It’s Gay Pride month, and we’re coming up to July 4th and Independence Day, so HelenHighly discusses three new documentaries whose hearts beat the drums of freedom, passion and change, and how in each film, art is the catalyst that brings those concepts to life. Helen Highly Recommends “A Night at Switch n’ Play,” “Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes,” and “Woodstock: Three Days That Defined a Generation.”
Walking on Water, directed by Andrey Paounov, is a new documentary about the latest exhibit / production by Christo, the renowned installation artist who transforms environments into experiential artwork, on an epic scale. The film had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, was acquired by Kino Lorber and is getting a theatrical run in the U.S. this spring (beginning this weekend at Film Forum in NYC). Helen Highly Recommends you see it – in a theater, ideally, on as large a screen as possible.
The Quiet One, a cinematic memoir about bassist Bill Wyman, founding member of The Rolling Stones, directed by Oliver Murray, played at Tribeca Film Festival and is set to start a theatrical run in June. It’s far from the typical music documentary. Based on Wyman’s immense, personal archive of film, photographs and audio, including new voice-over commentary by Wyman himself, Murray (previously a music video director) had the unenviable task of making a documentary that would offer something fresh to fans or insightful to music historians, while working under the employ of the notoriously private man-of-few-words. The film is oddly fascinating for all the reasons it aims not to be…
Game of Thrones is ending, and now where will we hide from our disillusionment and despair? Well, if watching Jon Snow learn to ride a dragon in the Game of Thrones didn’t give you quite the lift you wanted, Helen Highly Suggests you try watching Slay the Dragon, directed by Barak Goodman and Chris Durrance – an earth-shaking documentary that follows a brutal civil war for the prize of Democracy in the land of the United States of America.
H.G. Wells said, “We all have our time machines. Those that take us back are memories, and those that carry us forward, are dreams.” The new documentary film, Our Time Machine, which premiered at Tribeca Film Festival this year, manages to do both, and more. Using a kind of Chinese magic-realism, directors S. Leo Chiang and Yang Sun and editor Bob Lee, along with artist Maleonn, take the viewer to a world that not only interweaves dreams and memories, but also mixes transcendent allegory and deeply-rooted personal reality as part of one amazingly cohesive story, told with both power and grace.
Most Woodstock documentaries have that mental plague of the sixties, of not remembering well. The original Woodstock (1970) directed by Michael Wadleigh was all about sensory experience — mind blowing split screens and a stream of consciousness narrative that barely reflected the chronology of the actual events. It has taken fifty years but Barak Goodman and his PBS American Experience team have artfully done justice to the real Woodstock, not some mythic fantasy in our collective imagination.