The documentary is a most important cinematic genre as it uses true stories and real people to elicit the same powerful emotions fiction does. Yet, it is the following ten films that cover a wide variety of subjects and areas that have touched me.
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
Robert McNamara recounts the lessons he learned as the Secretary of Defense under both Kennedy and Johnson, involved in the Bay of Pigs, Cuban Missile Crisis, Kennedy’s Assassination, and Vietnam; the head of Ford Motor Company; and at the World Trade Organization.
Inequality for All
Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich teaches the students of Berkeley the importance of recognizing the widening gap in income inequality and its basis in historical patterns.
Chavez Ravine: A Los Angeles Story
This PBS documentary, narrated by Cheech Marin, tells the story of the Los Angeles neighborhood known as Chavez Ravine. Now home to Dodger Stadium and the Los Angeles Dodgers, it once encompassed a thriving combination of Latino neighborhoods that were driven from their homes with the promise of low-cost government-funded housing.
New York, A Documentary Film
I could have chosen one of the well-known docs from Ken Burns, but I chose this less well-known opus from his younger brother Ric Burns. Eight episodes and seventeen-and-a-half hours is used to tell the history of the Big Apple from its origins as a Dutch settlement to its post-9/11 resurgence.
An Inconvenient Truth
Not many documentaries can claim the basis of an Oscar AND a Nobel Peace Prize, but this brainchild of Al Gore gives an accessible presentation of the issues surrounding global warming.
A documentary about religion from an atheist comedian? Yes, that is what this is and Bill Maher uses wit and wisdom while he converses with followers of most religions, including: Christianity, Islam, Mormonism, Scientology, Judaism, and others.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
What this doc does is show that there is drama in almost any story as it tracks the history (and current battle) over one of the most important world records in the gaming industry. It is also a deft treatise on adult males and how they handle fame, fortune, and a down economy.
Dogtown and the Z-Boys
Follow the Z-Boys as they invent an entirely new sport. Skateboarding was birthed from the surf culture of southern California and the community of Dogtown raised the godfathers of skate who later influenced Tony Hawk.
This simple premise of this documentary is to have one hundred of the funniest and most famous comedians alive tell the filthiest joke in history, which has its origins in the day of vaudeville. Watch Carrie Fisher talk about golden showers and Bob Saget show his true comedic chops.
Gasland tells the personal story of one boy from Louisiana by following the use of fossil fuels in the twentieth century. Demonizing oil, petrochemicals, and fracking isn’t enough as the protagonist fights for cleaner energy use while discussing the history of the money side of fuel, including Diesel.