Film critic, Mark Cousins, wanted to make a documentary about the history of film, but didn’t want to do it by half measures – he wanted to cover it all. So, he made a 15-hour doco, broke it up into hourly chapters and called it The Story of Film: An Odyssey. You’ve been accepted by SBS to attend Cousins’ mini-film school. To celebrate, we’ve put together a list of all the docos about the art form you can stream right now on SBS On Demand. Think of these films as extra homework.
Watch 'The Story of Film' trailer:
American Masters: Mike Nichols
The king of the EGOT: Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony. Nichols’ didn’t just win one-off awards – he won multiple times. Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?, The Graduate, Catch-22 and The Birdcage are all listed on Nichols’ incredible filmography. Get insights into the life of one of the most celebrated filmmakers in this engaging doco directed by his former comedy partner, Elaine May, who came out of retirement after 29 years to make this film. Hear from the man himself, and the people who worked with him and worshiped him, including: Alec Baldwin, Matthew Broderick, James L. Brooks, Tom Hanks, Dustin Hoffman, Paul Simon, Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Robin Williams.
RIP VHS. In July 2016, Japan’s Funai Electric, a company that claims to be the last manufacturer of videocassette recorders (VCRs), made their last ever VHS player. Go back to a time when VHS was all the rage with this doco that focuses on the hysteria the new format caused in the UK in the 1980s. Due to a loophole in censorship laws in the UK, video releases didn’t need to be classified by the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC). Films that would have been banned by the BBFC for excessive violence and profanity flooded the VHS market, which led to a backlash from the press, family groups and religious organisations. Despite the clampdown, careers were born out of the infamy of these films and the doco explores the influence of these movies on modern filmmaking.
Not Quite Hollywood
The most comprehensive documentary about the ‘Ozploitation’ era of Australian cinema ever made. It begins with the revival of Australian films in the 1970s with the new wave of young filmmakers, and gets icky in the ‘80s with low-budget B-movies, which took advantage of the newly introduced R-rated classification that allowed more on-screen nudity, sex and violence. Director Mark Hartley spent years trying to get this doco made and came close to giving up. Hartley decided to give it one last shot before quitting and sent a 100-page treatment to Quentin Tarantino, who had been a vocal fan of Ozploitation films in interviews throughout his career. Tarantino contacted Hartley within 24-hours to offer his assistance to get the film made and agreed to an interview. Once people heard Tarantino was involved, they all wanted in, and Hartley was able to amass over 80 Australian, American and British actors, directors, screenwriters and producers to talk about Ozploitation.
The Greatest Movie Ever Sold
Ever notice how the camera always lingers on mobile phones way more than it should whenever someone uses one in a film? Welcome to the world of product placement. Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) explores how advertising makes its way into movies while examining the huge influence companies have in Hollywood. As a case study, Spurlock tries to get product placement in his own doco, so it becomes a self-aware film about product placement with its own set of sponsors; a surreal look at one of the necessary evils of Hollywood.
Roman Polanski: Wanted And Desired
Polanski has been a divisive figure; a filmmaker and celebrity scarred by the brutal murder of his wife and the controversy over his arrest for allegedly having sex with a 13-year-old girl and his subsequent flight to Europe. This gripping film builds the case on both sides with interviews with all the key players, apart from the now deceased trial judge who attempted to orchestrate the media circus around the case and Polanski himself who only appears in archival interviews.
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