Rebekah’s excellent post about documentaries on Wednesday started me thinking about what my own favorite documentaries were. Sometimes it’s hard to remember them all, and it’s hard to compare a documentary about a social cause to one about an artist’s life. Nevertheless, I have racked my brains and come up with a short list of 3 of my favorites:
The first full-length, antropological documentary ever made, and a favorite of filmmaker Werner Herzog’s (Grizzly Man, Cave of Forgotten Dreams), Nanook of the North documents one year in the life of Nanook, an eskimo (Inuit) and his family, following him as he conducts his everyday life, trading, hunting, fishing and migrating in a landscape that is barely touched by industrial technology. While the film is fascinating both as a document of a lifestyle and a document of an early way of making films, it’s also been criticized for its occasional spicing up of the truth with staged scenes and other inaccuracies.
This 1976 Academy Award winning documentary film covers the coal miners’ strike against the Brookside Mine of the Eastover Mining Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in June, 1973. Eastover’s refusal to sign a contract (when the miners joined with the United Mine Workers of America) led to the strike, which lasted more than a year and included violent battles between gun-toting company thugs/scabs and the picketing miners and their supportive women-folk. The film captures the brutal reality of a strike as if you were experiencing it yourself, along with all the strong personalities of that town. I’ve written about this film on this blog before, in much more detail here.
Focusing on the 1980s investigation of Arnold and Jesse Friedman for child molestation, this is one of the most thought provoking and conversation provoking documentaries I’ve seen. By the end, you start to question the nature of truth. Watch it with a friend and discuss afterwards. But fair warning, it’s not for all audiences, as it discusses some sensitive issues, and is rated R.