Top Docs:  Award-Winning Documentary Filmmakers
”Gaslit” — Fact or Fiction with Jim Robenalt

”Gaslit” — Fact or Fiction with Jim Robenalt

September 8, 2022

A mustard-colored Porsche races through the streets of Washington, DC. A crazed political operative holds a pencil to the throat of a former presidential advisor. An orgy hosted by a prominent businessman rages through the night. Does this sound like a documentary about Watergate? Well, it’s not actually. These entertaining, adrenaline-fueled moments are brought to you by the 8-part Starz limited series “Gaslit” starring Julia Roberts and Sean Penn about Martha Mitchell, John Dean and the events of Watergate. So, did this stuff really happen? In this special podcast that we’re calling “Fact or Fiction”, Ken sits down with a Watergate expert to see how well the series measures up to the facts and discusses why it matters.

Where did the idea for “Fact or Fiction” come from? Recently, as Ken was preparing to interview the two directors of the Netflix documentary “The Martha Mitchell Effect”, he was also watching “Gaslit”, which covers most of the same historical terrain. With each new episode, Ken began to wonder how much of this is true and wouldn’t it be great to be able to put that question to an expert on Watergate. Enter Jim Robenalt. Jim is a lawyer and writer who has co-taught a course with central Watergate figure (and “Gaslit” main character) John Dean. He’s also someone who practically lives and breathes the facts of Watergate. The format is simple: Ken describes a scene from “Gaslit” and Jim weighs in on whether the events depicted in that scene are mostly fact or fiction. We can’t guarantee that this podcast will hold your attention as much as that orgy, but it is certainly inspired by actual events, and we swear that Jim Robenalt is a real person, not a composite character.

Directors Anne Alvergue and Debra McClutchy talk about “The Martha Mitchell Effect” on “Top Docs

Jim Robenalt is the author of “January 1973: Watergate, Roe v. Wade, Vietnam, and the Month That Changed America Forever

 

Follow on Twitter:

@themarthafilm

@gaslitSTARZ

@jimrobenalt

@topdocspod

 

The Presenting Sponsor of Top Docs is Netflix.

Emmy Roundup with Scott Feinberg

Emmy Roundup with Scott Feinberg

August 31, 2022

The Hollywood Reporter’s Executive Editor of Awards Scott Feinberg joins Mike and Ken to break down this year’s Emmy nominees in all the major documentary categories, including Outstanding Documentary Program; Outstanding Series; Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking; and Outstanding Directing. After considering all the angles, Scott pulls no punches in giving his take on who he thinks will take home top honors. Scott also sheds light on this year’s Emmy rule changes, how the voting process really works, recent historical trends… and even gives a sneak peak of this year’s early documentary Oscar buzz. Let the awards season begin!

An award-winning columnist and podcast host (“Awards Chatter”), Scott Feinberg is The Hollywood Reporter’s Executive Editor of Awards. Scott anchors THR’s coverage of the Oscar, Emmy, Tony, and Grammy races, as well as major film festivals. His work has been recognized with six National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards and five SoCal Journalism Awards from the Los Angeles Press Club.

 

Our Presenting Sponsor is Netflix.

 

Follow on twitter:

@ScottFeinberg

@topdocspod

”Three Minutes: A Lengthening” with Bianca Stigter

”Three Minutes: A Lengthening” with Bianca Stigter

August 26, 2022

When the writer Glenn Kurtz stumbled upon an old home movie buried in his parents’ closet in Florida, he inadvertently discovered a whole world that, tragically, had been nearly erased from history. Returning as a tourist in 1938 to the small village of Nasielsk outside Warsaw where he grew up, his grandfather David Kurtz brought with him a brand new 16mm Kodak movie camera. The three minutes of footage he shot there, which later turned up in the closet, are now among the only surviving moving images of any of the Polish villages destroyed in the Holocaust. Years later, the writer and critic Bianca Stigter (“Three Minutes – Thirteen Minutes – Thirty Minutes”) would see those three minutes posted on the website of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and embark on her own investigative journey. The result is the extraordinary documentary Three Minutes: A Lengthening.

Joining Ken to discuss her film, which includes Kurtz’ original footage, Bianca describes her creative “lengthening” process, which involved adding fascinating historical context and an almost microscopic level of detail. With very few markers, how were Glenn and Bianca able to identify people and places in the footage? Why was it so important to Bianca that viewers experience the footage actively rather than passively — and how did her filmmaking encourage that dynamic? And how did a key sequence in the film turn into an unforgettable memorial to over 150 people whose faces were captured by David Katz’ camera? While nothing can bring back the Jewish community of Nasielsk, the efforts of first David, then Glenn, and now, Bianca, have at least ensured that their stories and faces will live on in our own collective memories.

