Doc Roundup: November 30, 2007

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The Film Independent’s 2008 Spirit Award nominees were announced on Tuesday, and quite a few of the docs (in both the Best Documentary category and the Truer Than Fiction category) are already available on DVD. Here’s your chance to check out some of the nominated films well before the winners are announced on February 23, 2008.

ON DVD
A still from Manufactured Landscapes

from Manufactured Landscapes

Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky is the subject of Jennifer Baichwal’s Manufactured Landscapes, nominated for a Spirit Award in the Best Documentary category. Burtynsky’s work is comprised of panoramic, beautiful shots of massive construction sites, factories, litter piles and other sites’ industrial devastation. Salon.com says that although the film “may tell you more about how the 21st century world actually works than you really want to know… it’s a heartbreaking, beautiful, awful and awesome film.” Newsday recommends seeing the film in a theater because “watching it on DVD would be like listening to Mahler on a cell phone,” but warns that the film “doesn’t go very far beneath the surface, or ask many provocative questions.” (Perhaps Manufactured Landscapes might be a good disc to bring to your friend with the 62-inch flatscreen TV’s house this holiday season.)

Also nominated for Best Documentary is Dan Klores‘s Crazy Love, which follows the strange, fascinating and assiduously tabloid-chronicled relationship of Burt and Linda Pugach. In 1959, Linda Riss had liquid lye thrown in her face by a man hired by her jilted ex-boyfriend, the still-married Burt Pugach. Upon his release from prison, Pugach proposed to and then married Riss. The Boston Globe commends the film for “ … scrap[ing] away the cartoon exterior around this story and peer[ing] into the unknowable murk of the human heart,” but rogerebert.com dissents, calling the film only “… an above-average A&E documentary.”

The provocatively titled The Prisoner: Or How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein, also nominated in the Best Documentary category, is a follow-up to Tucker’s 2004 documentary, Gunner Palace. In that film, an Iraqi journalist named Yunis Khatayer Abbas was arrested on camera. In The Prisoner, Abbas reveals what happened next as he recounts the nightmarish story of his nine-month incarceration in Abu Ghraib. The Washington Post praises the film for providing a “…microscopic view of a big and ugly war.” The San Francisco Chronicle says that despite the compelling story, the film is overpadded, with “ [the filmmakers] stretching 45 minutes of material into 70-plus minutes of documentary.”

Helvetica, the documentary about the typeface by Gary Hustwit, is nominated for the Truer Than Fiction category. The award is presented to an emerging director of non-fiction features. We covered reactions to Helvetica in our October 11th Doc Roundup. The DVD is available for pre-order at the Helvetica website.

Ruiyan Xu
Ruiyan Xu
Former POVer Ruiyan Xu worked on developing and producing materials for POV's website. Before coming to POV, she worked in the Interactive and Broadband department at Channel Thirteen/WNET. Ruiyan was born in Shanghai and graduated from Brown University with a B.A. in Modern Culture and Media.
  • SP

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    Saw an exhibit of Edward Burtynsky’s work at the Brooklyn Museum a couple of years ago, and was blown away. I’m definitely putting this film on my netflix queue!