15 must-see documentaries this summer, including Val Kilmer, Alvin Ailey and ‘The Lost Leonardo’


The two stalwarts of stage and screen are now the subjects of heart-wrenching new films.

“Batman Forever” actor Val Kilmer and legendary choreographer Alvin Ailey each get the documentary treatment this month in “Val” and “Ellie,” respectively.

“Val” (streaming in theaters Friday, August 6 on Amazon Prime) uses intimate behind-the-scenes videos—most of which were shot by Kilmer—to trace the movie star’s four-decade career, Fans adore it with performances from the ’80s and ’90s classics including “Top Gun,” “Willow” and “Tombstone.” Co-directed by Leo Scott and Ting Poo, the doc also features emotional new interviews with 61-year-old Kilmer as he reflects on the personal and professional ups and downs of his voice after two years of throat cancer. Struggles to gain use. War

‘You want it to hurt’:Val Kilmer, daughter Mercedes explain why their tearful ‘Pedart’ scene is so emotional

“Ellie” (in select theaters Friday, August 6 nationwide) is equally poignant in its reflection on Ellie, who died of AIDS-related complications in 1989 at the age of 58. Doctor Black reviews Gay Trailblazer’s wondrous choreography and activism, painting a portrait of a man who was warm and simple, yet deeply personal. Director Jamila Vignot intertwined the film with breathtaking rehearsal footage of Ellie’s dance company preparing to pay tribute to the 60th anniversary in 2018.

“Val” and “Ellie” are just two of the many real-life stories coming to the big and small screens this summer. From music to mysteries to a lone whale, here are all the documents that should be on your radar:

Dancer/choreographer Alvin Ellie, left with dancers in a still from the new documentary "Ellie".

New documentaries now running

‘Summer of Soul (…or, when the Revolution could not be broadcast)’

Questlove revives the long-forgotten 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival in this Sundance Award-winning concert doc, featuring performances from icons Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, and The 5th Dimension. (Streaming now in theaters and on Hulu.)

Detailed analysis:How Questlove turned a forgotten music festival into the most ‘compelling’ documentary of 2021

‘Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain’

Morgan Neville’s controversial new documentary traces the TV host’s life and suicide in 2018, using AI technology to recreate Bourdain’s voice and not interviewing his eventual girlfriend, actress Asia Argent. selects the option. (Now in cinemas.)

‘The Hidden Life of Trees’

Based on a 2015 book by forester Peter Wohleben, which posits that trees are actually social animals with families and ways of communicating amongst each other. (Now in cinemas.)

‘The Loneliest Whale: The Search for 52’

Leonardo DiCaprio’s executive builds on this fascinating look at the so-called “52 Hz whale”, a creature said to be alone in the Pacific Ocean and emitting a kind of frequency that other whales cannot hear. (Now in theaters and on VOD platforms.)

New documentaries in August

‘Pray away’

Continuing his effort to bring LGBTQ stories to Netflix, Ryan Murphy endorses this powerful documentary about conversion therapy and former leaders of the “Pray the Gay Away” movement. (Streaming on Netflix August 3)

‘Bring Your Own Brigade’

A first look at the history and heroism behind California’s wildfires, including the 2018 Camp Fire, the deadliest and most devastating wildfire still in the state’s history. (Streaming in theaters August 6 and Paramount+ on August 20.)

‘Misha and the Wolves’

The surprising tale of a Holocaust survivor’s survival is more complicated than this twisty, thought-provoking documentary out of Sundance. (Streaming on Netflix August 11.)

‘homeroom’

A year in the lives of Oakland, California high-school students, followed in real time as they navigate the COVID-19 pandemic and protest against the killing of George Floyd. (Streaming in theaters August 12 and on Hulu.)

‘The Lost Leonardo’

A stranger-than-fiction story about the most expensive painting ever made: Salvator Mundi, a controversial work believed to be Leonardo da Vinci’s lost art, was auctioned in 2017 for $450 million. (August 13 in select theaters)

‘Not going silent’

This year’s Audience Award winner at the South by Southwest Festival furthers the efforts of health worker Eddie Barkan, who was diagnosed with the degenerative disease ALS at age 32. (August 13 in select theaters)

‘Missing in Brooks County’

Two families are searching for their loved ones who went missing after crossing the US from Mexico in a serious humanitarian crisis at the border. (August 20 in select theaters.)

‘outsider’

A window into the years-long battle to create the National 9/11 Museum at Ground Zero, which opened in New York in 2014. (August 20 in select theaters and virtual theaters.)

‘on Broadway’

As the Great White Way prepares to reopen, filmmaker Oren Jacobi looks back on the shows that have defined America’s theater capital, including interviews and interviews with Lin-Manuel Miranda, Viola Davis, James Earl Jones and Helen Mirren. Performances are included. (in select theaters from August 20)

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