Winehouse, Brando and Farley among the famous getting big screen treatment.
There are issue documentaries and personality documentaries-- and occasionally a combination of the two-- citizenfour being a prime example. Coming soon to theaters and TV screens are several of each kind of documentary which are entertaining, compelling and informative.
>Amy directed by Asif Kapadia. The film about the late singer Amy Winehouse is among the most buzzed-about documentaries of the year, winning strong reviews from Variety and Vanity Fair, among others. But the Winehouse family isn't pleased, releasing a statement "dissociating" itself from the production, which the family calls a "missed opportunity." Trailer here
>Cartel Land directed by Matthew Heineman. Donald Trump's recent comments notwithstanding, the catastrophic drug-related violence in Mexico has mostly slipped from US headlines in the past couple of years. Cartel Land will help remind you how desperate the situation is.
Heineman risked his life to go on the ground in the midst of the drug war, uncovering thick layers of moral ambiguity. His hero is Dr. Jose Mireles, a physician in the state of Michoacán, who forms a citizen militia, the "Autodefensas," to combat the drug cartels. Meanwhile, in Arizona, ex-army man Tim "Nailer" Foley forms a paramilitary operation of his own to police the cartels north of the border.
Dynamic and visceral filmmaking. Opens NYC July 3 and LA July 10. Trailer here
>The Outrageous Sophie Tucker by William Gazecki. A portrait of the great entertainer Sophie Tucker, known as the "last of the red hot mamas," who became world famous in the 1920s for her risqué humor and powerful singing voice. Imagine Mae West, Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and Ethel Merman rolled into one, and you begin to get an idea of Tucker's appeal. The film features commentary from Tony Bennett, Barbara Walters and Carol Channing among others. Trailer here
>Listen to Me Marlon directed by Stevan Riley. The filmmaker creates a fascinating and immersive portrait of the great Marlon Brando, through previously-unheard audio recordings which the actor made for self-hypnosis and self-motivation. Riley went so far as to recreate Brando's home (which was torn down after his death) in London to situate the voice in its original environment. Trailer here
>Best of Enemies directed by Oscar-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom) and Grammy winner Robert Gordon. A documentary about the intellectual fisticuffs between conservative William F. Buckley Jr. and leftist Gore Vidal, who squared off on television over the summer of 1968. The film suggests their memorably erudite and vitriolic debates changed American political discourse.
Variety calls it "thoroughly engrossing and surprisingly entertaining." Trailer here
>I Am Chris Farley directed by Brent Hodge and Derik Murray. It's been more than 15 years since the untimely death of comedian Chris Farley. His comic brilliance and self-destructive life are remembered in this documentary by the people who knew him best: his brothers, and fellow SNL cast members and alums including Mike Myers, Adam Sandler, Kevin Nealon, Dan Aykroyd and David Spade, with whom Farley made a couple of funny movies, Black Sheep and Tommy Boy.
Opens theatrically in New York and LA on July 31st. Premieres August 10th on Spike TV, followed immediately by release on VOD. Trailer here
>Call Me Lucky directed by Bobcat Goldthwait. The standup comedian trains his camera on a fellow practitioner of the craft, Barry Crimmins, a performer whose dark past inspired him to become an advocate for abuse victims. The films includes interviews with some of comedy's best-known talent including Steven Wright, David Cross, Margaret Cho, Patton Oswalt and Marc Maron.
Goldthwait says his late friend Robin Williams gave him the money to fund the project. The film premiered at Sundance and has won awards from the Boston Independent Film Festival, the Chicago Critics Film Festival and the Boulder International Film Festival, among others. Trailer here
>Meru directed by Jimmy Chin. The second climbing-themed documentary to come out in recent months, after Sunshine Superman. The Shark's Fin on Mount Meru in Northern India is considered possibly the most difficult peak to ascend in the world, harder even than Mt. Everest in the opinion of some experts. This documentary shows the attempt by a trio of friends -- including Chin -- to summit Meru in 2011.
According to the publicist, the documentary was "made with no recreations." It includes commentary from Jon Krakauer, author of the Everest disaster bestseller Into Thin Air. Opens in New York, LA, Seattle and Minneapolis August 14; opens in Boston, Berkeley, Atlanta, San Francisco, San Diego August 21, and expands to more cities in the following weeks. Trailer here
Documentaries playing now (released June 26):
>What Happened, Miss Simone? directed by Liz Garbus. Streaming currently on Netflix. A fascinating look at the supremely talented and deeply troubled singer Nina Simone who ranks among the most gifted recording artists of the 20th century. Trailer here
>3 1/2 Minutes, Ten Bullets directed by Marc Silver. A riveting film that takes viewers inside the trial of Michael Dunn, a white man who shot an unarmed black teenager, Jordan Davis, at a gas station over a dispute about loud rap music. Silver incorporates jailhouse phone conversations between Michael Dunn and his then fiancée which shine a stark light on the corrosive and deadly influence of unconscious racism. Trailer here
>A Murder in the Park directed by Shawn Rech and Brandon Kimber. The story of Anthony Porter, an inmate on Illinois' death row who won freedom through the intercession of the Innocence Project. The film raises uncomfortable questions-- did the Innocence Project try to falsely blame someone else for the crime, and was Porter really guilty? Trailer here
>BatKid Begins directed by Dana Nachman. There is viral and then there is viral. Nachman's film takes us back a year-and-a-half to the story that became a worldwide phenomenon-- San Francisco's embrace of "BatKid," five-year-old cancer patient Miles Scott. The city, in combination with the Make-a-Wish Foundation, helped make Miles the Dark Knight for a day, fighting crime and bringing joy to people around the globe. Trailer here
Matt Carey has written and produced multiple documentaries for CNN and contributed to CNN.com, TheWrap and Documentary magazine. He is based in Los Angeles