• Alex Gibney. (Sony Pictures Australia)Source: Sony Pictures Australia
Here are four documentaries by the acclaimed director you shouldn't miss. Streaming now at SBS On Demand.
By
SBS Movies

17 Jan 2017 - 2:24 PM  UPDATED 15 Feb 2017 - 4:23 PM

Alex Gibney, the highly acclaimed and prolific American documentary maker, knows how to pick a fight. His expansive back catalogue spans documentary features about the private lives of public people to in-depth investigations into institutional and governmental abuses of power.

He's profiled WikiLeaks, in We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks; exposed child abuse within the Catholic church, in Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God; and shone a spotlight on corporate corruption in Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room. In 2008, he was recognised with an Oscar for Taxi to the Dark Side – which, through the story of the death of an Afghan taxi driver at an American military base, investigated US government torture practices in Guantanamo Bay, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Speaking with SBS Movies after the release of Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer, a film about the media's love of political sex scandals, Gibney explained what's motivating his work: “It’s the ability to rationalise bad behaviour that I find terribly interesting.”

“It’s the ability to rationalise bad behaviour that I find terribly interesting.”

As you might expect, the targets of his investigations often hit back: His recent film Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief - an investigative probe into the Church of Scientology, was met with a large-scale, aggressive PR campaign aimed at discrediting the film.

Gibney is a storyteller who wants us to be as excited about his subjects as he is, and you can now watch four of his documentaries at SBS On Demand.

 

Sinatra: All or Nothing at All

M
USA, 2015
Genre: Documentary
Language: English
Director: Alex Gibney
Starring: Frank Sinatra, Gina Gershon, Christine Baranski, Vincent D'Onofrio
What's it about?
With this two-part documentary, Alex Gibney pays tribute to the legendary entertainer by following Sinatra’s growth from roadhouse performer to global singing sensation. Gibney tells his story using the set list of Sinatra's 1971’ retirement concert’, with each song referring to a chapter in Sinatra’s life, the footage playing to the voices of those who shared it with him, such as ex-wife Mia Farrow and former fiancée Lauren Bacall (“He wanted to be in the sack with everybody.”) Whether you're a lifelong Sinatra fan or not, All or Nothing makes for fascinating viewing.

 

Client 9: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

M
USA, 2010
Genre: Documentary
Language: English
Director: Alex Gibney
What's it about?
Gibney gives us a riveting insight into the life of Eliot Spitzer, from his meteoric rise as a NY Attorney General who prosecuted crimes by America's largest financial institutions in the country, then a Governor who many believed was on his way to becoming President, to his precipitous fall after he had been caught seeing prostitutes. A fascinating look into the inner workings of politics and power plays, particularly in the light of the recent downfall of another politician, Anthony Weiner, who also was the subject of a documentary.

Watch interview with Alex Gibney

 

Finding Fela!

M
UK, 2014
Genre: Documentary, Music
Language: English
Director: Alex Gibney
What's it about?
In Finding Fela! Gibney profiles Nigerian musician and revolutionary Fela Kuti, the founding father of Afrobeat. Gibney expertly intoxicates with Kuti’s music and political passion before exploring the man in all of his ‘bad behaviour’. But where the Broadway show celebrating him chooses not to show his cause of death, due to AIDS, Gibney gives us the life in full, with all the grit.

2014 Sydney Film Festival: Finding Fela! - Review

 

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr Hunter S. Thompson (2008)

M
USA, 2008
Genre: Documentary, Biography
Language: English
Director: Alex Gibney
What's it about?
Hunter S. Thompson and his drug-fuelled writing is very much a part of the cultural lexicon, but Gibney’s documentary follows the man. It draws upon the recollections of a handful of America’s most recognisable and influential individuals of the last 40 years, including Johnny Depp, who played Thompson in the Terry Gilliam’s film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and was friends with the author.

Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson Review

 

Explore the Going Gibney collection at SBS On Demand

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Going Clear - Alex Gibney interview
Director Alex Gibney talks about his documentary "Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief" during the Sydney Film Festival 2015.
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Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God: Alex Gibney interview
The U.S filmmaker discusses the Catholic Church’s history of covering up sexual abuse, and giving voice to its deaf victims.