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20 Great Movie Documentaries You Probably Haven’t Seen

07 September 2013 | Features, Film Lists | by David Zou

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Sometimes, you don’t want actors. You don’t want manufactured dialogue. You don’t want to be mindlessly entertained. You want something real to engage with, something to offer an argument for you to turn over. You want a documentary.

Here are the 20 Best Documentaries you probably haven’t seen yet.

 

20. Life In A Day

The Documentary: YouTube invites its users to send in videos of themselves. Brit directors Ridley Scott and Kevin Macdonald edit the 4,500 hours’ worth of footage together to make a 95 minute movie, designed to be a snapshot of modern life.

The Cool: It’s a pioneering concept with two of Britain’s brightest movie brains involved. Think of it as a time capsule – and then imagine re-watching it when you’re 80 and seeing just how much things have changed. Assuming they have.

Strange But True: Over 80,000 individual submissions were made for the film, with 140 nations participating.

 

19. Catfish

The Documentary: Ariel Schulman and his buddy Henry Joost take up a camera when Ariel’s brother Nev decides to meet a woman he’s befriended on Facebook. The results are surprising and strange.

The Cool: The debate rages on: is the footage presented in Catfish the real deal, or is it all an elaborate hoax? Nobody’s admitted anything, with the filmmakers adamant that everything in their film is authentic. Which makes it all the weirder.

Strange But True: Fellow documentary filmmaker Morgan Spurlock told the Catfish guys that their film was “the best fake documentary he had ever seen”.

 

18. Senna

The Documentary: Following the life and death of Brazilian motor racing champ Ayrton Senna.

The Cool: A documentary about a race car driver? Talk about aiming for a niche audience. But Senna transcends those constraints, working as both an exhibition of Senna’s grace on the track, as well as digging into the mind of the man himself.

Strange But True: Both Senna and Austrian driver Roland Ratzenberger tragically died at the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix during different events.

 

17. Presumed Guilty

The Documentary: Lawyers Roberto Hernández and Layda Negrete attempt to free Antonio Zúñiga, who has been wrongly convicted of murder by the Mexican judicial system.

The Cool: Never has law been more compelling (not even in Ally McBeal), and watching Roberto and Layda picking holes in a corrupt law system while butting up against a dismissive judge and obstinate witnesses is fiery stuff. We all love a David vs Goliath story, and Presumed Guilty is exactly that.

Strange But True: Antonio was convicted entirely based on one man’s testimony – that man just so happened to be a relative of the murder victim. Meanwhile, Antonio’s defence and numerous witnesses were all ignored.

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