Documentary Film

Finding Brotherly Love on Tour with The National in “Mistaken For Strangers”

On the show this week, a conversation with Tom Berninger, the filmmaker behind the new documentary Mistaken For Strangers which is a behind the scenes look at the popular indie band The National. But even if you don’t happen to be a fan of The National, the film stands on its own as a entertaining, heartwarming and thought provoking watch.

Lead singer of The National Matt Berninger and his brother Tom

Lead singer of The National Matt Berninger and his brother Tom

The setting is 2010, and indie rockers The National are about to embark on their biggest international tour yet when lead singer Matt Berninger invites his floundering younger brother Tom  to join them and be part of the tour crew. Tom agrees, and brings a camera along to document the journey . What follows is anything but smooth sailing. From Tom’s highs to lows, getting into trouble for not fulfilling his duties, and constant friction with his brother Matt, the ensuing film “Mistaken For Strangers” is a entertaining meditation on success, failure, redemption, and brotherly love.

thenationaldefault-620x413I sat down with younger brother and director Tom Berninger to talk about the film, his life as a brother to a rock star, and the three year challenge of putting the film together.

The film is still on the festival circuit but should be coming out to a wide release within the next few months. To find out more and keep up on upcoming screenings check out www.mistakenforstrangersmovie.com

When it comes to online privacy ‘Terms And Conditions May Apply’

With the latest revelations about surveillance by the NSA  the past couple of weeks have seen an explosion in the conversation over what exactly happens to our online data, and just how accessible our personal internet communications are by government bodies. Indeed, thanks to the recent leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, we now have further insight into just how closely connected government surveillance programs and the corporations we rely on daily such as Facebook, and Google have become.

These latest leaks also happen to coincide with the release of a gripping new documentary by filmmaker Cullen Hoback called  ‘Terms And Conditions May Apply’. The film sheds light on just how much information is held about ordinary citizens by corporations and government, and how that data is being used in some disquieting ways.

But the film also takes a step back to raise the question, how did we get to this point?  How did we so quickly end up in a world where the majority of our day-to-day communications are legally accessible by the government – even without being suspected of a particular crime –  and what could this mean not only for our privacy, but for the very ability for citizens to dissent? Terms_and_Conditions_May_Apply_1

It’s both a timely and riveting doc and despite dealing with serious issues, it manages to be a really fun film to watch. Terms And Conditions had it’s Canadian premiere at Hot Docs in May, and I took the chance to sit down with director Cullen Hoback. But be warned, it may just leave you shocked at what we agreed to in the fine print!

The film is opening up in several U.S. markets in July including New York and Los Angeles, and for more announcements on upcoming screenings head over to http://tacma.net/

Listen to the full interview here!

Two New Documentary Films: 1) Tiny – A Story About Living Small & 2) Caucus

This week a look at two new documentary films, which played at this year’s Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto.

First up – Tiny A Story About Living Small takes a look at the new movement of living small in a big way.

We North Americans are known for our love of material things, including large houses. But a growing community of individuals and couples have started questioning the more is better paradigm and have begun experimenting just how little we need to be happy.  One of the most interesting examples of this are the self-proclaimed “Tiny Housers” – people who have have opted to radically downsize their lives by building and living in tiny houses 200 square feet or less, a size no bigger than your average parking space!

Filmmakers Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith

Filmmakers Merete Mueller and Christopher Smith

Now the new film Tiny – A Story About Living Small takes a look at this trend of small living. The filmmaking team of Christopher Smith and Merete Mueller document their own journey of building a tiny home (despite having no previous experience building) and also profile six families who have opted for the small house lifestyle and the reasons they decided to so radically simplify and downsize their lives.To find out more about the film and about Tiny houses check them out at http://tiny-themovie.com/

And in the second half, Caucus is a rare behind the scenes look at the ground battle of american presidential politics. The film by AJ Schnack and Nathan Truesdell follows the 2012 Republican Iowa Caucus and documents the nine often lonely months the 8 republican candidates – From Michelle Bachmann to Mitt Romney spent traveling, stumping and campaigning around Iowa in the lead up to that states “first in the nation” primary vote.  From corn dogs to lonely town halls, it’s a look at the bizarre nature, spectacle and life of being a presidential hopeful.

