A documentary muckraker takes on the tech sector of health in The Bleeding Edge

The business of health is built on other people’s problems. This simple fact is reiterated in one form or another throughout Kirby Dick’s muckraking exposé of the medical devices industry, The Bleeding Edge; we see it in regulatory buck-passing, excruciating side effects, and a level of corporatization that, in Dick’s…

Joe Dante, Keith David, and Jello Biafra kick off our coverage of the Fantasia Film Festival

Twenty-two years into its run, the Fantasia International Film Festival is the grande dame of North American genre film festivals. And like any institution, it has its milestones—Fantasia was the first festival to screen Takashi Miike’s work in North America, and arguably launched the J-horror trend…

The director of The Queen Of Versailles takes a shallow look at materialism in Generation Wealth

The photographer Lauren Greenfield, whose documentary The Queen Of Versailles profiled a mega-rich Florida family and their unfinished 85,000 square foot house, offers a career survey in Generation Wealth, revisiting her earlier books, photo assignments, and short docs in a purported overview of our global culture of…

In a pop star’s life and death, Whitney finds an American tragedy

The Houstons were as classic an American saga as the Ambersons or the Glass family, and the life and untimely death of their golden child, the global pop diva Whitney Houston, bore the weight of their ambitions and failures. John Houston, Whitney’s imperious father, worked in zoning for the corrupt mayor’s office of…

Humanity continues to dream of adding Werner Herzog's voice to all documentaries

Werner Herzog is an endlessly fascinating filmmaker, having pivoted from helming some of film’s most daring productions to exploring our world with vital documentaries about cave paintings, grizzlies, and the internet. It’s not just Herzog’s boundless curiosity that enraptures audiences, but also the ways in which his…

The frustrating Did You Wonder Who Fired The Gun? ponders racism and erasure by way of true crime

Ed Vaughn, a civil rights activist in his 80s, laughs as he remembers the first time he ate at a newly desegregated five-and-dime in Dothan, Alabama. He had fought for years for the right to be served at the whites-only lunch counter, but it turned out the food there was slop—nowhere as good as home cooking, anyway.…

The gorgeously humane Quest documents a tumultuous decade in one family’s life

There’s no real attempt at a thesis or story arc in Quest, Jonathan Olshefski’s long-in-the-making documentary about a decade in the life of a black family in an impoverished Philadelphia neighborhood. It’s bookended, with subtle political overtones, by the 2008 and 2016 presidential elections, but there’s nothing as…

The most famous movie scene ever deserved a closer look than what Psycho doc 78/52 offers

Five years ago, Vertigo dethroned longtime champion Citizen Kane in the once-per-decade Sight And Sound poll, becoming film critics’ consensus choice for the greatest movie ever made. Survey those same critics about the single greatest scene in cinema history, however, and a different Hitchcock movie would almost…

Arthouse icon Agnès Varda takes a wise and whimsical road trip in Faces Places

Driving a box truck disguised as a giant camera, Agnès Varda and Jean “JR” René tour the French countryside in Faces Places, visiting farms, coal towns, factories, tiny cemeteries, and a toppled German bunker that sits like a Brutalist monument on a Norman beach. The odd couple pairing is almost too cute: the arthouse…

The Death And Life Of Marsha P. Johnson is more than just another true-crime documentary

In the earliest days of the gay rights movement, the sight of a man wearing a dress was one of the most visible and shocking symbols of queerness. It’s what a lot of sheltered Americans thought of as “gay”—a man who wanted to live as a woman—and it’s what many of them mocked and feared. Political activism and popular…

School Life documents the school you wish you’d attended

The documentary School Life originally had a much more provocative title, In Loco Parentis, which is a legal term that means “in the place of parents.” It implies, however vaguely, something lacking in a child’s mother and/or father—and School Life doesn’t spend much time on parents at all. Instead, the focus of this…

In Icarus, a filmmaker injects himself into the shady world of sports doping

Bryan Fogel’s Netflix documentary Icarus tells such an eye-opening story that it almost doesn’t matter when the storytelling itself gets a little sloppy. An actor and playwright best known for the comedy Jewtopia, Fogel is trying his hand at feature-length non-fiction filmmaking for the first time with Icarus, and he…

A half-century of secrets comes to light in true-crime miniseries The Keepers

The Keepers, Netflix’s newest documentary miniseries, ostensibly revolves around the 1969 murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik, a beloved teacher at a Baltimore Catholic high school whose case remains unsolved nearly 50 years later. But she’s only a small part of a bigger puzzle—which is how Sister Cathy, who’s painted with…

Jerk ruins nature documentaries by pointing out how fake they all are

The appeal of Planet Earth, which returned last year for its long-awaited second installment, is not merely its dazzlingly photographed images of nature; it’s the way the documentary series compiles that nature footage into coherent narratives. We remember it for individual images of sharks and wolves and birds doing…