Documentaries

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I watch a lot of documentaries. Here’s my list of ones I’ve seen that are awesome and the balance that I’ve seen that are worth watching. I also include my queue at the end. Suggestions for list additions invited in the comments.

Awesome Movie Title Description
x Hitlers Children The descendants of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle — including Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler and Amon Goeth — come to terms with their infamous surnames and the role their families played in the Holocaust.
x Something Ventured This engrossing documentary traces the genesis of some of the world’s most revolutionary companies, such as Apple, Intel and Genentech, and how their investors’ visionary practices transformed the way the modern world communicates and does business.
x Please Vote for Me Though China’s government is Communist, the third grade election for the prestigious position of Class Monitor at the Evergreen Primary School in Wuhan is being decided by a democratic vote. In this enlightening documentary, filmmaker Weijun Chen captures all the action as the three candidates — two boys and a girl — go all out to win: performing in a talent show, debating each other and delivering speeches to their classmates.
x Little Dieter Needs to Fly Werner Herzog directs this fascinating, emotional documentary about the life of Dieter Dengler, a naval pilot in the Vietnam War who — during one of his first missions — was shot down over Laos and taken captive. Beginning with his hardscrabble youth in postwar Germany, the film explores Dengler’s incredible tale of survival, from the torture he endured at the hands of the Vietcong to the daring escape he mounted with his fellow prisoners.
x Touching the Void This gripping docudrama retells the mountaineering trek gone awry of Simon Yates and Joe Simpson, who falls and breaks his leg while climbing in the Andes. Yates attempts to lower him to safety but fails, forcing him to make a pivotal decision.
x Waltz with Bashir Director Ari Folman employs vivid black-and-white animation in this Golden Globe-winning film, exploring the memory gaps in his life during his service for the Israeli army in the Lebanese war of the early 1980s. Recounting stories based on recorded interviews with colleagues and friends, Folman relives the horrors of war and dissects the curious coping mechanisms humans use to survive under brutal circumstances.
x One Day in September In 1972, eight Palestinian terrorists interrupted the Munich Olympics by taking 11 Israeli athletes hostage. Michael Douglas narrates this Oscar-winning documentary about the siege and subsequent failed rescue attempt. The film features historical footage as well as new interviews with surviving terrorist Jamal Al-Gashey and various officials detailing how the German police botched the rescue operation, leading to the death of all 11 hostages.
x Supersize Me Director Morgan Spurlock takes a hilarious and often terrifying look at the effects of fast food on the human body, using himself as the proverbial guinea pig. For one month, Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald’s fare.
x Waiting for Superman Dynamic documentarian Davis Guggenheim weaves together stories about students, families, educators and reformers to shed light on the failing public school system and its consequences for the future of the United States.
x Jonestown: The life and death of the Peoples Temple How could one man — Peoples Temple leader Jim Jones — persuade 900 people to commit mass suicide by drinking cyanide-laced Kool-Aid in the jungles of Guyana? This penetrating portrait of the demented preacher attempts to answer that question. Using never-before-seen footage and audio accounts of two Jonestown survivors, documentarian Stanley Nelson paints a chilling picture of a social experiment gone horribly awry.
x Comedian Honest — at times painfully so — and intimate, director Christian Charles’s documentary follows established comedian Jerry Seinfeld and up-and-comer Orny Adams as they navigate the highs and lows of the stand-up circuit. From writing and testing material to admiring the competition — including Chris Rock’s kudos for Bill Cosby — this engaging film looks at the details, insecurities and hard work involved in making people laugh.
x Man on Wire Philippe Petit captured the world’s attention in 1974 when he walked across a high wire between New York’s Twin Towers. This Oscar winner for Best Documentary explores the preparations that went into the stunt as well as the event and its aftermath.
x Roger and Me In this blistering, satirical documentary, ex-journalist Michael Moore gives a personal account of the tough times in his hometown of Flint, Mich., after the General Motors plant was closed in the mid-1980s. The film revolves around Moore’s dogged attempts to gain an interview with Roger Smith, the elusive and well-insulated head of GM and the man responsible for massive layoffs that eliminated more than 30,000 jobs and left the town destitute.
x Brother’s Keeper details the murder trial of Delbert Ward. Delbert was a member of a family of four elderly brothers, working as semi-literate farmers and living together in isolation from the rest of society until William’s death. shows how residents of the rural community of Munnsville, NY rallied to the support of one of their own residents (previously considered a social outcast), against what they felt were intrusive ‘big-city’ police and District Attorney tactics.
x Jesus Camp This riveting Oscar-nominated documentary offers an unfiltered look at a revivalist subculture in which devout Christian youngsters are being primed to deliver the fundamentalist community’s religious and political messages. Building an evangelical army of tomorrow, the Kids on Fire summer camp in Devil’s Lake, N.D., is dedicated to deepening the preteens’ spirituality and sowing the seeds of political activism.
x Wasteland Renowned artist Vik Muniz embarks on one of the most inspired collaborations of his career, joining creative forces with Brazilian garbage pickers who mine treasure from the trash heaps of Rio de Janeiro’s Jardim Gramacho landfill.
x Restrepo A  year with one platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan.
x Pelada Two Americans who love soccer but didn’t make it in the pros travel to 25 different countries, where they find people of all backgrounds, races and classes who play the game for the sheer joy of it, regardless of their surroundings or equipment.
x Exporting Raymond “Everybody Loves Raymond” creator Philip Rosenthal writes, directs and stars in this fish-out-of-water documentary that chronicles his attempts to adapt his hit sitcom for Russian television.
x Paper Clips Whitwell Middle School in Tennessee is the setting for this documentary about an extraordinary experiment in Holocaust education. Struggling to grasp the concept of 6 million Holocaust victims, the students decide to collect 6 million paper clips.
x Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore? Frank Popper’s engaging documentary follows the 2004 campaign of Jeff Smith, a young political science instructor at Washington University who runs for the seat vacated by retiring congressman Dick Gephardt. Pitted against state Rep. Russ Carnahan, the scion of a powerful political family, Smith proves that an unknown with no money can make a difference, forging a campaign that ultimately poses a serious challenge to Carnahan.
