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Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please. 
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Post Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
Been watching quite a few lately, really love the genre (who doesn’t). Recently viewed Roman Polanski : A Film memoir by Laurent Bouzereau and absolutely loved it. The man is detestable but the documentary riveting. James B did a reelview on Polanski a few years ago, if anyone could find the link I’d be appreciative.

Apart from the ones most people have seen; Hoop Dreams, Inside Job, The Devil and Daniel Johnston, Crumb, Gonzo, Werner Herzog’s collection and Michael Moore’s nonsense etc, what are some other great titles that you’d recommend please?

The ones I enjoy most are on matters relating to Film Director’s and actors (obviously), sportspeople or teams, musicians, scandles or cover ups and drug addiction.

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Last edited by wisey on Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:58 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Sat Dec 15, 2012 9:39 pm
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
Relating to film directors and actors, I know it's famous so you might have seen it already, but have you watched "Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse"?

Other I recommend: Dear Zachary (it's great but extremely heartbreaking), Man on Wire, Project Nim, and Marwencol.

And a long, TV series one that I'm currently going through and find it all very entertaining and informational: The Story of Film - An Odyssey.


Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:14 pm
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
I would definitely recommend Michael Moore's films, Bowling For Columbine should be required viewing.


Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:15 pm
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
Comic Book Confidential is a cool little doc from the 1980s that brings together representatives from mainstream comics (i.e. DC and Marvel) and underground "comix" (R. Crumb, Art Spiegelman, et al) for a history of comic books from their inception in the 1930s up to the beginning of creator-centric marketing in the 1980s. Will Eisner, Stan Lee, Frank Miller, Bill Gaines, and several other important figureheads in comics history are given some face time, so it's worth a look for anybody who's interested in the pioneering artists of this humble little medium.

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Sat Dec 15, 2012 10:24 pm
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
This year's Searching for Sugar Man was quite excellent


Sat Dec 15, 2012 11:32 pm
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
The best documentary I've ever seen is The Sorrow and the Pity, about the Nazi occupation of France. It's four hours long or so, and you didn't list history as a subject of interest, but I'd be remiss if I didn't recommend it.

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Sun Dec 16, 2012 12:05 am
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
Errol Morris is considered one of the best documentary filmmakers out there, if not the best. Gates of Heaven and The Thin Blue Line are great, and I would recommend his most recent one Tabloid as well.

The best documentary I've seen though is Alain Resnais' Night and Fog.

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Sun Dec 16, 2012 1:08 am
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
This one is about some U.S. troops fighting in Afghanistan, but I'd have to recommend Restrepo if you haven't seen it yet.

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Sun Dec 16, 2012 1:51 am
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
Spike Lee's Four Little Girls, about the 1963 Birmingham Church Bombing is fantastic. Very emotional.

Frederick Wiseman's films are lengthy. But worth your time.

Errol Morris was mentioned previously and I second that recommendation.

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Sun Dec 16, 2012 2:27 am
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
Crumb, Grizzly Man andCave of Forgotten Dreams are my favorites, but since they've been covered, here are some more:

Murder on a Sunday Morning, which would seem a nice companion piece to The Thin Blue Line (which, inexplicably, I've never seen). A fifteen-year-old boy is tried for murder essentially because he was black and the police were lazy and coerced a confession. His lawyer proceeds to demolish the prosecution's case. An outstanding and riveting film. (Won an Oscar in 2001.)

The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill: A number of cities in the US have communities of feral parrots and parakeets which probably started out as escaped pets. This is about the community in San Francisco and Mark Bittner, who feeds and watches over them. Surprisingly interesting.

Mad Hot Ballroom: Another favorite, about how ballroom dancing was introduced into fifth grade classes in New York City. The film centers on three classes in a city-wide competition, and is really wonderful and bittersweet, because you start feeling like these are your own kids. This was fictionalized into Take the Lead with Antonio Banderas, which moved it into high school and missed the poignancy.

Spellbound: a documentary about the National Spelling Bee of all things, and what kids have to do to be competitive. It's a bit scary, but you come to identify with these kids, which makes it a bit more scary, when you see how much of their lives they surrender for the competition. Though I suspect the kids turned out all right, anyway. The fictional equivalent is Akeelah and the Bee, which is equally good and moving; actually it's a bit better.

It doesn't always work that way: School of Rock was inspired by the documentary Rock School, and School of Rock is infinitely better.

Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision: Maya Lin was the young woman who designed the Vietnam Memorial. This is partly about her inspiration and her fight to preserve her vision, but also covers the rest of her career, which is equally impressive. Maya Lin is an expert at simple, evocative sculptures that go right to the heart. (Deserving Oscar winner in 1994.)

Restrepo is the story of a military unit's struggle to hold on to a crucial valley in Afghanistan. Juan Restrepo was the name of the unit's first member killed in the campaign; their base camp was named for him. There were two journalists embedded with the unit who filmed the unit's deployment. The result is the documentary equivalent of The Hurt Locker.

