois Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau, Annie Allix

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