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The 2nd Annual iCMFF: Documentaries

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The 2nd Annual iCMFF: Documentaries

#1

Post by outdoorcats » November 2nd, 2018, 1:00 am

Welcome to the 2018 iCheckMovies Film Festival!

Festival Dates: Nov. 1-30

Please rate the films the films you've seen on a scale from 1-10 to help contribute to this year's Audience Award.
(Ratings are due by the end of the month to be counted)

This is the thread where all users can rate and discuss the films in this year's Documentary section:

Beware the Slenderman dir. Irene Taylor Brodsky. 2016, 114 min. :imdb::ICM:
This frightening true-crime doc from HBO dives into the story of two preteen girls who tried to kill their friend to appease a fictional horror internet meme.
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(T)ERROR dir. Lyric R. Cabral and David Felix Sutcliffe. 2015, 84 min. :imdb::ICM:
In what might make an interesting companion piece with Citizenfour, two filmmakers work with a FBI informant to film his undercover sting operation without the FBI's knowledge, revealing the incompetence and illegality of the FBI's counter-terrorist operations in the process.
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Listen to Me Marlon dir. Stevan Riley. 2015, 103 min. :imdb::ICM:
In this Emmy-nominated doc, hundreds of hours of audio recorded by Marlon Brando is painstakingly edited and assembled to tell a unique version of his life story.
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Requiem for the American Dream dir. Peter D. Hutchison, Kelly Nyks and Jared P. Scott. 2015, 73 min. :imdb::ICM:
Consisting of a series of interviews with renowned intellectual Noam Chomsky filmed over four years, Requiem is stated to be Chomsky's "final long-form interviews" as he explains in painstaking detail how wealth and power have become increasingly concentrated to a small set of people throughout the world.
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The Nightmare dir. Rodney Ascher. 2015, 91 min. :imdb::ICM:
Room 237 director Ascher returns with a documentary about the phenomenon known as sleep paralysis, utilizing interviews with those who have experienced it to create something scarier than most horror films.
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Under the Sun dir. Vitaliy Manskiy. 2015, 106 min. :imdb::ICM:
When Manskiy and several other filmmakers were granted access to North Korea to make a documentary about the totalitarian state, they were given scripted scenes and actors and told exactly what and how to film, but secretly kept the camera rolling between takes and hid the resulting footage to make a film about manufacturing "reality" that is alternately ironic and devastating.
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Last edited by outdoorcats on November 29th, 2018, 11:31 am, edited 2 times in total.

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#2

Post by joachimt » November 2nd, 2018, 12:18 pm

Listen to Marlon 8/10
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#3

Post by maxwelldeux » November 12th, 2018, 12:08 am

Beware the Slenderman: 8/10Show
I was excited to see this one pop up for the festival here. I was really excited to dig into this as I remember the case from the news. And at teh time it was in the news, I remember thinking "what the hell is wrong with these kids and their parents that they'd end up killing their friend?" And I think the documentary did a pretty good job at answering those questions. Beyond that, I thought the tension was built pretty well throughout this film, and the tension was not built to the crime itself. I got into this quite a bit more than I expected I would.
Requiem for the American Dream: 7/10Show
This would make a great double-feature with HyperNormalisation from the Main Slate. I liked how this one went through the history of quite a few important aspects of the USA and how the systems endemic to our culture are meant to protect the rich and powerful. Good information throughout here, but it ultimately didn't do much beyond providing some good information.
The Nightmare: 8/10Show
The editor of this doc needs to have their hand shaken pretty damn hard. As a subject, I'm not particularly interested in sleep paralysis. I'm glad I learned a bit more about it, but if that was it, I'd have rated this doc a lot lower. The interest in this, to me, is that it was cut together like a horror film - this actually brought up more fear and thrills for me than most horror films I've watched. Really a fun watch.
(T)ERROR: 7/10Show
This documentary follows an FBI terrorism informant working to connect with a suspected terrorist. I found that there was a surprising amount of tension built in this - it was edited together well so that you didn't know what was going to happen, and there were multiple plots with tension to build. Ultimately, I found the doc informative about the idiotic policing practices of the FBI, but not a lot for me to latch onto.
Under the Sun: 7/10Show
This was just short of being a favorite of mine. The propaganda in this film is quite effective, including some beautifully framed shots and amazing dance and choreographed sequences. And I think the filmmakers did a good job at "overshooting" and cutting in numerous takes to help convey how everything was staged. Ultimately, I just wanted a bit more context and explanation. I'm not too familiar with North Korea, so seeing a film like this with some context was good, but I wanted to get more out of this and have a better sense of what life was actually like.
Listen to Me Marlon: = 9/10Show
To be honest, I had been putting off this documentary because it was the one I was expecting to like the least. I'm not really a fan of biographical docs in general, and I'm not a huge fan of Brando in particular. But hot diggity damn this was good. Using a lot of archival footage and recordings, this is Brando talks about Brando without being overly sappy or fawning like all too many retrospectives. I think this is my favorite of the batch.

