20 Feet From Stardom (2013). Directed by Morgan Neville. Cinematography by Nicola Marsh and Graham Willoughby.
The Boss explains the outsized journey from backup singer to frontman: “I know tremendous backup singers who just aren’t comfortable in that position. You gotta have that narcissism, you gotta have that ego. It can be a pretty long walk.”
Sound City (2013). Directed by Dave Grohl. Director of Photography Kenny Stoff.
This is Neil Giraldo describing Rick Springfield’s pit terrier at his crotch during the recording of Jessie’s Girl. ”So we get ready to do the take. All of a sudden the dog comes into the studio, sits down, puts his nose right in my crotch. It’s like if I screw up he’s going to bite me. What the hell is going on here? And I made it through the take. It might have even been the one we used.”
Nina Simone: The Legend (1992). Directed and shot by Frank Lords.
This is the late Stanley Wise, who served as executive secretary of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee in its heyday. “Her music was just more than powerful, and it was more than music. It was a philosophy and a belief that despite all of these problems, we will get through this. And not only will we get through it, but we will survive and triumph in this.”
Imelda (2003). Director Ramona Diaz. Cinematography by Ferne Pearlstein.
The eponymous Imelda Marcos recounts the origin of the Filipino national anthem. “We were really a commonwealth, so we were pledging allegiance to the American flag. So Irving Berlin went to one side of the house and he started writing something. In about 20 minutes he finished, he came here, he said to me, Imelda you learn this song.”
Life According to Sam (2013). Directed by Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine. Cinematography by Sean. One of 15 documentary features shortlisted for an Oscar nomination.
Sam Berns, the hero of the film, suffers from a rare genetic disease called progeria. “I didn’t put myself in front of you to have you feel bad for me. I put myself in front of you to let you know that you don’t need to feel bad for me. Because this is how, I want you to get to know me. This is my life.”
Cane Toads: An Unnatural History (1988). Directed by Mark Lewis. Cinematography by Jim Frazier.
Tip Byrne, a sugar cane farmer, recalls the seminal moment in the history of the invasive species. “Yes, I’ve got vivid memories when the toads were first brought to this place.”
After Tiller (2013). Directed by Martha Shane and Lana Wilson. Director of Photography Hillary Spera.
Dr. Warren Hern, one of only four doctors practicing late-term abortions in the U.S., describes his family’s fear in the wake of Dr. George Tiller’s assassination. “This is a profoundly traumatic experience for everybody in my family starting with Odalys, Fernando, and my mother, you know who worries about my safety. I faced these threats before when I was single, but it’s not the same as having a family that’s around you all the time.”
Payback (2012). Director Jennifer Baichwal. Director of Photography Nick de Pencier.
The shining star of this odd essay film based on Margaret Atwood lectures is Paul Mohammed, a criminal deeply plagued by guilt for the trauma he caused a victim.
"We horse traded this uh, this uh poor lady’s jewelry for I think, maybe I got enough to do three or four hoots of crack. That was it. That’s what I got out of it. And uh, it just kind of feeds itself because then I feel so guilty about what I did that I want to keep getting high because I feel like crappy cause of what I did. And then I go and I do it again. Cause I don’t want to come down and feel like what the fuck are you doing, why did you do that?"
Detropia (2012). Directed and Produced by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. Cinematography by Tony Hardmon and Craig Atkinson.
Tommy Stephens, owner of the Raven Lounge in Detroit, shares some wisdom. “When you see your neighbor going down, you have to think about yourself. And if you don’t go over there and put that fire out, help your neighbor put that fire out, that fire is coming to you. No matter what the problems are. What happened in Detroit is now spreading throughout. It’s coming to you. Yeah. It’s coming to you.”
Saving Face (2012). Directed by Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. Cinematography by Asad Faruqi, Aaron Kopp, and Martina Radwan.
Here a woman named Rukhsana, still living with her husband and in-laws, describes how they doused her in acid and gasoline and set her aflame. “This is where they burned me alive. My life was destroyed in this room.”
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