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Thread: What are some documentaries that you really enjoyed?

  1. #1
    fuck the chupacabra Randall's Avatar
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    What are some documentaries that you really enjoyed?

    I love documentaries. I love being edutained (as much as I hate that term). What are some of your favourites? Let's discuss them!

    Last edited by Randall; 01-22-2014 at 08:02 PM. Reason: Premature thread emission.

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    <3 gator's Avatar
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    The best one I've seen recently was Father Figures. It was about a filmmaker who decided to reconnect with her father by traveling to the Philippines to meet his fiancee. You follow her through the uncomfortable realization that her dad is one of those creepy old men who fucks teenage girls in southeast Asia. It's absolutely riveting.

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    a fool on a journey pensive_pilgrim's Avatar
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    I'm just gonna steal this post I made over at the other place:
    A couple documentaries sans narration that were both incredible in their own way.

    Last Train Home follows a Chinese family where the mother and father are migrant workers, they moved like 1000 miles to find work sewing clothes, leaving their children behind to be cared for by the grandparents. They're followed for several years, and the story is really touching - you really feel intimately the stress this economic situation has put on the family. There are some powerful scenes of familial interaction that made me wonder how this family was able to be so open and allow themselves to be filmed during some of these really intimate and intense moments. The whole thing is juxtaposed and kind of centered around scenes of catching the trains; there are well over 100 million of these workers, and each year they all travel home for Chinese new year, creating intense scenes of chaos around the trains and stations. It's heartbreaking to see the impact this lifestyle has on this one family, and then when you see these scenes of millions of people just like them, and it seems like the stress of dealing with this train situation every year is reflective of the struggle they have in keeping their families together and trying to create a better future for their kids and themselves. Really well done and I'd recommend it to anyone.

    To Hell and Back Again follows a marine sergeant through his deployment, getting wounded and coming back home to his wife. Despite the lack of narration, the person making this did an incredible job of framing the narrative through the juxtaposition of film taken from his time in Afghanistan, which is frequently overtly stressful and hectic, with the relatively everyday scenes of him going through "normal" daily life after he returns - going to the store, interacting with his wife and doctors, discussing what he experienced, just sitting around and talking. It's not just about him but about the impact of the war on people, and mostly those people "caught in the middle" - most notably the Afghani villagers and his wife, along with the other military families. I mean, the focus is on him, though. I dunno, I'm still digesting it but there were some really powerful scenes. Him sitting on his bed fondling his pistol, and then he shows his wife how to use it, explaining about the castle doctrine and that he wants her to be able to shoot someone if she needs to. She looks pretty uncomfortable with all this but goes along with it. And then it flashes back to him talking with these Afghani village elders about how they're upset that the marines are just occupying their houses and that because of all of the fighting they have to send their kids away. Lots of stuff like that. Some of it is really hard to watch. The injury really makes his life hard, and there are parts where there's strong hinting at suicidal and even homicidal ideation. The wife doesn't talk a lot but what she says reveals a lot of tension in their marriage.

    Anyway, both of these very powerful and well done documentaries.

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    Member Penguinhunter's Avatar
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    I recently watched The Interrupters . I was skeptical going in, thinking it probably wouldn't be that "eye-opening"/(insert-critics-buzzword-here) and even if it was, I thought it might me a bit boring but I was totally wrong on both counts. It's a great examination of where violence in poor American communities comes from and more importantly, it even offers a way for communities to tackle violence in their neighborhoods. I had trouble believing that it would work until I saw it in action. On top of that, the lives of the people filmed, both the troubled youth and the "interrupters" themselves, are fascinating. If you liked The Wire, you should definitely watch this. Even if you didn't or you never watched it, you will probably get a lot from it, maybe more.


    (Also, for anyone wanting to watch gator's recommendation, it's available on line for free - but you can donate - at: knowledge.ca.)

  5. #5
    <3 gator's Avatar
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    Re: Penguinhunter's rep

    Yeah, it's totally wtf. The father, the parents, the lengths they go to, the denial...

  6. #6
    fuck the chupacabra Randall's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by gator View Post
    The best one I've seen recently was Father Figures. It was about a filmmaker who decided to reconnect with her father by traveling to the Philippines to meet his fiancee. You follow her through the uncomfortable realization that her dad is one of those creepy old men who fucks teenage girls in southeast Asia. It's absolutely riveting.
    That was indeed riveting in the second half. Not sure what I'd do if I was in the filmmaker's shoes.

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    Suburban Legend C.J.Woolf's Avatar
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    War: A Commentary by Gwynne Dyer. (The link is to a YouTube playlist.) I read a lot of military history, and yet this series gave me many "a-ha" moments.
    "Allow me to introduce myself. My name is reality. Your cries do not move me." -- Sistamatic

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    Minister of Love Roger Mexico's Avatar
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    Eh, not to be pedestrian but I just finished showing yet another class of high schoolers the National Geographic miniseries based on Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel.

    It's become that thing I once found riveting but have now seen over and over (I use it in classes pretty consistently), but like the book I think it's really great. Agree with Diamond's once-controversial ideas or not, it's a pretty accessible and informative survey tour through the entire history of human civilization, held together by the consistent elaboration of an actual analytical thesis rather than simply a "gee whiz, this guy was kind of famous, then this thing got built, and hey look at that!" structure that TV-edutainment productions unfortunately hew to so often.

    The stuff in the third episode--an overview of the history of European colonialism in Africa, mixed with major developments in the study of pre-colonization African cultures--was and is the most interesting part for me, since I knew fairly little about all this before encountering Diamond's work.

    I still enjoy watching it, and I've seen it probably dozens of times by now. I just get the theme music stuck in my head, but it goes away eventually.


    EDIT:

    Oh, and there's a documentary called Why We Fight, on the history and politics of the US military and weapons industry that I highly recommend. It's a bit polemic for use in a classroom, but for personal consumption rather riveting. (Basically, its thesis is that we really should have listened to Eisenhower when he gave that speech about the dangers of a large military-industrial complex, because what he predicted is exactly what happened.) Another one I do use in classes is Errol Morris' Fog of War, which is based around a series of interviews with Robert McNamara similar to the format of his other documentary about Stephen Hawking. Definitely recommended for history buffs, also suggested for general-interest audiences.

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    Senior Member jyng1's Avatar
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    Member Browser's Avatar
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    There aren't that many documentaries that I enjoy. Most of the ones that are praised I begin to watch and give up on after 20 minutes. I think I have some type of uncanny valley thing going on where I start to notice manipulations, omissions and exagerations and it puts me off.

    Ones I did like, for different reasons both:

    The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters.
    Shoah

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