Aretha Franklin's "Amazing Grace" concert film will finally be released

In January 1972, Aretha Franklin performed at the New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles' Watts neighborhood. The LP of those performances is an absolutely breathtaking celebration of soul gospel. It won a Grammy, became the biggest selling live gospel record in history, and remains the highest selling record of Franklin's career. Filmmaker Sydney Pollack documented the performance and the plan was to release the concert movie as a double feature with Super Fly during the summer of 1972. The problem though is that Pollack hadn't used a clapper board during the filming that would enable him to sync the audio and footage from the five cameras. With no way to properly edit the film, the project was shelved until about ten years ago. And in a few months, the world will finally see it. From the New York Times:

(Alan) Elliott, who had been obsessed with the lost footage since working as a music executive in the mid-1980s, ultimately persuaded Warner to sell him the reels in 2007. (He mortgaged his house.) By 2010, digital technology had evolved to a point that syncing film and sound was finally possible....

As a planned release date approached in 2011, however, Ms. Franklin sued Mr. Elliott for using her likeness without her permission. That started years of legal wrangling, with Ms. Franklin and her lawyers blocking Mr. Elliott and the Telluride Film Festival from showing “Amazing Grace” in 2015 and 2016, even after deals for her compensation seemed to have been worked out.

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Werner Herzog is making a documentary about meteorites

Fireball is Werner Herzog's forthcoming documentary "about meteorites and comets and their influence on mythology and religion," according to Variety. He's once again collaborating with British geoscientist Clive Oppenheimer, his partner on the volcano documentary Into the Inferno. From Variety:

The producers of “Into the Inferno,” Andre Singer and Lucki Stipetic, are both on board “Fireball.” Herzog and Oppenheimer will co-direct. They will once more go globe-trotting, this time to visit sites that yield insight into comets and meteorites and help them understand what they can tell us about the origins of life on Earth.

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New David Bowie documentary in production at BBC

BBC Studios Production is completing a new feature documentary, David Bowie: The First Five Years, to air next year. Its the third in director Francis Whately's trilogy that has included "David Bowie: Five Years" (2013) and "David Bowie: The Last Five Years" (2017). The film will cover the Bowie's formative years as an artist, starting in 1966 up until the birth of Ziggy Stardust. According to the BBC, the 90-minute doc "traces his interest in everything from Holst to Pinky and Perky, from Anthony Newley to Tibetan Buddhism, and how he used all these influences to create not only Ziggy Stardust, but the material for his entire career."

The film also unearths a report, deep from the BBC Archives, following a BBC audition on Tuesday 2 November 1965 of a band called David Bowie and the Lower Third. Their audition material included Chim-Chim-Cheree as well as an original number called Baby That’s A Promise. The BBC’s ‘Talent Selection Group’ describe him as having “quite a different sound”, but also “no personality”, “not particularly exciting” and “will not improve with practice”. The BBC later appears to have changed its mind...

Contributors include Bowie’s first cousin and lifelong-friend Kristina Amadeus and former girlfriend and muse Hermione Farthingale - both of whom have never before been filmed talking about him; the late Lindsay Kemp in his last filmed interview, lifelong friend and producer Tony Visconti, former girlfriend and friend Dana Gillespie, lifelong friends Geoff MacCormak and George Underwood, Bowie's producer Mike Vernon, Bowie's early producer Tony Hatch, and Woody Woodmansey, the last remaining Spider from Mars.

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Cyberpunk: a 1990 documentary featuring William Gibson, Timothy Leary, and Brenda Laurel

Cyberpunk is Marianne Tranche's 1990 documentary about the early cyberpunk scene. It features interviews with the likes of William Gibson, Scott Fisher, and bOING bOING patron saint Timothy Leary. While the brilliant Brenda Laurel appears, the film unfortunately missed many of the other badass female cyberpunks of the day like St. Jude Milhon (Mondo 2000), Lisa Palac (Future Sex), Tiffany Lee Brown (FringeWare Review), Stacy Horn (Echo), and of course bOING bOING co-founder Carla Sinclair!

As Dr. Tim said back then, "Turn on, tune in, boot up!"

