As fall approaches, distributors roll out awards season contenders The Force, Strong Island, Unrest and more
Documentary lovers will have plenty of high-profile films to experience on the big screen as summer turns to fall.
Among them is Strong Island from director Yance Ford, which won a special jury award for documentary storytelling at the Sundance Film Festival last January. America's legacy of racial injustice underpins the story, which focuses on the killing of the filmmaker's elder brother, William Ford Jr., in 1992. The film opens at Laemmle's Monica Film Center in Santa Monica on September 15, the same day it becomes available on Netflix.
Strong Island chronicles the arc of a family across history, geography and tragedy - from the racial segregation of the Jim Crow South to the promise of New York City; from the presumed safety of middle class suburbs, to the maelstrom of an unexpected, violent death.
Ford worked for a decade as series producer of the PBS documentary program POV before becoming a filmmaker himself. In addition to recognition at Sundance, Strong Island won the jury prize for best documentary at the Frameline festival in San Francisco, as well as prizes at Full Frame, the Montclair Film Festival and the Sheffield International Documentary Festival.
Unrest, the acclaimed directorial debut of Jennifer Brea, opens at IFC Center in New York on September 22 and in Santa Monica and Pasadena, California on September 29.
In Brea's deeply personal film, she turns the camera on herself, documenting her effort to understand an illness that left the 28-year-old Harvard Ph.D candidate with debilitating fatigue and chronic pain. She was eventually diagnosed with ME, often referred to as chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that afflicts millions of people around the world but is often misdiagnosed as a psychiatric malady.
Opening in San Francisco on September 15 and in New York and L.A. on September 22 is The Force by Peter Nicks, which won the documentary directing prize at Sundance.
The Force is "a compelling cinema vérité look deep inside the long-troubled Oakland Police Department as it struggles to confront federal demands for reform, a popular uprising following events in Ferguson, MO, and an explosive scandal," according to promotional materials for the film.
The Force has a texture of a Michael Mann film combined with the clarity of a Frederick Wiseman documentary.
LA Times critic Kennth Turan praised the film as giving "a poignant, realistic sense of the difficulties and challenges of modern policing." Nicks' previous credits include The Waiting Room from 2012, another film noted for its cinema vérité style.
These are among the other major documentaries set for theatrical release in the coming days and weeks:
>Dolores, directed by Peter Bratt, the story of labor and human rights activist Dolores Huerta, co-founder with Cesar Chavez of the United Farm Workers union.
The film opens in New York on Friday (September 1) and in L.A. September 8.
>Motherland, directed by Ramona S. Diaz, a film set in "the planet's busiest maternity hospital," catering to low-income women in Manila, Philippines.
The film opens at Cinema Village in New York on September 8 and at Laemmle Monica Film Center in Santa Monica on September 22. Watch the trailer here.
>Trophy, directed by Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau, a film on the trade in endangered species, including elephants, rhinos and lions. "Trophy will leave you debating what is right, what is wrong and what is necessary in order to save the great species of the world," publicists tell Nonfictionfilm.com.
Trophy opens September 8 in New York and September 15 in L.A., with a nationwide release to follow. Watch the trailer here.
>Manolo: The Boy Who Made Shoes for Lizards, directed by Michael Roberts, a portrait of the legendary shoe designer Manolo Blahnik. Anna Wintour, Rihanna, Paloma Picasso, Iman, Naomi Campbell, and Isaac Mizrahi are among the luminaries interviewed for the film.
Manolo opens in L.A. and New York September 15. Watch the trailer here.
>School Life, directed by Neasa Ní Chianáin and David Rane, a documentary that "follows a year in the lives of two inspirational teachers in the only primary-age boarding school in Ireland... Headfort, a school not unlike Hogwarts with its 18th century buildings, secret doors and magical woodlands."
The film opens in New York and L.A. September 8. Watch the trailer here.
>Wasted! The Story of Food Waste, directed by Anna Chai and Nari Kye, executive-produced and narrated by Anthony Bourdain. "Through the eyes of chef-heroes like Bourdain, Dan Barber, Mario Batali, Massimo Bottura, and Danny Bowien, audiences will see how the world’s most influential chefs make the most of every kind of food, transforming what most people consider scraps and rejects into incredible dishes that feed more people and create a more sustainable food system," according to publicists for the film.
Wasted! opens in theaters and on demand platforms October 13.
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and Documentary.org.