Recommended Documentaries

Recommended Docs

  • Public

This is a topic where you can say which documentary has really impressed you, and why people should see it. Can be a recent one or an all-time favourite. Can't be your own though, sorry...

This topic is for praising the work of others, not your own. If you want to beat the drum for your own documentary, please don't do it here. Fans use our Public Classifieds, and Professionals have their own Shameless Self-Promotion topic.

We also have a Documentary Films topic for our Professionals where the debate is private and possibly more controversial. This topic here is for recommendations to the documentary-interested public.

Jacob Bricca

A recent one that really impressed me was "Better This World", which was on POV last season. Wow. An amazing story, and inspired use of archival and reenactments.

Nick Verbitsky

Just saw SENNA....was very impressed w the storytelling, more so w the fact that no orig footage was shot for it....

Constance Ryder

i will never forget "The land of wandering souls" by Cambodian Rithy Panh

John Burgan

A historical curiosity rather than a great work, but fascinating nonetheless: painter Edvard Munch's home movies, shot in Spring 1927 on a Pathé-Baby with a 9,5 mm. film cassette

Raymund Gerard C. Cruz

This is not as self promotion, but for "friendship" promotions.

My good friend and former co-producer, Waise Azimi, made this interesting documentary a few years back. It's called STANDING UP and its about an Afghan military unit as they go through recruitment. (I don't want to give too much away).

It's been around in the festival circuit and finally got picked up by a distribution company.

If you want to see another perspective on war, catch STANDING UP!

Here is the official website:

You can purchase the DVD on

Florian Aurel Augustin

According to several Indonesian environmental NGOs (REDD-Monitor and
WatchIndonesia) “Cari Hutan" might be the most informative, educative,
yet thrilling and amusing documentary ever made in Indonesia about the
subject of deforestation. “Cari Hutan” is, above all, a road movie
that takes the audience on an adventurous journey, by hitchhiking and boat, through
Kalimantan in search of the last remaining forests. The filmmaker looks into the issue of deforestation, its causes, its effects on the country and what we can do to improve the situation. Eventually it
follows the traces of destruction to Jakarta and Germany. Not only
locals, the inhabitants of the forests, farmers and loggers are being
interviewed, but also prominent journalists, scientist and most
importantly Prof. Bungaran Saragih, former Minister of Agriculture and
Forestry of Indonesia, who is responsible for a large part of the

Piers Sanderson

I recently saw Gypsy Blood on TV in the UK and was incredibly happy to see this style of doc (no voice over and space between the scenes) on main stream TV with a prime-time slot of 10pm. The trailer makes it look like a doc on bare knuckle fighting. But this, i believe, was just a way to sell it to the masses as in fact it goes much deeper than that, in to a community and their values, as well as the relationship between father and sons. A first ever film, shot by photographer Leo Maguire on a Canon 5D it looks beautiful and i hope gets some festival showings as it deserves to be seen on a large screen.
The embed video would not take this URL for some reason –

John Burgan

Tribute to an almost entirely forgotten documentary filmmaker: Robert Vas came to London as a refugee from Hungary in 1956, to make over thirty films in the next twenty years, most of them for the BBC. This tribute made shortly after his death in 1978 is presented by fellow exile Karel Reisz (note that the film starts very quietly)

Full disclosure: a decade ago, I tried to make a film portrait of Vas with producer John Wyver, but we couldn't get anywhere with the BBC (a certain commissioning editor's explanation being "we're interested in the future not the past"); in the meantime, many of those who knew him have passed on themselves. Check out this entry on Vas, Robert who? on the excellent blog John maintains for his company Illuminations.

Fiona Otway

Just saw THE ACT OF KILLING at the Telluride Film Festival (its world premiere, I believe). I had to pick up my jaw off the floor after they turned on the lights at the end of the show. This has been one of the most talked about films of the festival and I can't wait to hear the broader doc community react to this one.....

Daniel McGuire

In reply to Fiona Otway's post on Mon 3 Sep 2012 :

That's amazing. The only other doc treatment of the 65' massacres is in a multi-part Australian doc "Riding the Tiger", which used some B/W footage from the time. (BBC I think). My doc on the Indonesian Student movement of 98 used some BBC footage and interviewed some of the survivors and witnesses. I have a good friend in Indonesia, Lexy Rambedeta, who has also worked on this issue.

John Burgan

Watch Sean McAllister's films for free at Doc Alliance between Sept 10-16

Sean McAllister is a British documentary filmmaker who has brought stories from Israel, Iraq, Japan, and most recently Syria and Yemen. Sean's films portray people with characteristic intimacy and frankness, specifically in the film Japan: A Story of Love and Hate.

