“Nikolaus Geyrhalter is certainly not the first documentarian to make life on the planet’s margins the core of his body of work, but he might yet be one of the best,” proclaims Benjamin Mercer in The L Magazine. The Austrian director’s six feature films are being shown at New York’s Anthology Film Archives in a retrospective beginning today. Geyrhalter’s films, Mercer continues, “often unfold in remote corners of the world, but taken together they are not so much discrete National Geographic-ready pop ethnographies as records of a single world-historical transition stage.”
The series kicks off tonight with Geyrhalter’s 1999 documentary “Pripyat.” “Never mind ‘The Road,'” writes the Village Voice’s Rob Nelson. “Geyrhalter’s inspection of the 20-mile restricted zone around the Chernobyl nuclear accident site in the Ukraine comes closer than any other film to portraying what the post-apocalyptic world might look like.”
“For his most recent film, ‘7915 Km’ (2008), Geyrhalter didn’t just go to the Sahara and western Africa whenever; he went during the Dakar Rally, an overland race that’s hugely popular among gearheads and joyriding Europeans,” notes Darrell Hartman in Art Forum. “To many Africans, it resembles an alien visitation. One girl explains she named her goat Rally because it was born the day the foreign drivers came through her village. But the race, inevitably, also stirs resentment and tears up roads; the dust, once kicked up, seems to linger, the residue of a drive-by moment that encapsulates, for Geyrhalter and many of his subjects, the glamour, elusiveness, and cruel disregard of the near but distant West.”
Watch a trailer for “7915 Km” on YouTube.
On the subject of documentaries, Geralyn Pezanoski’s “Mine” opens today in New York. “Sad puppies are just about the most shameless thing to build a movie around (and I’m not above a tear or ten). So it speaks well to the seriousness of Mine, a Katrina-pets-in-jeopardy documentary, that a deeper, more vexing subject is prodded in addition to the sobbing reflex,” writes Time Out New York’s Joshua Rothkopf.
“‘Mine’ isn’t fully successful — it’s a bit ragged and, at 81 minutes, far too short for the scope of its ambitions — but it’s smart, sincere and affecting,” concludes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times, while Slant Magazine’s Andrew Schenker maintains, “It would probably take a far more avid dog lover than me to take for granted the emotional bond between man and canine necessary for a full appreciation of ‘Mine,’ but either way Geralyn Pezanoski’s doc about the efforts to reunite Hurricane Katrina victims with their lost pooches is pretty soapy stuff.”
Watch the trailer for “Mine” on YouTube.