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Documentary

Hearst Documentary Highlights Life, Legacy of California’s Greatest Media Baron

This weekend, the “H” in William H. Macy will stand for not just “Hall” but also “Hearst.” That’s because the Oscar-nominated actor does a very capable job as narrator of the feature documentary Citizen Hearst, opening Thursday at Laemmle movie theaters in Beverly Hills (Music Hall), Pasadena (Playhouse 7), Encino (Town Center) and Claremont (Claremont 5).

After highlighting the life exploits of William Randolph Hearst, the movie really hits its stride once it gets to the post-World War II era and success of magazines like Good Housekeeping, Harper’s Bazaar and Cosmopolitan. It’s fun to hear interview subjects recall how Helen Gurley Brown‘s stewardship hit town “like a thunder clap.” Here for example is a recollection in the film from Kate White, Cosmo editor-in-chief from 1998 to 2012:

“Helen’s first cover is still an inspiration to me, it’s so sexy. The woman, a blonde, buxom. The little hint of Brigitte Bardot… One of my favorite all-time [first cover] lines is, ‘THE NEW PILL THAT PROMISES TO MAKE WOMEN MORE RESPONSIVE.’”

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LAT Article Leads Filmmaker to $101,000 Documentary Prize

The LA Times and Kickstarter deserve equal amounts of credit for something that happened in San Antonio this past weekend.

It was a June 2011 LAT article by Southeast Asia correspondent John M. Glionna that first made filmmaker Brian Ivie aware of a South Korean pastor caring for unwanted disabled children. Inspired by the piece, Ivie that fall raised a relatively modest sum to make a feature documentary about the extraordinary man profiled by Glionna and on Saturday The Drop Box claimed a $101,000 Jubilee Award from the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival:

Judge Curtis Bowers, who won “Best of Festival” in 2010 for his film Agenda, remarked: “We saw in this young man [Ivie] someone who loved life so much; that loved the truth; that was willing to defend those that no one cares about and wants to get rid of. If he’s that passionate about that in a movie that he didn’t know if it’s ever going to make money or not . . . we could tell: That’s a young man we want to invest in, because he’s going to change the world with his films.”

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Trailer O’ the Day: Sellebrity

Just caught this trailer for the new documentary Sellebrity last night at a screening of Holy Motors at USC. Seems pretty timely, what with the recent death of paparazzo Chris Guerra, who was struck by an SUV while shooting Justin Bieber, as well as the proposed legal changes to celebrity photography still being bandied about here in Los Angeles in the wake of Guerra’s death.

Ken Burns: My First Big Break

When you hear a letter written by Thomas Jefferson being read by actor Sam Waterston or see a photograph showing the intensity in the eyes of a Civil War soldier, you know you’re watching a Ken Burns documentary.

In this episode of My First Big Break, the iconic filmmaker tells the MediabistroTV crew how he channeled his feelings of humiliation into his first masterpiece on the Brooklyn Bridge and reveals how his mother’s death sparked his need to bring the dead back to life, shaping the style we know today as the “Ken Burns Effect.”

For more videos, check out our YouTube channel and follow us on Twitter: @mediabistroTV

Ken Burns is Coming to MediabistroTV

Watching a Ken Burns film is like watching the past come alive through the expert use of narration and still photographs. So how did he develop his signature style? The iconic filmmaker sits down with MediabistroTV in, “Ken Burns: My First Big Break.”

>UPDATE: Watch “Ken Burns: My First Big Break” in three weeks on MediabistroTV, Thursday, December 6.

And if superstorms on the East Coast and unseasonably warm weather on the West Coast wasn’t enough to satisfy your craving for major weather events, PBS presents an Extreme Weather Night of TV this Sunday (11/18), beginning at 7pm ET.

NOVA gets the party started with the premiere of Inside the Megastorm an original one-hour documentary taking viewers moment by moment through Hurricane Sandy. Then Burns gives us reason to give thanks when he presents The Dust Bowl. Burns tells the story of the worst man-made environmental disaster in American history in a two-part, four hour documentary detailing how the convergence of a terrible drought and the scramble for the American Dream nearly changed the southern plains forever.

You can view our other MediabistroTV productions on our YouTube Channel.

West of Memphis Plays AFI Fest on Eve of Death Penalty Vote

West of Memphis, Amy Berg‘s comprehensive documentary about the wrongly accused West Memphis Three, made its  debut at AFI Fest yesterday. There weren’t a whole lot of dry eyes in the audience. With today’s vote on Proposition 34 to end the death penalty in California, the timing couldn’t have been more perfect.  If you didn’t make the screening, do yourself a favor and at least watch the trailer above before you vote today.

Hearst Documentary Screens in San Francisco

Following a splashy private screening at Hearst headquarters in New York City and a public world premiere earlier this month at the Hamptons International Film Festival, feature documentary Citizen Hearst has come home to roost. Commissioned by Hearst and narrated by actor William H. Macy, the film will debut in San Francisco tonight at a Legion of Honor event sponsored by the Chronicle.

The movie was co-produced and directed by Leslie Iwerks, who previously took a look at another west coast media giant in The Pixar Story. The parade of on-screen interviews includes Oprah Winfrey, Dan Rather, Mark Burnett, Walt Disney Company chairman Bob Iger and a number of William Randolph Hearst descendants.

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Ray Bradbury Documentary to Premiere in Ventura

Seven years ago, Ventura artist and filmmaker Michael O’Kelly met the late Ray Bradbury at the author’s Los Angeles home. The two became fast friends and worked together to coordinate book signings, theater events and film festival appearances.

Later this fall, O’Kelly will unveil a feature length documentary titled Live Forever – The Ray Bradbury Odyssey. He plans to also submit the movie to film festivals and have a qualifying run for Best Documentary Feature Oscar consideration. But first, there will be a November 11 screening in Ventura to benefit the San Buenaventura Friends of the Library and Ventura Film Society. From this weekend’s report in the Ventura Star:

”It’s Michael’s first film and we’re supporting him in that,” said Lorenzo DeStefano, director of the Ventura Film Society. “I saw a play that he did called Live Forever, and this has evolved from that. He’s been working on this for some time. It’s very personal too. He’s got some great actors and fans. Ray was one of the century’s most amazing guys.”

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Peter Arnett Talks About His Chinese Journalism Students

When he’s not residing in LA, Pulitzer Prizer winner, Osama bin Laden interviewer and one-time CNN war correspondent Peter Arnett is teaching journalism students at Shantou University in southern China. He tells Fairfax NZ News reporter Alex Fensom that his charges are exceedingly industrious:

“I’ve got 60 to 80 students each semester … They are better educated than I ever was. There’s no smoking, no drinking, no fighting.”

Intriguingly, Arnett says he senses that the Chinese government realizes its days of being able to control the flow of inbound and outbound news information are gradually coming to an end. Which would leave the country’s unlikeliest ally North Korea as a Asia’s only remaining hidebound nation.

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The Invisible War Blows Away the LAFF

Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering‘s brilliant documentary on the epidemic of rape in the U.S. military The Invisible War had a free screening this weekend at the LA Film Festival–and blew the room away. This Fishie attended no less than seven films over the last four days of the festival and The Invisible War was unquestionably the strongest. From what we’ve seen, the film is easily the front runner for Best Documentary at this year’s Oscars. But more importantly, without even being released yet, the film is having a real world impact. Producer Amy Ziering was in attendance for Saturday’s LAFF audience Q&A (the most and perhaps only intelligent audience Q&A we have ever attended by the way) and informed the crowd that the Pentagon’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office Mary Kay Hertog–among the more incompetent military officials interviewed in the film–had been forced to resign. This came on the heels of Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta screening the film and immediately authorizing major changes to the way military rape allegations are handled.

Truly a wonderful piece of journalism.

The film opens in theaters nationwide this Friday.

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