HBO Documentaries: Summer 2012

By Jacob Klein on Apr 30, 2012 to Documentaries

NEW YORK, April 30, 2012 – HBO Documentary Films heats up the summer with thought-provoking new films on Monday nights, kicking off a new seven-week series MONDAY, JUNE 18, exclusively on HBO. From an unflinching study of America’s complex relationships with canines, to a mesmerizing portrait of preeminent performance artist Marina Abramović, to an inside look at the phenomenon of internet celebrity, to the lives of legendary supermodels, HBO documentaries take subscribers to worlds others rarely see. This year’s summer series features the work of a wide range of directors, from veterans such as Marc Levin, Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Timothy Greenfield-Sanders to exciting first-time filmmakers, including Matthew Akers, Chris Moukarbel and ValerieVeatch.

Upcoming documentaries include (in chronological order):

ONE NATION UNDER DOG: STORIES OF FEAR, LOSS AND BETRAYAL (debuting June 18) reveals the sobering realities behind America’s obsession with dogs, using startling images to show not only how far some dog lovers will go for theirpets, but how far the nation has to go before it treats all dogs humanely. Americans have conducted a long love affair with canines, but lost amidst all the pampering are unpleasant truths about dog ownership, care and commerce, not to mention the daunting odds that face millions of unwanted shelter animals. Directed by Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Amanda Micheli and Jenny Carchman.

ME @THE ZOO (June 25) is an in-depth exploration of the phenomenon of internetcelebrity. Profiling teenage video blogger Chris Crocker, who captured the international spotlight with his infamous “Leave Britney Alone” YouTube declaration, the film reveals how video sharing and social platforms have shaped the way people tell their stories and mediate their lives. An official selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, U.S. Documentary Competition;directed by Chris Moukarbel and Valerie Veatch.

MARINA ABRAMOVIĆ THE ARTIST IS PRESENT (July 2) is an exclusive, behind-the-scenes portrait of “the grandmother of performance art” as she prepares for a blockbuster retrospective exhibit of her controversial work at The Museum of Modern Art. This mesmerizing cinematic journey inside the world of radical performance reveals an astonishingly magnetic, endlessly intriguing woman who draws no distinction between life and art. Directed by first-time filmmaker Matthew Akers.

HARD TIMES: LOST ON LONG ISLAND (July 9), directed and produced by Marc Levin (HBO’s duPont Award-winning “Triangle: Remembering the Fire” and Emmy(R)-winning “Thug Life in D.C.”), looks at the long-term unemployed and the shrinking of the middle class. Chronicling the lives of four families over a six-month period, beginning in summer 2010, the film chronicles the growing problems and despair of subjects searching in vain for employment.

THE TSUNAMI & THE CHERRY BLOSSOM (July 16), recently nominated for a Documentary Short Oscar(R), follows survivors of Japan’s March 2011 tsunami, who find the courage to revive and rebuild as cherry blossom season begins. The film is an allegory about the transient nature of life and the healing power of Japan’s most beloved flower. Directed by Lucy Walker (the Oscar(R)-nominated documentary feature “Waste Land”).

BIRDERS: THE CENTRAL PARK EFFECT (July 16), reveals the extraordinary array of wild birds who grace Manhattan’s celebrated patch of green and the equally colorful New Yorkers who schedule their lives around the rhythms of migration. A 2012 SXSW selection in Documentary Feature Competition, it focuses on seven subjects who have discovered a profound connection with this hidden natural world and regularly visit the park, including author Jonathan Franzen, Anya, a teenager fascinated with the birds because they are “so alive, active, varied, and beautiful,” and Starr Saphir, the “matriarch” of Central Park bird watching. Directed and produced by first-time filmmaker Jeffrey Kimball.

VITO (July 23) recounts the life of Vito Russo, one of the founding fathers of the gay liberation movement. Playing a pivotal role in the formative years of the GAA (Gay Activists Alliance), GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) and ACT UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power), he was also a writer, best known for “The Celluloid Closet,” the first book to examine how LBGT people were portrayed in the movies. Just months before his death from AIDS in 1990, Russo remained an active lecturer on gay issues, traveling to college campuses and gay film festivals. Directed by Jeffrey Schwarz (“Spine Tingler! The William Castle Story”).

ABOUT FACE: SUPERMODELS, THEN AND NOW (July 30), directed by portrait photographer andfilmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders (HBO’s “The Black List” and “The Latino List”), explores the lives of some of the fashion world’s most legendary models, highlighting the complex relationship between physical appearance and the business of beauty. The film features conversations with such celebrated supermodels as Carol Alt, Marisa Berenson, Karen Bjornson, Christie Brinkley, Pat Cleveland, Carmen Dell’Orefice, Jerry Hall, Bethann Hardison, Beverly Johnson, China Machado, Paulina Porizkova, Isabella Rossellini, Lisa Taylor and Cheryl Tiegs, revealing their role in defining — and redefining — beauty over time. An official selection of the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

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The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom I am going to have to buy tissues for definitely. I am intrigued to watch the Marina Abramovic. I have never heard of her, but the synopsis makes me want to know her. I also think Me @ the Zoo is going to be interesting.

I never heard of Chris Crocker or Marina Abramovic so those might prove interesting if I’m curious enough.

I hear what Charlie Harwood is saying. Friends of ours had relatives visit from a less developed country, they took photos of the aisle of dog food in the supermarket to show people back home. Even so I suspect that ONE NATION UNDER DOG will be an eye opener for many viewers.

I, for one, am glad that HBO is well rounded in their programming and offer documentaries. I watched every one in last summer’s run and I’m sure one or two of this year’s offerings will warrant a post from me.

As for which ones draw my attention based on the above descriptions i’ll lean toward ONE NATION UNDER DOG, HARD TIMES: LOST ON LONG ISLAND , THE TSUNAMI @ THE CHERRY BLOSSOM and BIRDERS. Again, that is gut reaction choices but, I’ll probably watch them all.

I wondered why the documentary BIRDERS: THE CENTRAL PARK EFFECT sounded familiar. I reported it was picked up by HBO is a News Rounup piece I posted back on March 21st.

My wife is an avid birder so that show will not be missed around here.

ONE NATION UNDER DOG looks interesting. It always amazes me how people can spend thousands on these “designer dogs” when there are so many in shelters that need homes.

It also amazes me that so many selfish people can breed their own children when there are so many in need of adoption.. Faulty logic Charlie. When people want a pet, as well as when they want children, it’s normally a WANT, and a “selfish” desire. People seldom get pets for the SOLE reason of saving something’s life. So, it shouldn’t be too hard to comprehend that a potential pet buyer choose a specific one that will cater to their wants and desires.


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