It's awards season, which means we've been hit over the head with talk of the same movies ad nauseum for months. There's only so much you can discuss the wigs of American Hustle. So let's take a break from all of that and talk about the most under-appreciated film category, the documentary. Here are a few that changed the lives of some KQED Pop writers this year.
Jeremy Scahill's Oscar nominated documentary Dirty Wars, directed by Rick Rowly, will be at The Castro Theatre tonight at 5:05pm and 9:30pm. Based on Scahill's book by the same name, this film is smart, brave, profoundly empathetic and utterly devastating. Scahill, an investigative journalist known for his reporting for The Nation and his book Blackwater: The Rise and Fall of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army, is willing to travel places few (or no) other journalist will go, and the resulting information is the brutal and shocking truth you wish wasn't really true. He talks to Somalian warlords funded by the United States government, the father of a U.S. citizen killed in a drone strike, and an anonymous informant from the Joint Special Operations Command, painting a horrifying portrait of the covert wars happening all over the world, not just in the places where we think they are.
Dirty Wars has already won the Cinematography Award at Sundance, and I can see why; it has the compelling artistry often designated for fiction, and the writing has none of the cheesy voice-over that sometimes takes down even the best of documentaries. Scahill is clearly ferocious (in a good way), committed and just a little bit reckless. Next up, he is rumored to be working with Glen Greenwald and Laura Poitrus on a new project funded by eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, and he can be found tweeting with Teju Cole here. Dirty Wars is also streaming on Netflix, so you have no excuse to miss it. --Laura Schadler
Last night, while surfing through the endless amount of reality/non-HBO television, I happened upon a documentary titled Blood Brother, the ninth episode in (coincidentally!) PBS's Independent Lens series. I read the premise quickly and the main subject was a graphic designer, Rocky Braat, who moves to India to care for children and women affected by HIV. I had never heard of this film and went into it with no expectations, thinking I might even just turn the channel. And then the story unfolded and it turned out to be one of the most compelling and inspirational things I've seen on television perhaps in my 30 years on Earth.