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Almost 50 documentaries

This post deals with all the documentaries that I have seen in the last three years. They are varied, sensational, ground-breaking, important, fun and neatly ranked and rated.

But first, I wish to celebrate my friend Crystal, my generation, who celebrates her birthday today on a trip to Boston, one day after David Bowie, Elvis Presley and Stephen Hawking. Coincidence? I think not!

Thank you so much for the highlight of my last year when you come over with Pedro and we hopped between my two countries, Tuscany (Pitigliano, left) and Slovenia (the road over the Vršič Pass in the Julian Alps, right). You brought along your smile and your thoughtful presents, including a camera. Your generosity knows no boundaries. I wish you that your happiness continues and that your good things jar always stays full. Cin cin!

And now here are the 49 docs that I’ve seen in the last three years, roughly divided in six groups. My enjoyment grows with each next one.

As usually, they are accompanied by trash that I can observe around me here in Tuscany. Truth be told, it is mostly gone by the next day. Except that car, it is forever. And the boat is not really trash.

I already know which will be the 50th I watch: Val, about Val Kilmer, which comes recommended by Crystal. Thank you! I’m always all ears if you wish to tell me what to watch.

First, a few that fell and felt a bit short. I still rate them 7/10.

49. Abducted in Plain Sight. One of those horrible “under the spell” tales in which the child’s eyes are blacked out in the poster.

48. Three Identical Strangers. A say-what?? tale of triplets popping up all over.

47. Remastered: The Miami Showband Massacre. A tragedy from the Ulster times.

46. Facing Adversity: Choosing Earth, Choosing Life. I imagine we will soon be in need of more films like this one, instead of that meteor one.

A few that are interesting as such but too sad or not really up my sleeve. I give them 8/10.

45. Whitney. It was not easy to be Ms. Whitney. A devastating watch.

44. The Carter. See, it’s comparably much easier to be Carter. The world as much removed from my own as possibly possible. I remember the most his daughter rapping.

43. Have a Good Trip: Adventures in Psychedelics. I quite enjoyed watching it but have forgotten all about it by now. Says it all. All those celebs wasted on me.

42. The Spider’s Web: Britain’s Second Empire. One of those films that you watch in self-defence, nodding throughout. The City has always sounded so ominous. And all those offshores…

41. Capital In The Twenty-First Century. Goes well with the one above. Since I’m not really fluent at the matters of economy, much of it was rather hair-raising.

40. The Social Dilemma. Did you know? Facebook employees forbid their own kids to sign up. Every time that I click on an article that comes recommended for me by FB, I imagine a little person in there high-fiving herself.

39. Tío Yim. A father, a husband, a musician gone silent in Oaxaca through the eyes of his daughter.

The second half of 8/10s. Good watches, all of them, but those coming later were better.

38. A Glitch in the Matrix. And what if we are living in a simulation? It’s not about what is real but rather about what is believed and why.

37. The Life and Times of Rosie the Riveter. Fascinating bits of wartime history that we don’t think of often. Talking about hard life.

36. Food Inc. Another important insight, into the food that America eats and the forces that govern the processes. I have read a bit about it so it didn’t come as a total surprise. Still horrifying.

35. Colectiv. Romanian documentary about the nightclub fire that killed 64 and injured many more. It is important since it unveils a fraud but does not provide any hope that things like that would ever stop happening for these exact reasons.

34. The Hottest August. This is a poetic insight into life as it is starting to happen to us all from the mouths of the people of New York. And you know that tell they will.

33. Rubble Kings. Another chapter of the American history from the times when I was being born that I know little about. Gangs, violence – not my preferred style but an important watch.

32. The Great Hack. This film, together with the fascinating feature Brexit: The Uncivil War, made me realise the truth of so much, not just Brexit and Trump’s victory.

Here come those that earn 9/10. In some cases ground-breaking stuff, with a few feelgood pleasers and not just a few sighs.

31. Leaving Neverland. A biiiig sigh. It’s horrible, and nobody wants to talk about this. It’s as if Michael Jackson were that meteor.

30. The Legend of Cocaine Island. Here’s a light, amusing one for you. Off you go in search of that treasure. It’s still there, no?

29. 20 Feet from Stardom. This story of background singers, always a fascinating subject, won the documentary Oscar. Ms. Merry Clayton, my favourite, was in a crash a few months after the film came out. Her legs were amputated but not her voice.

28. Toxic Beauty. Oh my, another touchy subject for some. I’m not a user of (many) cosmetic products, what do I care. Right? Wrong! There is a direct link, no matter what you believe.

