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."
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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
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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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
"Escaping Prison with Dungeons & Dragons" is a moving, 10-minute documentary about prisoners who used tabletop role-playing games to survive their incarceration. Read the rest
The Lost Arcade, a documentary about the encroachment of gentrficiation upon the last real video arcade in Manhattan, is now available to watch online.
Directed by Kurt P. Vincent, the story is as much about the Chinatown Fair's community as the games, celebrating the final years of a pop culture phenomenon that moved into our homes so slowly we never realized what we were losing.
"I wanted to create a film that would capture the spirit that hit me the first time I walked through those doors," writes Vincent. "There was a melting pot of a community that congregated there, where all walks of life came together and shared one common interest: video games. It was a microcosm of what New York was all about. Not the overpriced New York we've come to accept, but what this city originally stood for and still does when you look deep enough."
The Lost Arcade sheds a behind-the-scenes light into the demise of arcade culture, as it coincided with the rise of home console and online gaming, and showcases the dichotomy of how gamers connected then vs. now. But more importantly, it highlights the diversity and camaraderie among the competitive gamer community that arcades like Chinatown Fair were so uniquely able to foster.
View links: iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, VHX, Vimeo, and Vudu.
Previously: The Lost Arcade: doc about rebirth of legendary NYC arcade Read the rest
Morton Subotnick is an 84-year-old avant-garde composer whose pioneering electronic music, and approach to musicmaking, influenced the likes of Daft Punk, Kraftwerk, Four Tet, and countless techno artists. Subotnick helped Don Buchla design what was likely the first analog music synthesizer and used it to create his seminal psychedelic masterpiece, Silver Apples of the Moon (1967), the first electronic music work commissioned by a major record company, Nonesuch/Elektra. (Fan-made video below.) Just a few years before, Subotnick co-founded the iconic San Francisco Tape Music Center that became a creative home for Terry Riley, Pauline Oliveros, Steve Reich, and so many more incredible composers. And he's still making sounds. Now, Toronto's Waveshaper Media, the production company behind “I Dream Of Wires" and the forthcoming “Electronic Voyager" film about Bob Moog are working on a documentary about Subotnick. Support it on Indiegogo.
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Leonardo Faierman points us to an article he wrote for BlackGirlNerds about a crowdfunding campaign for a biopic on female punk rock icon Poly Styrene. The Indiegogo ends tomorrow and is very close to its goal at the time of this blog post. Read the rest
Brainiac was a fantastic experimental indie band that emerged from the 1990s Dayton, Ohio music scene that gave us Guided by Voices, The Breeders, and other great post-punk, no wave, and noise pop groups. Growing up in Cincinnati, Ohio, I caught many of Brainiac's crazed live shows in the area. (Bassist Juan Monasterio went to fashion design school with my wife Kelly and after we moved to San Francisco, the band stayed at her apartment when they came though the Bay Area.) Their stars rising fast, Brainiac released two LPs on Grass/BMG before signing with Touch and Go Records and collaborating with the likes of Steve Albini, Kim Deal and Jim O'Rourke. Then on May 23, 1997, with their major label debut set for Interscope Records, charismatic frontman Timmy Taylor was killed in a car crash near his home. He was 28. Now, filmmaker Eric Mahoney is telling the Brainiac story through a new documentary. Please support it on Kickstarter.
This film will explore the 90's Dayton music scene, Brainiac's legacy and how people survive and cope with the loss of loved ones. Over the past 20 years Brainiac has been cited as a massive influence on the likes of Nine Inch Nails, The Mars Volta, Death Cab For Cutie and countless others. You'll hear from the band, family members, fellow musicians and label heads.
Steve Albini, Wayne Coyne, Buzz Osbourne, Cedric Bixler, David Yow, Eli Janney, Fred Armisen, Jim O’Rourke, Gregg Foreman, John Schmersal, Juan Monasterio, Tyler Trent, Michelle Bodine, Linda Taylor And Many More…
Brainiac Documentary (Kickstarter, thanks UPSO!)
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Few are scandalized by the BBC adding sound effects to documentary footage, as it's somewhat obvious and the intent is to bring the viewer to a truth that might otherwise be obscured. A lot of other storytelling magic is at hand, though, not all of it so ostentatious. Simon Cade illustrates some of the techniques, among which editing is among the most powerful. Read the rest
M.C. Escher: Adventures in Perception (1971) is a 20-minute Dutch documentary about the artist and includes scenes of him working in his studio. From Open Culture:
Obsessed with perspective, geometry, and pattern (Escher described tessellation as “a real mania to which I have become addicted”), his images have, by the count of mathematician and Escher scholar Doris Schattschneider, led so far to eleven separate strands of mathematical and scientific research.
