Episode 114: Steve James, Must-See Docs, and Jens Lekman

Steve James/Kartemquin Films

As we spend the next few weeks transitioning to a bigger and better show, we’re bringing you a smattering of new segments to sample. This week, documentarian Steve James (Hoop Dreams) drops by to talk about his craft, and to list some docs that you’ll love even if you’re doc-avoidant. Plus, we’re throwing in our favorite new Jens Lekman song, for kicks. Much more to come. Cheers!

Guest List: Steve James
Steve James (Hoop Dreams, Stevie, The War Tapes) is one of the pre-eminent American documentarians. Many critics consider Hoop Dreams, James’ multi-year saga of inner city kids and basketball, one of the greatest documentaries ever made; Roger Ebert even named it the best film – period – of the 90s. James’ new film The Interrupters is in theaters now: it follows a group of gang interventionists in Chicago as they seek to change patterns of violence. Since a fair number of us aspire to watch docs but rarely get around to it, we asked James for a quick list of docs that will turn our ideals into action.

  1. American Movie A hilarious cult film about an amateur director… filming an indie horror flick… to finance his great American epic.
  2. The Staircase A riveting verite miniseries that follows the sensational murder trial surrounding Kathleen Peterson’s death in 2001.
  3. Inquiring Nuns Two Chicago nuns in 1968 ask random strangers, “Are you happy?” in this quirky film, set to an early Philip Glass soundtrack.

One For The Road: Jens Lekman – “An Argument with Myself”
On first listen, “An Argument With Myself” plays like a sunny (and funny) half-drunk travelogue about carousing in Australia. But Swedish singer-songwriter (and inveterate wanderer) Jens Lekman tempers the bright palate with cool lyrics that are riddled with regret. Lekman’s EP (also called “An Argument with Myself”) comes out September 20 – best listened to if you’re finishing up a late summer vacation.

Music in this week’s episode:

The Sea & Cake – “the Argument”

Arling & Cameron – “Music For Imaginary Films”

Earlimart – “The Movies”

My Dad Vs. Yours – “Happy Wanderer”

Jens Lekman – “An Argument with Myself”