x 30 for 30: Into the Wind Terry Fox was a 21-year-old Canadian who attempted to run across his country in 1980 despite having lost a leg to cancer. As he soldiered on for 143 days and more than 3,000 miles, he became an inspiration to an entire nation.
x Joan Rivers: Piece of Work Documentarians Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg provide an uncompromising glimpse into the personal and professional life of comedian and red-carpet mainstay Joan Rivers, a woman clinging stubbornly and steadfastly to the pop-culture bandwagon.
x Surfwise Doug Pray’s documentary delves into the often inspiring, sometimes shocking life of 85-year-old Dorian “Doc” Paskowitz, a renowned surfer, surf camp owner, doctor and sex guru who, together with his wife, brought up nine children. Paskowitz raised his family in a camper on the beach, home-schooling them and requiring them to follow a strict lifestyle regimen. Now, his grown children speak out about how their unique upbringing affected them.
x Herb & Dorothy Postal clerk Herb Vogel and his librarian wife, Dorothy, share a passion for art, which they pursued over decades, becoming two of the most important collectors of minimalist and conceptual art with more than 4,000 pieces.
x Running the Sahara Three men attempt to become the first humans to run coast to coast across the Sahara Desert.
x Spinning Plates Spinning Plates is a documentary about three extraordinary restaurants and the incredible people who make them what they are. A cutting-edge restaurant named the seventh-best in the world whose chef must battle a life-threatening obstacle to pursue his passion. A 150-year-old family restaurant still standing only because of the unbreakable bond with its community. A fledgling Mexican restaurant whose owners are risking everything just to survive and provide for their young daughter.
x The War Room In this documentary, filmmakers D.A. Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus examine the inner workings of Bill Clinton’s first White House campaign in the early 1990s, focusing on the wizardry of James Carville and George Stephanopoulos.
x Catfish When gifted 8-year-old artist Abby contacts young photographer Nev through Facebook, he’s intrigued. He gradually becomes involved with her family, even falling for her older sister — until he realizes something’s not quite right.
x Bill Cunningham New York Living simply and using a bicycle to get around New York, 80-year-old photographer Bill Cunningham tirelessly records what people are wearing in the city — both out on the sidewalk and in the salons of the wealthy.
Harlan County, USA Director Barbara Kopple’s film about the 1973 coal miners’ strike in Harlan County, Ky., won a Best Documentary Oscar and was selected for the National Film Registry. Highlighting the struggles of families living in shacks with no indoor plumbing and enduring hazardous working conditions, the film details the conflict between the Eastover Mining Co. and the laborers determined to join the United Mine Workers of America.
Spellbound This Oscar-nominated entry documents the intense experience of the National Spelling Bee as seen through the eyes of eight young spellers, with viewers glimpsing the kids’ private lives as they train for and compete in the ultimate cerebral showdown. While they try to keep their eyes on the $10,000 prize, their personal stories illuminate their quirks, their obsessive study habits and their alternately heartbreaking and inspiring family dynamics.
Fog of War A film about the former US Secretary of Defense and the various difficult lessons he learned about the nature and conduct of modern war.
Dark Days Documentarian Marc Singer trains his camera on a group of homeless people who live in an abandoned New York City railroad tunnel. At night, they retreat underground, where they have a sense of community that many surface dwellers would envy.
Exit through the Gift Shop Filmmaker Thierry Guetta’s project to chronicle the underground world of street art takes a fascinating twist when he meets elusive stencil artist Banksy, who turns the project around to film Guetta while he reinvents himself as a street artist.
Last Train Home Documentarian Lixin Fan follows a couple who, like 130 million other Chinese peasants, left their rural village for work in the city, leaving their children to be raised by grandparents, returning only once a year on an arduous 1,000-mile journey.
Murderball Rugby-playing quadriplegics compete for the Paralympic gold medal in this documentary about an amazing sport — and the strong-willed athletes who participate in full-contact rugby using specially designed wheelchairs.
Beyond Everest This documentary project follows a series of expeditions led by mountaineer Russell Brice up the world’s highest peak. Extraordinary feats of perseverance are captured, including the dogged conquest of Everest by a double amputee.
When the Levees Broke Spike Lee commemorates the people of New Orleans with a four-hour epic documentary that not only recounts the events of late August 2005 but asks why they unfolded the way they did in the first place. Weaving interviews with news footage and amateur video, Lee uses the film to give meaningful voice to the people who were left behind. With a detached and unsentimental eye, he delivers a poignant account of a major moment in recent U.S. history.
Shut up and Sing Directed by Barbara Kopple (of Harlan County, U.S.A. fame), this documentary centers on country music’s The Dixie Chicks and their nationwide vilification over critical statements they made about President Bush in 2003. Over a three-year period, the singers went from darlings of the industry to political targets, receiving constant death threats and being demonized by the national media and denounced by their fans.
Eyes of Tammy Fae Tammy Faye Bakker’s journey from traveling evangelist to weepy, scandal-scarred cult icon is chronicled in this tongue-in-cheek documentary from Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato that’s narrated by RuPaul. The film was nominated for a Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival and details Jimmy Bakker’s infamous affair — which, in essence, ended the PTL Ministry — as well as Tammy’s emergence as a hero to alternative-lifestyle communities.
Tarnation Culled from 19 years of his life, filmmaker Jonathan Caouette’s documentary about growing up with his schizophrenic mother is a mixture of snapshots, Super-8 footage, answering machine messages, video diaries, early short films and more. By turns, Caouette is ambivalent about his mother’s condition, expressing both love and pain for her — and, bravely, admitting the fact that there’s more than one truth on view here.
Celluloid Closet Narrated by Lily Tomlin, this acclaimed documentary takes its name from Vito Russo’s groundbreaking book. The filmmakers examine the subtext of more than 100 Hollywood movies — including Spartacus, Rope and Thelma and Louise — and chart the cinematic journey of lesbian and gay characters. Film clips are paired with director, producer and actor interviews featuring, among others, Gore Vidal, Tom Hanks and Whoopi Goldberg.
