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!