Let’s Give Thanks

Two short documentaries to help us remember why we celebrate Thanksgiving and why we should be thankful for documentaries.

“also known as The Turkey Film, this is the film that inspired me more than anything else when I saw it as a high school student in 1979, screened at the Hirshorn Museum in Washington, DC. It totally re-wired my head, and I credit the director, music video pioneer Chuck Statler, with inspiring me to pursue a life in filmmaking.” – Jeff Krulick Heavy Metal Parking Lot


And then there is this…

Enjoy !


R.I.P. – Robert Hughes & American Visions Episode 1

Little did I know a few days ago that when I posted about Robert HughesShock of the New he’d soon depart from this existence. It seems every post I make, as of late, has the Spector of death about it. Perhaps, this is fitting for a blog about documentaries. So many documentaries are about life or as it is sometimes stated, “real life”, but they are also about death. Unlike fictional films, where death is visibly far more prevalent, death is still quite taboo in documentary. We hate to be reminded us of our own mortality, especially us Americans. At the same time, the thought of death often runs through documentaries. The notion that one day, we will all pass on is very real. What happens after that is up for debate, but the truth that we all die is one of the more solid truths of this world and very much a part of many documentaries.

I’d just started exploring Robert Hughes’ American Visions. Now, seems like a good time to plow ahead. Here is the first episode, get started before it is too late.


It Started with Muybridge

Maria Popova of BringPickings brought this to my attention. It’s another documentary that explains how Eadweard Muybridge’s early explorations of motion photography helped pave the way for the Atomic age. While it’s not as interesting as Zoopraxographer, this film does serve as a nice compliment to it.

In 1965, more than half a century after Muybridge passed away, the U.S. Department of Defense commissioned It Started with Muybridge — a fascinating short documentary, currently in the public domain, tracing how Muybridge’s motion studies contributed to the science and technology of the Atomic Age, from testing the safety limits of nuclear reactors to measuring the speed of supersonic missiles.

Maria Popova – Brianpickings.org

It Started with Muybridge   YouTube Brainpickings.org

The Quiet One

Today, I found myself referencing Sidney MeyersThe Quiet One during a discussion in one of my classes. This 1948 film about a young African-American boy ignored by his parents and saved by a school where he receives psychiatric counseling is more docudrama than strict documentary. Still it stands as an important, but forgotten film.

The Quiet One was nominated for both best documentary and best screenplay (the narration was penned by James Agee); an honor wholly inconceivable today, even if many documentaries are scripted.While the film is manipulative and heavy handed at times, there are moments when it presents a view of life completely foreign to American films of that era. It presents something that feels instinctive, unscripted, and real. Today, the film is more of a history lesson, a moment when the world of American fiction filmmaking began to blend with non-fiction film techniques and vice-versa.

The Sugar Trap and The Bitter Truth

Having recently watched Robert H. Lustig’s lecture Sugar: The Bitter Truth I decided to look for a more cinematic documentary on the same topic of America’s toxic sugar consumption levels. I cam across this 1986 documentary, The Sugar Trap. While this is certainly more visual and contains a similar message The Sugar Trap does not deliver the same frightening message. Though, this film did teach me that Napoleon is really to blame for the explosion of sugar production. I shall have to verify that claim. True or not, The Sugar Trap is a good primer on the consumption of sugar and how America’s appetite for sugar developed and exploded out of control. It’s been over 25 since this film was made and the problem only seems worse. I know I fight it.

The Sugar Trap part 1

The Sugar Trap part 2

The Sugar Trap part 3

The Sugar Trap part 4

The Sugar Trap part 5

The Sugar Trap part 6

Sugar: The Bitter Truth Darrell Smith

Child of Rage

Child of Rage is an early HBO documentary about an abused 6 year old who has become an abuser. Were it not for the chilling confessions of Beth Thomas, who so casually talks about the abuse she’s suffered and the abuse she now inflicts upon others, I’d say this film were a dated educational expose on abuse and attachment therapy. Still, there is history in this piece for two reasons. The first being that Beth Thomas grew up to be a normal, caring individual, while her therapist was charged with the death of another patient. This tragedy is not part of Child of Rage, but has been dramatized more than once for television. TV also produced a made-for-television reworking of Beth Thomas’ story, this was also called Child of Rage. Obviously, the subject matter was compelling, but it is not hard to see why it would be spun into TV drama. Which brings me to my second point. I am interested in this documentary because of its dry, toned down, even rudimentary production style. This was made before HBO turned its America Undercover series into a sex parade and well before they started producing Academy Award nominated films.

Child of Rage  You Tube  Carl Howard

You can read more about the film and the tragedy  40 Years of Faulty Wiring