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Recommended Documentaries

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...

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.

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. Enthusiasts use our Public Classifieds, and Professionals have their own Shameless Self-Promotion topic.

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Marj Safinia
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

Closely followed by the gem, Exit Through the Gift Shop, also about obsessive movie making, in a strange sort of way...


Marj Safinia
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

And just to round out a trio of great films about obsessive movie making, don't forget Lost in La Mancha.


Danielle Beverly
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

Streetwise: My absolute favorite and the one that helped me understand that a documentary was different than a fiction film.

http://www.maryellenmark.com/films/titles/streetwise/screening_room/streetwise_rat_jump.html


Summers Henderson
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

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.


Ryan Ferguson
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

i LOVE Dark Days for overall aesthetic and mood


Thomas Papapetros
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

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.


Ryan Ferguson
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

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.


Thomas Papapetros
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

Into Eternity, about nuclear waste..


Doug Block
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

I know others liked it a lot, but I have to say I found Into Eternity incredibly pretentious. Saw it at a film festival and I couldn't take more than 30 minutes of it.

Edited Thu 17 Mar 2011 by Doug Block

Keith O'Shea
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

'Darwin's Nightmare', one of the most frightening films I've seen.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mwVgLi0cvfo


Keith O'Shea
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

'To see if I'm smiling', caught this late one night by chance and was bewildered that it had not been on earlier and promoted.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZPg3RairUk


Nick Higgins
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

LIFE AND DEBT is great if you want to see how the world really works for most of it's inhabitants


John Burgan
Thu 17 Mar 2011Link

In reply to Thomas Papapetros's post on Thu 17 Mar 2011 :

Never heard of this till now. Sounds like a controversial choice many different versions too.


Mascha Poppenk-Bouwens
Fri 18 Mar 2011Link

'Grown in Detroit', check out the trailer and witness that good things can come out of bad things...

www.grownindetroitmoviecom


Ben Kempas
Fri 18 Mar 2011Link

Mascha, as mentioned above, please do not use this topic to promote your own work.


Jason Osder
Fri 18 Mar 2011Link

For my money, it is hard to beat 2008 Oscar winner MAN ON WIRE.


Doug Block
Fri 18 Mar 2011Link

In reply to Mascha Poppenk-Bouwens's post on Fri 18 Mar 2011 :

Folks, from here on we'll simply delete any post with a self-promotional angle to it. So don't even bother.


Jo-Anne Velin
Sat 19 Mar 2011Link

Mon tout petit/Mein Kleines Kind, Katja Baumgarten. The midwife carries her child to term knowing well ahead s/he will not survive long. She made her own film about this.

download – www.viktoria11.de


Erica Ginsberg
Sun 20 Mar 2011Link

One of my faves is Heddy Honigmann's THE UNDERGROUND ORCHESTRA. Unfortunately no online trailer or way to get the film other than at the institutional rate on Icarus. which is not very realistic for a filmmaker who just wants to check out the work of another filmmaker. But if you want to see it and other films of hers on DVD, there is a Facebook movement


Suree Towfighnia
Sun 20 Mar 2011Link

Thanks for starting this thread, Doug.
The film that's impressed me lately is Gasland- I sort of avoided it for awhile, but after a few minutes of screening it, I was hooked. Another story of lighting your water on fire from local natural gas mining. A must see for those interested in the feasibility of this "clean and terrorist free" energy. And there's banjo!
But an all time favorite –that sadly I can't find on DVD (anyone know how I can get a copy?) is Two Towns of Jaspar-innovative in approach (one black crew/one white crew) and deep in exploring race in contemporary America.
So many others to save for another time...


David Herman
Sun 20 Mar 2011Link

My Favourite is Last Train. Wish I could be rapped on the knuckles for self promotion on that one. Would die a happy man.


Doug Block
Sun 20 Mar 2011Link

Assume you mean Last Train Home, sir. I agree, it's a great doc.


