What makes a documentary significant? What does it take to draw the audience in and care about the same issue as the director? Sometimes the film focuses on things that may be upsetting or involved controversial people. Other times we may find ourselves just enjoying a light hearted story that just makes us happy and regains our faith in humanity.
With these emotions in mind, a good documentary is captivating in the sense that it exposes aspects of the world that are true but so bizarre they seem fictional. In other words, it is necessary for us, the viewer, to be challenged, motivated, disgusted, or completely pulled out of our comfort zone and take a closer look at our wonderfully weird world.
Some of these films you may be familiar with. If this is the case watch them again! It’s worth your time. If you have never seen or heard it, check it out (Most of these are available on Netflix or Youtube)! The 2000’s have given us some marvelous documentaries of importance.
1. The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002)
The Doc: The life of outrageous film producer Robert Evans as shown by photos, movie clips and narrated by Evans himself. The film is based on Evans’ autobiography which shares the same name. After watching the documentary, listen to the audio book of “The Kid Stays in the Picture”. Evans narration of his own life, as crass as it may be, is endlessly entertaining.
Why It’s A Must-See: This documentary is a classic show-biz memoir that portrays both Evans and Hollywood in their most pure states that will leave you shocked and intrigued.
2. Dark Days (2000)
The Doc: Shot in stark black and white, “Dark Days” follows a group of homeless people living in underground tunnels of New York City. Filmed both by director Marc Singler and the people living in this community, we are allowed to understand how this dangerous environment is inhabited. Singler actually lived in these underground tunnels for two years to most accurately document the lives of the people in this community.
Why It’s A Must-See: We given very rare access to this covert society while challenged to understand the complexity of being homeless.
3. Jesus Camp (2006)
The Doc: Another masterpiece from Directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady as they follow a kid’s christian summer camp located outside the appropriately named Devil’s Lake, North Dakota. The film focuses on three eager, young, evangelizing children as they march on in their “army of God”.
Why It’s A Must-See: Religion is, of course, a delicate subject matter and one studied many times by other documentarians. The sect followed in this film is an extreme example however the impartial approach Ewign and Grady use to tell this story allows the viewer to leave the movie with their own opinion. Successful in presenting a “preachy” movie with an impartial depiction.
4. Queen of Versailles (2012)
The Doc: The film’s origional intent was to document billionaire David Siegal and his trophy wife Jackie Siegal build the largest and most expensive home in America- a replica of Versailles. Amazingly, mid way though filming, the U.S. economic crisis of 2008 hit and the Siegal family was forced to deal with this harsh reality just like everyone else. We watch the family as they desperately try to hold on to their excessive lifestyle as their wealth declines.
Why It’s A Must-See: To see a family deal with the reality of their loss and the American Dream crumble.
5. The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005)
The Doc: Musician and artist Daniel Johnston’s life is chronicled from childhood to present. The wonderfully shot film focuses on Johnston’s music career and his battle with bipolar disorder. Expanding well beyond your typical “music bio pic” this film is an honest look into mental illness and it’s effect on Johnston’s personal life and career.
Why It’s A Must-See: Johnston’s relationship with bipolar disorder is seen as both a battle and part of his career. The film is a wonderful depiction of the mergence of these two elements in his life.