And just to round out a trio of great films about obsessive movie making, don't forget Lost in La Mancha.
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.
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.
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.
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.
'Darwin's Nightmare', one of the most frightening films I've seen.
'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.
LIFE AND DEBT is great if you want to see how the world really works for most of it's inhabitants
'Grown in Detroit', check out the trailer and witness that good things can come out of bad things...
Mascha, as mentioned above, please do not use this topic to promote your own work.
For my money, it is hard to beat 2008 Oscar winner MAN ON WIRE.
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.
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
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
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...
My Favourite is Last Train. Wish I could be rapped on the knuckles for self promotion on that one. Would die a happy man.
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?
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.
Doug, famous docs are allowed shortcut names. I often talk about that famous doc I saw in New York – The Kids.
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.
Ben & Doug,
Don't know how to delete the post... sorry!
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?
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?
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.
In reply to Erica Ginsberg's post on Sun 20 Mar 2011 :
Heddy Honigman website:
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)
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.
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
There are so many... FACING ALI & also love the ESPN Series 30 in 30, a collection of sport documentaries.
Here's a link to the ESPN series Tim (those of us outside the US won't necessarily know ESPN)
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.
I loved http://www.kinshasa-symphony.com/index.php?id=8&L=0
for cinematography and characters.
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.
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:
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.
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.
In reply to Suree Towfighnia's post on Mon 28 Mar 2011 :
One of my favorite music doc for sure!
I finally saw Inside Job this evening. Very worthy film – does a good job of laying out the financial crisis and its roots. I hope everyone sees it. However, style-wise I felt the same kind of sinking feeling I get in so many issue docs these days – a kind of Inconvenient Truth slideshow malaise, where all cinematic feeling is lost. Honestly, though, I am at a loss to imagine how else he might have made this particular doc-as-indictment film, so I probably shouldn't complain too loudly. It's another one of those movies I hope other people watch, even though I feel it continues the trend of documentary-as-lecture that has been degrading the genre from the point of view of cinematic experience over the last decade or so. It was a film you could have playing in the living room while you make dinner in the kitchen without missing much.
In reply to Ellen Brodsky's post on Sun 3 Apr 2011 :
Happy to hear this, i am pretty sure you gonna love this film.
In reply to James Longley's post on Sun 10 Apr 2011 :
By contrast, Armadillo was great. A very strong work of documentary cinema about foreign troops in Afghanistan, at last. I hope it gets a wide release.
In reply to James Longley's post on Mon 11 Apr 2011 :
I absolutely agree with you, i saw it and i was quite impressed.
I've rsvp'd for a preview screening of Armadillo this Wed night. Very eager to see it.
Death by plastic? This powerful short film was recently produced and shot by D-Worder Riley Morton.
Thanks for making that Riley. Thanks for sharing it, John.
Thoroughly enamored by the Bill Cunningham New York film. Best doc I have seen in a very long time.
Been eager to see it. Where is it playing? I missed it at the Film Forum.
It's now at IFC and City Cinemas East Village.. and a couple of other places. Really worth seeing in my book.
In reply to James Longley's post on Sun 10 Apr 2011 :
i just watched INSIDE JOB, and i must say... yawwwwwnnnnn! i was really looking forward to it, but it was just so uncinematic and uninspiring. i suppose if one had their head in the sand for the past few years – or stuck in Pakistan/Iran – and had no knowledge of the financial crisis already, then it could have been educational. but having listened to This American Life's radio series on the crisis, and having read a whole bunch of newspaper articles on the same, it just did not add anything new.
i really think it is regrettable that an unimaginative doc like INSIDE JOB gets nominated for an oscar, but films like LAST TRAIN HOME and THE OATH get left behind.
Heh. You know, even when in Pakistan I still listen to TAL and Planet Money podcasts every week. I also went through several books on the subject, including the highly recommended The Big Short as well as The Black Swan and 13 Bankers and also The Quants just for fun. But still, even though I thought Inside Job was cinematically standard and even dullish, it was still a film I'm happy got made – and I know people who only really got their heads around the financial crisis after watching it. Not everybody is a public radio policy wonk. That said, I also wish that The Oath had been nominated.
The Oath is brilliant. Laura Poitras is fearless. So bummed she was not nominated.
Docalliance has a wide range of docs online (legally, unlike many portals), some to download at small cost or even free, others streamed:
From April 18 to May 2, you can watch five unique, multiply awarded documentary films by Polish director Marcel Łoziński for free. Enjoy the best of the past twenty years of a filmmaker who is “trying to influence the reality around him while following the outcome with openness”.
I don't know if any of you have seen Catfish, but it was really interesting. I watched it the other day and found it to be mildly creepy and I certainly did not expect the ending.
