While Cannes traditionally doesn’t put much of an emphasis on documentary programming, Eric Kohn’s review of Jonathan Caouette’s portrait, “Walk Away Renée” inspired this week’s indieWIRE at Hulu Docs, iW‘s regular curation of Hulu’s Documentaries page. For this edition, we’re looking at a few notable non-fiction portraits, from the Maysles’ seminal profile of door-to-door salesmen to a tongue-in-cheek look at a former televangelist famous for her eyelashes.
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 typically 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.
Rightly celebrated as one of the best works of non-fiction filmmaking ever, Albert Maysles, David Maysles, and Charlotte Zwerin’s “Salesman” is required viewing when considering film portraiture. The film follows four door-to-door salesmen as they try to convince largely working class Catholic families to buy the pricey Bibles they’re selling. Beyond capturing the pressures and absurdities of the men’s work – Capitalism’s uneasy blend with Religion – this intimate slice of direct cinema underscores the loneliness of their lives.
For his remarkable debut feature, “Meadowlark,”, Taylor Greeson revisited a particularly tumultuous time in his life – the summer of his twelfth birthday, when he embraced Mormonism, began a secret relationship with an older man, and was forced to cope with his brother’s murder. His struggles with faith, sexuality, and loss present an interior journey offering insight into who Greeson was as a boy and how they shaped his life in the present.
Werner Erhard, the subject of Robyn Symon’s “Transformation: The Life and Legacy of Werner Erhard” became a pop psychology icon in the 1970s and ’80s by forcing people to take an intense look at themselves through his wildly popular “est” self-help seminar. Giving his first interview in more than a decade, Erhard reveals his history and that of est, including the scandal that led to his downfall.
Scandal couldn’t keep Tammy Faye Bakker Messner down, as recounted in Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato’s whimsical “The Eyes of Tammy Faye.” Tracing the former televangelist’s life and career through the peaks and valleys of fame, success, embezzlement, drug addiction, and relationships, the film constructs a loving portrait of Tammy Faye, no doubt helping her win many a new convert who otherwise may not have ever thought to give her a second chance.
A second chance is exactly what’s sought by Lisa, the crack addicted woman profiled in “Cracked Not Broken.” Her participation in Paul Perrier’s unsettling but honest featurette speaks to her desire to get clean, give up the prostitution that funds her addiction, and resume a more ordinary life, laying bare her demons on camera as a cautionary tale for others to learn from, and to challenge their assumptions about addicts.
Stephanie Silber and Victor Zimet offer another portrait of life on the fringe in “Random Lunacy.” Their main subject is Poppa Neutrino, am eccentric who has lived a nomadic existence for decades, without a fixed home or income, and with his wife and children along for the ride. Through Neutrino’s story, and interviews with members of his tribe, the filmmakers present an entertaining and illuminating look at a life and philosophy outside of society’s conventions.
ABOUT THE WRITER: Basil Tsiokos is a Programming Associate, Documentary Features for Sundance, consults with documentary filmmakers and festivals, and 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).