Albert Maysles with Film Society's Eugene Hernandez. Photo: Irene Cho
The sixth episode of the Film Society’s Daily Buzz podcast brings the heat with a fast-paced wrap-up of the best so far and the best yet to come at Sundance with writers Jennifer Lee and Jascha Hoffman, director Albert Maysles and his love-driven filmmaking (The Secret of Trees), how one documentary stokes the fire of controversy surrounding Zero Dark Thirty (Greg Barker's Manhunt), and more!
From the director of seminal documentary and cult favorite Grey Gardens comes a 3-minute documentary about a 13-year-old inventor, The Secret of Trees. How does Albert Maysles get people to do what they do and say what they say in front of a camera? Through love. And being at the right place at the right time.
“When I pick up the camera, since I let everything happen on its own, it requires that I have access. I get that access through my appreciation and love of people. I acquire that friendship,” explained Maysles during his Daily Buzz interview. “Then that friendship extends to the rest of the world that sees the film. In other cases we learn about other forms of love with a mother that’s 82 and a daughter who’s 56 and can’t get away from her mother. Love is a binding force in her life [referring to Grey Gardens].”
Grey Gardens has spawned an HBO film, a broadway musical, and a cult following, all because of the Maysles and his team were able to gain access, for six weeks, to a mother and daughter in the Hamptons who had not left home in 20 years. Maysles's love for people and unique ability to observe are driven from a sense of what's going on behind the scenes.
“Too many documentarians depend on interviewing somebody instead of going to the action, going behind the scenes where things are taking place, which gives the viewer the opportunity to be there or feel like they are there,” he explained. “That is documentary at its best … And as eccentric as these characters are, they are not crazy. They’re just like us in many ways, but to extremes.”
These beautifully human eccentricities can be seen in The Secret of Trees, which is available to watch at Focus Forward Films.
Former CIA officers Nada Bakos (left), Marty Martin (center) and Cindy Store (right) with Manhunt director Greg Barker.
In what some have billed as the documentary version of Zero Dark Thirty, Greg Barker wanted to put a face on the work behind finding Osama bin Laden, which he captures in his seventh nonfiction film Manhunt.
“They do very tactile things,” Barker said about CIA officers and analysts. “They work with spreadsheets, they draw lines connecting organizations, they put up faces on a white board, it’s something you can relate to on a human level. I wanted to give people a sense of how our national security works while showing them emotions they can relate to.”
The story begins in the early 1990s with mostly female CIA officers, known as the Sisterhood, who uncovered a secret terrorist organization: Al Qaeda. Although Al Qaeda was on the CIA's radar before 9/11, it still took 10 more years to finally track down the man behind the organization. Barker takes his audience through all the paperwork and red tape and shows us the many faces behind the manhunt for bin Laden.
Former CIA officer Marty Martin explains that even though bin Laden is gone, the work is not complete. “We as a society need to not be driven by that cult of hate out there, but address it and give people hope.” Listen to our riveting interview with Barker, Martin and two former CIA analysts in epidose six of the Daily Buzz!
Festival Hot Topics:
Jennifer Lee – Writer
Jascha Hoffman – Science and nature writer
Interview: The Secret of Trees
Albert Maysles – Director
Greg Barker – Director
Marty Martin – Former CIA Officer
Nada Backos – Former CIA Analyst
Cindy Storm – Former CIA Analyst
Tim League – Founder/CEO
Peter Baxter – co-founder
Tom Bernard – co-president