Woodstock The director’s cut of Michael Wadleigh’s Oscar-winning documentary restores footage snipped from the original 1970 release. With the help of a young editor named Martin Scorsese, Wadleigh not only chronicles Woodstock’s memorable music and legendary artists, he also captures the festival’s dauntless free spirit. The presentation features live performances from, among others, Jimi Hendrix; the Who; Janis Joplin; and Crosby, Stills and Nash.
Nanook In what’s considered the first documentary ever made, director Robert Flaherty’s landmark film grippingly chronicles the often-brutal relationship between humans and nature’s unforgiving elements. Over the course of a year, the movie’s subjects — Inuit Nanook and his family — must hunt, fish and build an igloo to survive in the pristine but inhospitable environs of Canada’s frigid Hudson Bay region.
Rize Former commercial photographer and music video director David LaChapelle delves into the “krumping” culture in South Central Los Angeles, capturing the unbelievable gyrations of dancers with moves so quick that they warrant a special disclaimer.
Good Hair Chris Rock hops around the world going from beauty salons to science labs to comb through the mystery of African American hair. Rock contemplates the purpose and application of a weave as well as women’s self-esteem and their locks.
Inside Job Featuring in-depth interviews with financial experts and insiders, this sobering, Oscar-winning documentary presents in comprehensive detail the pervasive and deep-rooted Wall Street corruption that led to the global economic meltdown of 2008.
Sicko Michael Moore sets his sights on the plight of the uninsured in this Oscar-nominated documentary that uses Moore’s trademark humor and confrontational style to ask the difficult questions and get to the truth behind the health care crisis. In the world’s richest country, 45 million people have no health insurance, while HMOs grow in size and wealth. Moore also explores the widespread use of antidepressants and their possible link to violence.
Farenheit 911 Michael Moore’s hard-hitting documentary addresses the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, outlining the reasons the United States became a target for hatred and terrorism and criticizing President George W. Bush’s response to the attacks.
Grizzly Man Renowned nonfiction director Werner Herzog chronicles the tragic and untimely death of outdoorsman Timothy Treadwell, who devoted his life to studying grizzly bears living in the Alaskan wilderness — only to have one of them maul him to death.
IOUSA With the country’s debt growing out of control, Americans by and large are unaware of the looming financial crisis. This documentary examines several of the ways America can get its economy back on the right track. In addition to looking at the federal deficit and trade deficit, the film also closely explores the challenges of funding national entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
Where is Osama Bin Laden In his follow-up to the hit Super Size Me, documentarian Morgan Spurlock tries to one-up the U.S. government by finding Osama bin Laden. Spurlock reportedly shot more than 800 hours of footage while scouring the Middle East for the infamous leader.
Burma VJ Filmmaker Anders Østergaard’s Oscar-nominated documentary profiles the courageous efforts of a renegade band of Burmese reporters (aka the Burma VJs) who — in the face of a repressive regime and media censorship — refuse to be silenced.
Indie Game: The Movie This captivating documentary follows several independent game designers as they painstakingly develop their games and hope for breakthrough success. It also explores the quirky sensibility these personalities bring to their art form.
Biggie and Tupac British documentarian Nick Broomfield, famous for appearing in his own investigations, heads to Los Angeles to investigate the murders of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, the East Coast/West Coast rap rivalries and Death Row Records boss Suge Knight.
March of the Penguins Award-winning photographer Luc Jacquet takes documentary film to new heights — and depths — with his first feature film, a stunning insider’s look at the life of emperor penguins living in one of the cruelest climates on the planet. The product of more than a year of filming on the Antarctic ice, this Oscar-winning documentary reveals never-before-captured footage of the penguins’ underwater life and explores their steadfast quest for monogamy.
Gasland It is happening all across America-rural landowners wake up one day to find a lucrative offer from an energy company wanting to lease their property. Reason? The company hopes to tap into a reservoir dubbed the “Saudi Arabia of natural gas.” Halliburton developed a way to get the gas out of the ground-a hydraulic drilling process called “fracking”-and suddenly America finds itself on the precipice of becoming an energy superpower.
Enron: Smartest Guys in the Room A documentary about the Enron corporation, its faulty and corrupt business practices, and how they led to its fall.
Bowling for Columbine Filmmaker Michael Moore explores the roots of America’s predilection for gun violence.
Hoop Dreams A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional.
An Inconvenient Truth A documentary on Al Gore’s campaign to make the issue of global warming a recognized problem worldwide.
Trouble the Water A redemptive tale of an aspiring rap artist surviving failed levees and her own troubled past and seizing a chance for a new beginning.
Planet B-Boy Jumping continents and crossing cultures, “Planet B-Boy” looks at the history of breakdancing and its vibrant resurgence in urban cultures around the world.
Marley Featuring dozens of interviews, electrifying concert performances and rare footage, this documentary explores the music, life and legacy of reggae icon Bob Marley, from his birth in 1945 to his death from cancer at age 36.
Fugazi: Instrument This unpredictable and fluid musical film by Jem Cohen is less a documentary about the punk band Fugazi and more a visual interpretation of the group’s artistic efforts. Energetically charged live performances, studio sessions and atypical fan interviews combine for a one-of-a-kind, mixed format piece.
The Corporation Filmmakers Mark Achbar and Jennifer Abbott explore the genesis of the American corporation, its global economic supremacy and its psychopathic leanings, with social critics like Noam Chomsky and Milton Friedman lending insight in this documentary.
Thank you for Smoking On a mission to make the country forget the dangers of smoking, Big Tobacco spin doctor Nick Naylor promotes his product in the movies and hushes those who bad-mouth cigarettes, all the while trying to remain a role model to his young son.
Diamonds of War: Africa’s Blood Diamons This illuminating National Geographic documentary tracks the bloody trail of diamonds mined in West Africa and sold in First World nations. In Sierra Leone, the sale of the precious stones financed a decade-long insurrection that left thousands dead. Long considered a symbol of prestige, affluence and love, diamonds are becoming increasingly recognized as a source of great heartache and bloodshed.
