Going along with the idea of listing all of the things we love love love…
I’ll hop on the documentary bus, and say:
ESTAMIRA by Marcos Prado (Brazil) is one of the most inspiring things I’ve seen come out of this genre.
Documentary about Estamira, a 63-year-old woman who’s been working for over 20 years at a landfill in Rio de Janeiro. Schizophrenic, but very charismatic, she’s the leader of a small community of old people living off garbage and has a very lyrical and philosophical attitude towards life.
any favorite docs?
I want to watch CUBA SI by Chris Marker but I can’t get hold of a copy here in the US owing to the footage of Fidel Castro in the hills before the revolution. It was used as inspiration and source material for Soderbergh’s “Che” films that are at Cannes now. I know that they had difficulty getting a copy as well.
Apart from that, recently I discovered a film called “Stations of the Elevated” by Manfred Kirchheimer, which is essentially just raw footage of the graffitified trains around the South Bronx circa 1978-9 set to a soundtrack by Charles Mingus. It predates all the hiphop hype of Style Wars, and is a classic document of some of the spray can writers of the day, immortalizing their work. It’s really eerie, and quite beautiful.
A few of my favorite Documentaries
Jazz on a Summers Day
Hands on a hard body
Don’t Look Back
The Chelsea Girls (if you consider this a documentary?)
How to Draw a Bunny
The Up Series
Thin Blue Line
I have to watch Antonio Gaudi
I love Gaudi, Teshigahara and Takemitsu; I think I’ll like this movie…
I am not sure if we can count this movie as a documentary, but I thought Jonathan Caouette’s “Tarnation” (2003) was a very original take on the documentary genre. It is basically the real life, coming-of-age story of the director as he tries to deal with his schizophrenic mother, manic-depressive grandparents, his sexuality, and the various other growing pains in the background ’80’s out-of-control music scene. Through the movie, the director uses anything from old answering machine messages, to home video footages, to interviews, in order to tell us his coming-of-age story as succinctly and vividly as possible, and the result is an extremely touching and very personal film, that smartly blurs the lines between fiction and non-fiction.
“Etoiles – Dancers of the Paris Opera Ballet”
Maybe it is because I took ballet lessons as a young girl, but this film really made me cry… The passion and dedication of the dancers is fascinating
Halim: Yes, “Tarnation” is really good: it reminds me in a way of Chris Marker’s work: different style, themes, construction, but he takes a similar approach to doing something new with “documentary.” It feels like a sub-genre, somewhere between art film and bio-doc.
Gleaners and I by Agnès Varda
My Architect by Nathaniel Kahn
Gleaners and I by Agnès Varda is a great documentary… watched it on UT-Austin campus at a film festival sponsored by the French consulate in Houston. :)
Yesterday, I watched Diamonds in the Snow (1994) by Mira Reym at a Holocaust Remembrance Day event hosted by the Hillel Foundation. It is a very poignant and moving documentary about hidden Jewish children during the WWII years.
I just discovered two films that have broken my heart. The first is “The Day My God Died” (2003, Andrew Levine). It is footage from the brothels of Bombay, and follows the lives of children sold/stolen/bartered into sex slavery. The second is “Born Into Brothels (Calcutta’s Red Light Kids)” by Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman, 2004. The children in this film were given cameras so they could record their lives, and much of their work was used in the film.
i want to see taxidermia though i don’t know if it fits in this category and i really liked inside the deep throat and the 11th hour
Great thread. I would recommend the films of Frederick Wiseman to everyone – you can’t really go wrong with him.
This woman is fascinating: http://www.wrmea.com/archives/july01/0107037.html
“As long as national tragedies exist, little space is left for personal and private dilemmas.” Azza El-Hassan
A few off the top of my head:
Tom Dowd & The Language Of Music
The Five Obstructions
Harlan County U.S.A.
