Best Documentaries About People/Society?

I’ll name a few of my favorites to get the idea… I love

-Place de la Republique
-Seven-Up (series of documentaries)
-Salesman
-Chronicles of a Summer

Phantom India

Nice! Another one by Louis Malle! I’ll check this out as soon as I can. Thank you so much!

“Le Joli Mai” is another great one!

I’ll second the “Seven Up” series and add “Gates of Heaven,” “Koyaanisqatsi(?),” “Harlan County U.S.A.” and this past year’s “The King.” (Ostensibly about Elvis).

I loved “Harlan County USA” and I know I have “Koyaanistsqatsi” somewhere. I believe I saw two of the director’s (Kiarostami?) feature films, my favorite being “Taste of Cherry”, but also really liking the concept behind “Close-Up”

These may not be quite what you’re looking for, but I really enjoyed Billy Connolly’s Route 66 and Journey to the Edge of the World.

Gates of Heaven

Quoted comments from IMDB:

Las Hurdes, a.k.a. Land without Bread (1933)
“A surrealistic documentary portrait of the region of Las Hurdes, a remote region of Spain where civilisation has barely developed, showing how the local peasants try to survive without even the most basic utilities and skills.” Some scenes were faked.

Mondo Cane (1962)
“A ‘shockumentary’ consisting of a collection of mostly real archive footage displaying mankind at its most depraved and perverse, displaying bizarre rites, cruel behavior and bestial violence.” Followed by sequels I’ve never seen or wanted to see.

Gimme Shelter (1970)
Cool music, violence (courtesy the Hell’s Angels), thousands of kids stoned completely out of their minds and Melvin Belli; weren’t the ‘60s great?

The Wonderful, Horrible Life of Leni Riefenstahl (1993)
Three compelling hours of Ms. Riefenstahl’s life and career lies also deal with broader issues of the artist’s place in society and society’s view of controversial artists.

From the Journals of Jean Seberg (1995)
Speculative inquiry into the actress’ life “seamlessly interweaves cinema, politics, American society and culture.” Marred somewhat by the failed framing device of Mary Beth Hurt playing the deceased Seberg.

I also highly recommend “Koyaanisqatsi”. It’s best viewed from start to finish without interruption.

I would also recommend “Shoah”, which is about 8 hours long in total and is in 4 parts. It’s about the Holocaust, and I thought part 3 was far and away the best.

“Paragraph 175” is also an excellent Nazi doco, in this case about their treatment of gay men.

“A Walk to Beautiful” is about a hospital in Ethiopia that specializes in the prevention and treatment of obstetrical fistula, a huge problem in that region and one that was far too common in the U.S. up to about 100 years ago. It’s caused by unrepaired birth injuries, and can be devastating because it leads to continuous leakage of urine and/or stool. It will make you all the more grateful for modern medicine, that’s for sure.

“Koyaanisqatsi“ was the first one I thought of. I didn’t know who Phillip Glass was before I saw this film (in a theater with a decent sound system). Totally agree it should be seen in a theater!

I don’t know, would James Burke’s Connections fit on this list?

If you’re into vintage films, check out “Decasia” or “Dawson City: Frozen Time.” The former is a collection of B&W nitrate films with viewable portions strung together, accompanied by an atonal soundtrack, so I would recommend watching that on mute. The latter is about a town in the Yukon where a huge depository of silent films and newsreels, many previously considered lost, were found in what had once been their YMCA’s swimming pool and how they ended up there, along with a history of this dying town which had once been a bustling gold-mining city.

Both films were made by the same director.