27. Oklahoma City. Oh my, oh my. It was so hard to watch this, and I’m not even American. So important too. Don’t look away.

26. Aquarela. This film starts with a car that drives on the ice and then breaks it, apparently with a person inside it, and submerges. Welcome to Siberia. Locations change – there are also Angel Falls – but water remains the only character with no narration.

25. The Cleaners (Im Schatten der Netzwelt). Another sigh. Some people do it so that you don’t have to: watch murders, torture, pornography on Facebook. They do nothing all days but eliminate posts like that. In the Philippines. For how much would you do it?

24. Fahrenheit 11/9. I have been following Michael Moore’s output with interest, learning much in the process, about America, the divide, and the power of a documentary. Of course it’s biased, it’s about Trump! When it’s raining you don’t need to include the other side that claims it’s sunny!

23. The House that Rob Built. A necessary basketball break. My mom played it, I watch it and always will. The coach Rob Selvig gave Montana something to cheer for: its lady winners.

22. Fire In The Blood. Another hard-hitting but important topic, AIDS medicine, and how it was or was not distributed evenly. A proper landmark of a film with consequences.

The second half of 9/10s starts with three musical numbers to let us breathe a little before it gets heavy again.

21. Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That! Before their sold-out 2004 Madison Square Garden show, Beastie Boys gave out 50 digital cameras to fans and told them to shoot the concert. This is the mix of their footage. I’d have said: “Nahhh, thanks, I’ll be otherwise occupied.”

20. All I Can Say. You might know the song No Rain and the bee girl in the video. The guy singing it, Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon, was shooting the world around him up to the time when it was time to die.

19. Poly Styrene: I Am a Cliché. I had no idea of Poly’s existence before seeing this one. A raw slice of life of the singer in the punk band X-Ray Specs.

18. Into Eternity. This is different: A look at how and where nuclear waste material is being stored in Finland. Forever? Foreverever? The film is already 12 years old. It would be interesting to see if anything has changed.

17. Bowling for Columbine (repeat viewing). I have to see this one from time to time, just to remind myself that you guys are not all the same. Or are you now.

16. On the Record. Some sighs coming up again. Russell Simmons, my man, not. How many times must we say “allegations of sexual abuse” for it to start dawning on everybody that they really did it and that’s no alleging?

15. Bitter Lake. Oh, right, we haven’t said anything about Islam yet. Adam Curtis does it for all of us. Watch it.

14. Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain. Oh, Anthony. 😦 I’ve just read your “Kitchen Confidential” too for the first time. What a life. Why did you have to go?

13. A Life on Our Planet. Sir David Attenborough is 93 and this is his life. Some say this was the most important film of last year. It’s certainly a legacy, and such a humble one, that nobody can destroy, no matter what comes next.

12. Seaspiracy. Oh my, oh my, oh my! Just – don’t watch it. No, watch it, it’s crucial, but expect blood. And yet I STILL eat fish and sea food just like I did before watching this. This is our problem.

And finally, here are eleven that stuck out and hit the nerve the most. They are as different as they can be. I love that.

11. Marianne & Leonard: Words of Love. It is rather incredible to see these images, hear this story, remember this music. So intimate. So much a part of the past that is gone forever. So long, Marianne.

10. Kurt Vonnegut: Unstuck in Time. I’ve just seen this one. Kurt was one of those whose books I just had to buy (another was Tom Robbins) until I had them (almost) all. Here you see him as a family man and then he gets big. Guess what happens. This one was 40 years in the making and made by the man who became Kurt’s friend. When he died, grieving took precedence over the film.

9. I Am Not Your Negro. Another part of American history that I’m not familiar with enough. Thank you for the eye-opening, Mr. James Baldwin. Based on his unfinished book about his three assassinated friends: Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King.

8. Heavy Metal in Baghdad. Something completely different again. Just what the title says. But then Iraq became too small for them.

7. Procession. *Grumbles something about priests.* I know why when little I cried upon learning that (less than) a half of my class cannot sleep in on Sunday mornings nor watch cartoons but must go to church. This one is especially hard-hitting since the abuse survivors face their trauma in real-life settings.

6. Pearl Jam Twenty (repeat viewing). What can I say, I’m a fan. Dusty Grammy on the shelf and all. This was made ten years ago. The first time I saw it in a cinema in my Ljubljana. The crowd was lovely, just like at their shows (and I witnessed ten of them). They have been around 30 years already. Oh my.

5. 76 Days. Whereas this one is from the start of our present pandemic. 76 days is how long Wutan was in lockdown. This is only one hospital through the eye of one camera (I believe). It shows exactly how it was like, in case somebody is still unconvinced. Plenty of moments that will linger.