Capturing The Friedmans
The Fog of War. As a former political science major and history buff, I dug McNamara opening up about how we fucked up Vietnam, how we won WWII, and how we kept moving through the Cold War. I liked how Morris doesn’t judge McNamara, but lets him speak for himself.
Don’t know if Standard Operating Procedure will be the same way.
Sherman’s March by Ross McElwee is really great, perfect example of how life can intersect with your film plans and change the course of both..
Another really great documentary is Frederick Wiseman’s “High School” which observantly depicts the ‘mundane’ every day life in a Suburbain High School in the late ‘60s. Even though a lot of things in the documentary, such as the hairstyles and the clothes, feels extremely outdated today; still all the issues that these kids are dealing with feels more than real. It is both funny and sad to witness that the High-School experience hasn’t changed much in the last few decades, despite the radical changes in society and the world in general.
I saw “Achieving the Unachievable” Monday on TV. It is a documentary about a painting of Escher. It was very interesting… Anyone else saw it?
Has anyone ever seem “Cinemania”? It’s a doc about these quirky arthouse film people in NYC who schedule their entire lives around seeing film. I mean, they live for it, right down to eating he right binding food so they won’t have to go to the bathroom between running from theater to theater. I watched this a few times and thought, oh no, I am a trust fund away from being one of them (if I had a trust fund).
Louis Malle’s Place de la république, Calcutta and God’s Country.
Chris Smith’s American Movie
A long time ago a friend and i were channel surfing very late in the evening i’d say about 2:00am. We turned the channel to PBS and Hoop Dreams was on. He put the remote control down and before we knew it, it was almost 4:30am. We were so into this film and taken by it that not a word was said from us for the duration of this film. We are both huge basketball fans and this movie came out before the internet and before over exposure gets you celebrity. I must also note that my friend is not into documentaires but this film touched even him. I love this movie for the reality that it showed. Reality before it became reality tv. This film is in my top ten of all time. It introduced me to the documentary and it showed me that we all struggle to make our dream come true. A must see for everyone basketball lovers and not.
“Night and Fog” (1955)
“The Sorrow and the Pity” (1969)
“The Story of the Weeping Camel” (2003) and “The Cave of the Yellow Dog” (2005)
“To Be And To Have” (2002)
“The Devil and Daniel Johnston” (2005)
“Notebook on Cities and Clothes” (1989) – Wenders doco on Japanese fashion designer Yohji Yamamoto
“The Gleaners and I” (2000) and “The Gleaners and I: Two Years Later” (2002)
“Enron:The Smartest Guys in the Room” (2005)
Making of Documentaries:
“Burden of Dreams” (1982)
“Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse” (1991)
“Lost in La Mancha” (2002)
‘The Monastery’, ‘Man on Wire’, ‘The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On’, ‘Burden of Dreams’, ‘My Best Fiend’
My fav in the last decade has to be ALEXEI AND THE SPRING http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0310612/. A marvelous and touching film about the spirit of a young man who decide to stay in his village, near Tchernobyl in Russia, to help the eldearly.
Ken Burns Baseball and The Civil War are truly great documentaries that educate and entertain at the same time.
I take a lot of crap for this, but I think METALLICA: SOME KIND OF MONSTER is really terrific. Made by Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky, it’s a fascinating portrait of three people who just happen to be some of the biggest musicians in the world. You absolutely do not have to like their music to enjoy it – it’s probably better if you don’t. At it’s emotional core it’s the story of three guys who have been friends for decades trying to decide whether their relationships are worth saving, and it’s incredibly satisfying because of it.
Werner Herzog made my two favorites: The Grizzly Man and My Best Fiend – the story of his own insane relationship with a similarly dangerous and unpedictable wild animal: Klaus Kinsky. I consider the two as a matching set. I just saw the Herzog-lampooning mockumentary-making-of short that’s an extra on the Tropical Thunder DVD. Brilliant.
Errol Morris’ Vernon Florida – swamp Zen at it’s finest.