Idol Chatter

As if this past week’s orange and red security threat alerts aren’t making us nervous enough, there are a slew of documentaries coming out soon on DVD or working their way across the country in limited release at art-house movie theaters that further illuminate the atrocities of war, terrorism, and governments out-of-control. As I mentioned last week here at Idol Chatter, I saw several independent documentaries recently at Michael Moore’s film festival in northern Michigan and it’s time now for me to highlight the best of the bunch.

The reason to make an effort to see these films is quite simple. Societal change cannot happen without further awareness of the pressing issues of our culture. Documentaries give coverage to these issues that soundbytes on TV simply can’t. The danger with watching any of these documentaries is that the documentary film is no longer an art form of presenting fair and balanced information, but an art form that, with few exceptions, celebrates rhetoric as its means of communication. So these films require a great deal of effort from the audience, as they must sift through what is simply emotional appeal and what is the truth.

And if watching these films discourages you too much about the present condition of our world, just head to the cineplex and watch “Talledega Nights” one more time.

The Road to Guantanamo: A mix of documentary and drama, this film tells the little-known story of three young British men of Pakistani descent who were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and were thrown into prison at Guantanamo Bay for two years because of it. I had never heard of this incident and found the details absolutely horrfying. The film is clearly going to be a P.R. nightmare for the Bush administration if the movie gets any kind of national release.

The War Tapes: A reporter was asked by the National Guard to do a documentary as an embedded journalist. Instead, she arranged for cameras to be given to the soldiers to allow them to shoot the film. The result is a raw look at life behind enemy lines and wouldn’t exactly make a good recruiting video for our military.

The Canary Effect: Native American cinema is rare, and this documentary traces the history of what the United States government’s policies have done to Native American culture, and puts forth the premise that the genocide of Native Americans is still happening in our society today. Even if you don’t buy into everything the movie has to say, it is truly a haunting look at the struggle of Native Americans to survive.

Who Killed the Electric Car?: Michael Moore gave this film his coveted “Roger Smith Award” (the award is named after General Motors executive Roger Smith, who was the subject of Moore’s documentary “Roger & Me”). The film should play as a double feature with Al Gore’s environmental documentary “An Inconvenient Truth,” because “Car” tells the story of an alleged conspiracy by General Motor to kill their development of the eco-friendly electric car to make the oil companies happy.

For more information on other documentary winners from the festival, go here.

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