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Documentary gives you a taste of the excitement and anxiety of being in the The International Science and Engineering Fair

Science Fair opened in theaters this weekend. The National Geographic documentary received Sundance's "Festival Favorite Award" and I can see why. It follows the lives of nine brilliant and dedicated high school students from 78 countries, and I was rooting for every one of them to win. The International Science and Engineering Fair brings together 1,700 students from around the world, each of whom won a local award for their project, to compete for $4 million in prizes and recognition for being the best of the best.

Co-director Cristina Costantini said, "Science Fair is a love letter to the subculture that saved me. As a dweeby kid growing up in a sports-obsessed high school in Wisconsin, the international science fair became my lifeboat. It validated my passion for science, taught me how to dedicate myself to a goal and set my life on a trajectory that would have otherwise been totally impossible. But most important, science fair is where I found my tribe."

Here's a Q&A with directors Cristina Costantini and Darren Foster:

Why did you make this film?

From the beginning, Cristina’s own experience with science fair was our north star. As a two-time alumna of ISEF, she not only had firsthand insight into the scene, but with some distance she could also look back and see how it shaped her life. With that very personal perspective, we set out to make a movie about the science fair journey as she remembered it: one of the most stressful, exhilarating, sublime, terrible experiences a young person could go through. Read the rest

Why For-Profit Academic Publishers Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank

If you’re not an academic or scientist, then you probably have no idea how off kilter research scholarship has become.  Read the rest

To do in America, next Wednesday: See the "People's Premiere" of Michael Moore's Trump takedown, "Fahrenheit 11/9"

Michael Moore's latest documentary is a scorching Trump takedown called Fahrenheit 11/9; next Wednesday, all over the USA, theaters will screen a "People's Premiere" of the movie: just indicate your willingness to buy tickets for a nearby screening and once enough of your neighbors sign up, the screening will "tip" and get scheduled (Angelenos, help me get a screening in Alhambra!). The site for doing all this is creaking under the load at the moment, so keep hitting that reload button! Read the rest

Documentary about The Slenderman

The Slenderman is a boogeyman born from the Something Awful forums that manifested in the real world in 2014 when two pre-teen girls stabbed their friend 19 times to please The Slenderman. "A Self-Induced Hallucination" is director Dan Schoenbrun's documentary about The Slenderman that he made entirely from archival footage.

"The Slender Man. He exists because you thought of him. Now try and not think of him."

-Username "I," posted June 15th, 2009 on the Something Awful forums. (User was later banned for "post(ing) like a weird fucker.")

"Why I Spent Months Making An Archival Documentary about The Slenderman" (Filmmaker Magazine)

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Watch: Mini documentary about Interpol's "Turn On the Bright Lights" anniversary tour

Last year, Interpol set out on a reunion tour celebrating the 15th anniversary of their fantastic debut "Turn on the Bright Lights." Here is a mini-documentary about their post-punk revival revival. Sleep tight, dream right.

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Exploring the politics and history of alternate universes at the Templin Institute

If you haven't seen any of the videos produced by the Templin Institute, then you are in for a real treat. Templin is a shadowy online organization of deep sci-fi, fantasy, and game geeks who post a prolific number of extremely well-done documentary video essays covering the histories, politics, factions, cultures, and characters behind dozens of sci-fi and fantasy universes.

I have binge-watched dozens of episodes covering aspects of Star Wars, Star Trek, Fallout, Mad Max, Dune, Harry Potter, Warhammer 40,000, Aliens, and many more. They do a really impressive job of putting together these essays using film clips, screen caps, concept and fan art. The writing and narration are also well-done and extremely informative. I learned a lot, even about fictional universes that I already know way too much about.

Recently, the Templin Institute has announced a crowd-contributed sci-fi universe that they are creating themselves. They are going to allow their viewers to submit planets, races, factions, and the like, and the best/most popular ones will be incorporated into the world and future videos. I love this idea. I just hope it doesn't take too much away from their weekly coverage of existing fictional worlds.

You can follow them on their YouTube channel, Twitch, and Facebook. And you can support them on Patreon, if you like what they are doing. Read the rest

Watch intense trailer for Patti Smith's new concert documentary

High priestess of punk poetry Patti Smith assaults us with her epic 1975 jam "Land" in this trailer for her new concert documentary "Horses: Patti Smith and her Band," celebrating 40 years of her seminal album. The documentary screens tonight as part of the Tribeca Film Festival and the band performs following the movie. Wow.

