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Spotlight: The Best of March

By David Schonauer   Wednesday April 11, 2018


The documentary form continues to evolve.

Sometimes in profound ways.

In 2010, the acclaimed photojournalist Eugene Richards was hired to join the crew of director Terrence Malick's film To the Wonder, which tells the fictional story of a troubled romantic relationship and a priest (played by actor Javier Bardem) struggling with his faith in a small town in Oklahoma. Richards was tasked with doing early research on the film by venturing into the town of Bartlesville, in northeastern Oklahoma, and finding real residents to interact with Bardem. Richards later acquired the rights to the footage he’d shot and turned it into a 43 minute-film called Thy Kingdom Come, which premiered at the SXSW Film Festival.

Last month we featured the trailer for the film, and today we include it in our roundup of MAP highlights from March. There is also work from photographer-filmmakers Chris Burkard and Renan Ozturk, who teamed on a short film about a man with a homemade aircraft and a personal mission to see the world from a new perspective. Meanwhile photographer William Briscoe  took advantage of two celestial events — the aurora borealis and a total lunar eclipse — to create a 360-degree 8K time lapse.


1. Eugene Richards’s Thy Kingdom Come

Documentary photographer Eugene Richards’s 43-minute film is a bold and intriguing collision of fact and fiction. In 2010, the acclaimed photojournalist Eugene Richards was hired to join the crew of director Terrence Malick's film To the Wonder, which tells the fictional story of a troubled romantic relationship and a priest (played by actor Javier Bardem) struggling with his faith in a small town in Oklahoma. Richards was tasked with finding real residents in the town of Bartlesville, in northeastern Oklahoma, to interact with Bardem. He later acquired rights to the footage he'd shot and turned it into project that, as we noted, reveals the real-world concerns of Americans struggling with their lives. Seen here is the film’s trailer.


2. Being Human with William Wegman

“Most people know me as the ‘dog photographer,’” says William Wegman in this short artist profile from production company Great Big Story. For the past 45 years, Wegman has been photographing weimaraners in various guises that manage to capture the foibles of humans in scenes that are both whimsical and profound. His muses now include two dogs, Flo and Topper, who are part of his off-screen human family. Or, we wondered, is he part of theirs?


3. Photographer Petra Collins In Focus

Another photographer was the focus of a film profile featured by Nowness: Petra Collins, noted the website, is “synonymous with pastel-hued coming-of-age portraits that give voice to the experience of female adolescence.” In this short, Collins reflects on a decade of work, recently brought together for a new book from Rizzoli, Coming of Age. “I don’t know what I’d do if I didn’t have photography,” she says.


4.  Seeking New Perspectives with an Experimental Aircraft

Two noted explorers and photographers, Chris Burkard  and Renan Ozturk  of the Camp 4 Collective, teamed to make a short film about another explorer and photographer — Chris Dahl-Bredine, who built an experiment aircraft in his garage “in order,” note the directors, “to bring a new perspective to his life and creative vision.” The film, with specular cinematography, charts the course of a man who since childhood has wanted to look at Earth from above.


5. Aurora Borealis + Lunar Eclipse = Amazing Video

Photographer William Briscoe took advantage of two celestial events — the aurora borealis and a total lunar eclipse — to create a 360-degree 8K time lapse on January 31 near Fairbanks, Alaska. “Lady Aurora, being the Diva she is, just couldn't let the moon have all the attention that night, so she made a nice showing as well,” he writes. “At -31°F, it took a lot of effort to get his time lapse rig working properly,” noted DIY Photography.


6. Six Weeks in the Canadian Wilderness

“I traveled 5,500 km in six weeks exploring the vast landscapes of British Columbia and Alberta in Canada, always looking to place my camera gear in the most beautiful sceneries possible,” writes Florian Nick, a filmmaking and photography student based in Stuttgart, Germany. The result is Alive: Canada 4K, a time-lapse film chosen as a Vimeo Staff pick. At DP Review, Nick revealed how he created the film, from planning to execution.


7. This Was the Loudest Underwater Sound Ever

In 1997, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration discovered an ultra-low-frequency sound emanating from a point off the southern coast of Chile. It was the loudest unidentified underwater sound ever recorded, lasting for one minute, and was never heard again. The Bloop, a short documentary by Cara Cusumano, investigates this unknown phenomenon. It’s a science story with a mesmerizing narrative, noted The Atlantic.


8. Lek Chailert: An Unbound Story

In 1996, Lek Chailert founded Thailand’s Elephant Nature Park, a haven for animals rescued from the logging and tourism industries. They have in effect become her family, notes filmmaker Kelly Guerin, who spent two weeks at the sanctuary to create her short documentary Lek Chailert: An Unbound Story. The film captures the emotional ties between Chailert and her elephants. It was one of two films we featured  about women who have broken the mold to create the lives they want.


9. Mélanie Lopez | #SeeHer

Alongside Guerin’s film about Lek Chailert,  we featured a short from photographer and filmmaker Jonathan Chapman  focusing on Mélanie Lopez, a young woman who left a job as a production manager in the tech industry to become a boat builder. The film pays tribute to the #SeeHer  effort  launched by the Association of National Advertisers and its Alliance for Family Entertainment in 1996 to eliminate bias against women from advertising and media. The initiative calls for a 20-percent increase in the "accurate portrayal of all girls and women" in media by 2020.


10. A Bond Girl Battling Gentrification in Harlem

In Harlem, rent is war, noted Short of the Week, which praised the short documentary Single Room Occupancy, from filmmakers Artemis Shaw and Alexander Wolf Lewis. The doc focuses on Max, a former model who once appeared briefly in a James Bond movie with Roger Moore. Now she is a crusader battling white millennials “taking over” her local haunts in Harlem. “We didn’t want to make this film objective because it isn’t,” notes Shaw.

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