Archives for posts with tag: documentary


The film that made everyone seasick!

This is a difficult one to watch, but partially because of how good it is. The ethnographer filmmakers took a bunch of GoPro cameras on commercial fishing boats and give us unique view of the industry (and livelihood of the fishermen). There is no narrative and almost no dialogue. The shots are disorienting, often dark, full of sea spray and fish guts. This film contains some of the most incredible and mad images I’ve ever seen. I am almost jealous of what I saw, even though I came close to turning it off after twenty minutes. Patience is the watchword in so many ways.

I have no more desire for seafood.



Hacking has never been this cool since Jesse Eisenberg was coding to the sounds of Nine Inch Nails!

So this is a documentary about the amorphous hacktivist group Anonymous. Interviewing a range of members, associates, and observers, the film looks at the group’s origins on 4Chan message boards and how it evolved into the doomy youtube video producing crazies we know and love today. From attacking the Church of Scientology to helping restore internet during the darkest periods of Egyptian protest, Anonymous has been very active over the last several years, and the film does a decent job of presenting how members perceived those times. It should come as no surprise, then, that We Are Legion is highly sympathetic to the Anonymous movement.

Even as we’re aware of that bias, it’s difficult not to get swept up in the pathos of the documentary, though. Knappenberger uses music to his advantage, and does right to spend most of his time with the most likeable, sympathetic people in the movement. It reminds me very much of how I felt during Barack Obama’s nomination campaign, when I saw people getting swept up by the emotive speeches and widespread optimism; I thought, “it would be so easy to get caught up in this right now, and I want to, but something is holding me back.” Perhaps my gripe is with sexy rhetoric. The actual agents of Anonymous have made actions towards which I am entirely sympathetic. It’s the angry young teenagers saying “We are legion. We don’t forgive. We don’t forget. Expect us.” that bother me. Their rage doesn’t. The easy identification with the words, that does. It’s the revenge motif. It’s too Hollywood, as written by Frank Miller.

I hope I am too unimportant to actually draw any flak for this, but in the spirit of information liberty and the freedom of speech, there it is: this is an interesting film that tries to persuade you to the Anonymous cause, and while I think I have much in common with many of the active participants in that movement, I still have mixed feelings. For that reason, I say watch the film. Just keep the lights on and turn off your subwoofer. Put the sound in mono if you can. And be in your pajamas eating something you love that makes you feel like a fatty. (For me it was bacon-flavored Bugles and cookes.) That should help temper the idealism. If that doesn’t check your urge to join the movement, well then I think you should go ahead and join up.

Now can you please go after Goldman Sachs rather than the lightweights?

Życie jest muzyką

An aging German bass player smokes a bunch while appreciating the music(s) of Istanbul!

The background is that Alexander Hacke apparently discovered Istanbul and Turkish music when working on the soundtrack for Fatih Akın’s Head-On, and so he comes back to capture some of the sounds that had been intriguing him since that time. What we get to see is a documentary of that trip made by Akın.

Istanbul is an amazing city, and this film does a half-decent job presenting just how brimming with life it is. Various musicians in multiple genres are given brief spotlights in the film, making it something along the style of Buena Vista Social Club, though it lacks the individual stories that makes that film so good. The music is fairly wonderful, though, and it’s an interesting looking into a history of modern music that many of us don’t get to hear. The gypsy-inflected songs performed by Selim Sesler were particularly good, for example, and I also enjoyed the contributions by a group of idealistic young street musicians (pictured above).

Overall, not the most amazing film ever made, but solid. And since I am in love with Istanbul, I can’t help but like it. I just could have done with less of the German guy being awkward and then smoking. Less German, more Sazi!

A diver under the ice in Werner Herzog’s ENCOUNTERS AT THE END O

Werner Herzog travels to Antarctica to meet strange people, ask strange questions, see amazing things, and foretell doom!

Who are the people who work and live around the South Pole? This seems to be one of the questions Herzog sets out to answer, and in meeting philosophers, linguists, biologists, descendants of Aztec royalty, drifters, and storytellers of various kinds, he seems to have some kind of response. Whereas Happy People was more of a character study focused on a certain group, Encounters at the End of the World is ultimately more Herzogian, in the sense that it pursues his interests more than anything else, and spins out from the loci of his concerns.

What are these concerns? The probability of human extinction; the reason we, as mammals, crawled out of the oceans in the first place; and whether a penguin ever just goes insane. These are the kinds of things that fascinate Werner Herzog, and while it’s rare that his quests ever realize their starting objectives, it never ceases to be engaging to watch how he pursues them.

Along the way we see some of the eccentric culture among humans in Antarctica, and many truly astonishing images of the natural world they inhabit only barely, and precariously at that. The underwater shots of the Ross Sea were among the most stunning images; they would make this film worth watching all by themselves. I do wish Herzog would skip putting rootsy acoustic music in his docs sometimes, though.

But don’t worry, Werner, I still love you.


The difference between a Werner Herzog film and one in which he collaborates with other filmmakers is as deep as the Mariana Trench. People seeking a true Herzog production will find much missing in this documentary. The characteristic oddness is mostly absent, and this is something tangible.

Even so, this is a mostly charming documentary. The trappers followed by the cameras are intriguing characters, and the world they inhabit fascinating. I wish the choice had been made to go with subtitles rather than dubbing; I was interested to hear the men’s voices as much as possible, even if I can’t speak a word of Russian. Herzog’s narration does provide a bit of his personal touch, at least, and as usual, the way he delivers even a sentence of simple observation is unique and haunting.

This made me want to go to Siberia. Except for the mosquitos. I suppose that means it’ll have to be a winter trip, for the deep freeze.

Oh hey, the man pictured above is Michael Tarkovsky, related to the Tarkovsky! To think that family of that genius could be sable hunting in the Taiga!

Leave it to Werner Herzog to make a short documentary about texting while driving into something subtly bizarre. It’s as if he can’t make anything, nothing at all, that does not somehow display the uncanny and surreal qualities of human being. I would think it is his defining quality as a filmmaker, but I suspect it’s more his defining quality as a man.

Here, it’s all about his subjects. The victims, family members, and perpetrators of vehicular accidents, all related to texting while driving, are exceedingly normal. Too normal. Herzog doesn’t cut to avoid showing when they mispronounce a word, or when they express something about their parenting style that others might find odd. He doesn’t throw out interviews in favor of finding someone more articulate or impassioned. He shows the people just as they are. Odd, awkward, sometimes even robotic.

Which isn’t to say that there isn’t plenty of pathos, plenty to go around. Herzog doesn’t spare us the tears, the shots of the perpetrators praying in the places where they killed people, the grief of those who survived.

But it’s almost as if Herzog accepted this assignment (from AT&T, incidentally) and got lost in the humanity of his subjects. Most any other director would have mounted a hermetically sealed argument, trying to avoid giving the slightest possibility for a counterargument. Not Werner Herzog. He has to show people as they really are. And so, he doesn’t leave out the possibility of forgiveness. In fact, he shows the daughter of one victim sharing an embrace with the driver who killed her father. A long one. And another, and another. It is the most discomforting moment of the entire film.

Another filmmaker might have made a better attack on texting while driving. But I think this is what makes Werner Herzog so great.

(Here is what I believe still holds as the most persuasive advertisement against texting while driving. Caution, though, it’s also the most disgusting.)