Thursday, January 15, 2009

Favorite Documentary


Submitted for post by Merryway.

Do you have a favorite documentary? Is there one you watched that always stuck with you or one by which you were surprised? Animals? Historical? Family? True Crime? Travel? National Geographic Expeditions? Which did you like best?

41 comments:

Nina Bell said...

The first one that comes to mind for me is probably an obvious one, Planet Earth. I have a new appreciation for the beauty that surrounds us.

It was amazing that the producers were able to capture nature at it's best in such remote locations.

Anya said...

Great topic.

For somebody like me who considers herself indoorsy (I relate to Kate on that point), I completely agree that "Planet Earth" was magical. And I did come away with a new appreciation for nature.

I loved "Fog of War." The style of the documentary was highly entertaning and I found Robert McNamera such a fascinating individual. I hope I am that sharp at his age (he was well into his 80's when the documentary was shot).

Another one that I have not been able to see all the way through, but that is very interesting is "Bob Dylan - No Direction Home." I catch it on PBS from time to time, but I would like to get the DVD and watch it all at once.

I love Presidential history, so anytime there is a doc on PBS or the History Channel about that, I am interested.

SamanthaNC said...

Does The Real World Count? LOL

Saint said...

I loved the one about the National Spelling Bee (I forget the title.)

I like documentaries and documentary-style entertainment a la Surviving Sextuplets.

I remember in the late 80's/early 90's when Discover Channel first showed up on our cable. My (then boyfriend) husband and I were hooked.

Lol, Samantha!

SamanthaNC said...

Actually, when I was pegnant with our daughter I watched this documentary on demonic activity (kind of like the show A Haunting)Big mistake I had nightmares for weeks. But strangley I loved it.

hokiehokiehokiehigh said...

Spellbound (as mentioned before) is awesome! I also love Mad Hot Ballroom. It's about inner city kids competing in ballroom dancing...very cool!

Leah said...

I'm a sucker for any of those Discovery or Discovery Health documentaries. This week, I've seen "Pregnant Man" and "Deaf and Blind Triplets", both of which were very moving. I actually first saw the Gosselins when their first program debuted on DH.

Also, I absolutely love the British "UP Series," which has followed the same group of people since they were seven, checking back every seven years. The last program was "49 Up". It's amazing, and I'd recommend it to everyone!

rain88 said...

I love documentaries. Two that come to mind:

The Choir - a choirmaster in England takes a group of kids, from a tough neighbourhood with no choir experience, to the World Choir Games.

Please vote for me - It's about an elementary school class in China voting for the class monitor. It sounds boring, but it's very fascinating.

I stumbled onto both of them while channel surfing and couldn't turn away.

Another documentary that I watch every time it's on PBS is the story of Dick Proenekke. He built a log cabin in the wilds of Alaska and lived there alone for 30 years.

Guinevere said...

I love documentaries. There's a really excellent documentary on Eugene O'Neill from PBS' "American Experience" from a few years back. I learned a lot about him, but beyond that it was just very well done and evocative, and had excellent commentary from a number of people.

I saw a fascinating documentary last year called "Surfwise" - actually, I may even have brought it up in the early days of this blog, because it kind of ties into the show a bit (in terms of unconventional families). It's about a family called the Paskowitzes - the father was a doctor who basically chucked his conventional life and raised his family in a bus - he and his wife had nine children. It was an interesting documentary because at first it seemed like, yeah, we had this totally unconventional upbringing, living on the beach and surfing, but it was really cool. But it got kind of progressively darker and darker, and it really made me think. I would recommend it to anyone.

I really liked "Planet Earth" too, in spite of also not being much of a Nature Girl. I still remember a hysterical sequence from one of the episodes of this little bird - kind of a mini-peacock (or something?) doing this ridiculous mating dance on a log. I should look for that on YouTube; it was SO funny.

Anya said...

SamanthaNC said...Does The Real World Count?

Of course, that falls under National Geographic!

I am a sucker for the PBS "American Experience" too.

And, of course, Ken Burns! I have seen "The Civil War" once, but I feel I should watch it again. He has made other great documentaries, that I hope to find the time to watch one day.

merryway said...

The PBS Frontier House was a fun reality documentary series. It was three families trying to live a settlers life. There was a British one called 1900 House Victorian. It was really interesting and demonstrated how dangerous it was to have hot water in your home and I learned that wall paper in London used to have arsenic in it. It was one family and the remodeling of an Victorian home was part of the show. They made it authentic.

I think the one(s) that struck me and stuck w/me are Paradise Lost, The Child Murders in Robin Hood Hills and then they made a second, Paradise Lost 2, Revelations. It is a intense film and not for those who cannot tolerate the subject. It shows a total failure of the system that let down the victims and destroyed other innocent lives by wrongly convicting (IMO) three young boys of the murder and mutilation of three 8 yo boys. They are still incarcerated and if you're interested just google West Memphis Three.

