Sherman’s March, I thought, was quite good.
Somewhat unrelated, but it makes me think of of good documentaries within a DVD release, that are very informative about the film itself.
Examples, which I admit aren’t Criterion but still good: Blues Brothers – they recount how they got away with using the army, the cops, destroying cars, racing through parts of Chicago, the involvement of the various great musicians. Good fun.
The Howling: actually funny how they went through concepts for the werewolves, including putting little propulsive firecrackers in the asses of life-size werewolf models to make them appear to fly out of a barn. More humorous than one would expect for such a film.
The Mack – fascinating recollections from the cast and crew about shooting the film in Oakland, CA back in the early 70’s, the involvement of the Black Panthers, real-life pimps, and the violence of the city back in the day, and how dangerous the shoot sometimes was in various neighbourhoods.
Herzog is working, allright. His last 3 documentaries and his docu-fiction work were pretty good.
Les glaneurs et les glaneuse; The Gleaners and I (2000) Agnes Varda
Up the Yangtze (2007) Yung Chang
An Inconvenient Truth (2006) Davis Guggenheim
Manufactured Landscapes (2006) Edward Burtynsky
Call of Dudy: Bohemian Bagpipes Across Borders (2005) Radim Spacek, Jefe Brown, and Keith Jones
Man on Wire (2008) James Marsh
Mondovino (2005) Jonathan Nessiter
Point of Order by Emile de Antonio is amazing. It uses footage from the Army-McCarthy hearings to show what an ass McCarthy was. It’s amazing in that it is just footage of the trials – no narration, no new footage, nothing. Just the actual trial cut down to feature length. Nobody leaves unscathed either – even Joseph Welch (the guy attacking McCarthy) comes off as a homophobe. The whole thing climaxes on the point where Welch says “Have you no sense of decency, sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?” after McCarthy tries to out one of Welch’s aides as a communist.
Also, the teacher who showed that movie was from Wisconsin, the state for which McCarthy was a senator. During McCarthy’s reign, his parents had a bumper sticker that read “Joe Must Go.” My teachers name was Joe, and he thought it referred to him, so he kept stealing the bumper stickers, which his parents kept replacing, thinking it was their republican neighbors doing the stealing.
Also, Errol Morris’ Mr. Death is great as well. Definitely my favorite of his movies that I’ve seen thus far. It’s about a holocaust denier who designs execution machines. Very interesting.
Salesman is quite good as well. It’s a Direct Cinema/Cinema Verite film by the Maysles Brothers about a group of shifty bible salesmen. I’m guessing David Mamet watched it a few times before making Glengary Glen Ross.
The Maysles (I think it was the Maysles, though I could be wrong) also made a film about JFK and RFK forcing desegregation in the schools of Alabama. It was fascinating because they were given full access to the Whitehouse and saw the whole thing. Sending in the National Guard was a surprisingly difficult decision for JFK to make. He and his brother talked about it and worried for several hours before finally making the call.
A few more worth watching –
Capturing the Friedmans
Bowling for Columbine
Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Prices
Frederick Wiseman has finally made his films available for sale.
His films (Wiseman) are kinda overpriced, though.
Of Time And The City was the last really good documentary I watched. And why isn’t Hearts Of Darkness available on DVD in the uk?
Gates of Heaven is a great one, very unique. Hoop Dreams, Crumb among others. And My Best Fiend from Herzog, I love that one.
Harlan County, U.S.A.
This film should be required viewing for every American.
The others suggestions are good, but Harlan County, USA is a masterpiece.
Selected by the National Archive, National Film Registry, Oscar, and best of all… the outrage is STILL happening, 35 years later! (Duke Power just won a big case against my county govt this week. Plus c’est change, plus c’est meme chose, folks.)
Here are two thrilling documentaries about amazing adventurers:
This one in February took the Oscar for best documentary:
Man on Wire and Crumb.
I just watched a doc off of Netflix last night called;
Bus 174 (2003) dir. Jose Padiha, Felipe Lacerda
A volatile and unpredictable situation for all that were caught up in this tragedy. The film makers focus on the plight of Brazil’s ‘street kids’, the invisible souls stealing to survive, desperate to be seen, starving for a normal life but ultimately falling through the cracks of society, prison and life.
I just saw the best documentary ever made. It is amazingly complex with its dealing of the film medium and of the subject.So damn outstanding that i can’t suggest it enough. It is called “Holy Ghost People” and the whole thing will knock you down flat if you like movies and realize the nature of the documentary. Find it. It can be downloaded online.
and Tarnation of course
Bus 174 is fantastic!
Here are some others – not sure if they’ve been mentioned or not:
Hearts and Minds (greatest documentary of all time)
Capturing the Friedmans
Heart of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalpyse
The War Room
Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession
Night and Fog
Easy Riders/Raging Bulls and A Decade Under the Influence (these are essentially the same)
Lost in La Mancha
Kurt Cobain: About a Son
Any Maysles Brothers or Pennabaker docs are worth watching
And yes, Herzog is still working – did anybody see The Grand?! Amazing!! hahaha
One of the most compelling documentaries I’ve come across in some time is a series on The National Geographic Channel called “Locked Up Abroad”. It’s an hour long show that has actors reinacting true stories. In my opinion it’s a fantastic series. If you have digital cable and get The NG Channel, they have several episodes available for free viewing On Demand. They also have a handful of episodes to watch online at their website. If you can track it down my favorite episode is titled “Puerto Vallarta”.
