In less than three weeks, 2011 will see its first major batch of new independent films when this year’s Sundance Film Festival kicks off in Park City on January 20th. Documentaries have always been a major component of the event, with two of the four competitions devoted to US and World Cinema docs. For this and the next curation of Hulu’s Documentaries page by indieWIRE, we’ll present a number of notable non-fiction works that were part of past Sundance lineups.
EDITOR’S NOTE: “indieWIRE @ Hulu Docs” is a regular column spotlighting the iW-curated selections on Hulu’s Documentaries page, a unique collaboration between the two sites. iW selections appear in the carousel at the top of the page and under “Featured Content” in the center. Be sure to check out the great non-fiction projects available to watch free of charge.
Technically premiering at the Utah/US Film Festival in 1989, Sundance’s previous name, “For All Mankind” was the winner of the Documentary Grand Jury Prize and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary the following year. Al Reinert’s breathtaking film combines archival audio and visual footage from Apollo missions of the 1960s and 1970s to detail travel to the moon, supplemented by interviews with the astronauts.
After premiering in Toronto in 2003, “The Corporation” won the 2004 Sundance World Cinema Documentary Audience Award. Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott’s polemic examines the status of US corporations as legal “persons,” and analyzes their practices within this context, resulting in thought-provoking conclusions.
One of the most popular films at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, Nick Broomfield’s “Biggie and Tupac” reminds us that the British documentarian loves controversy. His investigation into the unsolved murders of hip hop rivals The Notorious B.I.G and Tupac Shakur reflects his brash style, in which he figures prominently on camera during the course of the film, often putting himself in harm’s way for the sake of the story.
Like Broomfield, Morgan Spurlock is one of a handful of documentarians who have successfully incorporated themselves as subjects in their own projects. “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?,” which premiered at Sundance 2008, finds the filmmaker traveling around the world to try to gain a better insight into the impact of the War on Terror – despite having a pregnant wife at home.
Sam Green and Bill Siegel’s “The Weather Underground” premiered at Sundance in 2003 in the US Documentary Competition and was nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature the following year. This compelling, archival-rich portrait traces the history of The Weathermen, one of the most extreme and radical activist groups of the 1970s and the federal government’s response to their violent tactics.
“The End of the Line” premiered as part of Sundance’s World Cinema Documentary Competition in 2009. Rupert Murray’s film is an adaptation of a book of the same title by Charles Clover warning of the environmental impact of overfishing, threatening some marine species with extinction, causing imbalance in the marine ecosystem, and contributing to the loss of jobs to individuals who depend on other aspects of the sea for their income. At the same time, it focuses on solutions, presenting audiences with information on sustainable fishing practices to influence more environmentally friendly consumption.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance, consults with documentary filmmakers and festivals, and recently co-produced Cameron Yates’ feature documentary “The Canal Street Madam.” Follow him on Twitter (@1basil1 and @CanalStMadamDoc) and visit his blog (what (not) to doc).