Watch the retrospective of a filmmaker who Michael Moore marks as "one of the most brave and powerful filmmakers around" for FREE from September 10 to 16

Pablo Alvarez-Mesa

In reply to Fiona Otway's post on Mon 3 Sep 2012 :

A friend of mine just saw it at TIFF and was one of his favourite films. The other very intriguing doc at TIFF is Leviathan by Lucien Castaing-Taylor (Sweetgrass) and Véréna Paravel.. can't wait to watch those films.

Fiona Otway

In reply to Danielle Beverly's post on Tue 4 Sep 2012 :

I thought THE ACT OF KILLING was fascinating for its attentive form/content relationships, which raise lots of juicy questions about the representation of history (personal/social/political), propaganda, memory, truth, witnessing, power, violence, forgiveness, performance, transformation.... Some people in the audience were very suspicious of having been emotionally manipulated by the filmmaker, others had moral qualms with the premise of the film as well as the filmmaker giving voice to warlords (similar to critiques of REDEMPTION OF GENERAL BUTTNAKED, I think), and some were concerned about sensationalizing genocide. Personally, I think this is one of those films that leaves you with way more questions than answers – questions that you have to really ponder for a while and hopefully talk to others about too – and I loved it for that reason. There are so many layers for discussion in this film.... I really enjoyed hearing the director, Joshua Oppenheimer, speak about the film too – a very thoughtful guy.

Fiona Otway

In reply to Doug Block's post on Tue 4 Sep 2012 :

None of the other films I saw really affected me as strongly as THE ACT OF KILLING. But I also ended up seeing more fiction than documentary at this festival.

THE GATEKEEPERS was another very popular doc at the festival. It has some incredible historical significance, however in terms of form, it's a fairly conventional talking heads documentary. The motion graphics were very impressive immersive 3D recreations of archival photographs.

WADJDA was very charming. A simple story about a spunky Saudi Arabian girl who wants a bicycle. Well told and satisfying. First-ever film by a Saudi Arabian woman, they said.

GINGER AND ROSA was pretty and sweet. Made me want to see more of the director, Sally Potter's work. That said, I met a few people at the festival who walked out of this screening because they were bored and disappointed.

NO was a little too long, but interesting. Also deliberately plays with the relationship between form and content. I'm still thinking about it.

AMOUR won the Palme d'Or at Cannes this year. Most everyone I talked to loved this film, but I saw a short documentary on the same subject at Full Frame earlier this year, and I was way more moved by that.

Wish I could have seen STORIES WE TELL, WHAT IS THIS FILM CALLED LOVE, and PARADISE LOVE. I've been hearing great things.

Pablo, I'm also very eager to see LEVIATHAN!

Doug Block

I'm really eager to see STORIES WE TELL. More than anything.

Chuck Fadely

I saw SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN last night in a regular commercial Regal movie theater with a Sony 4k projector. Wow, how nice to see a good doc on a great screen with great audio. So glad to see docs getting some decent venues lately.

Did a search here looking for more info on the Sundance audience winner and haven't seen anyone mention it, so thought I'd recommend it.

SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN, by Swedish director Malik Bendjelloul, is a quest story. Some South African fans of 1970's Detroit musician 'Rodriguez', (bigger than Elvis and the Beatles in SA but in total obscurity in the US,) try to find out what happened to the "better than Dylan" voice that fueled revolt against apartheid. Well-told story that holds your attention and it has great music. Good production values. Not challenging, so ranks high in entertainment value.

Interesting to see how they put the story together with a slow reveal yet managed to keep it engaging. Great use of animation in some scenes.

The official trailer on YouTube is ad-ridden, so here's one with subtitles (movie is in English.)

Riley Morton

that got good reviews here in Seattle – yet i didn't see it. sounds like you liked it pretty well, but wouldn't necessarily give it an "A"?

Jason Osder

I think I wrote about this in the bar or the member's doc section.

I would give it an A. It is very well made and unexpected. I don't want to give away anything, so see it, then we can discuss.

Katina Dunn

"Searching For Sugarman" is a wonderful story. Sixto Rodriguez is almost like a bodhisattva – ok I won't give anything away.

I did wonder if the people who produced his earlier records really understood him. They put all this lush, syrupy instrumental sound under his very strong guitar & voice. I wonder if that is why the albums tanked in the U.S. His lyrics are still relevant.

Chuck Fadely

In reply to Riley Morton's post on Mon 17 Sep 2012 :

Oh, I LOVED Searching for Sugarman. Great film. Definitely an A. When I said "not challenging," I meant that it doesn't beat you over the head with academic or intellectual highbrow-ness. Like most great stories, it's simple and lovely.