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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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Ben Kempas
Wed 21 Sep 2011Link

Update: the bug is fixed, but the film may still not be available in all territories. (You might have to empty your cache before you try again.)

Pablo Alvarez-Mesa
Thu 22 Sep 2011Link

In reply to Ben Kempas's post on Wed 21 Sep 2011 :

Fair enough.. I guess I just sort of expected to be directed to a page with a slot for a credit card number and then to the film in two simple steps. Its a great service, don't get me wrong... Thing is i just unconsciously seem to close pages that ask for email addresses up front..

John Burgan
Sat 10 Dec 2011Link

Glass is a 1958 Dutch short documentary film by director and producer Bert Haanstra. The film won the Academy Award for Documentary Short Subject in 1959. (thanks to my former student Anna in Barcelona for sending this)

Edited Sat 10 Dec 2011 by John Burgan

James Longley
Sat 10 Dec 2011Link

It's great – where did I see this before?
Only I can't stand the sound of jazz vibraphone in film soundtracks. But the editing is pretty terrific.

Edited Sat 10 Dec 2011 by James Longley

John Burgan
Sat 10 Dec 2011Link

Then check out Broadway by Light by William Klein, 1958 – prepare to be blown away)

Edited Sat 10 Dec 2011 by John Burgan

John Burgan
Sat 10 Dec 2011Link

Here's the final one of the three this evening: Portrait of Ga by Margaret Tait (1955) – also a gift from Anna

Edited Sat 10 Dec 2011 by John Burgan

David Herman
Sat 10 Dec 2011Link

lovely indeed.

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.

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