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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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David Herman
Tue 13 Dec 2011Link

Whoever has not seen 5 broken cameras DO IT (if for no other reason than to question your humanity)

James Longley
Wed 14 Dec 2011Link

That always packs 'em in. People love to question their humanity.
That's an amazing film, though, all joking aside. See it if you can.

James McNally
Thu 22 Dec 2011Link

Forgive me if this has been posted elsewhere (I tried searching) but Jane Weiner is trying to raise funds for her film Ricky On Leacock over on Kickstarter and the deadline is January 1st. The film is only around 30% funded so far and it's an incredibly important project about a towering figure in documentary filmmaking. Please check it out and, if you can, support it with a pledge:

Doug Block
Thu 22 Dec 2011Link

I second your recommendation, James. Jane's an old friend of mine and we've worked together on 3 films as producers (including my own Home Page). But separating that out, it's a project well worth supporting. Leacock is, indeed, a towering figure in doc history.

Jacob Bricca
Tue 7 Feb 2012Link

In reply to Marj Safinia's post on Thu 17 Mar 2011 :

I'm honored to see La Mancha (which I edited) in such esteemed company. It was a tough edit. At times it seemed like our film, too, would suffer the fate of Gilliam's!

Jacob Bricca
Tue 7 Feb 2012Link

In reply to John Burgan's post on Sat 10 Dec 2011 :

Thanks so much for putting up this link to "Glass." I've looked for it online before and never found it.

Jacob Bricca
Tue 7 Feb 2012Link

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
Tue 7 Feb 2012Link

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

Rhonda Moskowitz
Sat 3 Mar 2012Link

One of my favorite docs is "Lake of Fire," directed by Tony Kaye. I'm reminded of it, because of his recent narrative feature, "Detachment," which will soon have a theatrical release.

Constance Ryder
Sun 18 Mar 2012Link

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

John Burgan
Mon 30 Apr 2012Link

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

John Burgan
Thu 3 May 2012Link

Munch's "The Scream" just sold for $120m at auction

A wealth of fascinating archive has recently been put online by The British Council

Edited Thu 3 May 2012 by John Burgan

Raymund Gerard C. Cruz
Tue 8 May 2012Link

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
Wed 9 May 2012Link Tag

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

Pliers Sanderson
Mon 21 May 2012Link

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
Wed 15 Aug 2012Link

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.

Edited Wed 15 Aug 2012 by John Burgan

Fiona Otway
Mon 3 Sep 2012Link

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.....

Margot Roth
Tue 4 Sep 2012Link

Wow. That looks astonishing.

Danielle Beverly
Tue 4 Sep 2012Link

Fiona, what was your personal reaction, thoughts?

Doug Block
Tue 4 Sep 2012Link

Already heard amazing things about The Act of Killing. What else did you see there that you liked, Fiona?

Show hidden content

Daniel McGuire
Mon 10 Sep 2012Link

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
Mon 10 Sep 2012Link

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
Tue 11 Sep 2012Link

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
Tue 11 Sep 2012Link

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
Tue 11 Sep 2012Link

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!

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