Archive for the Documentary Category

Screened In Sundays: Capturing The Friedmans

Posted in Documentary, Screened In Sundays with tags , , , , on July 22, 2012 by judsonw


One underseen gem every Sunday.

There’s nothing better than a good documentary that sucks you into a world/story and won’t let you go for 90 minutes-2 hours. Capturing The Friedmans fits this description easily. The film is about the true story of a father and his 16 year old son who are accused of molesting young boys who took part of the computer class they taught at their home. Whether they are guilty or innocent is not entirely clear.
What makes this documentary so much more notable than others is the fact that most of the footage was shot by the accused’s family member – son and brother David Freedman. We get a rare inside look into the destruction of a family as they struggle to come to terms with the horrific allegations. Capturing The Friedmans is a documentary that you’ll have a hard time forgetting.


“Exit Through the Gift Shop”: Is Banksy’s directorial debut for real?

Posted in Documentary, Interesting... with tags , , , , , on January 14, 2011 by judsonw

Banksy. It’s a name many of us have heard. To some, it describes a talented street artist. To others, it describes a way of thinking. Of creating and interpreting art in entirely new ways. Well, Banksy is in fact a man. He’s risen over the past decade to become the face and soul of the street art movement, even though his identity is still completely anonymous. For all we know, “Banksy” could be a woman or a group of people who create the works of art instead of one singular person. However, all evidence points to Banksy being one man, especially because he was just credited with directing his first documentary film called Exit Through the Gift Shop. It’s a fantastic and unusual documentary, following a somewhat off kilter Frenchman named Thierry Guetta who is determined to craft a documentary about the mysterious Banksy. However, once Thierry meets Banksy, he ultimately turns the tables on him and Banksy begins to create a documentary about Thierry, who Banksy thinks is a much more interesting subject than himself.

Exit Through the Gift Shop is one of the best documentaries I’ve ever seen. Not only does it completely inform the viewer on a subject that may have been previously unfamiliar (street art), it’s also incredibly entertaining with its numerous plot twists. The film gets you thinking once the credits roll and Richard Hawley’s fantastically appropriate song “Tonight the Streets Are Ours” plays. Even the title itself sparks discussion. What does it mean? Think about it. Whenever you go to an art museum you almost always pass through the gift shop on the way out. Art has become commercialized. It’s all about the money. And Banksy takes on that problem head on with his documentary. However, ever since the film premiered at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, it has garnered criticism over whether it is in fact a true documentary or a hoax created by Banksy himself.

The photo above is of the mysterious and elusive Banksy. Well, at least that’s what we’re supposed to assume. The only times he’s not presented in the shadows with a machine altered voice are some over the back recordings by Thierry of him creating his art. Watching these recordings almost feels like a privilege; watching a master at work. This is a feeling that Thierry doesn’t seem to have as it all apparently goes over his head as he continues to record everything. This just makes Thierry’s future career path even more peculiar.


A few months after Thierry’s escapades with Banksy, he takes the street artist’s advice and dabbles in the art form himself with the name “Mr. Brainwash.” Though he possesses no discernible talent, he takes the street art world by storm and becomes a millionaire in the process. Banksy’s final point seems to be that the public has been duped by a talentless bumbling buffoon. Much of Mr. Brainwash’s work comes from other artists (including the picture above). There’s no meaning behind his work, yet people still pay thousands of dollars for each piece because the public says it’s deep and cool. Mr. Brainwash earned his reputation essentially through an LA Weekly cover story with quotes from Banksy and fellow street artist Shephard Fairey.

So is Mr. Brainwash real? Or is he just another creation by Banksy, who is actually creating his art? Well, Thierry and his persona Mr. Brainwash are both definitely real as there have been art shows where people have bought countless pieces of his work. However, Thierry’s rise to fame as Mr. Brainwash almost happens to smoothly in the film to be real. Tons of details are left out of Thierry’s life prior to becoming an icon and Banksy’s descriptions of events in the film sometimes sound scripted. It’s hard to imagine someone so daft (but likable) as Thierry becoming so successful in the street art scene, but sometimes things in life are hard to imagine. Whether Mr. Brainwash is a Banksy creation or not, the film still furthers the discussion of what is art. Is something art right after it’s created or does it become art once the public makes its views known? Exit Through the Gift Shop seems to side with the latter, as Mr. Brainwash’s work would be nothing without the public’s fawning. It’s a fascinating look into a world many of us will never see and/or understand.

When Movies Make a Difference: A Look at Dear Zachary

Posted in Documentary with tags , on December 20, 2010 by judsonw

In 2008, one of the most gut wrenching and upsetting documentaries I’ve ever seen was released and it’s called Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son about his Father. It’s also one of the most effective and well made documentaries I’ve ever seen. The film chronicles director Kurt Kuenne’s best friend, Andrew Bagby, after he is murdered seemingly by his ex-girlfriend Shirley Turner. What makes the situation even more icky is the fact that Shirley is the mother of Andrew’s child, Zachary.

*SPOILER ALERT* If you haven’t seen the documentary…read no further. But it’s on Netflix Watch Instantly so what are you waiting for?

Dear Zachary starts out as a loving portrait to the man that was Andrew Bagby, and then moves to the custody battle between his convicted killer (Shirley) and Zachary’s grandparents (Andrew’s mom and dad). The rug is completely pulled out from beneath you, however, when it’s revealed that Shirley was released from jail on bail in Canada and gets Zachary back from his grandparents. She then proceeds to strap Zachary, all of 13 months old, to her chest and jumps into the Atlantic Ocean, killing them both.

So how the hell was a woman convicted of killing the father of her child released from jail for “exhibiting no behavior that suggests she poses a threat to society in general,” as the judge who released her so kindly put it. Well, that’s the main question posed in the documentary and we’re finally starting to see the impact this movie has made. This year Bill C-464, also known as “Zachary’s Bill,” was finally signed into law in Canada. The bill refuses bail to anyone charged with a serious crime that poses a threat to the public, especially children (aka murdering your child’s father).

This is fantastic news and if you’ve seen the film, I’m sure you’re ecstatic as well. Dear Zachary is the rare film that truly touches your heart, simultaneously yanking it out of your chest and stomping on it. The pure injustice of what occurred is enough to inspire rage, so there needed to be a change. About damn time.