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It’s a verite look into american politics we haven’t seen since 1993’s The War Room. You can find out more at http://caucusfilm.com/

Filmmaker Matt Anderson, “Fall And Winter” – A survival guide for the 21st century


At this years Hot Docs film festival in Toronto, I had the chance to catch the beautiful documentary Fall & Winter. The feature debut by Vancouver raised director Matt Anderson is a captivating journey into the complex web of unfolding global crises facing our modern civilization and the mindset and path that brought us here.Fall_and_Winter_Still_05

And although in many respects Fall and Winter could be called an environmental film, it’s not what you might expect. Rather than a barrage of facts and figures, or a focus on one specific environmental disaster or another, Fall & Winter is something much bigger.

Over four separate trips and 16000 miles Matt Anderson and his team traveled across American looking for answers, conducting interviews, and filming the breathtaking landscapes and devastating scenes of industrial ruin that they encountered along the way.

The result is both an intellectually powerful and visually stunning indictment of a civilization in peril. And the answers aren’t what you might except.Fall_and_Winter_Still_03

Rather than looking at the direct superficial cause of any one specific environmental catastrophe,  Fall & Winter takes a much broader perspective, and peers into the psychological, historic and spiritual factors that lie at the heart of the looming environmental catastrophes we’re confronting.  It’s not just a matter of oil spills or greenhouse gases, but a much more basic but profound question, of how we view ourselves as humans and imagine our relationship to the natural world.

As with any film confronting enormous problems, Fall and Winter has its share difficult messages, but this is not a story of despair. Rather it’s a call to reimagine how we live our lives and construct our societies. The film looks both to past wisdom as well as to a range of strategies being developed by committed groups and individuals all across America who are experimenting with new ways of living, from finding new uses for abandoned neighborhoods in Detroit to learning how to construct cobb houses in Oregon.

Filmmaker Matt Anderson

Filmmaker Matt Anderson

All the while Fall & Winter manages to not only be insightful and important, but an engaging joy to watch.  It had its Canadian debut at Hot Docs earlier this month to sold out crowds and before that played at SXSW in Austin Texas.  While he was in Toronto accompanying the film I took the chance to sit down with director Matt Anderson and speak with him about the film, the journey of making it, and about our changing relationship with the earth.

There are plans in the works to tour Fall And Winter around to various cities across America and (hopefully) Canada this summer. If it comes to a town near you, I highly recommend it. To find out more about the film and to keep up on news of upcoming screenings, check them out at http://www.fallwintermovie.com/

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Humanitarian Jean Vanier on Becoming Human and Documentary Filmmaker Liz Marshall tackles Animal Rights in Ghosts In Our Machine

First up on today’s show, famed Canadian philosopher, author and humanitarian, Jean Vanier, on spirituality, community, and on the philosophy of becoming human. He is the founder of L’arche, a series of supportive community with branches around the world, where those with developmental disabilities and those who come to assist them, share life together in welcoming and friendly settings that are integrated into local neighbourhoods.

To find out more about L’arche you can visit them here

Philosopher and Humanitarian Jean Vanier

Philosopher and Humanitarian Jean Vanier

And  in the second half of the program, I speak with award-winning documentary filmmaker Liz Marshall on her upcoming film The Ghosts in our Machine, in which she turns her lens to how we treat animals in our modern industrial society.

Documentary Filmmaker Liz Marshall

Documentary Filmmaker Liz Marshall

The Ghosts in our Machine will be premiering at the 2013 Hot Docs Documentary Film Festival in Toronto this May.

The Ghosts in our Machine

The Ghosts in our Machine, the upcoming documentary by Liz Marshal explores how we treat animals

To find out more about the film and to keep abreast of upcoming screenings, visit www.theghostsinourmachine.com