Trailers are an under-appreciated art form insofar that many times they’re seen as vehicles for showing footage, explaining films away, or showing their hand about what moviegoers can expect. Foreign, domestic, independent, big budget: I celebrate all levels of trailers and hopefully this column will satisfactorily give you a baseline of what beta wave I’m operating on, because what better way to hone your skills as a thoughtful moviegoer than by deconstructing these little pieces of advertising? Some of the best authors will tell you that writing a short story is a lot harder than writing a long one, that you have to weigh every sentence. What better medium to see how this theory plays itself out beyond that than with movie trailers?

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Movie Trailer: The Tillman Story


At this year’s Sundance Film Festival, one of the most talked-about pictures was The Tillman Story. The film drew generally great reviews and was quickly the object of an acquisition bid by The Weinstein Company. Now there’s a trailer that paints Amir Bar-Lev‘s documentary not just as a portrait of a huge, terrible lie, but as a thriller as taut as any fictional tale. Read More »


In My Kid Could Paint That, director Amir Bar-Lev followed around the family of child prodigy Maria Olmstead, documenting her rise to fame and its subsequent painful backlash. But Bar-Lev’s film ended up becoming less a document of Olmstead’s life, and more about Bar-Lev’s own struggle to come to terms with the concept of truth and the role of journalism.

In The Tillman Story, Bar-Lev fixes his gaze on an almost equally contentious public figure: Pat Tillman. Tillman was famously offered a multi-million dollar NFL contract, only to give it up in order to serve in the military. When Tillman was shot and killed in the line of duty, the U.S. military spun the incident as a story of a brave soldier killed while fighting off Taliban forces. Later, it was revealed that Tillman was killed by friendly fire, and that the military had lied in its initial report about Tillman’s death. What went into these lies, and what actually happened to Pat Tillman? These are the questions that Bar-Lev examines in his film.

After the jump, a few thoughts about the film and my interview with director Amir Bar-Lev, in which he talks about the  of documentary filmmaking and the importance of holding government accountable.
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