Noriaki Tsuchimoto – Minamata: Kanja-san to sono sekai AKA Minamata: The Victims and Their World (1971)

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In the small town of Minamata in Kyushu, far from the metropolitan center, the fertilizer company Chisso built a factory to take advantage of cheap labor and commenced dumping mercury-filled wastewater into the nearby sea. Soon residents began exhibiting symptoms of a mysterious illness, a happening that would eventually develop into the worst case of environmental pollution in postwar Japan. Noriaki Tsuchimoto visits the patients and their families who sued Chisso and listens to their voices. His camera gently lifts the veil that had obscured them and reveals their reality. MINAMATA: THE VICTIMS AND THEIR WORLD is impressive in how it stands on the side of the patients, not only providing a collage of individual portraits, but also an understanding of the their everyday lives.

One of the monuments of Japanese documentary, MINAMATA: THE VICTIMS AND THEIR WORLD played at many international festivals, winning an award at Locarno. Continue reading

Andre Singer – Night Will Fall (2014)

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Synopsis:

When Allied forces liberated the Nazi concentration camps, their terrible discoveries were recorded by army cameramen, revealing for the first time the horror of what had happened.

Using British, Soviet and American footage, the Ministry of Information’s Sidney Bernstein collaborated with Alfred Hitchcock to make a film that would provide evidence of the Nazi’s unspeakable crimes. Yet, despite initial support from the British and US governments, the film was shelved. In this compelling documentary by André Singer (executive producer, The Act of Killing), the full story of the filming of the camps and the fate of Bernstein’s project, which has now been restored and completed by Imperial War Museums, can finally be told. Continue reading

Gualtiero Jacopetti – Addio zio Tom aka Goodbye Uncle Tom (1971)

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Mark Deming, All Movie Guide

Gualtiero Jacopetti and Franco E. Prosperi, best-known for the groundbreaking shockumentary Mondo Cane, directed this bizarre and shocking look at slavery in America. Set in the deep South prior to the Civil War, Zio Tom finds Jacopetti and Prosperi travelling back in time aboard a helicopter to investigate the nuts and bolts of slavery as it happened in the United States prior to abolition. Along the way, the filmmakers go aboard a slave ship as frightened Africans are brought to America under inhuman conditions; they witness the dangerous and degrading process by which slaves were made ready for market; and they visit a “breeding farm” for slaves after laws prohibit the importation of slaves from abroad. Also included is a sermon from a preacher who argues for the moral and spiritual necessity of slavery (while another man speaks out against it strictly on grounds of economics and practicality); the contrasting thoughts of men and women on the matter of miscegenation; and an interview with an educated slave who feels his circumstances are better for him than conventional employment. Also shown is the brutal torture and punishment of slaves for any number of real or imagined grievances. Re-creating both the opulence and the ugliness of the Old South on a grand scale, Zio Tom concludes with present-day African-Americans reading The Confession of Nat Turner and contemplating violent overthrow of the white-dominated culture. Understandably controversial, Zio Tom received a very brief theatrical release in the United States under the title Farewell Uncle Tom, where it received an X rating from the MPAA despite being trimmed by approximately 20 minutes from its original Italian running time. Continue reading

Mikhail Romm – Obyknovennyy fashizm AKA A Night of Thoughts AKA Triumph Over Violence (1965)

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Synopsis:

A collage of documentary and chronicle footage from various German and Soviet archives, attempting to reconstruct the experience of the citizens of the Third Reich and to grasp the essence of totalitarian regime. The footage is accompanied by director’s commentary, analyzing the imagery.

Romm’s “Ordinary Fascism” pulls out all the stops in its selection of documentary material to draw the viewer not only into absolute horror about fascism and nazism in the 1920s-1940s Europe, but also to a firmest of convictions that nothing of the sort should be allowed to happen again anywhere in the world. The film was released in 1965, in the Soviet Union’s heyday at the height of the great societal and intellectual “thaw” that followed the Stalin’s death and the denunciation of Stalin’s totalitarianism by Nikita Khruschev. Never explicitly mentioning any of them explicitly, the film targets tyranny and despotism no matter what form they may take. Continue reading

Werner Herzog – Fata Morgana (1971)

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Info from wiki,

Fata Morgana is a film by Werner Herzog, shot in 1969, which captures mirages in the desert. Herzog describes the film as “a documentary shot by extraterrestrials from the Andromeda Nebula, and left behind.” The only spoken words consist of a recitation of the Mayan creation myth (the Popul Vuh) by Lotte Eisner, and text written and recited by Herzog himself.

The critic David Thomson describes Fata Morgana as “extraordinary”: “[The] desert is a model for mankind. The film is in three sections: the first showing an unpeopled, beautiful wasteland; the second introducing signs of human wreckage; and the third showing wretched vestiges of life. Totally imaginative, it is a legend of life at extremes that exposes the fatuity of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Whereas Stanley Kubrick glibly assumes some all-powerful, riddle-making consciousness behind the universe, Herzog’s creator is as fallible, quirky and uncertain as man himself.” Continue reading

George C. Stoney – All My Babies (1952)

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One of the first and most important films to treat child birth as a human event and to show it fully. This documentary of a compassionate Black midwife at work in the deep South remained restricted to medical personnel for many years. One cannot recall a more moving, humanist portrayal of the wonder and pain of the event. Continue reading