Looking Forward: 5 Docs to See in 2016

Photo: Drew Christie, courtesy of Sundance.

By Pat Mullen

Sundance starts tomorrow! This exciting news means that we’re heading into a new festival season and a fresh slate of docs. Hopefully some of the goodies rolling at Park City over the next week make it to Canada, especially for Hot Docs. In anticipation of a good year to come, here are five docs we’re looking forward to seeing in 2016.

Becoming Mike Nichols
Dir. Douglas McGrath
The late Mike Nichols directed some of my favourite movies like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Graduate. As a die-hard Meryl Streep fan, I’m going to miss their collaborations after films like Postcards from the Edge, Silkwood, and Angels in America. With a prolific body of work that included Primary Colours and Closer in later years, few directors had a hand with actors like Nichols did. He demonstrated this over and over again on Broadway, where as the go-to theatre director of his generation he won eight directorial Tonies for such productions as Death of a Salesman, Spamalot, The Real Thing and The Prisoner of Second Avenue. This new doc by Douglas McGrath, who co-wrote the riotously funny Woody Allen film Bullets Over Broadway, is in collaboration with theatre director Jack O’Brien and producer Frank Rich and offers a portrait of Nichols through his final interviews, which were filmed just a few months before his death. It will be a treat to revisit scenes from one of cinema’s and theatre’s greatest talents and to hear the director discuss his process. (The film premieres at Sundance.)

Buena Vista Social Club: Adios
Dir. Lucy Walker
Move over Katniss! Documentaries are the new franchise! Yes, this list has a sequel. (As all lists of films anticipated for the New Year, must do these days.) This doc brings a new chapter to Wim Wenders’ Oscar-nominated documentary Buena Vista Social Club, which celebrated the comeback of a legendary group of Cuban musicians. For the sequel, Wenders serves as producer and lets director Lucy Walker (The Crash Reel) take the helm. The film captures the final concerts of the group as they grow old, but keep their love for music young at heart.

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World
Dir. Werner Herzog
Seeing that wild bear attack in the crazy and Herzogian The Revenant gives one a hankering to see something new from the great director of Grizzly Man. Werner Herzog returns with the digital age doc Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World which examines the virtues and failures (more likely failures) of the Internet in this plugged-in age. The philosophical musings of the peculiar Mr. Herzog are a documentary highlight of any year in which they appear. (The film premieres at Sundance.)

Dir. Penny Lane
Our Nixon director Penny Lane returns with her unique style and sense of humour. Nuts! tells the bizarre yet true story of an eccentric doctor who finds a cure for impotence in the pre-Viagra days by—get this—transplanting goat testicles into men. Drawing on the memoirs of doctor John Romulus Brinkley, Lane once again mines archival material to offer personal and intimate readings of a man who might just be nuts. (The film premieres at Sundance.)

Play Your Gender
Dir. Stephanie Clattenberg
The arts and entertainment industry constantly brings us stories of gender disparity in salaries, awards, and opportunities, so why do we rarely receive substantial accounts of how hard it is for women to make it in the business? Maybe it’s because too few women can give the greenlight? This new doc from Stephanie Clattenberg tackles the gender gap by following Juno Award-winning musician Kinnie Star as she seeks to answer the question of why only 5% of music producers are women despite the consistent bankability of female pop stars. The implications of this film are one of which the film community should watch and take note.

What docs are you excited to see in 2016?