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#4

Post by mightysparks » November 24th, 2018, 2:20 am

Beware the Slenderman 5/10

Would've liked this more if they'd focused more on the girls rather than going over and over again what Slenderman is. It felt like it was aimed at old people who had never used the internet.

The Nightmare 5/10

As someone with an interest in dreams, having kept a dream journal since 2003, and experiencing sleep paralysis a number of times, I thought this covered the subject horribly. I liked the idea of other culture's interpretations of it, but mostly the film was just people spouting crazy nonsense and boring re-enactments.
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#5

Post by rnilsson19 » November 24th, 2018, 3:30 am

Listen to Me Marlon - 8/10

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#6

Post by maxwelldeux » November 24th, 2018, 6:50 am

mightysparks wrote:
November 24th, 2018, 2:20 am
Beware the Slenderman 5/10

Would've liked this more if they'd focused more on the girls rather than going over and over again what Slenderman is. It felt like it was aimed at old people who had never used the internet.
I feel like I'm being attacked with this statement... :sarcasm:

I was actually really happy with how much time they spent on Slenderman (well, maybe like 10% less, but still). I only had a vague idea of anything about Slenderman, and most of that was gleaned from reporters who use phrases like "internet meme" to describe it. It made their crazy seem logical, in a way.

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#7

Post by mightysparks » November 24th, 2018, 7:26 am

maxwelldeux wrote:
November 24th, 2018, 6:50 am
mightysparks wrote:
November 24th, 2018, 2:20 am
Beware the Slenderman 5/10

Would've liked this more if they'd focused more on the girls rather than going over and over again what Slenderman is. It felt like it was aimed at old people who had never used the internet.
I feel like I'm being attacked with this statement... :sarcasm:

I was actually really happy with how much time they spent on Slenderman (well, maybe like 10% less, but still). I only had a vague idea of anything about Slenderman, and most of that was gleaned from reporters who use phrases like "internet meme" to describe it. It made their crazy seem logical, in a way.
Just an attack on the film :P I knew a lot about Slenderman already so it seemed redundant to keep hearing stuff I already knew, whereas the girls and the case I knew nothing about... and came away not knowing that much. I thought it was going to be like Paradise Lost, so I was disappointed at how much time was spent on Slenderman history.
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#8

Post by flaiky » November 24th, 2018, 4:40 pm

mightysparks wrote:
November 24th, 2018, 7:26 am
whereas the girls and the case I knew nothing about... and came away not knowing that much.
I was actually surprised by how much direct content was about the girls and the case. They hadn't even been convicted when the doc was made, and some media outlets still weren't even naming them due to their age, yet we're shown interrogation footage and many interviews with their parents. I like how it ends up as a mixture of true crime, a commentary on the potential dangers of internet culture, and a study of childhood mental illness. Really solid documentary IMO.

I find this case so disturbing. When I actually imagine those children stabbing their friend over and over, and think what that poor girl must have gone through...it's hard to believe it even happened and she's incredibly lucky to have survived. I definitely believe that both Alissa and especially Morgan are genuinely ill, and it's kind of a tragedy that they happened to become friends. It seems that they encouraged each other's paranoia, and who knows, maybe without meeting they could have kept a lid on it in time to get proper intervention? Their futures look very bleak now:
Weier was sentenced to 25-years-to-life, an indeterminate sentence involving at least three years locked confinement and involuntary treatment in a state psychiatric institute, followed by communal supervision until age 40.[18][19] Her accomplice, Morgan Geyser, was sentenced to the maximum 40-years-to-life, an indeterminate sentence involving at least three years locked confinement, in addition to involuntary treatment in a state psychiatric institute until complete resolution of symptoms or until age 53, whichever may happen first; followed by continued communal supervision, periodic reevaluations and/or reinstitution and further treatment per-needed as required by the sentenced imposed.[20][21] :
A somewhat similar but even more disturbing case is that of Skylar Neese (yes, I admit, I have a morbid fascination with true crime). There's a fantastic, chilling long-form article about it here; if anyone plans to read it, don't google the case first.
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#9

