“March of the Penguins” Review

March of the Penguins (La Marche de l’empereur) (2005)

Penguins are living lessons in caring for the earth and its creatures, in all their beauty and vulnerability.” Charles Bergman

This beautiful documentary, narrated by Morgan Freeman, gets close and personal with emperor penguins, marvellous, unique animals that reside in one of the harshest environments found on Earth – Antarctica. From penguins’ tricky courting rituals to the hatching of an egg, a remarkable moment, and the raising of chicks, March of the Penguins follows every step in emperor penguins’ lives, providing much insight.

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“Downfall: The Case Against Boeing” Review

Downfall (2022)

I love scrupulously-put-together documentaries that deal with criminal or social justice issues, and Downfall is one of them. It shows the rise and fall of the engineering company Boeing in the context of two airplane disasters that happened in October 2018 (Lion Air Flight) and March 2019 (Ethiopian Airlines Flight) and involved the same aircraft manufactured by Boeing – 737 MAX. The company’s culture of never hearing bad news and hiding important documents, a new airplane system MCAS, as well as Boeing’s concealment of it from the pilots to save money, all led to the total loss of 346 human lives. Starting from the foundation of the company and ending with the lessons drawn from the two disasters and the grounding of the Boeing fleet, Downfall painstakingly shows every development in this tragic story, demonstrating the full extent of the American corporate greed. Treating everything as “mere business” is very dangerous, especially when human safety is concerned and human lives are potentially at stake.

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“Tell Me Who I Am” Review

Tell Me Who I Am (2019)

Any film or documentary that centres on identical twins and their relationship is fascinating in its own right, but if that film or documentary also involves the case of complete amnesia, dark secrets and buried past, then it becomes one of the most interesting ever (at least for me). Tell Me Who I Am is based on a memoir of the same name by twins Alex and Marcus Lewis, and Joanna Hodgkin, and tells the real story of Alex Lewis, who lost all his memories when he was involved in a motorcycle accident at the age of 18. From that time onwards, Alex had to rely on his identical twin brother Marcus to tell him everything – from how to tie his shoelaces and ride his bicycle to who he was and what were the relationships inside their family. As time passes in the story, however, Alex starts to doubt that Marcus tells him everything. Tell Me Who I Am is brutal in its portrayal of the truth and distressing because of its emerging subject matter, but it is also a fearless exploration of our reliance on memory, that is always an important element dictating our sense of identity and our relationships with others. The documentary presents a powerful and often fragile relationship between two identical brothers torn apart by a dark family secret.

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Documentary Reviews: “Love, Antosha”, “Tower”, & “13th”

love antosha posterI. Love, Antosha (2019)

This is a moving documentary that explores the life of actor Anton Yelchin (Star Trek (2009), Green Room (2015), Thoroughbreds (2017)), from his birth in Russia to his last films. This is an engaging and respectful feature that aims to pay tribute to this person of great potential taken too soon. Yelchin died on 19 June 2016, suffering a fatal crash between a brick wall and a fence when his car rolled back on him in his parking space in Los Angeles. Through his own footages, as well as the interviews conducted with his parents, close friends and co-workers, we find out what kind of a person Anton really was – extremely devoted to his loving parents, loyal to his friends, kind, generous, curious, intellectual, funny, goofy, and passionate about many aspects of life. He possessed a great charisma and acting skills, having started acting at a very young age and then later acting alongside such stars as Anthony Hopkins, Robin Williams, Albert Finney, Jodie Foster and Willem Dafoe. It is safe to say that, given his talent, he was just on the brink of “breaking through” in his career and just needed that one very successful big movie that will escalate his career much further, a movie that, sadly, will never now come. By recognising him as an absolute star now, we can at least pay tribute to this potential, to the person who was so passionate about acting and films, and whose kind, curious and sparkling personality will always be remembered. 
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“The Imposter” Review

The Imposter PosterThe Imposter (2012)

This story would have been nice fiction if it were also not so very true. This awards-winning documentary details the real story of Frederic Bourdin, a French confidence trickster, who impersonated Nicholas Barclay, a boy from Texas, who, in turn, vanished without a trace when he was 13 in 1993. This documentary is really akin to some fast-paced and compelling thriller, and one has to remind oneself that the events depicted actually happened. But, how could they have, really? And what may a 23-year-old French man found in Spain have in common with a 13-year-old American boy who disappeared from his home in 1993? At first glance – nothing at all, and, at second glance – perhaps the desire to be found and loved. Bart Layton (American Animals (2018)) raises many issues in his documentary, making it personal, compelling and suspenseful. 