Operation Thunderbolt: Documentary A companion documentary to the classic Israeli film Operation Thunderbolt, Raid on Entebbe features interviews with top political leaders and military commanders who assisted in the rescue of more than 100 victims of a 1976 hijacking in Uganda. Much of the focus is on Yonatan Netanyahu, the commander of the Israeli forces and lone Israeli soldier to die on the mission. Netanyahu’s younger brother, Benjamin, eventually became Prime Minister of Israel.
Lost Boys of Sudan As orphans living in the midst of civil war, Peter and Santino dealt with dangers like lion attacks and gunfire from militia. But even more daunting are the challenges they face in suburbia after they’re chosen to start a new life in America. Megan Mylan and Jon Shenk direct this award-winning documentary that follows two Sudanese refugees throughout their intense journey from their native Africa to the United States.
Helvetica We use it every day on our computers, we see it on street signs — and we take it for granted. Now, Gary Hustwit’s unique documentary introduces us to Helvetica, a font whose readability has made it the most popular font in the world.
Religulous Politically provocative talk show host Bill Maher skewers the current state of organized religion in this hot-button documentary, making stops in Jerusalem, the Vatican and other holy destinations.
Who Killed the Electric Car Amid a volatile climate of ever-changing gas prices, this documentary delves into the short life of the GM EV1 electric car — a fuel-efficient auto that was once all the rage in the mid-1990s and now has fallen by the roadside.
Ralph Nader: An Unreasonable Man Thought-provoking and revealing, this biographical documentary profiles the personal and professional life of Ralph Nader, one of America’s most controversial consumer advocates and political activists. Interviews and archival footage help illuminate the career of an influential public figure whose willingness to take on big industry earned him a reputation as both a working-class hero and a public pariah.
God Grew Tired of Us After raising themselves in the desert along with thousands of other “lost boys,” Sudanese refugees John, Daniel and Panther have found their way to America, where they experience electricity, running water and supermarkets for the first time.
The F-Bomb: A Documentary Filmmaker Steve Anderson explores the “F” word in this provocative documentary, which delves into the expletive’s history, taboo and power, and includes interviews with everyone from Pat Boone to Ice-T. Scholars trace the word’s origin and evolution, while others (including Kevin Smith, Sam Donaldson and Lenny Bruce) weigh in on issues such as free speech. The film also features Bill Plympton’s animations.
Planet Earth Narrated by David Attenborough, this Emmy-winning series transports nature lovers from the Himalayan Mountains to the depths of the ocean and everywhere in between, exploring the planet’s most fascinating wildlife and challenging environments.
Life Television icon Oprah Winfrey narrates this fascinating Discovery Channel nature program that captures the vibrancy of animal behavior via spectacular high-definition footage filmed over the course of four years. The result is an ever-changing landscape of the beautiful and the bizarre — from a breathtaking swarm of fruit bats flying across the evening sky to a curious mole that uses bubbles to smell its underwater prey.
Mansome This raucous but thoughtful documentary examines what defines masculinity in our modern culture of male grooming products and suave celebrities.
super high me Comic and former Stoner of the Year Doug Benson chronicles his experience as he avoids pot for a month and then consumes huge quantities for 30 days.
The People Vs. George Lucas Building a spirited case without taking sides, Alexandre O. Philippe sets up the decades-old conflict between George Lucas and his legions of fans.
Carrier Cameras follow Navy personnel on board the U.S.S. Nimitz as they perform their duties, navigate conflicts and ponder questions about patriotism.
The Greatest movie Ever Sold Intrepid filmmaker Morgan Spurlock (Super Size Me) directs this bitingly ironic documentary, which scrutinizes the pervasive marketing, advertising and product placement practices that have become standard in the entertainment industry.
Bigger, Stronger, Faster Filmmaker Chris Bell points the camera at his brothers and at himself — all of them users of steroids — for this thought-provoking examination of sports, competition and the unyielding pressure to succeed.
Living with the Mek Join journalist Olly Steeds and survival expert Mark Anstice as they journey into the deep recesses of the West Papua jungle to live among the elusive Mek tribe for three full months. Determined to become completely immersed within the tribe, Steeds and Anstice participate in a variety of bizarre and sometimes painful tribal customs, from sleeping naked with the men of the village to taking part in the traditional penis gourds initiation.
This Film is Not Yet rated Kirby Dick’s provocative documentary investigates the secretive and inconsistent process by which the Motion Picture Association of America rates films, revealing the organization’s underhanded efforts to control culture. Dick questions whether certain studios get preferential treatment and exposes the discrepancies in how the MPAA views sex and violence.
Capitalism: A Love Story Filmmaker Michael Moore (Sicko, Fahrenheit 9/11) takes on capitalism’s roots, the floundering U.S. economy, and 2008’s global financial meltdown and subsequent bank bailout in this rousing documentary. Combining stories about those who suffer most from Corporate America’s greed and insatiable thirst for profits and the people most responsible for myriad crises, Moore embarks on another shocking fact-finding rampage.
The Aristocrats More than 100 funny people (including big stars and lesser-known talents) tell the same raunchy vaudeville joke — with about 100 different results — in director-comedian Paul Provenza’s outrageously foul-mouthed documentary.
Orthodox Stance Russian immigrant Dmitriy Salita juggles his two worlds as a boxer and an Orthodox Jew in this fascinating documentary that follows the diligent young fighter’s struggle to devote himself to both of these elements in his life. Guided by prominent trainer and Starrett City Boxing Club founder Jimmy O’Pharrow, Salita wins New York’s Golden Gloves championship, then soon turns pro — but refuses to compromise his religious beliefs.
Beer Wars With her entertaining documentary, Anat Baron ushers viewers into the backrooms and breweries of the ultracompetitive beer industry and reveals what it takes for independent brewers to compete with the corporate giants who dominate the business.
Cocaine Cowboys This penetrating documentary from director Billy Corben pulls out all the stops to explore the many dimensions of Miami’s cocaine-trafficking boom of the 1980s, as told by the smugglers, cops and average citizens who were there.
Herb & Dorothy Postal clerk Herb Vogel and his librarian wife, Dorothy, share a passion for art, which they pursued over decades, becoming two of the most important collectors of minimalist and conceptual art with more than 4,000 pieces.
