Documentary films always seem to be left aside when it comes to year’s best films tops so that is why we’ve decided to make a list dedicated in its entirety to the non-fictional genre. And just like last year (https://www.tasteofcinema.com/2018/the-10-best-documentaries-of-2017), despite receiving much less attention, many of the films on this list are as good, or even better than most of the celebrated feature films of 2018.
Without further ado, these are our picks for the 10 best documentaries of 2018. Let us know in the comments what yours are.
Directed and produced by Betsy West and Julie Cohen, “RGB” follows the life and career of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second female justice of the U.S. Supreme Court and the oldest justice working in the court today.
The film’s release coincided with the 25th anniversary of her appointing as a justice of the U.S. Supreme Court by president Bill Clinton back in 1993, a position in which she has been able to continue her lifelong fight for gender equality and women’s rights.
Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is turning 86 years old this year, is still active in court and as strong as it gets for her age. For her determination to remain active as a judge, she’s been named “The Notorious R.B.G”. She’s also become a pop culture icon and, for millennials, the subject of countless memes. But there is much more to Ruth Bader Ginsburg than what the public knows and “RBG” manages to bring to light her largely untold life journey in a way that is both informative and really inspiring.
Watching Emmanuel Gras’s Cannes’ Critics Week Grand Prize winner documentary, you have to remind yourself that what you’re seeing is a real man with a real life and not a fictional story. This could have easily been the subject of a foreign drama film, but it is not and this makes it an even more powerful experience.
“Makala” (Swahili for charcoal) documents the life of Kasongo, a 28-year-old Congolese man who works as a charcoal seller and is trying to provide a better life for his family. Every day, he has to travel the same dirty, exhausting roads in order to sell the charcoal in town and gather money so that he can fulfill his dream of expanding the family home.
Sometimes profundity can be found in simple things and this is the case with “Makala”. This is a slow-burning documentary where not much happens but at the same time one of the most poetic and insightful films of 2018.
8. King In The Wilderness
HBO’s documentary “King In The Wilderness” was directed by six times Enemy Award winning documentary filmmaker Peter W. Kunhardt and takes a look at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s last 18 months of life, before his assassination on April 4, 1968.
Martin Luther King, Jr. has been the subject of many documentaries, yet “King In The Wilderness”, which was released on the 50th anniversary of his death, takes on a new, more humane and personal perspective on his life. The never-before-seen interviews with his close ones reveal some less-known aspects of his final years and make King seem more of a real person than a historical figure.
7. Tea with the Dames
This BBC documentary, which was initially released under the name “Nothing Like A Dame” and later got a limited release under its new title, invites us at an afternoon tea with four good friends and amazing women which are also some of the most accomplished British actresses of all time: Dames Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Eileen Atkins and Joan Plowright.
The four Dames have been friends for more than half a century and meet regularly to catch up with each other. This time, “Notting Hill”’s director Roger Michell managed to get the cameras in and capture their discussions on career, life and death, love and friendship.
“Tea with the Dames” is a funny yet very touching documentary and the closest experience you will get to spending an evening with these four amazing actresses. For its 94-minute length, the film will make you feel like a silent observer to the ladies’ teatime filled with endless conversations which are amusing, inspiring, and – when the subject of their own deaths comes into discussion – a little depressing.
6. They Shall Not Grow Old
“They Shall Not Grow Old” marked Peter Jackson’s first time directing a documentary and – unlike that other 2018 movie that he produced – it is a really great film and Jackson’s most well-received work since “The Lord of The Rings” trilogy.
“They Shall Not Grow Old” depicts the lives of British soldiers on the western front of World War I and is based on previously unseen film footage from the Imperial War Museums’ archives. The footage – which has been restored and in certain parts colourised – is enhanced with the addition of sound effects and interviews from 120 war veterans which were recorded back in the 1960s and the 1970s.
Over a century has passed since the Great War and there are 74 years since World War II ended. Soon, there won’t be anyone around who has been alive during those times and the reality of the World Wars will feel more like an old tale than a thing that has really happened. It is really easy to forget the past and what mankind is capable of.
Within its 99 minutes length, Peter Jackson’s film manages to encapsulate the past and keep it alive for future generations to witness it. “They Shall Not Grow Old” is a great achievement and probably the most immersive and authentic experience of World War I that we can have today.