Update: The Puerto Vallarta epsiode is reairing in full July 11th at 8am eastern. Click here for the preview
Nikolaus Geyrhalter ‘s documentaries are really good. Actually he’s my favorite director from Austria.
PripyatAfter the catastrophe in 1986, a 30-km restricted zone was erected around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, and 116,000 persons were evacuated from this area. Pripyatis a portrait of the people who still live and work there, and of those who have moved back.
Elsewhere The year 2000, elsewhere. 12 months. 12 episodes. Weeks, days, single moments of different ways of life. Tradition and change. People of different cultural and geographical background. A film about their life. A journey through voices and sounds from elsewhere, with no commentary added.
Our Daily BreadTo the rhythm of conveyor belts and immense machines, the film looks without commenting into the places where food is produced in Europe: monumental spaces, surreal landscapes and bizarre sounds – a cool, industrial environment which leaves little space for individualism.
Titticut Follies (if you can find it)
Architecture of Doom
Koko, A Talking Gorilla
and there’s a great set of Emile D’Antonio’s films available: Milhouse, Underground, etc.
- Frederick Wiseman’s films are a fantastic primer on the genre, especially if you’re interested in Direct Cinema (Titicut Follies, Juvenile Court, High School, Domestic Violence, etc.)
- The Maysles Brothers (Gimme Shelter, Grey Gardens)
- Harlan County USA
- The Thin Blue Line
- American Movie
- Gunner Palace
- Lake of Fire
- Werner Herzog
- Man On Wire
- Triumph of the Will (once you get past this being Nazi propaganda and it’s easy to see it for the major accomplishment in cinema it is)
I saw a good one at the Cleveland International Film Festival called Alternative to Slitting Your Wrist.
I’ll add one to the list and apologies in advance for going all zen and spiritual – look at it as providing balance for some of the more harrowing titles mentioned…
Die Geschichte vom weinenden Kamel (The Story of the weeping Camel) by Byambasuren Davaa & Luigi Falorni.
Man On Wire (UK, 2008).
Lalee’s Kin: The Legacy of Cotton (lesser-known, but co-directed by Albert Maysles) is a really good one.
Also on the doc festival circuit right now is the phenomenal Burma VJ. Cannot recommend that one enough!
Doinel, I was just about to order Wiseman’s Public Housing and Belfast Maine. Have you seen them? I haven’t caught any of his films but they appeal to me in the sense that I think far too many documentaries deliver a false sense of realism while being as exploitative as mainstream fiction films. When I see a new documentary about young serial killers and whatnot being promoted as a somber think piece I wonder if, regardless of the craftsmanship involved, the filmmakers aren’t tapping into the same soulless well as the makers of I Know What You Did Last Summer. The same goes for many of the ones featuring weird "real life’ characters. I haven’t watched a lot of them so i won’t be specific until I do but Wiseman’s films at least sound non-exploitative. The fact that he’s so little appreciated is also a good indication of his worth to a certain extent. A film called State Legislature which i actually about state legislature is bound to turn off the masses but I’m betting it’ll be a lot more interesting that many of the recent Best Documentary winner at the Oscars. I could be wrong but I can’t wait until the DVDs come in.
Also, has anyone seen A Tale of the Wind by Joris Ivens? I need to track this down but as far as I know it’s only available in a pricey box set.
I stumbled upon this and loved it,
Made in 1995 about Orson Welles with the help of Oja Kodar and lots of unseen footage (am I the only one excited…)
Hoop Dreams is an amazing doc.
Sleep Furiously by Gideon Koppel, recently added to Auteurs’ library, is a marvellous documentary on rural life in Mid-West Wales, Sight and Sound’s “masterpiece” film of the month, and described in today’s Independent (though the reviewer thinks it’s in North Wales) as “a film forged from a real love of place and a deep well of sadness”.
i would also recommend:
Man with a Movie Camera (Vertov)
Sans Soleil (Marker)
Salt for Svanetia (Kalatozov)
The World at War (BBC)
The Sorrow and the Pity (Ophuls)
Hour of the Furnaces (Solanas)
Hearts and Minds (Davis)
The House is Black (Farrokhzad)
The Civil War (Burns)
Song of Ceylon (Wright)
Fata Morgana (Herzog)
The Battle of San Pietro (Huston)
Bus 174 (Padrilha)
People on Sunday (Siodmak, Ulmer)- semi-doc
Das Stahltier (Ziehlke)
When we were Kings (Gast)
The Power of Nightmares (Curtis)
Cast Iron (Iosseliani)
The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner (Herzog)
The War on Democracy (Pilger)
Touching the Void (Macdonald)
The Thin Blue Line (Morris)
What’s going on? In the space of a few days i’ve now seen 2 of the finest films from Britain, both documentaries. This morning it was Terence Davies’ Of Time and the City, a magnificent gathering of footage of post-war Liverpool, his home city, with poetry “(the land of lost content”, and the style of some of the reminiscences reminded of Dylan Thomas), some pertinent observations- we had hoped for paradise and got the anus mundi- and the most sublime musical soundtrack, including Tavener’s Protecting Veil. A plummy-voiced new-born atheist and piss-taker out of Betty Windsor (aka QE2). This captures post-war Britain like no other film, and it becomes a moving, spiritual as well as political and personal experience. I must never see it again.