Post by Muellwind » November 26th, 2018, 6:04 pm

Beware the Slenderman 6/10

The Nightmare 5/10

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#10

Post by outdoorcats » November 27th, 2018, 2:46 am

(T)ERROR - 8.5
The Nightmare - 7
Under the Sun - 8

I'm curious what others think of Rodney Ascher's style as he appears to be very divisive. I hear many people say why they hate his films but I haven't heard from many of his fans about what they like about him. I couldn't get past more than 5 minutes of Room 237 for some reason, but found The Nightmare to be a compelling exercise in storytelling. I don't know necessarily what he's trying to say by giving everyone's story, no matter how outlandish, the same serious treatment as any other documentary would do, but it made for interesting viewing. I'd love to see him do a film about UFO conspiracy theorists, for instance; I think that would be pretty entertaining.

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#11

Post by maxwelldeux » November 27th, 2018, 3:14 am

outdoorcats wrote:
November 27th, 2018, 2:46 am
(T)ERROR - 8.5
The Nightmare - 7
Under the Sun - 8

I'm curious what others think of Rodney Ascher's style as he appears to be very divisive. I hear many people say why they hate his films but I haven't heard from many of his fans about what they like about him. I couldn't get past more than 5 minutes of Room 237 for some reason, but found The Nightmare to be a compelling exercise in storytelling. I don't know necessarily what he's trying to say by giving everyone's story, no matter how outlandish, the same serious treatment as any other documentary would do, but it made for interesting viewing. I'd love to see him do a film about UFO conspiracy theorists, for instance; I think that would be pretty entertaining.
This is the only work of his I've seen, but I enjoyed it - not so much for any of the information provided, but because it was cut together like a horror film. I think I felt sleep paralysis more than I learned about it. The stories got a little repetitive, but I thought it was a fascinating watch and definitely a unique way to tell the stories.

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#12

Post by flaiky » November 29th, 2018, 2:36 pm

Completed, good section overall, though three of our best docs were claimed by the Main Slate.

Beware the Slenderman, as I said above, expands on its true crime roots by also studying internet culture and and childhood mental illness, never feeling exploitative.
T(error) is brave and intriguing, but takes a while to get going and doesn't quite dig deep enough with its themes.
Listen to Me Marlon brings Brando back from the dead with a lovely hypnotic vibe, easily one of the most creative biographical docs ever made.
Requiem For the American Dream is eye-opening and thoroughly convincing with its thesis that America, throughout its history, has been deliberately manipulated and controlled by the ruling class.
The Nightmare could work as a short but becomes far too repetitive, and will only be effective for people who are terrified by the idea of sleep paralysis (for some reason, nothing here really bothered me. Maybe I just can't imagine it in a realistic way? I also questioned how all these people could remember their nightmares so clearly weeks, months, or even years after they happened?)
Under the Sun, as a snap shot of life in North Korea, is shocking, bizarre, hilarious, disturbing, and heartbreaking all at once, superbly captured with a cinematic eye.

I'll give my ratings for these now as the section is definitely finished.

Under the Sun - 10
Requiem For the American Dream - 9
Listen to Me Marlon - 8 (close to a 9 though)
Beware the Slenderman - 8
T(error) - 6
The Nightmare - 5

I strongly feel that Under the Sun is the best, I'd rank it very high on my all-time favourite docs, but Max and I seem to be closest with Listen to Me Marlon.
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#13

Post by maxwelldeux » November 29th, 2018, 5:17 pm

flaiky wrote:
November 29th, 2018, 2:36 pm
I strongly feel that Under the Sun is the best, I'd rank it very high on my all-time favourite docs, but Max and I seem to be closest with Listen to Me Marlon.
I actually like your synopsis of Requiem - but that captures why it didn't rate higher for me. I've read enough and watched enough documentaries for that point to be blindingly obvious; of course America has been manipulated by the ruling class.

I'm actually curious about why you liked Under the Sun so much. I definitely agree that a lot of the cinematography was stunning - but I found that to be part of the DPRK propaganda and not so much a filmmaker's choice. And while I can intellectually appreciate what propaganda does/is, I don't like it and don't like being manipulated. But this and Marlon were the two that stuck with me the most from this slate, so I want to hear more from you, if you're willing.

