Joined: 29 Sep 2004 Posts: 1196 Location: buried under a pile of books somewhere in Adelaide, South Australia
Posted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 8:37 am Post subject: Documentaries
As our 'lets go to the movies' thread is 10 pages long already, I thought perhaps a separate thread devoted to documentaries would be good, and it'll help stop cross chat about movie topics that are already being discussed on the movie thread.
So ... docos. One of my favourite genres. I love it that it desn't really matter what the subject is, a well-made documentary can still be fascinating. For example, 2 of my all-time favourites are 'Year of the Dogs' and 'When We Were Kings', about Aussie Rules football and boxing respectively. Now in real life I have less than NO interest in either of these 2 sports, but those movies were both excellent.
Others on my best-loved list - One Day in September, Spellbound, The Fog of War.
And of course Michael Apted's incredible 7 Up series. The ultimate reality show. We just saw 49 Up yesterday, the latest in the series. It was so, so good. The participants generally don't like the intrusion into their lives, and who can blame them, but most still bear their souls and their lives before the camera and thus the world every 7 years. An incredibly poignant moment at the end of the movie went back to the original B&W 7 Up, where all the children went to an adventure park together after a visit to the zoo. They could do whatever they liked at the park, and the 2 little boys from the Boys' Home started building a house together. Heartbreaking! They are both happily married with families of their own now.
If you want to look up any of the movies we're talking about, best place to look is
Joined: 28 Oct 2005 Posts: 118 Location: Haifa, Israel
Posted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 9:26 am Post subject: Re: Documentaries
For example, 2 of my all-time favourites are 'Year of the Dogs' and 'When We Were Kings', about Aussie Rules football and boxing respectively. Now in real life I have less than NO interest in either of these 2 sports, but those movies were both excellent
My favorite sports-related documentary (and a favorite in general, too) is Hoop Dreams, which followed two teenagers from Chicago for four years as they attempt to achieve a better life through their talent for basketball. It's really good - in regular sports movie there's a tend to glorify things, and in a documentary the events are so much more subtle.
I also liked Winged Migration - I think it's from the same team as last year's penguin movie (which I didn't like nearly as much). You're so right that a good documetary is fascinating, and it can teach us so much about the world around us - be it in a broad way or by focusing on somethign small and seemingly minor.
Joined: 28 Mar 2006 Posts: 154 Location: North of Auckland, New Zealand
Posted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 9:38 am Post subject:
I'm not sure if this is properly classed as a documentary, but I really really love Genghis Blues. It's about a blind american musician called Paul who travles to Tuva to learn and sing with the Tuvan throat singers.
It's a beautiful documentary, one I highly recommend people seeing.
Joined: 17 Aug 2005 Posts: 307 Location: Far, far away
Posted: Wed Aug 16, 2006 7:40 pm Post subject:
Great idea for an independent topic!
Two favorites were already mentioned before, *Buena Vista Social Club* and *Etre et Avoir* which someone else (Madame? Judy?) seconded with the English title, *To Be and to Have.*
Another fairly recent film I enjoyed enormously was *Born into Brothels* about children living a very harsh life in the Red Light District of Calcutta and what happens when a young photojournalist gives them cameras.
I used to think documentaries were boring when compared to fictional movies, but I'm grateful to Michael Moore, especially, for helping to make the genre more popular and helping me to overcome my prejudice. The *7 Up* series is something I enjoyed a lot when I was younger and I didn't realize there's a fairly new one. *Woodstock* may have been the first I ever saw; only much later did I learn that Martin Scorsese was on the film crew!
Documentaries feature footage taken from real life, their human subjects leading their own lives as opposed to actors who assume other identities and either memorize lines from a script or improvise based on a character developed to tell a story, whether fictional or historical. Animals do what they do naturally in real time; they're neither trained nor animated. So all of the films mentioned are documentaries as far as I know.
Reality T.V., even nature shows, are criticized for manipulating reality, scripting scenarios and in the case of animals, distorting reality by sensationalizing their subject for the sake of excitement, focussing on brutal killings in the otherwise hum drum days of the wildebeest.
The genre is known for manipulation, nonetheless, and it's usually Michael Moore who is given a hard time for the very deliberate, political POV he establishes, some say, by what he selects to show and ignore, thereby distorting the truth. He'd probably answer, "Whose truth?" though certain critics say facts are not alway accurate.
*Nanook of the North,* a classic, early documentary about the life of an Inuit family receives somewhat related criticism because the filmmaker is said to have staged certain parts of the film. And some of the greatest documentaries known are political propaganda, such as *Triumph of the Will* by Leni Riefenstahl http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Triumph_of_the_Will which is considered a profoundly effective, well-made work by a remarkably gifted artist even if its subject is disturbing: the glorification of Nazi Germany.
Frederick Wiseman http://www.pbs.org/pov/pov2001/highschool/thefilm.html is known for pioneering a style of documentary that relies on the words of his subjects only; there's no narrator telling the auidence what to think or how to see what unfolds on the screen. This is not to be confused with objectivity because his aim is very much a product of the time in which he began his career: social criticism and reform. Barbara Koppel is known for similar films, including *American Dream* about a strike at a Hormel plant, though I don't think she's quite as invisible as Wiseman is. I confess I've only seen snippets of these. (Thanks Sarape for the compliment, but I'm not an expert. Just semi-literate in the subject.)
Joined: 28 Oct 2005 Posts: 118 Location: Haifa, Israel
Posted: Thu Aug 17, 2006 7:19 am Post subject:
Surprised that none mentions Ken Burns. Though maybe these aren't the typcial documentary.
The Civil War -- absolute favorite. Others by Ken Burns --
Baseball, Jazz, Lewis & Clark, Mark Twain are also all very well done.
Wondering if those outside America know of Ken Burns?
Sarape, you are so right... I was thinking of documentary movies rather than series. The Civil War was shown (again?) on tv here a couple of years ago and I was very impressed - it's really fascinating and very well-made. And I was happy to see it did not include lame re-enactments, as so many historical documentaries do. Very smart decision on Burns' part.
I was hoping we'd get the series he did on baseball afterwards, but no such luck
Joined: 13 Sep 2005 Posts: 194 Location: San Diego, CA
Posted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 7:25 am Post subject:
I really enjoyed the documentary on Ernest Shackleton's miraculous tale of endurance "Shackleton" and the French documentary "Etre et Avoir" about a small one-room schoolhouse in rural France. _________________ "Help! Help! I'm being repressed!" --- Monty Python and the Holy Grail
Joined: 30 Sep 2004 Posts: 1654 Location: Penrith (where jacarandas remind me of change), New South Wales, Australia
Posted: Sun Aug 27, 2006 12:24 pm Post subject:
Simon Schama's passion 'n his "A History of Britain"...oh oh oh what a wondrous way to travel through the past! _________________ "I've never accepted the external appearance of things as the whole truth. The world is much more elaborate than the nerves of our eye can tell us." - James Gleeson
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