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Documentaries

“I looked at him, and he ran to me. That’s when everything started to get a lot better.” First Run Features has debuted an official trailer for an indie documentary titled To Be of Service, the latest doggie doc to arrive this year. From experienced doc director Josh Aronson, To Be of Service explores the remarkable life changes resulting from the introduction of trained service dogs into the lives of military veterans suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Not all war veterans can get this kind of help, but for the lucky ones who are paired up with a service dog, the unconditional love and support offered by these highly trained canines become the bedrock for them to re-engage with the outside world and to learn to feel again. The film profiles these veterans and their service dogs: Greg Kolodziejczyk and Valor, Sylvia Bowersox and Timothy, Tom Moody and Mako, Brandon Lewis and Booth, Phil Bauer and Champ, Walter Parker and …

“Won’t someone help me lose my mind?” Abramorama has debuted the trailer for the music documentary film titled Mountaintop, opening in select theaters this month. The film is a “raw and extremely unfiltered look” at the process of Neil Young working with Crazy Horse to make their first new album in 7 years – titled Colorado. It’s another one of these “how we made the music” docs cross-promoting the album, much like Bruce Springsteen’s Western Stars – also out this fall. But this one has more curse words. “Providing fans around the world with the opportunity to see how Neil and the band put it all together is a particularly rare and exciting experience,” said Abramorama CEO Richard Abramowitz. “Witness the laughter, tensions, crusty attitudes & love of a rock & roll band that’s been together for 50 years as they share their passion, first and foremost… for the music.” The fish-eye lens footage in this is a bit odd, …

“I have been lying for 20 years…” Netflix has unveiled an official trailer for a documentary titled Tell Me Who I Am, made by doc director Ed Perkins. This initially premiered at the Telluride Film Festival, and is next playing at the London Film Festival. What if every memory that haunts you could be erased, or even rewritten? This is the ethical dilemma that Marcus Lewis faced when his identical twin Alex awakened after a motorcycle accident and Marcus was the only person Alex recognized. With no memories at all, Alex relied entirely on his brother as he tried to understand who he was. Tell Me Who I Am is a very heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful voyage that explores the blurred boundaries of memory and reality, and emotional bonds that allow us to survive. This looks like a remarkably fascinating doc about figuring out who we really are. Here’s the official trailer (+ poster) for Ed Perkins’ doc Tell Me Who …

“Home is a watering hole in paradise.” AppleTV+ has debuted an official trailer for an indie documentary titled The Elephant Queen, a full 96 minute doc film that is one of the first to be available exclusively on Apple’s new TV+ streaming service. The film is also getting a small theatrical release later this month, if you’re going to be around NY or LA. “The Elephant Queen” is Athena, a majestic elephant matriarch, who leads her family across an unforgiving, yet cinematic natural landscape of grasslands and woodlands, dotted with seasonal waterholes. Athena, as leader of her herd, anticipates the coming dry season and knows there are lean times ahead. When the waterholes dry up, she has no choice but to take her family on a treacherous journey across even more foreboding African landscapes. Featuring music by Alex Heffes, and narration by Chiwetel Ejiofor. This looks like your typical inspiring animal doc usually shown at science museums. Official trailer (+ poster) …

“You gotta speak your truth, that’s what’s gunna free you.” Lightyear Ent. has debuted an official trailer for an indie documentary titled 16 Bars, the latest from filmmaker Sam Bathrick. The film is about a prison music program to help prisoners find a better outlet for their anger. Inmates in a Virginia jail attempt to transcend the cycle of recidivism through an artistic collaboration behind bars with the Grammy-winning hip hop artist Todd “Speech” Thomas. “As the creative process unfolds, these incarcerated artists must confront the traumas of their past, and music becomes the key to unlocking a new chapter in their lives.” There are a number of good prison program films, including the doc 45 Seconds of Laughter and the film The Mustang, so this isn’t anything new. But it is a bit of a different angle (music) we haven’t seen too often. Here’s the first official trailer (+ poster) for Sam Bathrick’s documentary 16 Bars, direct from Vimeo: 16 Bars …