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#14

Post by flaiky » November 29th, 2018, 6:09 pm

maxwelldeux wrote:
November 29th, 2018, 5:17 pm
I actually like your synopsis of Requiem - but that captures why it didn't rate higher for me. I've read enough and watched enough documentaries for that point to be blindingly obvious; of course America has been manipulated by the ruling class.
It is obvious in the broad but still, seeing a detailed break down of the specific ways the current systems has been set up, and framed as beneficial when it basically works to enforce inequality, is thoroughly worthwhile IMO. Chomsky explains it all brilliantly.
I definitely agree that a lot of the cinematography was stunning - but I found that to be part of the DPRK propaganda and not so much a filmmaker's choice.
Well what's so fascinating is the way Mansky subverts what the Korean officials thought would be propaganda. By keeping the camera rolling, or even by focussing on the specifics details - close-ups of individual reactions, repetition, robotic choreography, indoctrinated speech - it becomes nothing but absurd and disturbing. Every single person in the film feels like a dehumanised puppet and it's tragic. The very last scene made my fiance cry, which I can honestly say is the first time I've ever seen him cry at a film, in 15 years! I found it heartbreaking too. You sense that the little girl knows deep down that something isn't right but she completely lacks the tools to fight against it and her only fate is becoming another one of the puppets. She simply has no hope.

Another interesting documentary about North Korea, but one that's more conventional in explaining what life is like there (which you said you were interested in) is The Propaganda Game. It was in this festival a few years ago actually.

Edit: Going back to the cinematography for a moment, Mansky himself would have made the decisions about how to shoot and frame the action so he definitely gets credit, and his compositions are constantly amazing.
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#15

Post by maxwelldeux » November 29th, 2018, 9:35 pm

Well, I was going to rewatch this, but it just dropped off Netflix, so I'm stuck...

I was on the fence of a 7 or 8 when I initially watched it, but a lot of the reasons why I rounded down you've countered, so now I think I've underrated it. I'd support Under the Sun for the Juror's pick, or Listen to Me Marlon. Or both. Thoughts?

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#16

Post by maxwelldeux » November 30th, 2018, 9:11 pm

maxwelldeux wrote:
November 29th, 2018, 9:35 pm
I was on the fence of a 7 or 8 when I initially watched it, but a lot of the reasons why I rounded down you've countered, so now I think I've underrated it. I'd support Under the Sun for the Juror's pick, or Listen to Me Marlon. Or both. Thoughts?
Bump for flaiky...

How did you want to make the final decision on this?

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#17

Post by flaiky » November 30th, 2018, 9:23 pm

I like to think I'm a compromise-type, but I love Under the Sun so much that if you give me the option, I'm gonna take it tehe I guess I'd also argue that it objectively offers more insight/education than Marlon, which is important for documentaries...

One weird little scene I loved is the c. 5-year-old who can barely stay awake while being lectured on North Korean history (or something). I always love these little details of human behaviour anyway, but within the context of the film it takes on a wider meaning; a textbook example of the subtle, clever tragicomedy and social commentary. Though honestly just about every scene, every shot felt imbued with that for me. Transfixing.
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#18

Post by maxwelldeux » November 30th, 2018, 9:40 pm

flaiky wrote:
November 30th, 2018, 9:23 pm
I like to think I'm a compromise-type, but I love Under the Sun so much that if you give me the option, I'm gonna take it tehe I guess I'd also argue that it objectively offers more insight/education than Marlon, which is important for documentaries...

One weird little scene I loved is the c. 5-year-old who can barely stay awake while being lectured on North Korean history (or something). I always love these little details of human behaviour anyway, but within the context of the film it takes on a wider meaning; a textbook example of the subtle, clever tragicomedy and social commentary. Though honestly just about every scene, every shot felt imbued with that for me. Transfixing.
Sold. Juror's Pick, Under the Sun. Honorable mention: Marlon. :thumbsup:

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#19

Post by sacmersault » November 30th, 2018, 11:46 pm

Didn't finish the section, but here are my ratings for the Audience Award:

In order:
The Nightmare 9/10
T(error) 8/10
Under the Sun 7/10
Requiem for the American Dream 7/10
Beware the Slenderman 6/10

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#20

Post by Jimi Antiloop » December 2nd, 2018, 9:58 pm

Will be my only vote I guess. No time to watch the other selected festival entries.

Under the Sun 8.0/10

Saw this one on the big screen at a film festival. Intense. Sad.
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