Documentaries are underfoot, as common as the common cold. (Gesundheit.) How many years will it be before the incredible output of nonfiction material can be deciphered? Everybody’s got a story, and they’re collecting the footage for five more at the same time. Got a crazy cousin? Loopy neighbor? Strange goings-on late at night on the intersection? Point the camera out the window. Process often provides structure for the best of the new rash of personal documentary work, and the New Documentary Showcase program at Chicago Filmmakers takes off from the idea of “strange careers.” Bradley Beesley, the prolific maker of films on the Flaming Lips and “Okie Noodling,” the practice of catching catfish by hand, offers “Mr. Hypnotism,” part of a work-in-progress about Ronald Dante, one of the great conmen of the twentieth century, briefly married to Lana Turner, an ex-convict sent away for attempted murder of a competing hypnotist: if this is only a taste, can’t wait for the final result. Vance Malone’s “The Poodle Trainer” focuses on Irina Markova, a Russian poodle trainer to surprisingly tender and touching result. Jessica Edwards’ “Seltzer Works” is prototypical process observation: third-generation seltzer-filler Kenny Gomberg mans Brooklyn’s Gomberg Seltzer Works and preserves an outdated product. This is the kind of filmmaking that makes my eyes go wide: discover, look, listen, distill. Also: James Blagden’s “Doc Ellis and the LSD No-No”; Iban Del Campo’s “Dirty Martini”; Moonika Siimets’ “World Champion.” Program 100m. (Ray Pride)
“New Documentary Showcase” plays Friday at Chicago Filmmakers.
Ray Pride is Newcity’s film critic and a contributing editor to Filmmaker magazine.
His history of Chicago “Ghost Signs” in words and images will be published in Spring 2022.