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Hiring a scammer to be a documentary filmmaker

A man from Nigeria named Tobi tried to pull an online scam on a guy in the United States. The would-be victim hired Tobi to make a short documentary of life in his town. The scammer accepted the job. Here's the Gofundme campaign to fund Tobi's documentary.

Here's a similar story. Read the rest

Documentary on the DRM-breaking farmers who just want to fix their tractors, even if they have to download bootleg Ukrainian firmware to do it

Motherboard's short documentary, "Tractor Hacking: The Farmers Breaking Big Tech's Repair Monopoly" is an excellent look at the absurd situation created by John Deere's position that you can't own your tractor because you only license the software inside it, meaning that only Deere can fix Deere's tractors, and the centuries-old tradition of farmers fixing their agricultural equipment should end because Deere's shareholders would prefer it that way. Read the rest

Haribo: sweetened with forced labor and abused animals

In "The Haribo Check," aired on German public broadcast ARD, a documentary team audits Haribo's supply chain and finds "modern day slaves" in Brazil working to harvest carnauba wax, a key ingredient in the sweets: the plantations pay $12/day, and workers (including children) sleep out of doors, drink unfiltered river water, and have no access to toilets, under conditions that a Brazilian Labor Ministry official called "modern-day slavery." Read the rest

Watching Jane Goodall watching chimps makes for a splendid time

In 1957 famed anthropologist Louis Leakey received a $6,000 grant to study wild chimpanzees in Africa, in the hope that observing their behavior would reveal something about early man. In his stead, he sent his secretary, a 26-year-old named Jane Goodall. She had no experience as zoologist, and didn't even have a college degree, but as we now know, she became the world's greatest primatologist. At age 83, she still spends much of her time at Gombe Stream National Park in Tanzania pursuing her passion of studying chimpanzees.

Director Brett Morgen's new documentary, Jane, focuses mainly on Goodall's earlier work in Tanzania, where she made many groundbreaking discoveries about chimpanzee behavior. We also learn about her personal life -- her mother served as her escort on her first stay in Gombe, and she married wildlife cinematographer Hugo van Lawick, which National Geographic had hired to film her in the early 1960s. She had a child with van Lawick, named him Grub, and sometimes kept him in a spacious, well-ventilated cage to prevent the chimps from eating him.

Narrated by Goodall herself, Jane is an intimate profile of a fascinating person I've admired since I was a child. It was a thrill to see old Flo and her child Flint, which I'd read about in her 1967 book, My Friends the Wild Chimpanzees. It was also interesting to see how the chimps slowly got used to Goodall, to the point that they would allow her to play with their babies. Read the rest

Fantastic trailer for new Jane Goodall documentary

I can't wait to see Jane, the new National Geographic documentary about the inspiring primatologist Jane Goodall who famously lived with chimpanzees in Tanzania for decades and has worked tireless on conservation and animal welfare issues her entire adult life. The film, containing unseen footage of Jane in the jungle, was directed by Brett Morgen (Kurt Cobain: Montage of Heck) with music by minimalist master Philip Glass!

This photo below of Jane Goodall observing chimpanzees in Gombe Stream National Park, Tanzania, taken by her mother Vanne Morris-Goodall, was encoded on the Voyager Golden Record launched into space 40 years ago:

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A petition to demand accountability from the NSA

Fritz Moser, director of the documentary A Good American, about NSA whistleblower Bill Binney who blames the 9/11 attacks on the NSA's capture by corporate contractors who sold it an expensive, useless, self-perpetuating mass-surveillance system, writes, "Since 6 Sept A GOOD AMERICAN is on Netflix and since then I am getting between 10 and 20 emails per day of people telling me how shocked they were by the film and how angry they are, asking what they could do to help. So we came up with this petition. The petition is hosted by a member of Sascha Meinrath's cross-party Civil Liberties Coalition we are working with in Washington DC, backing the cross-party anti-surveillance Caucus in Congress on a grassroots level." Read the rest

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