The twenty-minute Adventures in Perception, originally commissioned by the Netherlands’ Ministry of Foreign Affairs, offers in its first half a meditation on the mesmerizing, often impossible world Escher had created with his art to date. Its second half captures Escher in the last years of his life, still at work in his Laren, North Holland studio. It even shows him printing one of the three titular serpents, threaded through a set of elaborately interlocking circles, of his very last print Snakes. He never actually finished Snakes, whose patterns would have continued on to the effect of infinity, and even says here of his officially complete works that none succeed, “because it’s the dream I tried for that can’t be realized.”
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In its 1970s heyday, Detroit-based music magazine Creem was home to seminal editors/writers/photographers like Lester Bangs, Robert Christgau, Greil Marcus, Patti Smith, Bob Gruen, Jenny Lens, and so many more. Indeed, it was in its pages that Dave Marsh coined the term "punk rock" in 1971. Creem's content was superb. It was unabashedly critical of fame, didn't take itself too seriously, and documented the more underground artists, bands, and scenes of the time, from the MC5 to Alice Cooper, New York City's glam rock culture to the proto-punks of the US and UK.
Boy Howdy! is director Scott Crawford's forthcoming documentary about Creem and I absolutely can't wait to see it. Until then, I'll proudly wear the fantastic t-shirt below, scribbled by my pal Jess Rotter! And yes, they're also selling Creem's classic Boy Howdy! t-shirt, handsomely modeled by John Lennon below.
Boy Howdy! and Creem magazine merch
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UPDATE 3/5/2107 Peter Sjöstedt-H emailed me: "Thank you for promoting my interview with Tim Scully. Tim has emailed me to ask if the title of your article could be altered a little as it is now factually incorrect: Scully did not manufacture "750,000,000 Doses of LSD" but only *wanted to*. He actually only manufactured about 3,000,000 doses of 300 ug.
Peter Sjöstedt-H interviewed famous 1960s acid chemist Tim Scully for High Existence.
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In 1977 Tim Scully was imprisoned for the manufacture of LSD, a high-standard variety thereof well known in the 1960s as Orange Sunshine. Following his release in 1980, Scully returned to a life concerned more with electronics than with acid-infused ideology. The story of his acid adventures with Nick Sand have been documented in the new film The Sunshine Makers – philosopher Peter Sjöstedt-H here asks Tim Scully eight questions stemming therefrom.
In the documentary you complained of “bad trips” after your run in with the law. Do you believe that the so-called “bad trip” can be beneficial?
There wasn’t room in a 90 minute film to explain this point fully. During the time from late 1966 through mid-1970 I was frequently followed by federal agents. I had to lose them before doing anything important. They knew that I knew that they were following me and I knew that they knew.
In mid-1968 my 2nd Denver lab was busted as shown in the film when I was out of town. I was arrested by federal agents in the spring of 1969 on a fugitive warrant from Denver.
For $20 million, you could live in Grey Gardens, the East Hampton, NY home that starred with lovable eccentrics Edith "Little Edie" Bouvier Beale and her mother Edith "Big Edie" Ewing Bouvier Beale in the incredible 1975 documentary "Grey Gardens." (Watch the whole thing below!) Current owner Sally Quinn, the journalist and Washington socialite, bought the home from Little Edie for $220,000 in 1979 and restored it from its astoundingly squalorific state scene in the film. From the New York Times:
On a recent afternoon, Sally Quinn walked through Grey Gardens, her fabled summer home, one that has been the subject of both a documentary film and a Broadway musical, and passed by a glass menagerie of tiny kittens. The figurines had once belonged to Edith Bouvier Beale, better known as Little Edie, a woman of many cats, who for years lived in the house with her mother, known as Big Edie. Both were former socialites and relatives of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
Restoring the home was not for the faint of heart, but Ms. Quinn was undeterred. In fact, she was smitten.
“‘It’s yours,’” Ms. Quinn recalled Little Edie saying to her. “She did a little pirouette in the hall and said, ‘All it needs is a coat of paint.’”
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Bill Binney resigned from the NSA in October 2001, after 30 years with the agency where he was viewed as one of their best analysts: he quit because he believed that Bush-appointed leaders in the Agency had chosen to respond to the challenge of electronic communications by building out illegal, indiscriminate mass-surveillance programs that left the country vulnerable to terrorists while diverting billions to private contractors with political connections. Read the rest
Documentarians and news-gatherers who record sensitive material from confidential sources live in terror of having their cameras seized and their storage-cards plundered by law-enforcement; they struggle to remember to immediately transfer their files to encrypted laptop storage and wipe their cards while dodging bombs in conflict zones, or simply to remember to have robotically perfect operational security while they are trying to get a movie made. Read the rest
Thanks to the archival spelunking of the crowdfunded documentary WHO THE F*@% IS FRANK ZAPPA?, we can now watch this amazing piece of video of Frank Zappa being greeted at SFO by the Navy Band, who played Joe's Garage in his honor (and to his manifest delight). Read the rest