For some reason, many people believe that documentaries are boring, that they only contain dry, boring facts, and only a very narrow audience watch these types of film. These 10 striking documentary films will absolutely defy the stereotype of documentaries being bleak and dull.
10. ”Religulous” (2008)
”Religulous” is a documentary about religions in which comedian Bill Maher travels to places like Jerusalem, the Vatican and Salt Lake City, interviewing a variety of people – Muslims, Christians, Mormons, etc. The film has received various reactions – from accusations that the creators degraded religions down to jokes and stereotypes, to praise that they try to look at world religions and their conflicts from another angle, without crying about the end of that world. Critics say ”Religulous” is a relatively important movie about religious issues that challenges and encourages to talk about beliefs that are usually avoided as a topic of discussion. The viewer will remain satisfied in any case – no matter if they chose this film because they wanted to learn more about religions or just to laugh.
9. “Cowspiracy” (2014)
The documentary “Cowspiracy” may appear as another film promoting vegetarianism. This is partly the case; however, here this is attempted exclusively from an environmental point of view, going without sentimental “save the animals” scenes and moral sermons – the creators of “Cowspiracy” attempt to contact various US establishments, trying to find out what exactly is the environmental impact of the livestock industry, rather than the impact of meat eaters. Spectators are intrigued through prolonged pauses, which show poorly concealed lies – and this gives the film an exceptional charm without turning it into another sentimental film about protecting animals.
8. ‘’Exit Through the Gift Shop’’ (2014)
“Exit through the Gift Shop” is placed in the documentary genre, but it can also be called an action comedy, that forces the viewer to think carefully about where the boundaries between art, vandalism and madness are. At first glance, it seems like it will be a documentary about street art, but it soon becomes apparent that the main character of the film is its director – Frenchman Thierry Guetta, obsessed with filming everything. One step after another, he decides to become an artist, a superstar – and he succeeds, but at what cost? “Exit through the Gift Shop” gives the viewer the opportunity to judge Thierry and his work and to decide if any of it is worthy of being called art, so it’s definitely one of the most intriguing and debatable films.
7. “The Look of Silence” (2014)
“The Look of Silence” is a biographical Joshua Oppenheimer documentary film about the 1965-1966 killings in Indonesia. The film depicts a family that survived genocide and came face to face with one of the people who killed their family member. “The Look of Silence” is undeniably unpleasant – the country’s history is painful, as well as the family drama, since nobody speaks about these tragedies aloud as the subject is taboo, and people are forced to see murderers as heroes. This documentary allows the viewer to graze one of the most painful pages in Indonesian history, and each scene leaves an indescribable but an emotionally draining feeling.
6. ‘’Finding Home’’ (2014)
“Finding Home” is a unique documentary about human trafficking and its victims, in this case, three young women from Cambodia. The film talks about the difficulties, the personal growth and the challenges that people who break free from human trafficking face. Each of the three heroes have their own story and struggles, and the latter reveals to the viewer how difficult it is to recover both physically and emotionally after the sexual and physical violence that the characters in the film experienced. “Finding Home” reminds us that we are all people who, regardless of race, living conditions and other things, are looking for the same thing – love, the feeling of community, and the knowledge that someone accepts you as you are.
5. “Earthlings” (2005)
“Earthlings” is an American documentary about people’s complete dependence on animals due to economic reasons. The film is divided into five sections — pets, food, clothing, entertainment and science — and through hidden cameras, the viewer is given never seen before footage about how one of the world’s largest industries functions. The powerful, informative and debate-provoking documentary “Earthlings” is one of the few in its genre that understandably explain how nature, animals and people’s economic needs are related.
4. “Shoah” (1985)
“Shoah” is a French documentary about the Holocaust directed by Claude Lanzmann. It took eleven years to produce the film, and the tape itself lasts longer than nine hours, presenting the director’s interviews with Holocaust survivors, witnesses of the events, or other people who had links to the Holocaust in Poland. The “Shoah” focuses on four topics – Chełmno Concentration Camp in Poland, Treblinka and Auschwitz Concentration Camps, and the Warsaw Ghetto. “Shoah” is considered a masterpiece of that time by many critics, tugging on the viewer’s heartstrings with real stories and facts, so it is not surprising that the film is often described as a legendary work about the greatest evil of modern times.
3. “Deliver Us from Evil” (2006)
“Deliver Us from Evil” is a US documentary film that speaks about the life of Irish Catholic priest, Oliver O`Grady, who confessed to sexually harassing and raping 25 children in North California in 1970-1990. The film contains court documents, video testimonies and interviews with theologians, psychologists and lawyers. “Deliver Us from Evil” is intriguing as it says the Church knew about these crimes, but did everything that was possible to conceal them. The film takes a critical look at paedophilia in the Catholic Church, and the director of the film skilfully reveals the chilling and revolting details.
2. “The Act of Killing” (2012)
“The Act of Killing” is a documentary about the already mentioned killings in Indonesia in 1965-1966 (“The Look of Silence” is like a sequel to this film). The film focuses on a local gangster, Anwar, who was promoted from a movie ticket seller to a gang leader in North Sumatra. Anwar tells the camera detailed memories and what feelings he experienced when killing people. The killer still does not fully understand whether what he did is a sin or not, and claims he does not want to think about it. “The Act of Killing” is an important journey through the complex psychology of a killer, making us realize that what is most disturbing to us is not the fact that people were being killed, but that there was a person behind these massacres.
1. ‘’Samsara’’ and ‘’Baraka’’ (2011/1992)
These two inseparably interconnected films are both American director’s, Ron Fricke’s, works. Both films, with the help of images and sound, write a philosophical essay – ‘’Baraka’’ begins with Himalayan imagery, later, rituals from various religions are shown, they are then replaced by images of wildlife, the dance of tribal people living in nature. These images are switched to modern civilization’s achievements, hardships and meaninglessness – mass production, traffic jams and massive crowds of people, mental illnesses, poverty, landfills, soldiers and military equipment, concentration camps. ‘’Samsara’’ is also very similar to its predecessor – we see a person of nature and civilization, production and destruction, religious worldview and psychosis. Interestingly, there is not a single character in the film, no story, the plot is created solely through images, sounds and associations, so it will surely attract the attention of the audience with its originality.