In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb darkest hour ver3

Darkest Hour

Darkest Hour stands apart from more routine historical dramas.

Thumb man who invented christmas

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Not particularly keen on nuance or subtlety, this is a film in which everything, especially Stevens’ decidedly manic take on Dickens, is pitched as broadly…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Primary nobody speak sdance 2017

Sundance 2017: "Nobody Speak," "City of Ghosts"

This year’s Sundance featured two documentaries that were as timely as they were sobering, while focused on the war against journalism. Matthew Heineman and Brian Knappenberger turned their experienced eyes to parts of history that haven’t been as covered, both leading to excellent, harrowing work. 

Brian Knappenberger’s “Nobody Speak” is a tribute to freedom of speech in journalism, and also its eulogy. Featuring footage from Trump’s inauguration, the movie looks at a time before “alternative facts” weren’t a thing, and fake news wasn’t such a boon on society. It focuses in large part on the trial of Hulk Hogan vs. Gawker, providing an in-depth look to how a snide website had to account for hosting Hogan’s sex tape on their site, and then lost. 

Advertisement

Interviews with Gawker people, including Nick Denton (who seems to be grinning to keep from crying), paint a vivid picture of a juggernaut that had no idea what they were up against, as absurd as this trial became. When billionaire Peter Thiel was revealed to be funding the prosecution personally, the game changed even more. Knappenberger’s film soaks up the craziness of the trial, along with its poetry of seeing a self-declared “real American” on-stage, and makes for immediate, unsettling viewing. Every time Hogan says the name of the man who secretly filmed the sexual acts, Bubba the Love Sponge, you’ll want to laugh before remembering how devastating this case became. 

In a curious choice, Knappenberger doesn’t stop there, and goes to a second story also involving a white billionaire in power, trying to control the news as they saw fit. Though his focus suffers for it, Knappenberger goes deep into the story of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, its secret acquisition by Sheldon Adelson and the chaos that came from it. Still, Knappenberger’s doc is focused on the reporting that came from this crises, with writers speaking this side of “Spotlight” about the hard work they put into investigating what became many of their own demise.“Nobody Speak” is an important film, if just for the way it puts into a little context the recent battle against critical thinking, or even facts, by those in power. 

Matthew Heineman’s “City of Ghosts” shows the heroic work of journalist group Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently, who help gather footage to show the true state of the Syrian city of Raqqa, under ISIS control. While staying in safe houses in Turkey and Germany, they become part of a new battle about facts, while struggling for the world’s attention. We follow different members of the group, intelligent young men with iPhones and laptops sitting in silence; we watch them plan their coverage about the latest revelations, which will put many, including themselves, in danger. 

Advertisement

Featuring an incredible amount of footage from the reporters and also of them in action, “City of Ghosts” (the title referring to Raqqa) is also a comprehensive look at the rise of ISIS within such locations. There’s even an in-depth look to the marketing that ISIS uses to recruit people, their production style looking more like a Hollywood movie or video game than regular propaganda. Heineman pulls no punches on showing the brutality that is enacted by the radical group, and it makes for an extremely effective doc with such a personal core. It's a movie that establishes awe and compassion for people who are doing, and experienced, certain things we can only imagine. Their unbelievable vigilance is given a complex portrait in Heineman's film. 


Popular Blog Posts

Why I Stopped Watching Woody Allen Movies

Stop watching movies made by assholes. It'll be OK.

Netflix's Marvel Spin-off "The Punisher" is a Lightweight

A review of Netflix's new Marvel series, "The Punisher."

60 Minutes on: "Wonder Woman"

One of the best superhero films, in large part because the title character sincerely believes in values larger than a...

William Peter Blatty: 1928-2017

The work of the late author, writer and director William Peter Blatty will continue to haunt the dreams of readers an...

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus