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Sundance 2014 Documentary Wrap-Up: ‘Whitey,’ ‘Internet’s Own Boy,’ ‘Battered Bastards,’ ‘Electric Sky’ & More

Written by on January 25, 2014 

The Notorious Mr. Bout (Tony Gerber, Maxim Pozdorovkin)

The true life story behind the man who was the inspiration for The Lord of War, this documentary chronicles the adventurous life of weapons smuggler Victor Bout leading up to his arrest in a sting operation in Thailand. Compromised mainly of home videos that Bout shot himself as he travelled around the world, it is an interesting portrait of a man driven by ambition to provide the best life for his family, countering the persona of a super villain that has been propagated by the media. While this different perspective is interesting, with interviews from his wife and a voice over recorded in prison by the man himself, it skewers very heavily towards painting Bout as a victim and seems to forgive him for all the war profiteering by accusing governments of doing the same thing. [C+] – Raffi A.

No No:  A Dockumentary (Jeffrey Radice)

This documentary about the life and times of Dock Ellis, the pitcher famous for throwing a no-hitter while on LSD, reveals itself to be so much more than that. Directed by Jeffrey Radice, No No is a in-depth character study of an angry black man not afraid to speak his mind, and what that courage cost him. What starts as something that feels directed at baseball fans widens its net considerably, emerging as a story anyone and everyone can take something from. [B+] – Dan M.

Rich Hill (Tracy Droz Tragos, Andrew Droz Palermo)

This is an honest, sometimes grueling look at three separate teenagers growing up in Rich Hill, Missouri. Directed by cousins Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo, Rich Hill does well in not judging the working-class people who populate this town. As Andrew, Harley and Appachey attempt to work through the sometimes financial, sometimes emotional, obstacles that stand in their way, we wait for a glimmer of hope that never comes. [B] – Dan M.

To Be Takei (Jennifer M. Kroot)

One of the most iconic members of the original Star Trek cast, George Takei has reinvented himself over the years to stay relevant in the cultural zeitgeist of our times. Using his magnetic charisma and positivity he has become a notable advocate for gay marriage, an important voice in recognizing the horrors of the Japanese internment camps all while delighting millions daily with his popular Facebook posts. The documentary chronicles the day to day life of George and his husband Brad while exploring the trajectory that made Takei who he is today. While the film is fun to watch, especially for fans of the luminary actor, it cannot escape the feeling that it was originally intended to be a reality show, which would probably be a better fit for the antics of George and Brad. [B-] – Raffi A.

Under the Electric Sky (Dan Cutforth, Jane Lipsitz)

Profiling the Electric Daisy Carnival, an annual concert that takes place in a sprawling Las Vegas stadium, this 3D concert documentary takes you into the heart of EDM culture. By following around several attendees who travel far and wide to attend this annual orgy of neon lights and bass thumping music, the film sometimes feels like a glorified advertisement for the festival. It also glosses over the rampant drug use prevalent at these types of events. However, the experience as a whole is nearly as fun as attending the concert and it’s hard not to dance in your chair along with the thousands of concert goers experiencing the ecstasy of the journey. [B-] – Raffi A.

Whitey: United States of America V. James Bulger (Joe Berlinger)

Joe Berlinger‘s sprawling and ambitious documentary tackles the trial of one of the countries most infamous criminal masterminds, James ‘Whitey’ Bulger. It is an explosive examination of the many players involved in his sprawling web of crime that spanned nearly thirty years. By carefully following the prosecutors, defense attorneys, thugs turned rats and family members of the victims seeking justice, the film weaves together an ornate tapestry of corruption that is a comprehensive exploration of a very complicated case. Insightful and revelatory, this documentary will surely fascinate anyone with any interest about the case or learning about the man who inspired Jack Nicholson‘s character in The Departed. [B] – Raffi A.

Which Sundance documentaries are you most looking forward to?

All the above documentaries premiered at Sundance Film Festival 2014. One can see our full coverage of the festival below.

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