Nursery University Follow five families through the harrowing process of applying to nursery school in New York City, where hypercompetitive parents and elite institutions have made pricey consultants and toddler tutors part of the admissions process. Marc H. Simon’s insightful documentary uses wry humor and drama to examine the increasingly common belief that securing entrance to the “right” preschool classroom is a critical first step to success.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi This delectable documentary profiles sushi chef Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old master whose 10-seat, $300-a-plate restaurant is legendary among Tokyo foodies. Ono is also a father, whose sons struggle to live up to his legacy and make their own marks.
Tyson Mike Tyson bio
Inside Man Morgan Spurlock short docs on CNN
The Island President This documentary chronicles the extraordinary efforts of Mohamed Nasheed, during his term as president of the Maldive Islands, to fight global warming and prevent rising ocean levels from deluging his low-lying archipelago nation right off the map.
The Gatekeepers Meet six leaders of Israel’s secret service, the Shin Bet, which has dealt with conflict amid the quest for peace for nearly 50 years. For the first time, these men discuss the challenging truths and consequences of their counterterrorism mission.
Paris is Burning Penetrating the tight-knit community of minority drag queens living in New York City, Jennie Livingston’s acclaimed documentary offers an early glimpse at the art of “voguing,” the underground dance style later popularized by Madonna in her hit song. The film also explores issues such as racism, homophobia and AIDS, while offering a detailed examination of the intricate Ball culture, in which queens are judged for their style and expression.
Word Wars In this character-driven documentary, filmmakers Eric Chaikin and Julian Petrillo follow four “word nerds” through their fastidious preparations and smaller tournaments that lead to the national championship Scrabble tournament in San Diego in 2002.
Trek nation This documentary follows Eugene Roddenberry, son of “Star Trek” creator Gene, as he tries to figure out why his father’s show has become such a success. Speaking to fans and colleagues, Eugene learns why “Star Trek” has touched the lives of so many.
The Fab 5 Profiling the University of Michigan’s infamous “Fab Five,” who made headlines — and stirred controversy — when they changed the climate of college basketball, this ESPN documentary gives four of the five players the chance to speak for themselves.
Queen of Versailles Meet the Siegels, glitterati who made a fortune in the time-share business only to see it crumble in the 2008 financial collapse. The site of their rise and almost-fall is their home (America’s largest), a gaudy replica of the Palace of Versailles.
Whore’s Glory This compassionate documentary examines the daily routines and experiences of prostitutes in Bangladesh, Mexico and a Thai brothel called the Fishtank, where prostitutes sit behind glass waiting for johns to choose them.
After Porn Ends Interviewing some of porn’s most recognizable stars, this documentary explores their careers and delves into their lives after leaving the adult entertainment industry, examining the various ways they have adjusted to “normal” society.
Taxi to the Dark Side Alex Gibney (Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room) directs this Best Documentary Oscar winner that uses interviews, news footage and firsthand reports to examine the Bush administration’s policy on torture. The film focuses on the case of an Afghan taxi driver who picked up three passengers and never returned home. Instead, he wound up dead at the Bagram Air Base, killed by injuries inflicted by U.S. soldiers.
The Interrupters This powerful documentary follows CeaseFire, a Chicago-based group — staffed by former gang members — that’s dedicated to wiping out urban violence. The organization treats violence like an infection and seeks to eradicate the root cause.
Capturing the Friedmans A family in crisis is “captured” through home video in this searing documentary about the Friedmans, an upper-middle-class family who found their world turned upside down when father and son were charged with child molestation in 1987. The media inundated the airwaves with coverage of the alleged crime, but some of the best footage — seen here publicly for the first time — was shot by the Friedman family members themselves.
Miss Representation This insightful documentary from director Jennifer Siebel Newsom examines how women are portrayed by the mainstream media, and how the focus on beauty and sexuality instead of intellect and talent contributes to disenfranchisement. Interviews with high-profile leaders such as Dianne Feinstein, Jane Fonda and Gloria Steinem are intermingled with observations by young women who struggle with mixed messages about body image, self-worth and power.
Bus 174 This moving documentary depicts a fateful day in June 2000 when a Rio de Janeiro bus carrying 12 passengers was hijacked by a man named Sandro do Nascimento. Cameras rolled as he touted his plans to kill all aboard but was finally persuaded to give himself up. A cop nonetheless opened fire on Nascimento, killing a passenger instead and causing the city’s streets to erupt in riots. Details of Nascimento’s very troubled childhood are also featured.
Searching for Sugarman The incredible true story of Rodriguez, the greatest ’70s rock icon who never was. Decades after Detroit singer-songwriter Rodriguez disappeared following the failure of his two critically praised records in the 1970s, two fans from South Africa, where Rodriguez was a huge hit, try to track down their idol.
Born into Brothels British filmmaker Zana Briski’s Oscar-winning documentary is a portrait of several unforgettable children who live in Calcutta’s red-light district, where their mothers work as prostitutes to ensure their survival. Spurred by the kids’ fascination with her camera, Briski decides to teach them photography. As they begin to look at and record their world through new eyes, the kids awaken to their own talents and sense of worth.
Bomb It Graffiti isn’t simple vandalism; it’s an artistic expression employed around the world. Filmmaker Jon Reiss travels five continents to reveal graffiti’s history, cultural impact and social relevance. Noted artists share their stories, bringing this vital form of expression out of the shadows.
Standing in the Shadows of Motown Director Paul Justman’s music-infused documentary chronicles the reunion of the Funk Brothers — the anonymous backup group that from 1959 to 1972 provided the music for nearly every hit produced by Berry Gordy’s famous Motown Records.
Naked Ambition: An R-Rated Look at an X-Rated Industry Noted Celebrity Photographer, Michael Grecco, sets out to capture the essence of the AVN Awards and Convention where the best in American Pornography is displayed, celebrated and honored.
Resolved With competition as fierce as that of any sport, debate teams are a way for high school students to develop techniques of persuasion and reason. They’re also, according to this searing documentary by Greg Whiteley, a hotbed of racial and class bias. Up-and-coming debaters from racially diverse schools challenge the traditional debate method by replacing the impartial, straightforward style with arguments born of personal experience.