Ben Kempas
Sun 20 Mar 2011Link Tag

In this context, Why documentaries matter by Nick Fraser in today's Observer.
Includes his all-time favourite docs, and many people posted theirs in response. Well, we did it first... Which are YOURS?


jade wu
Sun 20 Mar 2011Link

Up the Yangtze. Lin was Yung's DP on Yangtze film prior to making Last Train Home. Stunning cinematography in both. The stories: very well told. Considering the circumstances under which they filmed, both are one of many that are top on my list.

Also loved the incredible archival in John Walter's Theater of War.


David Herman
Sun 20 Mar 2011Link

Doug, famous docs are allowed shortcut names. I often talk about that famous doc I saw in New York – The Kids.


Doug Block
Sun 20 Mar 2011Link

The Kid Stays In the Picture? The Kids Are Alright? My Kid Could Paint That? The Kids Grow Up?

Just saying this is a topic open to the general public, so we shouldn't assume anyone is familiar with our recommended films, much less their shortcut names.

Edited Sun 20 Mar 2011 by Doug Block

David Herman
Sun 20 Mar 2011Link

Humbly stand corrected.


Mascha Poppenk-Bouwens
Mon 21 Mar 2011Link

Ben & Doug,

Don't know how to delete the post... sorry!

Mascha!


Doug Block
Mon 21 Mar 2011Link

We'll let it slide this one time, Mascha. Mostly to serve as an example to others ;-) Don't let this keep you from participating, though. What other doc do you recommend, particularly one from the Netherlands?

Edited Mon 21 Mar 2011 by Doug Block

Mascha Poppenk-Bouwens
Tue 22 Mar 2011Link

A Blooming Business (http://www.newtonfilm.nl/blooming_business) and California Dreaming (http://tegenlicht.vpro.nl/afleveringen/2010-2011/california-dreaming.html) come to mind but how does that differ from telling people about your own independent documentary?


Mascha Poppenk-Bouwens
Tue 22 Mar 2011Link

Floored (http://flooredthemovie.com), My name is Smith (http://mynameissmith.com/) by James Smith and all the films by Ashley Sabin and David Redmond at (http://www.carnivalesquefilms.com/) so...?!


Doug Block
Tue 22 Mar 2011Link

It's a far different thing recommending someone else's doc that you admired than to recommend your own. Whether yours is a good film or not, it then becomes an act of self-promotion.


Ben Kempas
Wed 23 Mar 2011Link

Guys, we'll soon open a public topic dedicated to self-promotion.

For now, let's remember Richard Leacock who died in Paris today, aged 89. And let's recommend his films as well as the campaign to have his memoir published.


Ben Kempas
Wed 23 Mar 2011Link

Leacock's lessons...

Edited Wed 23 Mar 2011 by Ben Kempas

James Longley
Thu 24 Mar 2011Link

Jazz Dance. Just pure perfection.


Stephanie Vevers
Fri 25 Mar 2011Link

In reply to Erica Ginsberg's post on Sun 20 Mar 2011 :

Heddy Honigman website:
http://www.heddy-honigmann.nl/hhonigmann/index.php

Maybe not her newer films but at least 3 other Heddy Honigmann films now available on Netflix: Dutch Junkies (2007), Forever (2006) and O Amor Natural (1996)
http://www.netflix.com/RoleDisplay/Heddy_Honigmann/20007137
and as a DVD boxed set also: http://www.fnac.pt/Antologia-de-Heddy-Honigrann-sem-especificar/a30230?PID=7&Mn=-1&Ra=-3&To=0&Nu=1&Fr=0

Her facebook page: facebook.com/heddy.honigmann .

Meanwhile Icarus Films has 2 competing facebook pages for her, from their own angle.