“Three Minutes: A Lengthening”, which is being released by Super LTD, can be seen in select theaters nationwide starting on August 26.

 

Hidden Gem:

Rose Hobart

 

Follow on Twitter:

@BStigter1

@topdocspod

 

The Presenting Sponsor of "Top Docs" is Netflix. Listen to our recent conversations with these Emmy®-nominated directors whose documentaries are currently on Netflix:

  • Andrew Rossi on "The Andy Warhol Diaries"
  • Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah on "jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy"
  • Felicity Morris on “The Tinder Swindler”
”The Territory” with Alex Pritz

”The Territory” with Alex Pritz

August 24, 2022

Not yet 19 years old, a young man named Bitaté Uru-eu-wau-wau is approached by an elder, who tells him, ready or not, it is time for Bitaté to become his community’s new leader. With Brazil’s election of a right-wing president on the horizon, bands of illegal settlers clearing forests, and the impending disaster of climate change, how in the world can Bitaté take on such a staggering responsibility? But he knows he must: the fate of not only his own small Indigenous community but of the entire Brazilian Amazon hangs in the balance. With the stakes constantly rising, first-time feature director Alex Pritz (“My Dear Kyrgyzstan”) brilliantly depicts the opposing forces at play in his urgent and stunningly beautiful documentary “The Territory” from National Geographic Documentary Films.

Joining Ken to talk about the chain of events that led him to the Uru people and their threatened way of life, Alex discusses the close collaboration with the Uru community that made the documentary possible and gave shape to what it would become. How was Alex’s relationship with the environmental activist Neidinha Bandeira a significant first step in developing trust with the Uru? What was the crucial suggestion from Bitaté and Neidinha that led to the film’s impressively even-handed inclusion of opposing points of view? And in what ways were the composer Katya Mihailova’s contributions critical to establishing the locations and building deep connections with the different people featured in the film? Depicting the highs and lows of the Uru people, “The Territory” is an unflinching look at the Amazon today and offers a cautionary glimpse of what may lie just ahead.

“The Territory” can be seen in select theaters nationwide.

 

Hidden Gems:

Cusp

Mayor

 

Follow on Twitter:

@topdocspod

 

The Presenting Sponsor of "Top Docs" is Netflix. Listen to our recent conversations with these Emmy®-nominated directors whose documentaries are currently on Netflix:

  • Andrew Rossi on "The Andy Warhol Diaries"
  • Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah on "jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy"
  • Felicity Morris on “The Tinder Swindler”
”Stanley Tucci:  Searching for Italy” with Ian Denyer

”Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” with Ian Denyer

August 21, 2022

In the delightful and, yes, delicious CNN Original Series “Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy” the beloved actor/writer/director is constantly on the move, setting out to discover what makes each of Italy’s 20 regions unique. By the end of season two, Stanley had tramped across nine of them, and along the way, sampled enough pasta and salumi to feed a small army of production assistants.

London-based Ian Denyer, who came on board to direct “Venice” (for which he is Emmy®-nominated), “Umbria” and “London” for the show’s second season, joined Ken for an amiable and enlightening chat about the series and the man himself. How did Ian win over Stanley in his initial Zoom interview and come to realize that a shared sensibility around dry humor would not only bind them together but infuse the second season with added flavor? How did Ian’s introduction of a third camera open up new creative possibilities, as well as a tricky set of technical challenges? And, in spite of all the glorious eating and drinking, why does Stanley’s primary interest with the show lie elsewhere? Whether Stanley ever actually “finds” Italy or not is beside the point. Watching these episodes — and listening to Ian’s beguiling behind-the-scenes stories — you will find yourself being entertained, educated, and moved, as well as highly motivated to go searching on your own.

“Stanley Tucci: Searching for Italy”, which is nominated for five 2022 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Hosted Nonfiction Series and Outstanding Directing for a Documentary / Nonfiction Program”, can be seen on CNN.

 

Hidden Gem:

Russia from My Window

 

Follow on Twitter:

@topdocspod

 

The Presenting Sponsor of "Top Docs" is Netflix. Listen to our recent conversations with these Emmy®-nominated directors whose documentaries are currently on Netflix:

  • Andrew Rossi on "The Andy Warhol Diaries"
  • Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah on "jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy"
  • Felicity Morris on “The Tinder Swindler”
”When Claude Got Shot” with Brad Lichtenstein

”When Claude Got Shot” with Brad Lichtenstein

August 20, 2022

When Claude Motley got shot… everything changed. Not just for Claude, whose jaw was shattered by a bullet fired through his car window, but for Nathan, the 15-year-old youth who pulled the trigger and for Victoria, the woman who shot Nathan when he tried to rob her, too. These tragic events in Milwaukee in 2014 unleashed a chain reaction of trauma and devastation that continues to wreak havoc on the lives of everyone involved. Brad Lichtenstein’s masterfully crafted, emotionally powerful and profoundly troubling Emmy®-nominated documentary “When Claude Got Shot” explores micro as well as macro perspectives on how gun violence is impacting countless lives in America today.

