vans-documentary

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Loving Vincent is the first fully painted feature film in the world, directed by Polish painter and director Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman (Oscar winner for producing “Peter and the Wolf”). 

The film features Saoirse Ronan, Aidan Turner, and Helen McCrory. 

30 presumably exhausted artists hand-painted the 56,800 separate frames that make up a film about Van Gogh’s manic life. And no – not every European animation is done by artfully daubing each canvas-sized animation cel; this one has been specifically done to look like the entire story takes place in our protagonist’s paintings. It’s an endeavor that took a total of two years to complete, at a rate of one painting every 40 minutes.

And it’s not just the visuals that are obsessively intricate, as the plot itself was pulled from 800 different letters by the artist and is presented as a series of interviews and reenactments surrounding the circumstances of his death. It comes out this September, and it’s still being completed in Poland and Greece. The film’s production raises the question of why more biopics about visual artists aren’t done to mimic their style. Just imagine the cinematic wonderment of H.R. Giger’s childhood depicted as a roiling ocean of disembodied dicks.

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Have you watched our new documentary series Living Off the Wall? In the introduction, documentarian Angela Boatwright shows us the backyard punk scene in East Los Angeles. Check out the first episode and see how these kids live off the wall.

Photo: Bertien Van Manen

30 Years in Appalachi: Moving Beyond the Hillybilly Cliches

In 1985, fascinated by stories of women working in mines in Appalachia, photographer Bertien van Manen embedded herself with families in the region. What emerged was an epic, intergenerational photography project spanning nearly 30 years.

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I just wanted to share this because one, I love Benedict Cumberbatch, and two, I love Van Gogh. This is a documentary and Van Gogh is played by Benedict. No dialog is made up, it’s all from letters he wrote to people, and his letters between him and his brother Theo feature heavily because of their close bond.

It’s a long documentary, about an hour and a half, but we so enjoyed watching it. It’s really cool to learn so much about him through his own words though. Apparently he is what’s called a typifile (or something around that area) because he was constantly either writing or painting something, he has hundreds of works of art and letters.

A fascinating look into his life with a brilliant actor playing the titular role.

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Sébastien Van Malleghem: A Look Into Belgium’s Prisons

From 2011 to 2014, I began taking pictures inside the walls of Belgian prisons. From Wallonia to Flanders, with several stops in Brussels, I sought to present a complete picture of a system ruled by the authorities and the criminals. I met with guards, young, nervous inmates, mentally ill prisoners, old bosses, foreigners, women, children, families, directors, and calm, long-term detainees.

The punishment for criminal behavior is the deprivation of freedom, which is supposed to a certain kind of redemption. The solution proposed by the authorities is to park them between walls and fences, similar to the way we chain dogs.

In certain prisons, the walls were collapsing, and the stench of the primitive toilet bucket that some must keep in their overcrowded cells was suffocating. At the same time, I was struck by the moments of humanity that passed between the guards and criminals, who after all, lived and worked there. In the middle of extreme boredom, drugs, and loneliness, there are these moments of friendship, laughter, and hope that make this universe bearable.

Indeed, a prison director once said that “everyone who looks normal from the outside, turns out to be incredible inside.”

Don’t be fooled: a prison remains a prison. One day, a warden looked out over the inmates walking in the courtyard below and said, “You could fill the yard with dead bodies.”

Prison is an exile for month or years, where time is regulated by the rhythm of the administration. Where fill-in forms are your only ticket to better moments. I seek to shed light on the daily life inside these prisons in the heart of Europe during the 21st century.

—Sebastian van Malleghem