Susan Sarandon will share her favorite nonfiction films as part of the SundanceNow Doc Club, Variety has learned exclusively.
The Oscar winner will spotlight eight films that touch upon a range of social, political and artistic issues including “Pink Ribbon, Inc.,” a critique of the lack of progress in breast cancer treatments; “Trouble the Water,” an examination of Hurricane Katrina survivors; and “Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry,” a profile of the Chinese artist and activist. She will also share two films that she executive produced: “Storied Streets,” a look at homelessness, and “Waiting for Mamu,” a portrait of social worker and 2012 CNN hero of the year Pushpa Basnet. It’s the first time that the films have appeared on streaming video-on-demand.
Sarandon’s selections will go live on Friday.
“Susan has a unique point-of-view, and she’s a passionate patron of documentaries,” said Linda Pan, general manager of the SundanceNow Doc Club. “It’s such an interesting combination of fight-the-system documentaries and her personal favorites. It gives members the impetus to go and experience a film that’s being championed.”
Of the program, Sarandon said, “I appreciate a doc when it encourages you to be the protagonist in your own life or when it makes you itch to solve a problem, fight for justice. Others celebrate life and the human spirit. Doesn’t get much better than this.”
The actress is the latest big name to curate films for the subscription service, following in the footsteps of public radio host Ira Glass and “The Thin Blue Line” director Errol Morris.
Doc Club is an advertising-free, boutique subscription service dedicated solely to documentaries. Membership costs between $4.99 and $6.99 and the clientele tends to be well educated, split evenly between the genders and between 30 and 55 years old.
Doc Club underwent an extensive 12-month redesign and relaunched in September. Pan said part of the overhaul has been to draw more attention to the films picked by artists and influencers like Sarandon.
“We gutted the entire thing, we got things to run better and faster and the look and feel has changed,” she said.
The redesign allows people to access the films on iOS and Android apps, as well as on Roku and Chromecast. Doc Club does not release its subscriber numbers, but Pan reports that over the first three months of 2015, membership has more than doubled from the same point the previous year.
Here are the eight films Sarandon selected with a description of each:
• AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY
First-time director Alison Klayman gains unprecedented access to Ai while working as a journalist in China. Her detailed portrait provides a nuanced exploration of contemporary China and one of its most compelling public figures.
• BEACHES OF AGNES
A reflection on art, life and the movies, Agnes Varda’s richly cinematic self-portrait that touches on everything from the Black Panthers to the birth of the French New Wave.
Directors Ben Knight and Travis Rummel explore the change in American attitudes toward dams, from pride in these feats of engineering to the growing awareness of how drastically dams have affected the American landscape and river system. The film will be added to the collection later this month.
Jeff Malmberg documents the recovery of artist Mark Hogencamp after a brutal attack that left him in a coma. To deal with the trauma, Hogencamp builds a miniature World War II-era town in his backyard and creates photographic stories of its intrigues.
• PINK RIBBON INC.
The ubiquitous pink ribbons campaign obscures the reality of breast cancer – more women are diagnosed with breast cancer every year, and face the same treatment options they did 40 years ago. In showing the real story of breast cancer and the lives of those who fight it, director Léa Pool reveals the co-opting of what marketing experts have labeled a “dream cause.”
• STORIED STREETS
Executive produced by Sarandon and Morgan Spurlock, this film explores the issue of homelessness across the country. Starting in Los Angeles, ending in New York and covering 13 cities in between, the documentary breaks stereotypes about and brings much needed humanity to the homeless population. The film was co-directed by Jack Henry Robbins and Thomas A. Morgan.
• TROUBLE THE WATER
Nominated for an Academy Award for best feature documentary, the film takes you inside Hurricane Katrina in a way never before seen onscreen. It’s a redemptive tale of two self-described street hustlers who become heroes — two unforgettable people who survive the storm and then seize a chance for a new beginning.
• WAITING FOR MAMU
Executive produced by Sarandon and Morgan Spurlock and directed by Thomas A. Morgan, this film follows social worker and 2012 CNN hero of the year Pushpa Basnet, who founded a development center for children in her native Nepal in an effort to combat the practice of child imprisonment.