And just for inspiration: Perlov Diary by David Perlov. Filmmaker's first shot: out the window. Start with your own backyard.
BARAKA; The holy grail of documentary cinematography imho
American Movie is possibly my all time funniest doc choice ever, about obsessive moviemaking.
Closely followed by the gem, Exit Through the Gift Shop, also about obsessive movie making, in a strange sort of way...
And just to round out a trio of great films about obsessive movie making, don't forget Lost in La Mancha.
Streetwise: My absolute favorite and the one that helped me understand that a documentary was different than a fiction film.
There's a very good documentary made by New Zealand filmmaker Justin Pemberton called The Nuclear Comeback (2008) about the question of whether or not nuclear power is what we need, to have more environmentally friendly energy production. (I made a documentary on the same subject, but it's not nearly as good.) Pemberton tries to give both sides of the debate an even chance to make their case – but it's hard not to notice that the main proponent of nuclear energy is an arrogant jerk. Nonetheless, the trend has been towards a huge, global renaissance in nuclear power. I suspect that the currently unfolding tragedy in Japan might change that. Let's all hope that it doesn't turn out to be as bad as it could be (and as I suspect it is).
But probably my favorite documentary on nuclear issues is Radio Bikini (1987) from director Robert Stone, about the nuclear bomb tests carried out by the US military after WWII. It's mostly constructed from archival footage – masterfully edited. But it's elevated to being more than just an archival film by two poignant interviews – one with a native Pacific islander who was forced to leave his home by the tests, and one with a US sailor who was part of the testing, and became an unwitting test subject. Highly recommended as an example of a historical documentary that packs a punch.
i LOVE Dark Days for overall aesthetic and mood
Not pleasant viewing. Made a deep impact on me. See directors cut version. Great but bizarre film making. Its a controversial film, that i think is misunderstood by many.
also – in terms of Nuclear related films, i always loved The Atomic Cafe, masterfully edited over 5 years out of archival footage only. It apparently can be watched in its entirety on this youtube clip but there are ads throughout. maybe not the best movie to break up with ads, so it's probably best to seek an alternative way to view it.