4. 63 Up. The latest instalment of the late Michael Apted’s 7 Up project. He used to visit his “kids” every seven years since they were 7. This one came out in 2019 when they were 63. Two years later Mr. Apted died. Who knows what happens when they hit 70. Is the series over? It remains one of the most astonishing things I have ever watched.

3. Knock Down the House. The #3 spot is well deserved. Even my heart played a little watching Ms. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez win her spot in the world of American politics. There is something about her, in her eyes, in her smile, in her resolve that makes you feel better. I don’t follow her path since 2019 when this film was made but I do catch her stir it up now and then. I hope the nation serves her well because the opposite is true already.

2. My Octopus Teacher. What a peculiar film this is. A pet but not really. Friendship certainly. A crash-course in wilderness vs. humanity. Why did I say “vs.”? Aren’t we supposed to be on the same side?

1. The Age of Stupid. (There is also The Making of, and The Age of Stupid Revisited from 2019.) This film is from 2009 and when I saw it a few years ago (upon recommendation by an environmental politician) something broke in me. Most of us have such a moment, probably. Just one sentence about it: “In 2055 an archivist examines videos from 2008 to understand why humans didn’t stop climate change before it was too late.” Imagine: It is 2022 now.

Previous flash film review posts:

My IMDb Watchlist with films I’ve seen (517 titles)

This day in my blogging history


Published by Manja Maksimovič

A Slovenian in Italy for love. Blogger, photographer, translator and would-be writer who would be a writer if she wrote. Plus reluctant but emerging poet. Beware.

64 thoughts on “Almost 50 documentaries

  1. Lulu: “Our Dada says he’s only seen a few of those documentaries, but he has a couple more for you that aren’t on your list: ‘Darwin’s Nightmare’ which is about fish in a lake in Africa and ‘Maiden’ which is about the first all-female crew competing in a round-the-world sailboat race.”
    Charlee: “Hmm I am all in favor of documentaries about fish but I think I’ll pass on the one that involves boats.”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you kindly, Animals. 🙂 You give good tips. The one about the perch I’ve seen a long time ago and would need to revisit. I remember it was quite harsh to take but important. I also remember that it starts with a flight controller battling a fly while directing a plane to land. 😀 About the Maiden I have heard nothing yet and would love to see it. Always welcome back!


  2. I have seen most of these – some I’m not interested in and some are still in queue. You MUST watch Count Me In, because I found it to be the most entertaining documentary I watched last year. It’s not brilliant and fascinating like My Octopus Teacher or heavy like The Hottest August, it’s just wildly entertaining to those of us who are audiophiles. I’d put it up there with Have a Good Trip.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ahhh, Joey, thanks sooo much! This is exactly what I was hoping to get, a new must-see title. I haven’t even heard of it yet! And you don’t know (probably) that my once-removed cousin is one of the nation’s best drummers! I remember posting Losing My Religion cover that he did with his band. Here:

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I enjoyed reading your observations. I’m another person who basically watches nothing, though many of them interest me. I just never have time–how can that be? and yet it’s true. (K)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m a huge doco fan. I don’t do reality TV or any of the so-called ‘entertainment’ shows except in very rare occasions. I’ve seen quite a few of these but I will check out some of the others that look interesting. The Three Identical Strangers one was incredible. What kind of soul-less moron would even contemplate carrying out an ‘experiment’ like that. The MJ one was something else. I remember Poly Styrene from the day. I think she was a one hit wonder in the UK – a fairly short-lived phenomena in my memory; your mention is the first I’ve heard of her since then. The Adam Curtis doco’s are superb.

    Liked by 3 people

      1. He does it very well. Well worth watching if only to learn that what you read / hear about a place and the reality are often very different. I haven’t seen them all yet but the North Korea one is fascinating. Despite the obvious negatives about the place it must be one of the cleanest places on Earth!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes, I’d like to see the one about North Korea because I know he wasn’t in danger there. I don’t like it when a person goes to do a knowingly dangerous thing on purpose unless it is proved that there was no danger at all. I’m pretty sure there is still radioactivity in Chernobyl though.


  5. I don’t watch a lot of documentary films, although I do watch documentary TV. David Attenborough is of course a national treasure / icon, and ‘A Life on Our Planet’ was must for me. The other one I’ve seen from your list is ‘Marianne & Leonard’ which we saw at the cinema. He’s of my era – my teenage years were shaped by the singer-songwriters I loved. The film was an excellent insight into their life together and also to that period in general.

