I Called Him Morgan
Release Date: March 24 Director: Kasper Collin Cast: Documentary
Lee Morgan was something of a prodigy in jazz circles, playing with the greats before he could drink at the bars where they were gigging, and one of the most exciting qualities of Kasper Collin’s documentary is how he snapshots that scene, puts across what it took for a young kid to rise in it, and casually notes the way drugs worked their way into that life. Morgan was at his lowest point when he met future wife Helen, who propped him back up, took care of him, got him working, and, a few years later, caught him stepping out on her after a gig and shot him dead. Collin takes his cues from the music, moving sideways through this strange story with the help of friends and collaborators, terrific archival footage and recordings, and old interviews that sound like ghosts telling their scary stories.
Karl Marx City
Release Date: March 29 Directors: Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker Cast: Documentary
When the wall came down separating East and West Germany in 1989, a people’s way of life was inalterably changed – and suddenly questions sprang forth anew. This stylish documentary shines those questions, of reconstruction, recovery, and secrecy, through a personal prism: Epperlein’s father committed suicide years later, and in investigating and exploring his death, she found herself investigating his life, his past, and his rumored involvement in the German Stasi. Combining her own new interviews (in crisp, striking black and white) with declassified surveillance tapes and German propaganda films and state TV broadcasts, the filmmakers construct a meticulous inquiry into not only the logistics of this surveillance state, but the mindset that motivated it.
All This Panic
Release Date: March 31 Director: Jenny Gage Cast: Documentary
“I don’t wanna age,” Ginger says. “I think that’s the scariest thing in the world.” It sounds hilarious coming out of the mouth of a high-school junior, particularly at the beginning of a documentary that tracks that very process, following Ginger and six other young New York women out of their teenage years and into young adulthood. Some are best friends, who fight and make up and will never shake each other; others are casual acquaintances, who float in every once in a while for a scene or two, like they do in your life. Director Gage regards them casually, capturing their interactions and solitude, their wit and (perhaps premature) sophistication. By the end, you can see how far they’ve come, these remarkable women, and marvel a bit at where they could go.
David Lynch: The Art Life
Release Date: March 31 Directors: John Nguyen, Rick Barnes, Olivia Neergaard-Holm Cast: Documentary
The Art Life opens with a long, medium wide shot of its subject, just sitting and thinking, followed by images of his menacing artwork. It establishes, right off the bat, the appropriate tone and impressionistic style – you can’t just make a conventional documentary about an artist this unconventional. The masterstroke here is not to tell the stories we all know; in fact, his first explorations of film don’t come until more than an hour in (clips from The Alphabet, already showcasing a worldview that’s creepy and unique). Instead, the filmmakers focus on Lynch’s early years, and his ongoing explorations of visual art – challenging work that is nasty, funny, and provocative. We see him in his studio, painting, sculpting, listening to music, hanging out with his tiny daughter. And over those images, he tells stories (filled, needless to say, with colorful colloquialisms like “They got along like Mike and Ike”), of his desire to create, of his attempts to fit into a scene, of his awareness that he would have to do a lot of bad work before he created anything that was either good or his. And they conclude with the production of Eraserhead – i.e., it’s a movie that goes right up to where most of us become aware of Mr. Lynch. But by traveling this less-trod path, we understand how he arrived there, and how filmmaking became the culmination of everything he was trying to achieve.