Great documentaries ?

There are a lot of people on this board who I respect greatly . So give me some advice on the best documentaries around .

My favorites are :

" Manufacturing Consent " about Noam Chomsky ( I find it strange that his name doesn’t appear a lot in great debates , but that’s another thread ).

The Civil War :- This just blew me away , it really brought the American Civil War to life for me and has definitly changed the way a lot of documentaries are made.

The Civil War was great, and the music kicked ass.
but (as I’m sure you’ve guessed from the other thread), I have to go with Michael Moore’s * Roger & Me. *
The scene near the end cutting back and forth between the GM Christmas party (with Roger himself speaking about compassion, love, etc) and the famiy being evicted on Christmas day…damn. Such a simple and elegant piece of filmmaking has rarely been equaled.

One of my favorites is Sherman’s March. This guy plans on making a documentary, following along the path of the march. Just before, he breaks up with his girlfriend, so it becomes a combination of him documenting the march, and trying to meet new women. Some people describe it as Woody Allen directing Gone With the Wind.

Roger & Me. was really good. As you are also aware from that thread I am a great fan.

“The Thin Blue Line” “Fast, Cheap and Out of Control”
and to a somewhat lesser extent, everything else Errol Morris has ever done.

Recent good ones: “American Movie” “Hands on a Hot Body”
At your local video store. Go and get them!

“Triumph of the Will” ok it’s morally repellent. it’s still a great documentary. (and anyway, to resist evil, one must understand it’s appeal.)

I would love to see “Manufactured Consent”. I’m thinking Blockbuster doesn’t have it.

“Best Boy” It’ll really get to you. It shows how an 50ish mentally retarded man (the filmmaker’s cousin) learns to become independent. A truly loving, human story.

:: taking notes :: Keep’em coming people :slight_smile:

betenoir I’ve never seen Triumph of the Will but I have seen a BBC documentary about the making of it with a interview with Leni Riefenstahl. It was fascinating and I agree with you that these things should be viewed so we can understand more about the nature of the beast.

IMO Manufacturing Consent should be shown to everyone in school. Even if you disagree with all that’s said in it , it is still one of the best example’s of how to use your time to be informed rather than just letting people tell you how to think.

Bete: It’s “Hands on a HARD Body,” and it’s one of the best docs I’ve ever seen. Stuyguy sez, “two thumbs up!”

Project Grizzly, about the guy trying to make a grizzly-bear proof suit of armor, was a riot.

Microcosmos is one of the best nature films I’ve seen (the very best, which I’ve forgotten the name of, was an episode of NOVA about what happens to animals living near a river when the river dries up)

The Atomic Cafe isn’t really a documentary, just clips of cold war civil defense films and footage of nuclear explosions.

Night and Fog was a documentary about the Holocaust by a french New Wave director. Disturbing and poetic.

Crumb and Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermaschochist were both amazing looks into how fucked up artists can get. By the way, don’t watch Sick if you’re at all squeamish.

I’ll also second Roger & Me, Triumph of the Will and Fast, Cheap, and out of Control as must see films.

Quite a few NOVA episodes deserve mention. This Old Pyramid, building a small pyramid with traditional techniques, and the followup one on Stonhenge were great. And the one on solving Fermats Last Theorem was fascinating because it was exactly what a documentary shouldn’t do. Nothing pretty to show on screen, such abstract concepts that even the people who understand them can’t explain them in the few minutes they get, and only about a dozen people in the world really understand it.

There was a Horizon program ( sorry about not linking but I’m too drunk to do things like searching the website) about this , it actually might be the same programme just reshown in the states because your description is exactly like the one I saw. It should not have worked but it did.

When We Were Kings - A great documentary about the Rumble in the Jungle, with an interesting view of George Foreman before he turned into the talking Stay Puff Marshmellow man that he is today

Trinity And Beyond: The Atomic Bomb Movie. The only documentary I own on DVD.

I doubt most nuclear opponents and proponents have really seen what bombs can do. Truly frightening, and fascinating at the same time. Great original music score, too. Trinity And Beyond has film footage of a whole slew of bomb tests (including Trinity, the first atomic explosion) from the US, the USSR, and even China. Also includes footage of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

A must-see, oh me brothers.

Roger & Me is definitely one of the best around. I would definitely also say American Movie. It’s a great movie, and the new DVD version also has the movie that’s being made in the documentary.
I’m not sure of the title, but A&E did a great documentary on what is considered the toughest prison in America. Very good, though I don’t know if I would consider it one of the best.
Oh, I almost forgot. There was a series of documentaries made by one director that focused on institutions. He did a movie on a school, a movie on a mental institution, etc… They are superb, but I can’t remember the director or the movies. They’re from a ways back. Anybody remember these. He tried to be impartial as well, but as I remember he sometimes used the editing to bring out his views.

Well, I love Barbara Koppel so I have to go with Harlan County, USA.

I also really liked The Thin Blue Line and Roger and Me (even if Michael Moore did alter chronology a little)

Has anyone seen Pets or Meat? Is it good?

Another one of my favorites is Titicut Follies (Frederick Wiseman)

OK, so I typed too fast! That should say, “Kopple”

The Endless Summer and On Any Suday are two of the best documentaries that I have seen!

My favorites:

Salesman, by the Maysles brothers (who also did Gimme Shelter) about door-to-door Bible salesmen. An examination of religion, class, and the standards of “success” in this country, it is one of the Great American Films period.

The Memphis Belle, my favorite of the WWII combat documentaries, about the 25th-and-last bombing run of this famous plane and its crew. Remarkable footage.

The Man with a Movie Camera, silent Russian film about a day in the life of a city, and about the filmmaking process in general.

Burden of Dreams, Les Blank’s awesome document about the making of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo in the jungles of South America.

The Sorrow and the Pity, about the legacy of collaboration and resistance in France during WWII. Essential.

Louisiana Story, by Robert Flaherty, the father of American documentary filmmaking, about a young boy and his observations of oil drillers in the bayous.

South, remarkable 1919 film documenting Ernest Shackleton’s failed attempt to reach the South Pole

Christmas Under Fire, my favorite of the many great British documentaries of the late 30s and early 40s, this is a short about London celebrating Christmas during the Blitz.

*The Civil War, The Thin Blue Line, *and When We Were Kings are also personal favorites. Although I wouldn’t consider them documentaries, Stop Making Sense and Jazz on a Summer’s Day are both great non-fiction concert films.

Also, honorable mention to three terrific faux documentaries: *This Is Spinal Tap, Zelig, *and Forgotten Silver

N&F was made by Alain Resnais, who also made such seminal New Wave films as Hiroshima, Mon Amour and Last Year at Marienbad, and still remains the best film about the Holocaust ever made IMHO.

Seconding (or in some cases, thirding and fourthing) some already mentioned:

The Civil War, Roger & Me, and BBC Horizon’s Fermat’s Last Theorem

My own additions, also from the BBC:

The Nazis: A Warning from History - Great stuff about the origins of the Nazi party, its rise to power, and its inner workings.

Watergate - Absolutely brilliant. Takes the “in their own words” idea from Civil War to a whole new level. First-hand accounts from all the key players, Nixon, Dean, Haig, Waterman, all the lawyers, judges, etc, arranged into a living, breathing transcript. No party political bullshit, just what was said and what was done.

The best domumentary I’ve ever seen is ‘Baseball’ by Ken Burns, who I believe also made ‘The Civil War’. It can be rented from most video stores.(9 tapes in all) It covers baseball from it’s invention up to the early 1990’s and should be required veiwing for all fans.