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Is "The Ambassador" Exploitation or Expose?

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • August 30, 2012 7:48 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Mads Brugger's "The Ambassador" was one of the most talked about films at the Sundance Film Festival, generating buzz that's rare for a film in the festival's far-flung world documentary cinema competition. In my latest Docutopia column, I finally caught up with the film, upon its release in the U.S., and I think the movie opens up a valuable discussion on the ethics of documentary-making, which Brugger's film arguably lacks much of. As I wrote, "If there were an ethical report card for nonfiction filmmakers, Brügger would likely receive a failing grade."

Why the Success of Anti-Obama Doc "2016" Doesn't Mean Anything for the Presidential Election

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • August 25, 2012 8:54 PM
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  • 16 Comments
SInce it's opening in theaters, I've been downplaying the success of the anti-Obama doc “2016: Obama’s America,” based on conservative author Dines D’Souza’s conservative book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage.” Now that the film is proving to be a strong box-office contender, and that's now an indisputable fact with ticket sales exceeding $5 million over the weekend, and growing, let's look at this piece of right-wing propaganda another way: Just because it's making money doesn't really mean anything this election season.

Anti-Obama Doc Over-inflates Success

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • August 23, 2012 10:04 AM
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  • 6 Comments
Okay, so the anti-Obama doc “2016: Obama’s America,” based on conservative author Dines D’Souza’s book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” is continuing a solid box-office run in theaters, but it's not nearly as successful as the media is reporting. And it's not just conservative outlets that are touting its triumphs. For instance, even ABC News misreported that the film's $2.4 million in ticket sales has made "it the 12th highest-grossing political documentary in history," which seems like it was excerpted from a press release. The statement is highly skewed, considering the loose definition of "political documentary." While $2.4 million is definitely a good number for a theatrical documentary, it's no record breaker. (In fact, it ranks 64th, according to Box Office Mojo, but you won't see that statistic in the news.)

Should the Left Boycott Landmark? Mark Cuban and Citizens United Team Up for Anti-Occupy Doc

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • August 6, 2012 2:19 PM
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  • 6 Comments
It's too bad neither the Occupy Wall Street movement, nor its supporters, have created a compelling full-length narrative documentary to define themselves yet. Because it looks like the rightwing group Citizens United have beat them to it, with a film called "Occupy Unmasked," directed by Stephen Bannon (maker of the "Undefeated" Sarah Palin hagiography). With his trademark lack of subtley, Bannon is sure to deliver a highly biased, rightwing diatribe against Occupy. Mark Cuban's Magnet Releasing, it was anonunced today, will give the film a limited theatrical release day and date with VOD in late September.

Docs "Semper Fi" and "Invisible War" Hold U.S. Military Accountable; Lead to Substantive Change

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • August 2, 2012 12:47 PM
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  • 0 Comments
For those looking for solid evidence of the efficacy of documentaries to enact social change, I point you to Rachel Libert and Tony Hardmon's "Semper Fi: Always Faithful," which tracks the U.S. military's horrible record of not regulating chemicals at their bases, leading to groundwater pollution and tragic health effects for the soldiers and staff who live on them. On Tuesday, the House of Representatives approved the Janey Ensminger Act, which will provide health care to those who lived or worked at Camp Lejeune, the North Carolina military base depicted in the film. President Obama is likely to sign the bill into law next week.

Docs are the best reviewed movies of the year; so why don't you see them?

  • By Anthony Kaufman
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  • August 1, 2012 12:23 PM
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  • 2 Comments
"Searching for Sugar Man"
According to review aggregation sites Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic, documentaries consistently rank among the best-reviewed movies of the year. According to Metacritic, Jafar Panahi’s filmmaker self-portrait This is Not a Film currently tops 2012, while Rotten Tomatoes ranks The Invisible War and Planet of Snail with perfect 100% ratings, followed closely behind by Jiro Dreams of Sushi, The Island President (each with 98%) and The Imposter (97%). But they're still considered second-class citizens in the marketplace. In my latest Docutopia column at the Sundance Now website, I address this lingering and unfortunate situation.

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