The Australian filmmaker Rohan Spong spent a good part of 2008 travelling around the United States of America as a one-person film crew to document the experiences of four trans-gendered schoolteachers. The resulting T Is for Teacher is a testament to just how successful a film using very conventional documentary techniques can be with the right combination of strong material and talented filmmaking. The four stories are all about secondary school teachers who made a gender transition from male to female, and attempted to remain employed as teachers within the school system.
Any insight into the casting process of a Broadway show could potentially be of interest but what makes Every Little Step so fascinating is that the show being cast is the 2006 revival of A Chorus Line. The original 1974 production of A Chorus Line was developed from the stories of actual chorus line dancers, so it is show very close to the hearts of the performers who aspire to a Broadway career. The open auditions for the 2006 revival attracted 3000 people and their energy, excitement and enthusiasm about being involved are completely infectious. You certainly don’t need to be fan of A Chorus Line to be seduced by Every Little Step.
The Indigenous Australian actor Jack Charles, the subject of the documentary Bastardy, is a remarkable man. He founded the first Aboriginal theatre company in the 1960s and has worked prolifically in Australian theatre and television plus having significant roles in the films The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith (1978), Bedevil (1993) and Blackfellas (1993). He’s an articulate, intelligent and compassionate man who can also sing beautifully as well as act and is something of a part-time philosopher. He’s also homeless, a long-term heroin user and house burglar. Filmmaker Amiel Courtin-Wilson followed Jack for seven years and the result is this extraordinary film.
After once again being dumped, the British self-described independent filmmaker Chris Waitt decided to interview his ex-girlfriends in an attempt to understand why he has been so unsuccessful in every relationship. The result of Waitt’s largely unsuccessful attempts to make contact with his exes is the subject matter of this rather dubious video diary, which contains far too many moments that feel staged. Waitt’s onscreen persona as a scruffy, sad loser and the scenario of him attempting to reconnect with his exes is straight out of High Fidelity. The whole project is just a little too contrived, too many scenes feel rehearsed and too many revelatory comments during the interviews are delivered like punch lines. Even if A Complete History of My Sexual Failures is a completely legitimate documentary, it doesn’t feel like one.
This 1984 Academy Award winning documentary by Rob Epstein (The Celluloid Closet) is a stirring testament to civil rights campaigner Harvey Milk and a superb companion piece to the recent Gus Van Sant film Milk. However The Times of Harvey Milk delves much further into the political and social significance of what Milk did and what he stood for. Milk was an openly gay man who campaigned on behalf of all minorities. Combining an abundance of archival footage and insightful interviews, Epstein reveals how Milk’s presence in City Hall allowed the “little people” of San Francisco to finally feel connected to the political process.
Philip Glass is one of the most prolific and influential modern music composers. His operas, symphonies, concertos and film scores have been equally celebrated and derided. Glass himself jokes that his music is, “So radical that I could be mistaken for an idiot”. For 18 months Australian director Scott Hicks (Shine) had unrestricted access to Glass’ personal and professional life to make this extraordinary documentary.
The title of this Academy Award winning documentary refers to the fate of an Afghan taxi driver who in 2002 died in the Bagman US detention centre as a result of the torture he endured. The death certificate stated that his death was homicide; the initial army report claimed he died of natural causes.