The Best Documentaries I Have Seen
Of the many, many documentaries I have seen in recent years, the following are among the best out there, at least in my opinion. 


Capturing the Friedmans -  I got really caught up in this one, although I don't know whether I liked it.  I guess that's the mark of an engrossing film.  I will leave it up to you to judge.

Crumb -  A documentary is only as engaging as its subject matter, and this one excels in finding a person (and entire family!) more bizarre than any viewer could expect to ever see on screen.

Dark Days -  Filmmakers go beneath New York City to examine the lives of the vast numbers of homeless who live in abandoned sections of subway systems and other tunnels.  The DVD has tons of extras beyond the film itself.

Devil's Playground -  An exploration of "Rumspringa," the period in the lives of Amish youth when the kids are allowed to run free from their church until they are willing to return.  This documentary follows several individual cases over a period of years full of twists and turns.

The Lifestyle: Swinging in America -  This safari into the alternate lifestyle of the world of swingers makes you question assumptions about sexuality.

Mr. Death: The Rise And Fall Of Fred A. Leuchter, Jr. -  This strange story leaves you wondering whether you pity or hate its subject.  It's probably my favorite Errol Morris film. 

Paradise Lost -  A difficult story to watch about the murders of several children in a small town.  This is better than the Friedmans (above).  There's a follow-up (read: sequel), but I haven't seen it yet. 

Roger & Me -  This one has gotten almost neglected by Michael Moore's more recent films, but it's a classic.  It manages to straddle the line between outrage and satire that Moore needs to remember how to accomplish.

Sherman's March -  Documentaries rarely go as planned.  This one follows the emerging subject that detours wildly from the original focus.  Funny in a very offbeat way. 

Spellbound -  This is good inside look at the national spelling bee competition.  I honestly found it more riveting than any sports film I have ever seen. 

Stevie -  Like Paradise Lost (above), this is a trying story to watch.  However, it addresses a lot of issues about the pathology that leads to criminal outcomes.

Stone Reader -  Everyone gives this one a hard time for its structure (i.e., the promised payoff is delayed a bit too long), but I happened to like the film as a whole.  It is a must-see for anyone who loves to read. 

Trekkies -  This is funny as hell, even though it sometimes strays more toward staged satire than honest reporting.  Still, there is much truth in this entertaining film.

Trembling Before G-D: Le-Fanekha Bi-ReĎadah -  This is a terrific story of the life of several Orthodox Jews and how they dealt with the conflicts between their religion and their sexuality.  I think we spent two days making our way through all the extras on the DVDs. 

When We Were Kings -  I really didn't expect this to be as interesting as it was.  I mean, how can the story of a single boxing match (no matter the contenders) fill two hours?  This one does it by through stimulating interviews with the parties involved. 

Copyright 2005 factuale[x].
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