They might not make a lot of money. They may not always feed the ego. But documentaries are hip. It’s worth noting in these times (I’ll get to that later) that there are a couple of super cool docs directed by uber-hipster directors that have recently hit theaters.
First, there is The Thorn in the Heart (watch the trailer on YouTube), a very personal nonfiction film from Michel Gondry, who I’d say is one of the coolest directors working today (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind; the upcoming Green Lantern). The film came to New York City’s Village East theater on April 2, and will be screened in Los Angeles and Madison, Wisconsin, in coming weeks. It is a family portrait about Gondry’s aunt Suzette, a schoolteacher in Gondry’s native rural France. Anyone who’s a fan of Gondry’s last documentary, Dave Chapelle’s Block Party, might want to check it out. It’s worth noting that the film is being released by Oscilloscope, which was founded and run by Mr. Coolio himself, Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys. Yauch is a big supporter of documentaries, having released No Impact Man, Flow, Dear Zachary, Burma VJ and Tell Them Anything You Want, a look at Maurice Sendak co-directed by his hipster highness Spike Jonze, among others.
The other film, directed by Tom DiCillo, When You’re Strange, was just released this weekend. Dicillo uses little-seen footage of The Doors to create an intimate and dreamy portrait of the band. Narrated by Johnny Depp, the film might confuse some folks who see a long-dead Jim Morrison in what appears to be new original footage (it was actually shot for a short film back when the Lizard King was still alive). DiCillo, who is taking a first stab at nonfiction filmmaking here, has directed some great indie films in his day (Living in Oblivion, Box of Moonlight). There’s a humanity and empathy in his work that I’ve observed in him as a person, having interviewed him in the past.
I know this might seem a little weirdly random, but I think it’s worth mentioning these docs by these hipsters-with-hearts filmmakers, because I’ve been just so bummed out by that terribly sad story of the Irish teen in Massachusetts who killed herself because she was being bullied. I hate jerks, and I’m just happy to know that we live in a world where there are cool trendsetters who show us that compassion, creativity, a sense of justice, and success are not exclusive. Like many docs, both of these films show that even when you’re strange, there’s a place for you.