Vanishing of the Bees This documentary details the economic, political and ecological consequences of a dwindling world honeybee population. It’s a phenomenon with a name — Colony Collapse Disorder — but no explanation or solution exists.
Blackfish A documentary following the controversial captivity of killer whales, and its dangers for both humans and whales.
Objectified A feature-length documentary about our complex relationship with manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them.
Living on One Dollar An award-winning film that has been called “A Must Watch” by Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus and Director of The Hunger Games, Gary Ross. Living on One Dollar follows the journey of four friends as they set out to live on just $1 a day for two months in rural Guatemala. They battle hunger, parasites, and extreme financial stress as they attempt to survive life on the edge. An unimaginable reality for most young Americans, the challenges they face are real and plague over 1.1 billion people around the world. While the friends quickly learn there are no easy answers, the generosity and strength of Rosa, a 20 year old woman, and Chino, a 12 year old boy, give them resilient hope that there are effective ways to make a difference.
Crumb Director Terry Zwigoff spent six years compiling this portrait of the underground cartoonist Robert Crumb, an animation cult hero whose characters Fritz the Cat and Mr. Natural became counterculture icons. Candid interviews with Crumb’s friends, family and the artist himself render a compelling profile of a tormented man who transcended a harrowing upbringing. The film won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
When We Were Kings In director Leon Gast’s Oscar-winning documentary, reigning world champion George Foreman and former champ Muhammad Ali, who was supposedly past his prime, meet in Zaire for the much-anticipated 1974 “Rumble in the Jungle” heavyweight title bout.
Hot Girls Wanted A documentary about young women who have been drawn into the sex trade – and how easy it is for a web-savvy generation to end up making porn.
The Short Game The best 7 year old golfers from around the world descend on the world famous Pinehurst Golf course in North Carolina to determine the next world champion and who might become golf’s next phenomenon. Most of these young prodigies have been holding clubs since before they could walk and are better by the time they are six than most people will be in their lifetime. This is the breeding ground for the PGA and the stakes are huge. The short game follows 9 young golfers vying for the title of ‘world champion’.
Chasing Ice Follow National Geographic photographer James Balog across the Arctic as he deploys time-lapse cameras designed for one purpose: to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.
Born Rich A documentary on children of the insanely rich. Directed by one of their own, Johnson & Johnson heir, Jamie Johnson.
Plastic Planet Werner Boote presents an up-close and personal view of the controversial and fascinating material that has found its way into every facet of our daily lives: plastic. He takes us on a journey around the globe, showing that plastics have become a threat for both environment and human health.
Five Broken Cameras A documentary on a Palestinian farmer’s chronicle of his nonviolent resistance to the actions of the Israeli army.
in the Queue
King of Kong When Steve Wiebe got laid off, he turned to the classic arcade game Donkey Kong for solace; soon, he challenged Billy Mitchell’s long-standing record score. So began the bitter rivalry that lies at the heart of this curiously compelling documentary.
Food, inc Drawing on Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, director Robert Kenner’s provocative, Oscar-nominated documentary explores the food industry’s detrimental effects on our health and environment.
Into the Arms of Strangers: Stories of Kindertransport Filmmaker Mark Jonathan Harris’s Oscar-winning documentary tells the story of an underground railroad — the Kindertransport — that saved the lives of more than 10,000 Jewish children at the dawn of World War II. Through interviews and archival footage, the survivors movingly recount being taken from their families and sent to live with strangers in the relative safety of England. Judi Dench narrates.
The Times of Harvey Milk Harvey Fierstein narrates this documentary by Rob Epstein about San Francisco’s most colorful — and tragic — political figure: Harvey Milk, a staunch fighter for gay rights who helped forge a presence for the city’s gay community in city hall. Milk became the first openly gay member of San Francisco’s combative city council. But his life, along with Mayor George Moscone’s, was cut short by infamous fellow politico Dan White.
Scared Straight! Peter Falk hosts this groundbreaking documentary that won an Oscar and eight Emmys in 1978. The film follows 17 juvenile delinquents who are taken inside a maximum-security prison and brought face to face with the “Lifers,” a group of hardened convicts who describe their nightmarish prison life in gruesome detail in an attempt to scare the teen lawbreakers into going straight. Also includes the follow-up program Scared Straight! 20 Years Later.
The Thin Blue Line Filmmaker Errol Morris’s gripping investigation into the murder of a Dallas police officer was responsible for freeing the man who was originally — and erroneously — charged with and convicted of the crime.
Crash of Flight 447 Examining the fateful 2009 crash of Air France Flight 447 from every possible angle, this thought-provoking NOVA program attempts to answer still-lingering questions about the plane’s unlikely flight path straight into a deadly storm.
A Place at the Table Using personal stories, this powerful doc illuminates the plight of the 49 million Americans struggling with food insecurity. A single mother, a small-town policeman and a farmer are among those for whom putting food on the table is a daily battle.
Tongues United In this searing documentary, filmmaker Marlon Riggs uses his own and others’ stories to reveal the realities of being black and gay in America. Vintage film clips intercut with readings by poet Essex Hemphill accompany tales of gay-bashing, protest movements, drag culture and a memorial for black AIDS victims, all filtered through Riggs’s slyly humorous voice.
Ayn Rand: Her Own Words Using the author’s own words to tell her story, this biographical documentary explores the life of Ayn Rand and the events that inspired her to pen The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, works which would fascinate generations of readers.
We Live in Public Ondi Timoner’s documentary chronicles a decade in the life of Internet pioneer Josh Harris, who instigated an “artificial society” experiment in which more than 100 artists lived under 24-hour surveillance in an underground New York City compound.
Paragraph 175 Actor Rupert Everett narrates this disquieting documentary from filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman that exposes the Third Reich’s vicious persecution of male homosexuals during World War II. The film’s title comes from an arcane, 1871 German statute making sodomy punishable by incarceration, with the ultimate goal of eradicating gays completely. Only a handful of survivors remain to recount their traumatic tales.
