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:
- Almost 40 TV series (December 2021)
- See you at the movies (December 2018)
- Films to feel and fill me (August 2017)
- Holy Movie Motors (May 2017)
- Four movie months (March 2017)
- Moves like movies (November 2016)
My IMDb Watchlist with films I’ve seen (517 titles)
This day in my blogging history