The Imposter (2012)

How does a foreign man suddenly end up a U.S. citizen, welcomed into the family of a long- missing child? While it’s impossible to fully understand the grief of those keeping vigil by the window, waiting for a phone call that may never come, it is curious that every expert agrees there are many loose ends. Is it merely that hindsight is 20/20 (as the old saying goes) or is there a more sinister explanation? Though the testimony of an identity thief certainly isn’t everything, it seems to corroborate the suspicion of at least one specialist…

Masterfully crafted, the details of this publicly documented incident are recounted chronologically by a rotation of several family members, some government employees, a smattering of friends/ neighbors and one relentless private investigator. During the lengthier portions of each person’s story, voiceover serves as narration for actors’ portrayals of the events being described. By the end of the film you have about as much information as everyone involved to decide for yourself what you think happened.

Won’t You be my Neighbor? (2018)

“If you take all of the elements that make good television and do the exact opposite, you have ‘Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood’. Low production values, simple set, an unlikely star. Yet, it worked.” –Margaret Whitmer While the documentary itself is not particularly remarkable, the subject should never be forgotten. Yet that’s what makes its simplicity perfectly […]

I am Elizabeth Smart (2017)

Intermittent narration by none other than the titular now-public figure herself both reminds us this is a real live person and assures us of her survival. Her story in her own words is empowering without reducing it to a sensationalized “ripped from the headlines” dramatization. After so much time in forced isolation Ms. Smart is voluntarily coming forward and speaking out. We owe it to her to listen.

Who the #$&% Is Jackson Pollock? (2006)

Provenance—the backstory behind the acquisition of a piece of fine art—is crucial to determining its value. Needless to say, the idea that a trucker could end up with the work of a legend is appalling. This documentary chronicles the story of retiree, Teri Horton, who bought the ugliest paining she’d ever seen from a thrift store so she could present it to a friend, who needed cheering up; it was meant to be an oversized dart board. Eventually, it was assimilated into a collection of junk for her yard sale. An art teacher happened to remark about its distinct style, to which Ms. Horton replied, “Who the #$&% is Jackson Pollock?” Despite the fact that the iconic artist was known to give away his art, which has been found in many unlikely random places, despite a forensic art specialist verifying fingerprints and analyzed paint samples, no one is willing to acknowledge a foul-mouthed, back woods, blue-collar worker is suddenly in possession of the genuine article.

Tim’s Vermeer (2013)

Who better to orchestrate the collaboration of Art, Science and History than famed magician, Penn Gillette? This film documents every detail of the ambitious undertaking of his friend, Tim, who by reconstructing the creation of a classic painting in painstaking detail, uses an analysis of History to actually rewrite it. It absolutely must be noted that the previously unknown details, which come to light in no way detract from the exquisite beauty of Vermeer’s artistry. Rather, they illuminate both his ingenuity and exceptional grasp of composition.

The Five Obstructions (2003)

Frequently bleak but always visually daring filmmaker, Lars von Trier gets the director of his favorite film to remake it with specific impediments, which von Trier chooses along the way. While such a creative project may seem strange, I remember numerous art classes in which a professor’s imposed obstructions—though infuriating at the time—pushed me to create in ways I never expected because I wasn’t challenging myself to push past the obvious. Isn’t that the essence of creativity? However, the social/ emotional dynamic between the two filmmakers is ultimately what holds the viewer’s attention.

Brother’s Keeper (1992)

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.”  –Aldous Huxley

Tension escalates in this disquieting documentary following the death of the oldest of four elderly brothers. Neighbors from the rural town, who’ve known “the boys” since they were born in the house in which they still live, insist it was an accident, more than likely natural causes. The media refuses to believe a sinister motive wasn’t a contributing factor.

Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel, your brother?” He said, “I don’t know; am I my brother’s keeper?” –Genesis 4:9