    Others I’ve seen and can recommend, if you’ve not yet seen them, are ‘Free Solo’ and ‘RBG’ – but maybe they were on last year’s viewing list for you, as they were for me?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Sarah. I appreciate your recommendations. Free Solo was already on my to see list, and I’ve heard of RBG and have now put it on there as well. I’m glad that you like Leonard Cohen and this film. And I’ve just heard that Sir David has a new series out on plants called The Green Planet. Yay!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. These are 2-15 years old, but I hope a few are new to you: Cane Toads is a humorous look at an environmental disaster in Australia. The Sound of my Voice is a wonderful biopic about Linda Ronstadt. Iris is a visual biography of octogenarian fashion icon Iris Apfel. Mad Hot Ballroom is kids from diverse backgrounds learning ballroom dance.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Ahhh, brilliant, thanks a bunch, Rebecca! They are all perfectly new to me and none of them was even on my list to see yet. So four times thank you. I’ll watch all of these with great interest. The one about Ms Iris I probably wouldn’t pick for myself but I trust that it’s good.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Glad to pass along tips for films you haven’t seen. 🙂 The brilliance of the film Iris is that it takes the fashion industry plagued with materialism, sexism, sizism and ageism and turns it on its head. It’s not about her age, body type or physical attractiveness but her self expression through what she chooses to wear. I found that freeing. I had worried that my penchant for bright colors, unique patterns and jewelry was frivolous. However, what we wear can be art. I like that idea.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. What a great list – not just what you’ve seen and appreciate, but some information about each one, and your reaction to them. “Val” was so interesting on multiple levels, all the great memories from one of my favourite actors, the health condition Val Kilmer now lives with – which was a complete surprise to me, and finally, discovering what an eccentric and genuine person he is, and what a ham – he still loves the spotlight. It was a film I couldn’t stop watching.

    You are truly a generous friend to offer me such a beautiful birthday wish here. I wish I had been able to respond right away, but was in the middle of such a busy weekend! Now that I am here, I want you to know that I am really touched by your consistent friendship. Thank you for everything. ❤ You and your amore and your family made our trip so especially nice. There is no way we could have had that kind of vacation with a tourist package. It was certainly the highlight of my 2021 as well. Here's to the next decade of us in our 50s. Let's see where our imaginations and quest for adventures take us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yesss, let’s have our eyes and hearts open and we’ll see. ❤ Thank you, Crystal, I'm glad you like this post. Haven't seen Val yet but I will. And of course you were busy braving that horrible cold in Boston! Glad you're hope safely.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. What a succinct and splendid list! There is a job somewhere you could do, some organisation is absolutely missing out on you big-time. Reviewer extraordinaire.

    I have only seen a few of these, Leaving Neverland, Whitney and My Octopus Teacher, though I suspect I’ve the Attenborough one too as I’ve seen almost anything by him. The Neverland and Whitney are a punch in the gut. I can’t listen to any MJ now without thinking about what he did. I don’t care what anyone says, those guys are telling the truth. And Whitney, poor Whitney, the tragedy is beyond. How lonely it is to be at the top when everyone thinks you have a charmed life; you are, in fact, more vulnerable than ever.

    My Octopus Teacher is just wonderful. Kurt Vonnegut I must watch – can you believe I still haven’t read anything by him? I must get round to it, it’s getting silly now.

    I want to see a lot of these now, especially Poly Styrene, as I’ve been told more than once that I look like her. I was always like – who’s that? That’s how I discovered who she was.

    Wait a minute – so Blind Melon guy was shooting the world around him?? Now I have research to do.

    Are these available on Netflix, Amazon, youtube or some other platform?

    By the way, a stunning shot of your friend at the end, the composition, the content, the lines, the colour, her candid expression – truly stunning ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sunra Ninaaaa!! You’re so good for my soul, once again. Most certainly I have organisational skills that are lying low unused and I compensate with such posts. 😀 I believe those boys too and can’t listen to him any more. (Or watch W. Allen’s movies.) Poly Styrene was fully unknown to me before I watched this, but I did know their song “Oh Bondage! Up Yours!” With “shooting” I meant video-camming. I hope it didn’t make you think otherwise. I tend to watch them whenever I find them, all over the place. And that last shot of Flavia? That day I saw her for the first time. 🙂 Thank you so much for each of your visit and word. ❤

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You are most welcome, Manja 🙂

        Wait, W. Allen too? Are you serious? Honestly, the norm for men back then was an illness and they had no idea. It still is. Oh dear, I’ll stop now before I go off on one! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

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