Documentary Spotlight

Doc Spotlight: Tom Berninger's 'Mistaken for Strangers'

Submitted by Spirit of the Thing on September 30, 2016 - 9:03am


Documentaries about musicians are popping up everywhere these days. Hell, one (Waiting for Sugar Man) even won the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature in 2013. Most tend to focus on a musician's obscurity as in Sugar Man, a band's last hurrah as in Shut Up and Play the Hits, or a band's rise and fall (and subsequent return) like loudQUIETloudTom Berninger's quasi-doc about The National, Mistaken for Strangers, is nothing like any of these...and this is precisely why it's so good.

In theaters, on demand and iTunes! Screenings here!

It seems as if the film is supposed to be a standard doc about a band on the road. Shot (mostly) and directed by the brother (Tom Berninger) of The National's lead singer Matt Berninger, we get a familiar scenario - little brother is asked to go on tour with big brother and help out doing roadie type stuff, mostly acting as liaison/assistant to the band. Tom still lives with his parents in Cincinnati and while we don't get much of a view into his life, we can tell that he doesn't have much going on. And there's nothing wrong with that.

June Documentary Spotlight: Dominic H. White's DSKNECTD

Submitted by Spirit of the Thing on June 6, 2014 - 1:10pm


As I type this now on my laptop, my iPhone by my side, it's not hard to understand why a film like DSKNECTD was made. Go to a bar, a college campus, a high school lunch and even a middle school basketball game and you'll notice one thing - a large portion of people in each of these scenarios have their faces buried in their phones - texting, playing stupid ass games like Candy Crush, porn, watching the latest viral video on YouTube or any number of other (mostly stupid) things. Technological advance and access has hit society like a tsumani and engulfed the better part of the world with quick easy access to information.

What DSKNECTD delves into is the effects this access to technology and its addictive qualities has on the brain, social behaviors as well as differentiating characteristics of the generations employing its use. This film is mostly successful in laying out the issues - creation of isolated subgroups of society, increased risky sexual behavior because of sexting and earlier access to hardcore pornography, inability to create meaningful relationships with people in the real world as opposed to the virtual world, etc.

February Doc Spotlight: Nicholas Fackler's 'Sick Birds Die Easy'

Submitted by Spirit of the Thing on February 24, 2014 - 9:05pm


After watching a film, sometimes it take days to digest what you've seen, to collect your thoughts and formulate them into a coherent enough set so that you can explain them. I found that this was the case after watching Nicholas Fackler's Sick Birds Die Easy, a "documentary" about a group of people who go to Gabon in Africa in search of the elusive iboga plant, outlawed here in the United States, but used in many other countries as a means to rid people of addictions to even the hardest drugs including heroin, cocaine and methamphetamine. Iboga is tied to the spiritual practice of bwiti, an ancient African spiritual discipline among perhaps the first of any on planet Earth. Fackler, a member of the band the Icky Blossoms and director of the film Lovely, Still, is in charge of the expedition and gathers a group of his film friends sprinkled with more eccentric folks to undertake this journey, a spiritual quest of sorts.

December's Doc Spotlight - Volume 1: 'The Punk Singer' and 'Bettie Page Reveals All'

Submitted by Spirit of the Thing on December 4, 2013 - 9:12am


Even as the year finalizes its descent into 2014, we are lucky enough to still get great films released into theaters. Right now, we are seeing Oscar bait flood into the theaters so it may be hard to find non-blockbuster, non-Oscar fare out there. Look no further than the documentary realm for great films that unfortunately fly under the radar. I'm going to look at two films this week, the first being Sini Anderson's The Punk Singer and Mark Mori's Bettie Page Reveals All, both about iconic women who have changed perceptions of and empowered women in their respective times, albeit it in far different ways.

November's Documentary Spotlight - Volume 1: 'These Birds Walk,' 'The Square,' 'Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story' and 'Dirty Wars'

Submitted by Spirit of the Thing on November 2, 2013 - 4:51pm


There are so many documentaries out there, people. SO MANY. However, I only tackled a few more for this edition of the Documentary Spotlight. There is a decidedly Middle Eastern bend to the Spotlight this time around, but with so much of the world focused on that part of the world with wars on the ground and on terror and popular/political awakenings, that should surprise no one. The four films covered in this edition are Omar Mullick & Bassam Tariq's These Birds Walk, Jehane Noujaim's The Square, Franklin Martin's Long Shot: The Kevin Laue Story, and Rick Rowley's Dirty Wars.

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