The Measure of All Things is a new ‘live documentary’ by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Sam Green. The film, which will premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, is a meditation on fate, time, and the outer contours of the human experience. Inspired very loosely by the Guinness Book of Records, The Measure of All Things will weave together a series of portraits of record-holding people, places, and things, including the tallest man (7 feet 9 inches), the oldest living thing (a 5,000 year old Bristlecone Pine in Southern California), the man struck by lightning the most times (seven!), the oldest living person (116), and the woman with the world’s longest name, among others. Drawing inspiration equally from old travelogues, the Benshi tradition, and TED talks, The Measure of All Things will be screened with in-person narration and a live soundtrack. (NB: The Measure of All Things is in no way endorsed, sponsored, or connected to The Guinness Book of Records or Guinness World Records Limited).

The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller is a new “live documentary” by Sam Green featuring a live score by the legendary indie rock band Yo La Tengo.

The Love Song of R. Buckminster Fuller traces the career of twentieth-century futurist, architect, engineer, inventor, and author R. Buckminster Fuller (1895–1983). An early proponent of environmental stewardship, Fuller spoke persuasively about contemporary design and architecture’s ability to tackle issues of sustainability and conservation, and to stimulate radical societal change.

At every screening, Green narrates the film in person and cues images from a laptop while Yo La Tengo performs their original score. The performance is a follow-up to Green’s internationally-acclaimed live film Utopia in Four Movements, which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. This new work features the same unique combination of film clips and live music, as Green’s in-person cinematic narration draws inspiration equally from old travelogues, the Benshi tradition, and TED talks.

 

This 30-minute film traces the history of Esperanto, an artificial language that was created in the late 1800s by a Polish eye doctor who believed that if everyone in the world spoke a common tongue, we could overcome racism and war. Fittingly, the word Esperanto means “one who hopes.” During the early 20th century, hundreds of thousands of people around the world spoke Esperanto and believed in its ideals. Today, surprisingly, a vibrant Esperanto movement still exists. In this first-ever documentary about Esperanto, Green creates a portrait of the language and those who speak it that is at once humorous, poignant, stirring, and ultimately hopeful.

Throughout human history, people have had giddy dreams and fantastic notions about what the future would bring. Today the future has become more of a threat than a promise—a knot of intractable problems looming menacingly on the horizon. With a powerful sense of poetry, Utopia in Four Movements uses the collective experience of cinema to explore the battered state of the utopian impulse at the dawn of the twenty-first century.

In this “live documentary,” filmmaker Sam Green cues images and narrates in person while musician Dave Cerf performs the soundtrack. From the establishment of a man-made language designed to end war and cultural conflict and the undying optimism of an American exile in Cuba, to the current economic boom in China and the desire to give the remains in mass graves a dignified burial, Green and Cerf sift through the history of the utopian impulse with audiences and search for insights about the way to build a vision of the future based on humankind’s noblest impulses.

 

Sam Green introduces a “live documentary”

The world is facing so many huge problems and challenges today, that utopia—as a way to illuminate possibilities, stir hope and the imagination—seems more important than ever. Utopia is for this project both a subject and a creative aspiration.

This “live documentary” form—I narrate the film in person and use Keynote to cue images while Dave Cerf mixes a soundtrack on his laptop—started out as just a way to put all the material together and screen it for people, sort of a live rough-cut. But over time, I’ve become quite fond of this as an approach.

The ‘live-ness’ seems especially fitting. At its heart, utopia is almost always about collectivity, about transcending the boundaries of our individual lives to connect with something larger. In this era, when there are so many forces pushing us into private and mediated experiences, the simple act of getting together with other people to talk, catch up, drink, and have a collective experience is a small utopian gesture.

This kind of live event is also a response to the crisis facing cinema today. Most of my students rarely consider going to see a film in a theater. They can see a film more cheaply at home as a DVD or for free on YouTube. It seems as if filmmakers either have to embrace the notion of people watching their work furtively, in stolen moments, on laptops and iPods, or create something that cannot be reduced to a digital file.

I love computers and the Internet, but seeing a movie in a theater with other people has an aura of immeasurable power and plenitude nothing can replace. Something of that collective experience that has been a utopian aspiration has also been a cinematic experience this last century or so, and this event is an attempt to approach both—to describe utopia and to create a kind of conversation of ideas with the audience.

Fueled by outrage over racism and the Vietnam War, the Weather Underground waged a low-level war against the government throughout much of the 1970s—bombing the Capitol building, breaking Timothy Leary out of prison, and evading one of the largest FBI manhunts in history. The Weather Underground is a feature-length documentary that explores the rise and fall of this radical movement, as former members speak candidly about the idealistic passion that drove them to “bring the war home.” Starring Bernardine Dohrn, Bill Ayers, Mark Rudd, David Gilbert, Brian Flanagan, Laura Whitehorn, Naomi Jaffe Kathleen Cleaver, and Todd Gitlin.

 

Millions of Americans have seen Rollen Frederick Stewart, a.k.a. “Rainbow Man,” a man who achieved notoriety during the late 70s by appearing in the crowd at thousands of televised sporting events wearing his trademark rainbow-colored afro wig. Later, after he became a born-again Christian, he added a sign reading “John 3:16.” Over the years, grabbing the attention of the media became an obsession for Stewart. He abandoned his home and marriage to roam the country living out of his car, studying TV Guide each week in a never-ending quest to stay televised… with tragic consequences. “More than an exploration of life, The Rainbow Man is a parable about alienation, the media, and the meaninglessness that often defines American life.” – Trevor Groth, Sundance Film Festival