“Either I’m a psychopath in sheep’s clothing, or I am you.” Delivered by the principal subject of Rod Blackhurst and Brian McGinn’s Netflix Original documentary, the chilling ambiguity of this opening gambit is the knife-edge course taken to ascertain the truth of Meredith Kercher’s 2007 murder and a shambolic eight-year legal process. Amanda Knox, which premiered at Toronto and streams from 30 September, sees shifts from guilt to innocence and back with metronomic, unfathomable regularity.
It is both continually amusing and rather unexpected that the most offensive exclamation uttered by a director famed for gun battles, bloody violence and pushing the barriers of visual storytelling is “Holy mackerel!” De Palma is an illuminating, engrossing and reverent documentary from fellow filmmakers Noah Baumbach and Jake Paltrow that benefits from mild manners and not taking itself too seriously. It will certainly appeal to film buffs and fans of the New Hollywood alumni’s scintillating back catalogue but it’s not a stuffy or supercilious look at the industry and neither is its principal subject.
A life should be never defined by death. Not least one extinguished as a tool for extremist propaganda. In presenting heartrending documentary Jim: The James Foley Story in such an intimate, personal manner, director Brian Oakes seeks to reclaim the existence of his childhood friend from the unspeakably brutal images that filled screens across the world on 19 August 2014.
“Allah is sufficient for us and he is our guardian.” Amid the collapsed buildings, mountains of rubble and devastating atrocities seen in Ambulance, Mohamed Jabaly’s first-hand account of the 2014 Israeli bombardment of Gaza City, this refrain is uttered by young and old as a cry of resilience, faith and hope for the future.
For much of The Confession: Living the War on Terror its principle subject, Moazzam Begg – a British man suspected of terrorism, but never convicted of any crime, sits opposite a static camera responding to questions from an unseen interviewer. Smartly dressed, strikingly intelligent, eloquent and articulate, his recollections span twenty-five years of persistent turmoil.
“I am Ingrid. This is my story.” Without any air of superiority these straightforward intentions rather understate the life less ordinary laid bare during Ingrid Bergman: In Her Own Words. They do reflect, however, the sincere humility and honesty of a subject who is equally as captivating in a biographical documentary charting her own life as she was over the course of a glittering career.
Success and failure are separated by the finest of margins in all competitive sport, nowhere more so than track and field athletics. British filmmaker Daniel Gordon’s enthralling, well-considered and finely-balanced sports doc The Fall takes as its centrifugal starting point an immovable fork in the road. At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics the women’s 3000m title was, to all intents and purposes, a two horse race.
Ming of Harlem: Twenty One Storeys in the Air could have been a stellar documentary given its subject. Alas, it’s not. The film’s principle voice – and limited success – lies with the eminently watchable, animal-loving Antoine Yates, who, in 2003, was arrested and charged with reckless endangerment for housing a Bengal tiger (Ming) and alligator (named Al) in his spacious twenty-first floor Harlem apartment.
A Poem is a Naked Person is pretty far out, man. In the very loosest sense of the term a documentary biopic of Oklahoma musician Leon Russell, Les Blank’s long-lost film orbits the hirsute, enigmatic singer-songwriter onstage, in the studio and relaxing at home. However, in eschewing effusive talking heads and hagiography this is in no way an inspection of fame, riches and musical stardom. Instead Russell is the magnetic epicentre of a much broader contemplation on the nature of being, creation and self-truth at a time of peace and love.