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...

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.

Ben Kempas
Pro

OK, we're trying a new one here. Which documentaries, new or not so new, would you recommend to a public audience, and why?

Some rules are posted above.

Ben Kempas
Pro

Let's try and start it this way:

Still looking speechless at the current events in Japan, what documentaries have you seen that deal with catastrophic events?

And given the world is debating nuclear power once more, which films would you recommend that deal with nuclear issues?

Or, if you want to mention something entirely different, feel free to do so any time.

Nick Higgins
Pro

Participant's COUNTDOWN TO ZERO chronicles the history of nuclear mishaps of which there are many. (disclaimer; I shot on this one)

Doug Block
Host

The War Game by Peter Watkin was an amazing documentary about the effects of a nuclear strike on Britain. I saw it in high school and it scared the living sh*t out of me.

But why start off by depressing everyone? The documentary that had the greatest impact and influence on me? Sherman's March by Ross McElwee.

enrico rossini cullen
Pro

I really loved SWEETGRASS and I would recommend it as a "food film" for people who don't like food films. Though the logline says it's about the last cowboys of the American West, it's also about tradition, environmental politics, and, yes, food – namely, lamb. Super entertaining, too. Like the Wolverine scene. Loved it. It's also very beautiful. For sound geeks, they make amazing use of remote lavs and other sound recordings – feels more like a field recording project sometimes.

Nina Gilden Seavey
Pro

The one film that sticks with me more than any other doc I've ever seen is CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS.

Nick Higgins
Pro

BARAKA; The holy grail of documentary cinematography imho

Marj Safinia
Host

American Movie is possibly my all time funniest doc choice ever, about obsessive moviemaking.

Marj Safinia
Host

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

Marj Safinia
Host

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

Summers Henderson
Pro

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.

Thomas Papapetros
Pro

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
Pro

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.

Doug Block
Host

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.

Nick Higgins
Pro

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

Ben Kempas
Pro

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

Jason Osder
Pro

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

Jo-Anne Velin
Pro

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
Host

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
Pro

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
Pro

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
Host

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

Ben Kempas
Pro

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
Pro

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
Pro

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

Doug Block
Host

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.

Doug Block
Host

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?

Doug Block
Host

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.

Stephanie Vevers
Pro

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.

Suree Towfighnia
Pro

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

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