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“Three Identical Strangers” Review

Three Identical Strangers PosterThree Identical Strangers (2018)     

Tim Wardle’s Three Identical Strangers is a documentary about an incredible true story of three identical brothers (David, Eddie and Robert) who were separated shortly after birth and who then get to know each other for the first time at the age of 19 through one incredible reunion. However, the documentary is also about much more than this. The incredible reunion of the triplets is just part of the story’s package to amaze. As we see further, after the triplets’ reunion, the documentary delves into the nature/nurture debate, uncovers the previous troubled lives of the separated triplets, and then, finally, presents one shocking revelation. In that vein, the documentary first amazes its viewers, leaving an unforgettable impression, and then profoundly shocks, raising an outrage inside every viewer who has a heart. 

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“Abacus: Small Enough to Jail” Review

Abacus Small Enough to Jail Poster

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail (2017)

Nobody gets justice. People only get good luck or bad luck” (Orson Welles). It seems that this quote is particularly applicable to the story, where one financial institution based in Chinatown, New York – Abacus, became the centre of the government’s prosecution in 2012, and still remains to this day “the only US bank indicted for mortgage fraud related to the 2008 crisis”. Perhaps, Abacus just has not been lucky, but did they really deserve such a massive, million-dollar prosecution against them, with definite prison sentences hanging over their heads if they found convicted? No. They say that “selective justice” is the worst there is, but what is here even more shocking is that “the targeting for justice” by the American government was not too unreasonable – Abacus was both, small enough and, actually, – foreign enough. Hence, the justification for all the criminal charges, whereas other massive banks committing even worse crimes could escape with a fine. Director Steve James made this thought-provoking documentary about one small financial institution’s fight against injustice and it already has the distinction to be nominated for an Academy Award. This well-made documentary piece, packed with insightful interviews, fascinating legal processes, human stories and warmth towards other culture, is a real eye-opener.

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“California Typewriter” Review

21032751_1965785847022028_1477658988198835929_n California Typewriter (2017)

Narrated by Tom Hanks, John Mayer, Sam Shepard and David McCullough, among others, California Typewriter is an insightful documentary about one particular loss which technological advances are capable of causing. One small family-run business in California revolves around the selling and mending of typewriters, and still believes in the power and value of typewriters in today’s world, which has become dominated by personal computers and digital technologies. Through the interviews held with various people, we realise the particular value which typewriters can still bring into this world, as well as get to know the fascinating history of typewriters.

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“Dreams of a Life” Review

Dreams of a Life PosterDreams of a Life (2011)

Directed by Carol Morley, Dreams of a Life is a documentary film telling the real case of Joyce Vincent, a 38 year-old woman who died alone at her bedsit flat in London in December 2003, but her body was not discovered until late January 2006. When the body of Joyce was discovered, it was badly decomposed; a TV and heating in her room were still working; and Christmas presents were neatly arranged beside her, although covered with the three-year old layer of dust. Joyce has always given the impression to be a well-spoken, vivacious, attractive and confident woman; giving this impression of someone “who is probably living somewhere a better life than anyone else around”, although her mysterious nature did surface from time to time. This made the Joyce Vincent case even more prolific in the UK, and it sparked national outrage, with people failing to understand how it is ever possible for someone so relatively young, attractive and friendly to die in one’s home in a populous area of London, and not be discovered for three years. People who live in big cities, like London, pride themselves of being well-connected, and the case of Joyce shows a darker side of living in a world which is, although better connected than ever, is sometimes too self-absorbed to pay attention to the environment around.

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