I saw several great docs at SF Int'l this year, but the one I was moved enough to come here to post about it was BUCK, Audience winner at Sundance. I think it's getting a release soon. Don't miss it.
SIFF is showing Buck June 8 (SIFF Cinema) and June 9 (Kirkland).
In reply to John Burgan's post on Sun 17 Apr 2011 :
Heart-breaking, but great work. Any plans to do a feature length doc on this subject?
Academy-Award nominated filmmaker (and long time member of The D-Word) James Longley (IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS) has made his 2002 documentary GAZA STRIP available for free online in its entirety:
great little film about the Salton Sea and the strange community that used to surround it and what's left of it.
Working on a crash course with a motivated student, I noticed how many great docs are on Netflix streaming these days. Thought I'd share a sample here:
Harlan County USA
Last Train Home
Man on Wire
When We Were Kings
It Might Get Loud
In reply to James Longley's post on Sun 10 Apr 2011 : I agree. It muckracks to the point that it glosses over some of the real story. but, too, i wonder how else it might have been done.
I tend to get on a high after seeing a great movie – but Last Train Home was a masterpiece.
In reply to Kurt Engfehr's post on Tue 17 May 2011 :
Some gorgeous footage in there... I've seen several docs popping up about the Salton Sea lately... Here's one I'm eager to check out:
Just finished "Genghis Blues", re: Paul Pena and Tuvan throatsinging (netflix). It is great! I swear I put it on my queue because of something I recently read here, but can't find the posting. I read Fyneman's "Tuva or Bust!" years ago. I'm sure I have the companion record somewhere around the house.
Thoroughly enjoyed Page One. Caught it recently at a special screening at a brunch event for Film Forum supporters. David Carr and Brian Stelter are brilliant. As a lifelong journalist, it thrilled me. Two of my favorite docs this year take place behind-the-scenes at The Times– this one and Bill Cunningham NY.
Barbara, the trailer reads like a fiction. The soundbites are phenomenal.
here's a newfangled 'interactive documentary' supported by our good friends from the north, the NFB. it's a look at a small town in Canada that was closed! http://pinepoint.nfb.ca/#/pinepoint
it's part photo album, documentary and oral history. real interesting stuff.
In reply to Kurt Engfehr's post on Tue 14 Jun 2011 :
how interesting! thanks for the rec!
Not sure if I should ask here or somewhere else. I'm wondering if anyone knows of a "first person" documentary film? Meaning, the film is about a person but it is filmed from their perspective. For example, I'm the director, the film is about my story and I film everything from my view.
There's a whole slew but a seminal work in this genre is Ross McElwee's Sherman's March.
Yay! Thank you Ramona and Eliaichi, I will check both of these out today.
Well, most of the films directed by D-Word founder Doug Block are first-person docs...
My pick would be AMERICAN HARDCORE.
As a lifelong music freak (and former employee of WNEW-FM NYC, the world's GREATEST rock station ever) it moved me in ways no other film has. I always thought punk rock was noise, but this film really got me into the artistry of it, the characters involved, and after I watched it, I bought more songs on iTunes than I had in a long time by bands I never knew much about-Bad Brains, Dead Boys, Minor Threat, etc.
Most touching of all was the story of how Johnny Ramone stole Joey's girlfriend and married her-it was a scar the shy/sociall awkward Joey carried with him until he died-really showed that these artists are dimensional and above all, very human. I couldn't recommend this film more highly.....
Got to give it up to just a few of my favorite films with the word "Devil" in the title: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2qtFPOxDMs4
I have just watched Danfung Dennis's 'Hell and BAck Again' – WOW! It raises the bar for camera and editing. In the recent glut of war docs this one really holds its own.
I'll re-rec IRAQ IN FRAGMENTS and add a few others to the list:
THE GLEANERS AND I (Anges Varda)
F IS FOR FAKE (Orson Wells)
MONDO VINO (Jonathan Nossiter)
GASLAND (Josh Fox)
THE UP SERIES (Michael Apted)
Hi Reid! i would recommend, "The Gleaners and I" and the "Queen and I"In reply to Reid B. Kimball's post on Sat 18 Jun 2011 :
Alternative list compiled by London doc producer John Wyver to the current Morgan Spurlock/Current TV series: 50 (more) docs before you die
In reply to Scheffee Wilson's post on Tue 14 Jun 2011 :
+1 on Capitalsim: A Love Story
D-Worders may remember that we did a special topic two years ago on the controversy surrounding the release of Fredrik Gertten's film, BANANAS!*.
For those of you who (like me) didn't have a chance to see the film on the festival circuit, you can now watch it on Distrify – and finally make up your own minds.