Edited Fri 25 Mar 2011 by Stephanie Vevers

Piers Sanderson
Sat 26 Mar 2011Link

I loved Pawel Pawlikowski's films Serbian Epics and Tripping with Zironophsky, shame that he only does fiction now. Here is a timecoded clip from a scene of Serbian Epics when Radovan Karadzic sees his mother
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9WioAOCB3TA

Edited Tue 29 Mar 2011 by John Burgan

Suree Towfighnia
Mon 28 Mar 2011Link

Straight, No Chaser. A beautiful Thelonuis Monk story with mostly "found" footage and Charlotte Zwerin as an editor. It's a true testament to the power of the edit to create something from discovered footage years later. Aside, from that, it's awesome to see inside the genius. Same with Charles Mingus, 1968...follows him through his eviction from his apartment/studio. Found it on vimeo

http://vimeo.com/10769018

Edited Tue 29 Mar 2011 by John Burgan

John Burgan
Tue 29 Mar 2011Link

In reply to Ben Kempas's post on Wed 23 Mar 2011 :

Leacock's obituary and also a piece by filmmaker/scholar Brian Winston

Show hidden content

Tim VandeSteeg
Tue 29 Mar 2011Link

There are so many... FACING ALI & also love the ESPN Series 30 in 30, a collection of sport documentaries.

Docs Rock!


John Burgan
Tue 29 Mar 2011Link

Here's a link to the ESPN series Tim (those of us outside the US won't necessarily know ESPN)


Nadia Awad
Wed 30 Mar 2011Link

I have NOT seen this doc, but am so blown away by the scene select and the process that I thought I would share. This is The Arbor by Clio Barnard. She created the film out of audio interviews which actors then lip-synched to, verbatim, while acting. It is supposed to screen in NYC sometime this month and am definitely going.

http://www.artangel.org.uk//projects/2010/the_arbor/video_clip/a_scene_from_the_arbor

Edited Wed 30 Mar 2011 by Nadia Awad

Doug Block
Wed 30 Mar 2011Link

Agree, Nadia. Looks fascinating.


Alessandro Gallo
Thu 31 Mar 2011Link

I loved http://www.kinshasa-symphony.com/index.php?id=8&L=0
for cinematography and characters.


Jason Perdue
Fri 1 Apr 2011Link

I was just about to post about The Arbor in Doc Films. It's playing at SF Int'l later this month. Can't wait to see it.

And thanks for the recommend on Kinshasa Symphony as it's playing close by next weekend and I wasn't planning to see it.

Edited Fri 1 Apr 2011 by Jason Perdue

Papagena Robbins
Sat 2 Apr 2011Link

I recently saw Brian Winston speak in support of a (very expensive) documentary on Robert Flaherty, ‘A Boatload of Wild Irishmen,’ for which he wrote the script. There is a little interview with Leacock in the film where he talks about working as Flaherty's cameraman on "Louisiana Story." Leacock's career was a truly expansive one.

Here's a link to Leacock's recollection of this experience of working with Flaherty from his website:

http://www.richardleacock.com/21188/On-Working-With-Robert-and-Frances-Flaherty

RIP


Jason Perdue
Sat 2 Apr 2011Link

Hi Poppy. Glad to see you here.


Ellen Brodsky
Sun 3 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Alessandro Gallo's post on Thu 31 Mar 2011 : Thanks for letting me know about the Kinshasa Film. I lived in the Congo for 2 yrs (85-87) and have just now put my name on the waiting list for the DVD. It looks incredible.


John Frisbie
Tue 5 Apr 2011Link

Brett Morgan did one of the ESPN 30 On 30 pieces about the historic day in sports in which OJ was chased through LA, the NBA Finals were taking place and Arnold Palmer was playing his last round of golf. Good storytelling and he only used available footage. Also, just watched 'Weather Underground' – couldn't believe how well-paced it was. A few holes, but it moves so well.


Charlotte Lagarde
Sun 10 Apr 2011Link

In reply to Suree Towfighnia's post on Mon 28 Mar 2011 :

One of my favorite music doc for sure!


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