The Decline of Western Civilization before she directed Wayne and Garth in Wayne’s World, Penelope Spheeris helmed this music-driven documentary about the hard-hitting Los Angeles punk scene, a film that proved so potent at its first screening that it was banned by the LAPD. Highlights include live performances by Black Flag, the Germs, X, the Bags, Circle Jerks, Catholic Discipline and Fear, plus interviews with the bands and the extreme fans who love them.
No Place on Earth This documentary sheds light on a long-untold story of World War II: the 18-month sanctuary of 38 Jewish refugees in a Ukrainian cave. Five surviving members discuss their ordeal, as the film chronicles the accidental discovery of the cave in 1993.
Marathon Boy This searing documentary profiles Budhia, a very young boy rescued from an Indian slum by judo coach Biranchi Das. Das discovered that Budhia loved to run long distances, but as Budhia ran more marathons, public outcry about his future intensified.
Sole Survivor In the history of aviation, there have been only 14 of them: sole survivors of a commercial aviation disaster. Most have never spoken publicly about the loss, the guilt, the immense pressure of feeling “spared.” Who, after all, could ever truly understand? The answer is only each other. Sole Survivor brings four of them together (George Lamson, Cecilia Cichan, Bahia Bakari and Jim Polehinke) to share their very complex, personal stories for the first time. They revisit the most harrowing moments of their lives in an effort to heal and overcome their most perplexing questions.
The Pit Wading directly into the chaos on the floor of the New York Board of Trade, this documentary explores the cutthroat world of commodities trading.
Under the Boardwalk: The monopoly story A look at the history of one of America’s favorite board games, a game that brings out the competitor — and inner real estate mogul — in all of us.
Moog Filmmaker Hans Fjellestad tells the story of Robert Moog, a pioneer in the realm of electronic music who invented the Moog synthesizer in 1964. Initially viewed as a threat to “real” music, the Moog opened up a world of creative possibilities.
night and Fog Employing haunting images, such as a hill of human hair or a pyramid of shoes, director Alain Resnais contrasts 1955 footage of Auschwitz’s quiet, empty buildings with black-and-white footage shot there in 1944. This landmark documentary — one of the first cinematic reflections on the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust — is as lyrical as it is graphic, and has influenced contemporary movies such as Schindler’s List.
Paradise Lost Shedding light on the legal system — and on the media machine that often demonizes the accused — this gripping documentary follows the notorious West Memphis Three, a trio of boys arrested for the murders of three children found in a creek bed. Appearing on many critics’ year-end Top 10 lists for 1996, this film from directors Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky also won the National Board of Review’s prestigious prize for Best Documentary.
Hearts of Darkness It’s Francis Ford Coppola vs. natural catastrophe, crazy actors, the Philippine government and crushing self-doubt in this unbelievable account of the making of the 1979 classic Apocalypse Now. Behind-the-scenes location footage is combined with candid 1990 interviews of cast and crew members; the result is a fascinating portrait of a director plunged into the very obsession he sought to portray on film.
hearts and minds An Academy Award-winning documentary that casts a sharp eye toward the U.S. government’s costly — in terms of lives, budget and honor — all-out effort during the Vietnam War. Director Peter Davis uses his own war footage, newsreels, presidential speeches and interviews with the likes of Robert Kennedy, Gen. William Westmoreland and Daniel Ellsberg to provide a compelling argument against war.
Everyday Sunshine: The Story of Fishbone Good-time specialists Fishbone get the spotlight in this lively documentary about the all-black punk-funk band that sprang out of South Central Los Angeles in 1979, signing a record deal before their principals were out of high school.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams In this spellbinding documentary, filmmaker Werner Herzog offers an unprecedented examination of the Chauvet Cave, a cavern in southern France that contains the oldest human-painted images yet to be found on Earth.
wordPlay From the masters who create the mind-bending diversions to the tense competition at the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament, Patrick Creadon’s documentary reveals a fascinating look at a decidedly addictive pastime. Creadon captures New York Times editor Will Shortz at work, talks to celebrity solvers — including Bill Clinton and Ken Burns — and presents an intimate look at the national tournament and its competitors.
The Endless Summer The quintessential surf film directed and humorously narrated by Bruce Brown follows summer around the globe in 1966. Mike Hynson and Robert August ride the wild waters of Hawaii, Australia, Africa and other exotic locales in search of the perfect wave, strengthening their friendship and teaching natives along the way. This beautifully shot, laidback documentary captures a thrilling sport.
Marwencol After a terrible beating left Mark Hogancamp brain damaged, he began creating models of a fictional town, Marwencol, to process the trauma. Jeff Malmberg’s documentary explains how Hogancamp uses the elaborate dioramas as stand-ins for real life.
If a Tree Falls: Earth Liberation Front Filmmakers Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman examine the case of Daniel McGowan, a member of the radical environmental group Earth Liberation Front who was arrested for committing arson against two Oregon timber companies.
Triumph of the Will Leni Riefenstahl’s infamous propaganda film documenting the Third Reich’s 1934 Nuremberg Party Rally features a cast of thousands — including Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Joseph Goebbels, Rudolf Hess, Hermann Goering and other top officials. Images of cheering crowds, precision marching, military bands, banners lining Nuremberg’s streets and Hitler’s climactic speech illustrate with chilling clarity how Germany fell under his spell.
King Corn In Aaron Woolf’s thought-provoking documentary, friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis move back to America’s Corn Belt to plant an acre of the nation’s most-grown and most-subsidized grain and follow their crop into the U.S. food supply.
No Direction Home: Bob Dylan This exhaustive film biography is a moving tribute to rock legend Bob Dylan by acclaimed director Martin Scorsese, featuring never-before-seen footage, rare concert performances and intimate interviews with members of the musician’s inner circle.
Fast, Cheap and Out of Control Filmmaker Errol Morris (The Thin Blue Line) interviews four eccentrics — a wild animal trainer, a topiary gardener, a robot designer and an expert on the naked mole rat — to examine the narrow boundary that separates madness from sheer genius. This fascinating documentary combines commentary with old movies, cartoons and stock footage to paint a compelling, kaleidoscopic portrait of these four obsessed individuals.
