Home / Documentary

Documentary

The Mole Agent

(Chile, English Subtitles). The subject of this documentary is Sergio, a widower of 83 years, who applies for a job to go undercover in a nursing home. The private investigator has been hired by the daughter of one of the residents who believe the nursing staff is stealing from her. Sergio takes the job as a way to help deal with the loss of his wife. The film provides an insider look at life in the nursing home. It is rather sad, for the most part, how Sergio engages several of the residents and learns of the loneliness that many …

Read More »

Collective

(Romania, English subtitles): This fascinating documentary follows a sharp investigative journalism team that began by investigating a fire at a nightclub in Romania that killed about two dozen young people but went on to claim nearly 40 additional lives. This movie reminded me of the wonderful film Spotlight several years ago based on the team who cracked the story about one of the cardinals accused of sexually abusing boys. While that was a reenactment of the story, Collective is a documentary that follows the team as piece together several seemingly unrelated events – the nightclub fire, the resignation of the …

Read More »

MLK/FBI

This documentary examines, through archival footage and popular culture television and movie clips, two things: The rise of power and influence of the FBI in the ’50s and ’60s and its focus on the “communist threat”, and the growing influence of Martin Luther King in the ’60s that resulted in a targeted campaign by the FBI to discredit him. The FBI spent years wiretapping MLK and following him wherever he went and amassed what they considered was convincing evidence of his involvement in numerous extramarital affairs and more serious allegations of sex crimes. The film works well in showing how …

Read More »

David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet

David Attenborough, who has been studying, filming, and telling stories about the planet and its inhabitants for many, many decades now, reflects on his life’s work in meeting head-on the impending crisis of the Holocene: Climate change and its acceleration caused by humans. Throughout the film that parallels his journeys and his fascination with nature, he marks various decades with three basic statistics: Population; Atmospheric Carbon PPM; and percentage of the world that is wilderness. Human’s footprint is unmistakable, and he projects what will happen over the next 80 years (much of which is already happening today). Attenborough does provide …

Read More »

My Octopus Teacher

This documentary follows a year in the life of Craig Foster. Having run against some difficult times, he takes to the snorkeling in the kelp beds of South Africa and befriends an octopus. Through the course of the year, Foster puts together a beautiful collage of life in the kelp beds while researching the life of the octopus. It felt a bit strange sometimes, as it seemed sometimes that the attachment was a bit closer than it should have been, almost romantic, but what stands out is the depiction of the cycle of life Foster captures with his lens. The …

Read More »

Time

This documentary is about Fox Rich, who spends 20 years working to free her husband Rob for a bank robbery both of them committed. I really loved this film for several reasons. First, it is not your standard false conviction story; in this particular case, both of them admitted to doing it, but while Fox spent almost 5 years in prison, Rob was sentenced to 60 years initially without the possibility of parole. And the film doesn’t really spend a lot of time focused on that fight; rather, it is more about Fox and her 6 boys who she raised …

Read More »

A Most Beautiful Thing

This documentary follows a group of Black men from West Chicago who, in the 1990s, were the first all-Black crew team in the US. Narrated by Common and overlayed with a hip-hop soundtrack, the film follows the men who rowed during that first year that crew was offered at Manley High School and their lives that have taken each of them down different paths. The strength of the documentary is how it explores the family and community context in which all of these men came of age, communities that were dominated by gangs, and the expectation that boys join gangs. …

Read More »

No Direction Home

Martin Scorsese made this film about the early years of Bob Dylan’s career. With the benefit (or not, in some cases) from Dylan’s own reflections, Scorcese examines the cultural waves that were occurring on which Dylan rode to success – the folk music scene, the civil rights movement, rock and roll music, beat poets, the New York art scene. For me, this was where Scorsese worked his best magic. There are lots of still shots of the young Dylan as well as video footage of him and others, such as Joan Baez, Maria Muldaur, and others who rose to fame …

Read More »

Bruce Springsteen’s Letter to You

This film is a companion piece to Springsteen’s new album, Letter to You. It is partly an extended music video that shows Springsteen and the E Street Band playing many of the songs on the album, but it also is a documentary in which Springsteen looks back on his life, his early influences, and the periods in his life that inspired his current work. I really enjoyed how the concept worked. The film is all shot in black and white, and some of the images are incredibly beautiful to look at. I love the almost poetic reflections that he narrates …

Read More »

Dick Johnson is Dead

Dick Johnson is coming toward the end of his life, and he is beginning to suffer dementia. His daughter (the director, Kirsten Johnson) decides to stage a number of different kinds of deaths and after-life experiences to help both of them to deal with the double loss they both know is coming – the actual end of life but also the “loss” that comes with dementia. It is a really unusual kind of documentary, but one that when it works, it works very well. It is at times very funny in the ways Kirsten stages his death and he goes …

Read More »
Skip to toolbar