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Jay and Mark Duplass are known for making quirky, funny, empathetic films and television — and almost always on their own terms. They made the HBO series “Togetherness” about the ties and travails of marriage and friendship. They made the film “The Skeleton Twins” about two estranged twins trying to mend what’s broken, and “Safety Not Guaranteed” about a man and his time-traveling companions. Their current TV series, “Room 104,” follows what’s really going on among the people staying inside a Long Island motel.
They say they are “obsessed with human interaction,” but it took them a long time to find their voice.
“It took us honestly about 10 to 12 years of floundering around as young artists,” Mark Duplass told the PBS NewsHour in a recent interview. “[But] we had a community that was supportive. And that’s what we’re trying to do now for younger filmmakers… We try and foster them and create the environment where they can create and get some of the help that honestly we never got.”
Over the last few years, the Duplass Brothers have financed or produced more than a dozen films that are not their own, exploring subjects all over the map. These include “Tangerine,” the 2015 Netflix breakout hit about a transgender sex worker, and the Netflix documentary series “Wild Wild Country,” about a controversial Indian guru and his followers in Oregon.
Below, they recommend three more documentaries. These are films they love that influenced their filmmaking, and which they think everybody should see. In their words:
There is a documentary series called “The Staircase” that came out in the mid-2000s that people missed. It was on Sundance Channel and it is the incredible story of a man and his wife, who falls down the stairs and dies. Was it an accident or did he do it? The twists and turns that come about in this are still unfolding and they are making new episodes on Netflix. You will not regret this one.
Made in the mid 1990s, it profiles a man named Mark from Wisconsin who is a consummate, flawed, blue-collar Don Quixote, and who is trying to make the film and stumbling quite a bit on the way. For us it is the seminal study of an outlier character who you could quite easily make fun of, and you could quite easily right all the things he does wrong, but you love him anyway. It’s come to define how we approach all subjects.
This documentary is about an African-American gentleman in the South who has personally befriended and converted over 25 grand [wizards] of the Ku Klux Klan, and how he does it. He goes in and he kills them with kindness. And there’s one particular story, where one KKK member goes to jail. And this guy and his wife and daughter can’t quite visit him, and all of his KKK members abandoned him. So [Darryl Davis] basically goes and he picks up the wife and kids and he transports them to the jail so they can visit [the KKK member] and eventually they become great friends. In his closet, he personally has hanging more than 20 KKK uniforms of the people who have given up the Klan because of his friendship. OK. He’s a nicer guy than I am.
Soon on the NewsHour, watch the full interview with Mark and Jay Duplass.
Elizabeth Flock is an independent journalist who reports on justice and gender. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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