Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Unknown Known

At the end of The Unknown Known, director Errol Morris asks his subject, Donald Rumsfeld, why he agreed to be interviewed. But it’s easy to imagine why Rummy bit down on the bait he devours with such evident pleasure, making what he clearly sees as an irrefutable case in his own defense. The more interesting question is: what did Morris hope to achieve in giving him that platform?

Call it the fog of Rumsfeld.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Return to Homs

Talal Derki's Return to Homs is a testament to the power of video to document resistance to corrupt and abusive regimes—in this case, that of Syria's Bashar al-Assad. It's also a witness to the limits of that power.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


Who is Marty Jackitansky (Joshua Burge), the title character of writer-director Joel Potrykus's darkly funny Buzzard? His regular phone calls to his mother and the clumsy lies he tells her about how well he's doing ("I don't ever act like that anymore. I'm happy now. Everyone really likes me") make him sound like a mixed-up kid, while his sardonic contempt for rules seems comically heroic at first: As he searches for new ways to rip off the soul-sucking bank where he temps for $9.50 an hour, Buzzard feels like a downscale variation on Office Space—one whose hero doesn't think big enough to come up with a way to make hundreds of thousands (he just skims off $20 here or $50 there).

This is a study of an interesting character—hard to like, harder to dismiss, and impossible to pigeonhole.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Her Brand is Global Connectivity

I talked to Brooklyn-based filmmaker Rachel Boynton, director of Our Brand is Crisis, about her latest film, Big Men, for The L.

Big Men and Our Brand is Crisis are both cautionary tales about global capitalism centered around Americans trying to control major aspects of life in another country -- the presidency of Bolivia in Crisis, and Ghana's newly discovered oil reserves in Big Men. Is that a theme you plan to keep exploring?
When I first got involved in documentary filmmaking, fresh out of college, I had a little more confidence in my own capacity to change the world. I was really interested in the idea of getting Americans to think about how they are related to the rest of the world.

As I have gotten older, my interests changed, I’ve changed, but I’ve remained consistently fascinated by the intersection of different ways of seeing. At the time that I finished Our Brand, oil prices were going though the roof. The price of oil was on everybody’s list. I didn’t have kids yet, and I was at the point in my life when I thought I could take on something kind of epic. The original idea was, I’m going to make a film about the oil business from inside the oil business.