Joining Ken for his second Top Docs appearance, Brad (“American Reckoning,” “Ghosts of Attica”) shares the gut-wrenching experience of watching his close friend Claude go through this terrible ordeal and the conversations that led to the difficult decision to make the film. How does Claude’s conflicted relationship with the city of Milwaukee play a central role in the film? What happens when Claude and his wife, determined to see that justice is done, find themselves enmeshed in a criminal justice system ill-equipped to serve the needs of communities of color? And how did Brad earn the trust of Victoria, Nathan, and Nathan’s mother while they were going through one of the darkest periods of their lives? As Brad describes Claude’s painful journey and his path toward forgiveness, it becomes clear that when Claude got shot, everything changed… but not all hope was lost.

“When Claude Got Shot”, which is nominated for the 2022 Emmy Award for Exceptional Merit in Documentary Filmmaking, can be watched on PBS.org by those with access to the PBS Passport program.

 

Hidden Gem:

Music for the Movies: Toru Takemitsu

 

Follow on Twitter:

@371Productions

@bradleylbar

@topdocspod

 

The Presenting Sponsor of "Top Docs" is Netflix. Listen to our recent conversations with these Emmy®-nominated directors whose documentaries are currently on Netflix:

  • Andrew Rossi on "The Andy Warhol Diaries"
  • Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah on "jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy"
  • Felicity Morris on “The Tinder Swindler”
”Controlling Britney Spears” with Samantha Stark & Liz Day

”Controlling Britney Spears” with Samantha Stark & Liz Day

August 18, 2022

After pop star Britney Spears’ controversial 13-year conservatorship finally came to an end in November 2021, Spears credited the #FreeBritney movement: “I honestly think you guys saved my life.” Filmmakers Samantha Stark and Liz Day also played no small role. When their documentary “Framing Britney Spears” premiered in February of that year, it sparked a flurry of international news coverage and put the spotlight on a conservatorship that seemed less about protecting Spears than it was about controlling and silencing her — and enriching her father and conservator, Jamie Spears. In the months following their film, Samantha and Liz continued to delve into the story and their September 2021 follow-up film, the Emmy®-nominated “Controlling Britney Spears” laid out even more shocking revelations.

The two filmmakers joined Mike and Ken for a deep dive exploration of the ins-and-outs of the conservatorship and the mechanisms used to surveil and manipulate Spears. How is it possible that a mega superstar, who kept to a rigorous performance schedule and was raking in millions of dollars, continued to be subjected to a court-ordered conservatorship? What caused some of the key people working for Britney to break their silence and open up to the filmmakers, at their own potential legal peril? And in what ways does the stigma of mental illness play a part in the Britney Spears saga? Tune in to our conversation to hear how these two highly skilled and determined journalists/filmmakers broke this important story, which continues to resonate and reverberate well-beyond Britney herself.

“Controlling Britney Spears”, which is nominated for the 2022 Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special, is available for streaming on Hulu.

 

Hidden Gems:

Liz: 7 Up

Samantha: Special Flight

 

Follow on Twitter:

@starksamantha

@LizDDay

@topdocspod

 

The Presenting Sponsor of "Top Docs" is Netflix. Listen to our recent conversations with these Emmy®-nominated directors whose documentaries are currently on Netflix:

  • Andrew Rossi on "The Andy Warhol Diaries"
  • Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah on "jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy"
  • Felicity Morris on “The Tinder Swindler”
”We Feed People” with Sara Bernstein

”We Feed People” with Sara Bernstein

August 16, 2022

He pops up often in your social media livestream, appearing from just about every corner of the globe. His head bobbing up-and-down in the frame, his voice slightly frantic, he reports in real-time from the frontlines of whatever new catastrophe has left thousands – or even millions — of people in desperate need of food and to describe what’s being done about it. He’s world-renowned Chef José Andrés and his organization, World Central Kitchen (WCK), has become legendary for its quick response in the aftermath of fires, earthquakes, hurricanes, Covid, and, most recently, the war in Ukraine. As José says in the urgent, riveting new Ron Howard (Rebuilding Paradise, Thirteen Lives) documentary “We Feed People”, “We not only feed people. We create systems.”

Ken recently spoke with the film’s producer Sara Bernstein (Leave No Trace, Downfall: The Case Against Boeing) about this exhilarating Emmy®-nominated documentary and the challenge of making a film during the pandemic. How did the film’s director Ron Howard encounter WCK’s work first-hand and why did he keep coming back to the idea of making a film about them? Why did the film’s focus shift from a verité style production to a portrait of WCK’s evolution from a small band of do-gooders into the powerhouse food relief organization that it is today? And how did the film team’s commitment to presenting a three-dimensional, warts-and-all portrait of José result in a more nuanced and, ultimately, more emotionally resonant and fully realized film? Join us for this Tapas-inspired dish of valuable lessons learned about food relief efforts and delicious behind-the-scenes filmmaking stories.