“I really wish there were more people helping me fight this.” 1091 Media has debuted an official trailer for an indie documentary titled We Believe In Dinosaurs, which is a clever title for a film about people who do not believe in dinosaurs. The documentary follows the design and construction of a massive $120 million Noah’s Ark replica in rural Kentucky, an attraction for religious fanatics, telling the story of the unsettling and uniquely American conflict between science and religion. Their aim is to prove that the Earth is only 6,000 years old and that the Bible is scientifically accurate. Of course, we all know how laughable this all is. It’s described as a “jarring cultural examination in the vein of Jesus Camp,” that “explores the complicated relationship between science and religion by peering into one of the most prominent cultural ‘bubbles’ in the United States today.” This actually looks like a rather fascinating doc film, a story about local …

“Every person that we do meet has an interaction that changes them.” MTV has unveiled an official full-length trailer for the uplifting documentary Gay Chorus Deep South, made by filmmaker David Charles Rodrigues. This premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, and we also featured a teaser trailer when it was known as the first ever “Airbnb Production”. Now it seems to have switched to a “Sheila Nevins / MTV Documentary Film”, the first ever MTV Doc release. Gay Chorus Deep South is about, as the title says, the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus following them as they embark upon a tour of the American Deep South. Many members will be going back to the communities they once fled, confronting prejudices and pain from their past. This has been winning numerous Audience Awards at multiple festivals throughout the year, including at the Tribeca & Berkshire Film Festivals. This looks like a very inspiring, empowering film. Here’s the full official …

“She was obsessed with how media reflects its society back to itself.” Zeitgeist Films & Kino Lorber have debuted an official trailer for a fascinating indie documentary film titled Recorder, in full Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project. Marion Stokes secretly recorded television 24 hours a day for 30 years from 1975 until her death in 2012. For Marion taping was a form of activism to seek the truth, and she believed that a comprehensive archive of the media would be invaluable for future generations. (Perhaps she was right?) Her visionary and maddening project nearly tore her family apart, but now her 70,000 VHS tapes are being digitized and they’ll be searchable online. Described as “a mystery in the form of a time capsule”, this looks like a remarkably compelling doc about the media, about television, and about a woman who just wanted us to see the truth of what’s really going on in our modern (endlessly televised) society. Definitely worth …

“She refused to be intimidated.” Film Forum has unveiled an official trailer for the documentary What She Said: The Art of Pauline Kael, a biopic doc profiling the controversial film critic with a “sharp tongue”. This originally premiered at the Telluride Film Festival last year, and it has gone on to play at numerous festivals all throughout this year so far. The film is a portrait of the work of controversial film critic Pauline Kael (who passed away in 2001 at the age of 82) and her influence on the male-dominated worlds of cinema and film criticism. It’s an often humorous, searing look at the power of film criticism and the passion Kael had for speaking up and sharing her opinion – even when others didn’t like it. “In an inspired and passionate mash-up of her own words, contemporary interviews and the films she wrote about, Rob Garver has crafted in his feature documentary a remarkably captivating portrait of a …

“This is not just paranoia.” Netflix has debuted an official trailer for an indie documentary titled Ghosts of Sugar Land, a 21-minute short doc that premiered at the Sundance Film Festival earlier this year. Made by filmmaker Bassam Tariq, of the docs These Birds Walk and 11/8/16 previously. Ghosts of Sugar Land is about a group of suburban Muslims who attempt to reconcile the disappearance of a close friend and must learn to live with the consequences of his choices. Winner of a Short Film Jury Award for Non-Fiction at Sundance, the film “stirringly traces the guilt, fear, and sadness of these men as they try to piece together what happened to their friend.” The way everyone has to cover up their faces in this is frightening and really worrying – not just a compelling creative choice, but it says so much. But the twist at the end is a whammy. Here’s the official trailer (+ poster) for Bassam Tariq’s doc …