The Beaches of Agnès and The Gleaners and I by Agnès Varda are excellent if you don't mind subtitles. Agnès Varda was really better at documentaries than fictional films, the outstanding Cléo from 5 to 7 notwithstanding. Cinévardaphoto has her account of the Teddy Bear Project, an exhibit consisting mostly of photographs of people with teddy bears. (Some of the photos are naked women with teddy bears.) It takes a while, but there is a point to it.

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Sun Dec 16, 2012 2:32 am
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
A couple more...

When We Were Kings - outstanding doc about the Ali Foreman "Rumble in the Jungle" fight.

Touching the Void - Not strictly a documentary, as there is significant use of actors playing the protagonists, but this is a must see. Excellent, excellent film.


Sun Dec 16, 2012 5:10 am
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
Blonde Almond wrote:
Errol Morris is considered one of the best documentary filmmakers out there, if not the best. Gates of Heaven and The Thin Blue Line are great, and I would recommend his most recent one Tabloid as well.

The best documentary I've seen though is Alain Resnais' Night and Fog.


When you mentioned Errol Morris, I'm surprised you didn't say Fog of War, his conversation with Robert McNamara.


Sun Dec 16, 2012 5:54 pm
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
If asked to name worthwile documentaries, I always like to recommed 2004's Academy award-nominated "Darwin's Nightmare", which is about the introduction of the Nile Perch into Lake Victoria. That may not sound very interesting at first, but the ecologic and economic consequences are truly upsetting and it is a good metaphor for the general way in which the so-called First World countries deal with undeveloped countries. It is also very well-made.


Mon Dec 17, 2012 11:07 am
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
Deep Water (2006)

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Mon Dec 17, 2012 2:38 pm
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
DylnFan96818 wrote:
Blonde Almond wrote:
Errol Morris is considered one of the best documentary filmmakers out there, if not the best. Gates of Heaven and The Thin Blue Line are great, and I would recommend his most recent one Tabloid as well.

The best documentary I've seen though is Alain Resnais' Night and Fog.


When you mentioned Errol Morris, I'm surprised you didn't say Fog of War, his conversation with Robert McNamara.


I didn't mention it because I haven't seen it yet, although I definitely plan to at some point.

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Mon Dec 17, 2012 2:43 pm
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
Also recommended: Anything by DA Pennebaker or the Maysles brothers.

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Mon Dec 17, 2012 6:36 pm
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
Thanks for the suggestions above. I'm going to start with The Thin Blue Line because I loved The Fog of War but haven't seen any other documentaries made by Errol Morris. Didn't realize he was so highly regarded.

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Tue Dec 18, 2012 3:56 am
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
Calling them documentaries is pushing it, though I'm not sure what else to call them, but Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka and similar are excellent films about the interactions between humans and the world around them. They have no notable dialogue. Threeperf can back me up here, I know he's a fan. Criterion just released a blu-ray set of the Qatsi trilogy and Baraka/Samsara have 8K blu-ray releases, in part because they were shot on 70mm.

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Wed Dec 19, 2012 12:48 pm
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
A ton of great recommendations so far. I'll throw out another "big" one that doesn't seem to have been mentioned - Harlan County, USA. The best documentaries, similar to the best fiction, tell us a good, interesting story that also aims to make a larger point by telling said story (Hoop Dreams being the best example that comes to mind). Barbara Kopple's film details a coal miner's strike in Kentucky, but also serves as an examination of capitalism's inevitable winner/loser dichotomy. It's a distinctly American movie with aims similar to this year's Killing Them Softly that makes it's points much more subtly and effectively.

I'll also throw out Orson Welles' F For Fake, which is very loosely a documentary that delves into the nature of truth in art. Similar to this is Exit Through the Gift Shop, which was my 3rd or 4th favorite movie from 2010.

For a more straightforward recommendation, I'll throw out the Paradise Lost series. Reelviews forum poster, and all around legend, Shade turned me onto the series and all 3 are pretty fantastic.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters has become another pretty standard recommendation, and for good reason. It's a fantastic look at people with passion, even if what they're passionate about doesn't mean anything to anyone other than them. It's fascinating.

If you're in to sports Bigger, Stronger, Faster* is pretty amazing. It details the reasons behind steroid and PED use, touches on misconceptions surrounding their use, and exposes the half-truths and outright lies of pharmaceutical companies.


Thu Dec 20, 2012 12:36 pm
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Post Re: Some recommendations for excellent documentary films please.
wisey wrote:
The ones I enjoy most are on matters relating to Film Director’s and actors (obviously), sportspeople or teams, musicians, scandles or cover ups and drug addiction.


Not sure if you consider rap artists musicians, but Something from Nothing: The Art of Rap is a documentary that came out this year directed by Ice-T. It centers on the craft of writing and performing of rap verses. Not the greatest "documentary," per se, but if you are even remotely into hip hop (or was, as my case is) you'll find the interviews pretty interesting. They bounce from New York to Detroit to Los Angeles interviewing the likes of KRS One, Immortal Technique, B Real, Chuck D, Melle Mel, Afrika Bombaata, Doug E. Fresh, Dr. Dre, Eminem, Snoop and on and on and on.

Pete...think you might like this. It's on instant.

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Thu Dec 20, 2012 1:19 pm
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