 

Hidden Gem:

Navalny

 

Follow on Twitter:

@WCKitchen

@chefjoseandres

@topdocspod

 

The Presenting Sponsor of "Top Docs" is Netflix. Listen to our recent conversations with these Emmy®-nominated directors whose documentaries are currently on Netflix:

  • Andrew Rossi on "The Andy Warhol Diaries"
  • Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah on "jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy"
  • Felicity Morris on “The Tinder Swindler”
”The Beatles: Get Back” with Peter Jackson

”The Beatles: Get Back” with Peter Jackson

August 14, 2022

Legendary Director Peter Jackson joins Mike to discuss the Emmy-nominated “The Beatles: Get Back”.  Peter discusses why after a career that has spanned “Heavenly Creatures,” “The Lord of the Rings,” “The Hobbit,” and “King Kong,” he turned to documentary filmmaking with "They Shall Not Grow Old." And how the techniques that he employed in turning the trenches of the First World War to life  came to be useful when faced with the 60 hours of 16mm film shot by Michael Lindsay Hogg in 1969 during the Beatles’ rehearsal for and recording of “Let it Be.”

Peter tells Mike about the challenges posed by the 130 hours of sound recordings, and how his team wrote custom software to isolate and clarify sound–and how this became the spine of the film.  He virtually brings us into the New Zealand editing bay with Jabez Olssen where his team (again) built new processes to make the rushes amenable to editing.  He explains to Mike why the now-famous scene of Paul creating “Get Back” was–for the sake of historical accuracy–not overly edited, and how the rooftop concert was edited in one productive week before showing it to the surviving Beatles.  And he sums up his years of daily exposure to the inner workings of the Beatles by saying that they were 4 nice boys with incredible talent who managed to find each other.

“The Beatles: Get Back” is now streaming on Disney+.

 

Follow on Twitter:

@topdocspod

@jabezolssen

 

The Presenting Sponsor of "Top Docs" is Netflix. Listen to our recent conversations with these Emmy®-nominated directors whose documentaries are currently on Netflix:

  • Andrew Rossi on "The Andy Warhol Diaries"
  • Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah on "jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy"
  • Felicity Morris on “The Tinder Swindler”
”Lucy And Desi” with Robert A. Martinez

”Lucy And Desi” with Robert A. Martinez

August 14, 2022

Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. They were America’s most beloved couple and Hollywood’s ultimate power couple. But when the studio lights were turned off, what was it like being the “real” Lucy and Desi? How did their relationship inform everything they did — from creating the groundbreaking sitcom “I Love Lucy” to running one of Hollywood’s most successful television studios? With “Lucy and Desi”, multi-hyphenate comedian-actor-producer — and now documentary director — Amy Poehler aims her prodigious talent at cracking the story of Lucy and Desi, with Emmy®-worthy results.

Mike and Ken recently had the opportunity to speak with the film’s Emmy-nominated editor Robert A. Martinez (“The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart”, “Pavarotti”) to discuss what it was like to sit at the controls of this refreshing, revealing and, at times, surprising portrayal of this dynamic duo. How did Amy’s directorial chops drive the storytelling beyond the superficial “Wikipedia” treatment that it could easily have been given? For the filmmakers, why was it so important to lift up the accomplishments of Desi Arnaz, who, all-too-often has been overlooked in the shadow of Lucille Ball’s comedic brilliance? And what did the comedic genius Buster Keaton see in Ball that enabled her, through tireless rehearsal, to develop a style of comedy that was way ahead of its time? Ultimately, “Lucy and Desi” is about neither Lucy nor Desi’s individual talents, but about the magic that they created as one unit, leaving a legacy that will last as long as the human species comes factory-equipped with a funny bone.

“Lucy and Desi”, which is nominated for six 2022 Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Documentary or Nonfiction Special, is available for streaming on Amazon Prime.

 

Find our conversation with Mark Monroe about “The Bee Gees” here.  

 

Hidden Gem:

No No: A Dockumentary

 

Follow on Twitter: @topdocspod

 

The Presenting Sponsor of "Top Docs" is Netflix. Listen to our recent conversations with these Emmy®-nominated directors whose documentaries are currently on Netflix:

  • Andrew Rossi on "The Andy Warhol Diaries"
  • Coodie Simmons and Chike Ozah on "jeen-yuhs: A Kanye Trilogy"
  • Felicity Morris on “The Tinder Swindler”
Podbean App

Play this podcast on Podbean App