THE CATS OF MIRIKITANI Wonderful documentary about a homeless Japanese American artist. Narrative is excellently crafted; arc from the filmmaker’s chance encounter with the subject to a moving revelation about his internment during WWII. The filmmaker and subject attended this screening. In the second half of the movie, I heard a steady sobbing come from a few rows behind me. I looked back and saw a young man wiping his eyes. Behind him was Mr. Mirikitani, watching his story with the same rapt attention as the rest of the theater.
DISORDER (XIANSHI SHI GUOQU DE WEILAI) Set of gritty, absurd videos of life in Guangzhou. Pigs spilling out of a truck. Hydrant gushing over cars like artificial rain.
J.C. CHAVEZ Film breezed over the first 42 years of the the boxer Julio Cesar Chavez’s life. My interest was piqued but I didn’t learn much about his background. A diversion into Mexican politics was confusing for a novice like myself. Film was best in last twenty minutes: a raw, unnarrated look into his transition from boxing great into washup and mentor for his son. Film ends boldly on a sad note: Chavez’s final fight, a loss. I’m surprised Chavez allowed director Diego Luna to end his legacy this way.
MICHAEL JACKSON’S THIS IS IT Screening at the Lucasfilm complex in the Presidio, with director Kenny Ortega in attendance. This is the closest I will ever get to MJ. Many reaffirming anecdotes about the genius. Ortega: “If you can’t say it with love, get out of the room.”
NO END IN SIGHT Thought provoking documentary on the war in Iraq. Brings forth the folly of the Department of Defense and Bush administration’s moves so clearly that during the entire movie I asked, How could they be this stupid? The film ends just before the Surge, which poses a challenge to the filmmaker’s argument that we’re engaged in an unwinnable war.
the last days Directed by James Moll and executive-produced by Steven Spielberg, this powerful, Oscar-winning documentary recounts the harrowing stories of five Hungarian Jews who endured the horrors of the holocaust and the reign of Adolf Hitler. In addition to the testimonials of the Hungarian subjects, the heart-wrenching film also includes accounts from U.S. soldiers who participated in the liberation of the Nazi death camps in 1945.
Room 237 Exploring various theories about hidden meanings in Stanley Kubrick’s classic film The Shining, this fascinating documentary presents fans’ and conspiracy theorists’ ideas about messages regarding genocide, government conspiracy and history.
Hearts of Darkness It’s Francis Ford Coppola vs. natural catastrophe, crazy actors, the Philippine government and crushing self-doubt in this unbelievable account of the making of the 1979 classic Apocalypse Now. Behind-the-scenes location footage is combined with candid 1990 interviews of cast and crew members; the result is a fascinating portrait of a director plunged into the very obsession he sought to portray on film.
Chronos Chronos is a wonder — it’s the first nonverbal, nonfiction movie filmed entirely in time-lapse photography. Presented as a visual symphony in seven movements, Chronos takes viewers on an unprecedented cinematic journey through the essence of time, across the worlds of natural beauty and man-made monuments. Prepare to be awestruck by this unique film that’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.
Samsara Unconstrained by dialogue or narration, this contemplative documentary reveals the ties between the dueling rhythms of nature and humanity as found in diverse locations across the globe, from sacred sites and natural wonders to industrial zones.
The Raw and the Cooked This sumptuous doc explores Taiwan’s diverse culinary culture, drawn from both ethnic Chinese and myriad outside influences. The menu includes upscale urban restaurants, dumplings, edible flowers, organic farms and a burgeoning local foods movement.
Frankensteer With the beef industry focused on increasing production and reducing manufacturing costs, this eye-opening documentary investigates the dangers to human health posed by feedlot-raised beef — as well as the attempt to cover up this danger.
The Last Waltz Martin Scorcese’s documentary of The Band’s farewell concert with Bob Dylan and too many icons to list here. The film explores the Woodstock era by interviewing all of these greats in 1976, the tail end of the era, though it has many behind the scenes clips from the actual time. In my opinion, it’s the best and most authentic of all films of this era. It also does a terrific job of capturing the music and exploring the relationship between all of these masters. It’s a must see.
Irving Johnson’s Around Cape Horn Please watch and you will see why. This guy was the last of the adventurers from the great sailing age–tall ships traveling under the power of sails. The unbelievable thing is this guy actually filmed himself doing it! He has clips of himself training as a teenager (black and white and grainy but authentic), joining the merchant marine, and sailing around Cape Horn during a category V hurricane. He actually climbs the mast and films the storm almost capsizing his ship. You will be shouting “No F’ing Way!” at the television as you watch this unfold! This documentary definitively proves that reality films and extreme adventure existed long before our time!
Endurance Shackleton’s Legendary Anarctic Expedition. Shackleton’s autobiography South about his race to the South Pole and the diameter and survical story that followed is a must read. The documentary is at that level, but is still great and should be added to the list. One of the truly great adventure stories of all time. Hard to imagine what these guys endured.
Boogie Man: The Lee Atwater Story This documentary from director Stefan Forbes examines the political and personal life of the late Lee Atwater, notorious for his no-holds-barred strategies that powered the campaign of George H.W. Bush. Forbes analyzes Atwater’s pivotal role in the rise of the Republican Party in the 1980s, and also documents a decidedly less partisan side of the strategist, including his passion for playing the blues.
Deep Water A documentary about the disastrous 1968 round-the-world yacht race.
The Cove Using state-of-the-art equipment, a group of activists, led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O’Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health.
Dear Zachary A filmmaker decides to memorialize a murdered friend when his friend’s ex-girlfriend announces she is expecting his son.
The Act of Killing A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.
Urbanized A documentary about the design of cities, which looks at the issues and strategies behind urban design and features some of the world’s foremost architects, planners, policymakers, builders, and thinkers.
Meet the Fokkens A documentary on Louise and Martine Fokkens, 69-year-old twin sisters who have worked as prostitutes in the red-light district in Amsterdam for over 40 years.
Deli Man A look at the history of delicatessens in the United States.
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Copyright © 2014 Jason Heltzer