Documentaries, Documentaries, Documentaries – The thought of them makes me go weak at the knees. And in a good way. Here are a few that I really enjoyed last year but I still can’t get enough. If you have any suggestions for me then pop them in the comments below.
Dynasties is presented by the undisputed Emperor of documentaries, Sir David Attenborough and explores the realms of five endangered animals, Chimpanzees, Penguins, Lions, Wolves, Tigers and members of Donald Trumps cabinet. Okay, the last one was a joke but the documentary, shot over a period of five years, highlights the challenges facing each species due to climate change and other human factors.
"How the fuck did this happen, and how the fuck do we get out?"
A few months before Donald Trump's presidential election, Michael Moore predicted that Trump would become the 45th President of the United States. Fahrenheit 11/9 is Moore's angry treatise on how this happened. As in his recent films Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11, Moore’s strike at U.S. authority does not mince its words: Fahrenheit 11/9 is disturbing, provocative and at the same time highly entertaining.
After the success of the 2012 documentary, The Queen of Versailles, Lauren Greenfield re-visits the “problems,” of the beautiful and the wealthy. The film is based on Greenfield’s book of the same title and is a critical exploration of the desire to be rich. Generation Wealth is also a deeply personal work in which Greenfield reflects on her work as a photographer. (She has been taking pictures of the super-rich for the past 25 years.) Ironically, the film was funded by Amazon Studios - with Amazon founder Jeff Bezons named as the richest man in the world with $100 billion in assets.
From techno pop star to Oscar-winning film composer, Ryuichi Sakamoto can look back at four decades of commercial and critical success. Coda follows Sakamoto for half a decade as he searches for musical inspiration. As Sakomoto recovers from throat cancer this leads him to reflect on the transient nature of life and inspires the creation of a new masterwork, the album Async.
Barbara Millers documentary is a plea for the liberation of female sexuality. The film challenges a millennia old patriarchy as well as the current culture of porn. The documentary accompanies five extraordinary women from contrasting cultures and countries and highlights their struggle for sexual self-determination and equality.
Forty years after Elvis Presley’s death and in the midst of the U.S. presidential campaign, director Eugene Jareckis borrows The Kings 1963 Rolls Royce and takes a musical trip across America. His roads trip leads from New York via Vegas to the deep South where Presley’s career began and his rise and fall provides a metaphor for the country he left behind.
Perhaps the most incredible story of the year, Three Identical Strangers follows three men in their late teens that discover they are part of identical triplets and were adopted by three different families at birth. The three brothers become inseparable and are feted by the media but also discover the sinister motivation for their separation…
Studio 54: A name that became synonymous with New York’s hedonism of the ‘70s and a name that redefined the concept of the nightclub. Now, 39 years after its opening the documentary lifts the lid on the wild parties, unrestrained sex and drug excesses in what is one of the most famous names in club history.
The tiny settlement of Antelope, Oregon is rocked to its core by the arrival of Indian Guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and thousands of his followers. A new city with hotels and even a casino is formed around the cult and the practices of free love and orgies are powerfully at odds with the conservative and Christian farming community. What follows is the record of the struggle between these polar opposite communities. The story is so well told that i had to watch all six episodes in one sitting. You really couldn’t make it up.
Coming in at a muscular 8 hours and 16 minutes means this documentary is a demanding experience but this in an important work nonetheless. Wang Bing gives a voice to some of the men who survived the re-education camps of communist China between 1958 and 1961. These men were labeled as “right-wing extremists,” for reasons never revealed to them and were forced to work in inhumane circumstances. The film tells their stories, each one crueller than the last.
Suffer from vertigo? Best not watch this one. Directing team Jimmy Chin and E Chai Vasarhelyi accompany elite American climber Alex Honnold as he overcomes the 3000-meter-high granite El Capitan without a rope. Or a spare pair of underpants. - One of the toughest and most dangerous climbs ever. A breathtaking, inspiring and scary documentary.
306 Hollywood is the wonderful debut production of sibling team Jonathan and Elan Bogarin about their deceased grandmother Annette Ontell. Whilst this may seem to be of limited interest to…well…anyone the film-makers expertly portray their grandmother as the sum of her belongings with each item holding value and a story. Coupled with a series of video interviews that Elan had been conducting for many years Ontell’s life is portrayed in a way that provokes a powerful empathy.
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