Documentaries seem to no longer be just for the real geeky film fans among us. They are becoming more mainstream, more popular, more filmic and more widely received. With Sarah Polley’s brave and immensely powerful Stories We Tell out in UK cinemas, the Filmoria team take a look at some of their favourite documentaries. Which are yours?
Last year, while attending the Toronto International Film Festival, I came across something special. A childhood idol of mine, and a talented Canadian filmmaker, Sarah Polley, decided to release her first documentary feature. And as I sat watching Stories We Tell unfold on screen I realized that documentaries for me were forever changed. They didn’t necessarily have to be about a pressing, world changing issue, they could exist to just tell a story in a different way. The complications of Polley’s real life made for riveting storytelling, but it was how she uncovered her story that struck me as the ultimate form of bravery. Using interviews of her own family members Polley revealed secrets that were relatively new to her, let alone a global audience. Stories We Tell is one of the most honest, capitvating pieces of cinema that I have ever witnessed, and the grace with which Polley manages to tell her tale makes her status as filmmaker forever enhanced. (Hillary)
For me, The Imposter was the documentary to make me question why I had never paid attention to the genre before. It was so shocking, so riveting and so fantastically made that I suddenly found myself wanting more, asking for recommendations and wondering what else I had been missing all these years. The story, which explores a case of a young boy who went missing from the USA only to reappear many years later in Spain, is so unbelievable that if it were a feature you wouldn’t believe it. That the filmmakers here managed to get all the relevant people to agree to interviews is a true testament to their journalistic integrity and makes the film all the richer. An incredibly filmic documentary with real impact. Perfection. (Amanda)
With terms like ‘sub-prime mortgage’ and ‘sovereign bailout’ now part of our lexicon, Inside Job is must-see viewing for anyone who has ever wondered how we got into this awful mess. Charles Ferguson’s slick documentary is an enlightening, gripping – and often infuriating – look at the series of events that triggered the biggest financial meltdown since the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Narrated by Matt Damon, the film puts many of the key players in the spotlight, from current IMF chief Christine Lagarde to billionaire investor George Soros. Prepare to be left astounded; this is compelling stuff and brilliantly captures the defining moment of our generation. (Sara)
Searching for Sugar Man is a magical piece of filmmaking; a reminder that often, the most fantastical and unbelievable stories we hear are in fact completely true. It concerns two South African music lovers who go searching for clues about the mysterious death of Sixto Rodriguez, a musician who never made it big in the US, but who sold more records in South Africa than Elvis or the Beatles. The man himself is steeped in mystery from the start, but what we discover about him has to be seen to be believed. Malik Bendjelloul’s film is part mystery story, part fairytale, but it’s also an extraordinary look at the political power of music. Rodriguez became an icon for white anti-apartheid protestors in the 70s, and hearing the effect that his music had on young South African minds is simply inspiring. Plus the music is awesome. (Phil)
I Am Breathing is one of those documentaries that simply hits home from the very instant you set eyes upon the focus individual, in this case, motor neurone disease sufferer Neil Platt. Tracking the gradual descent of a man adamant to leave memories for his one-year-old child, the film is not only an absolutely heart-breaking experience but one that is eye-opening. It never preaches, nor does it over-exert the audience with an emotional burden; it’s simply a story that needs to be told to inform people of the terrible illness affecting so many people around the world. Neil’s spirit and bravery is conveyed through home videos and his very own personal blog and all captured beautifully on film until we reach the saddening ending. This is a documentary that delivers a message you will want to share with others upon its conclusion. (James)
For our full review of Stories We Tell, click here.