Through the Lens

RadioWest and Utah Film Center have partnered to present the best in documentary filmmaking. We talk with established and new directors who are changing the way audiences see the world and then screen their films.

Oceanic Preservation Society,

In his last film, director Louie Psihoyos shed light on the shadowy practice of dolphin slaughter in Japan. His new film, Racing Extinction, bears witness to an even greater tragedy: the sixth extinction event, the one we’re causing. He and his filmmaking team went undercover to expose how the international wildlife trade and the oil and gas industries are together driving species around the globe to extinction. Psihoyos joins us Thursday to talk about that crisis and what can be done to stop it.

Monday, we continue our Through the Lens series with Daniel Junge’s film Being Evel. It’s a profile of Robert “Evel” Knievel, America’s most famous daredevil. He practically invented the genre of extreme sports and was considered a superhero in his day. To the thrill of millions, he jumped motorcycles over canyons, cars, buses, and perhaps most memorably, the fountain at Caesars Palace. Junge joins us to talk about Knievel’s trailblazing, tumultuous life and the motivations behind his death-defying feats.

Wednesday, we continue our Through the Lens series on documentary film with an exposé of the government’s controversial domestic counterterrorism tactics. The filmmakers behind (T)ERROR were on the ground as Saeed Torres, an aging Black revolutionary turned informant, aided the FBI in an active sting operation. Torres is just one of a growing number of covert operatives in America who straddle the murky line between preventing crimes and inciting them. Director David Sutcliffe joins us to talk about his film.

We continue our Through the Lens film series with a look at renowned director Jean-Luc Godard. Godard was part of the French New Wave movement of the 1960s. Now in his 80s, he’s still experimenting with the form. Film scholar David Sterritt says Godard’s most recent work is an astonishing audio-visual experience. There’s sort of story, but the adventure is the collage of language and images - including layers created in 3D. Sterritt joins us Tuesday to talk about Godard and Goodbye to Language.

We continue our series on documentary film Thursday with director Amy Berg’s film Prophet’s Prey. It’s an exposé of the rise and fall of Warren Jeffs, the self-declared prophet of the FLDS Church. The film recounts the dogged efforts of numerous people—including the writer Jon Krakauer, and Sam Brower, a private investigator—to shed light on Jeffs’ incredibly secretive polygamous community and ultimately bring the man to justice. Berg joins us Thursday to talk about her film.

With our next film in our documentary series Through the Lens, we’re trying something completely different. Man from Reno isn’t a documentary. It’s a feature film by former Utah filmmaker Dave Boyle. This neo-noir thriller follows a Japanese mystery author on her strange journey through San Francisco. Her story collides with that of a small-town sheriff investigating a possibly connected missing-person case. Boyle joins us Wednesday to talk about his film and his fascination with Japanese culture.

We continue our series on documentary film in January with a bizarre tale of murder in small-town America. Dave Jannetta’s film “Love and Terror on the Howling Plains of Nowhere” explores the mysterious and grisly death of a brilliant but aloof mathematician at the local college in quaint Chadron, Nebraska. The offbeat film is part character study, part tragicomedy, and it’s told through the eyes of writer Poe Ballantine, who wrote a memoir about the case. He and Jannetta will join us Monday.

Tuesday, it’s a special holiday edition of our Through the Lens series about documentary film. Humbugs may sneer, but filmmaker Mitchell Kezin is obsessed with Christmas music, and he isn’t alone. In his new film JINGLE BELL ROCKS! Kezin hits the road to document the vibrant subculture of holiday music fanatics and the yuletide tunes they love. He’ll join us to talk about his pop-culture pilgrimage and introduce us to the motley crew of merry misfits that’s reinventing the seasonal soundtrack.

Jason DaSilva was 25 when he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. As a filmmaker, he eventually decided to try and make sense of the disease through his art form. So, he set out to capture what he calls the transformative experience of becoming disabled. DaSilva let the camera run as he dealt with his loss of vision, muscle control, and many other complications. Next week, we’re screening When I Walk as part of the Through the Lens documentary series. Wednesday, DaSilva joins us to talk about it.

The next film in our Through the Lens is called This Ain't No Mouse Music. It profiles Chris Strachwitz, a modern-day Alan Lomax who fell in love with American roots music soon after immigrating to the U.S. from Germany in the '40s. He founded a record label that released albums of the blues, Mexican norteño, zydeco, Hillbilly country—basically any authentic, rootsy music that caught his ear. Strachwitz joins us Thursday with filmmakers Maureen Gosling and Chris Simon to talk about his love affair with music rooted in America’s heartland.