I had to watch Harlan County USA (1977) several times with my father. It shows a look at their life of miners in 1973 KY. It documents the miner's struggle and a strike in an effort to join the union and the tactics used against them. This was a big part of my family history so it was watched by all of us. It's very interesting, the film maker actually had a hit put out on her during the filming. I think it won several awards.

Guin, I have to watch Surfwise, I'll be checking the library db soon for that one.
Mad Hot Ballroom sounds like one I'll also have to try to find.

Guinevere said...

Oh, yeah, "The Civil War" is awesome. I watched the whole thing again from Netflix a year or two ago, and it was just as good as I remembered.

Maggie said...

Nanook of the North. Robert Flaherty. The original documentary.

Nina Bell said...

I was fascinated by Ganja Queen which is an HBO documentary. It is about an Australian woman who was arrested in 2004 when she arrived at an airport on the Indonesian island of Bali with 10 pounds of marijuana in her luggage. In Bali, the harshest penalty for such an offense is death by firing squad.

This woman claims innocence and in the end I was not convinced of this. Lot's of family dynamic in this also.

Lizabeth said...

I have actually always been morbidly curious about serial killers, so tv shows that highlight their lives and murders fascinate me. Which is bizarre because, like Samantha with the demonic activity show, it scares the crap out of me.

I love the TV show, Snapped, which talks about women who kill (mostly their husbands). What is it about seeing something I could never imagine doing which is so intriguing??

Besides those creepy shows, I loved the PBS miniseries "Commanding Heights." This is a documentary chronicling the economic changes in the world from the rise and fall of communism to present day. I had to watch it for my international business class, but really enjoyed seeing how the world really does rise and fall in its own time. You can find this online at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/commandingheights/ -- its all available to watch online :).

FOR said...

After all the history channel & war shows I'm forced to listen to because of my husband, I really don't like documentaries. LOL

Saint said...

After all the history channel & war shows I'm forced to listen to because of my husband, I really don't like documentaries. LOL

Then I will confess, that although I generally like documentaries, I have heard enough about Hitler and Nostrodamus to last me a lifetime thanks to cable TV.

Paula said...

Not sure if this counts but I love to watch "No reservations" on the travel channel. I also liked the "Planet Earth"

FIONA said...

Anything about Alaska, the Iditarod, Planet Earth...The Blind and Deaf Triplets was overwhelming to me. I am still thinking about those little girls.

Liz-serial killers totally fascinate me too! I know that right now in our own communities they walk among us..and things like secret hiding places for their victims is so believable. Ever since Silence of the Lambs I have a greater interest. Weird, but true.

FIONA said...

Has anyone seen the DVD documentary called JESUS CAMP? Scary beyond belief.

Anya said...

Maggie said...Nanook of the North. Robert Flaherty. The original documentary.

My, what an interesting, if obscure choice!

There's a documentary *I* would like to make some day. My focus will be on the fascinating and dynamic individuals who spend 24/7 hopping around the internet carping about a show that they hate.

My working title: "Who Has The Time?"
(Hint: they do!)

MommyZinger said...

I liked the previously mentioned Spellbound, Mad Hot Ballroom and Ganja Queen.

Recently I saw Ricki Lake's documentary The Business of Being Born. My husband thought it was pretty one sided but I thought some of it was true. As a woman who has had three c-sections, I guess I wanted to live vicariously through these women who were able to have beautiful home births. Alas, I will never know what it is like to have a natural birth. Oh well.

Anya said...

Merryway, I saw the majority of "1900 House" too. It was fascinating. Boy, do I appreciate living *now*!

Fiona, "Jesus Camp" was also a look into a world I could never have imagined. I would recommend that as well.

Nina Bell said...

Confessions Of A Celebrity Stalker

One of my favorites

Guinevere said...

I think the one(s) that struck me and stuck w/me are Paradise Lost, The Child Murders in Robin Hood Hills and then they made a second, Paradise Lost 2, Revelations. It is a intense film and not for those who cannot tolerate the subject. It shows a total failure of the system that let down the victims and destroyed other innocent lives by wrongly convicting (IMO) three young boys of the murder and mutilation of three 8 yo boys. They are still incarcerated and if you're interested just google West Memphis Three.

I watched a bit of the first documentary but I just find the story (the descriptions of what was done to the boys) too intense and upsetting. But I'm familiar with the case from looking it up online. It really does seem like a travesty of justice.

I was fascinated by Ganja Queen which is an HBO documentary. It is about an Australian woman who was arrested in 2004 when she arrived at an airport on the Indonesian island of Bali with 10 pounds of marijuana in her luggage. In Bali, the harshest penalty for such an offense is death by firing squad.

This is another one that I started watching on TV but didn't finish - not because it was upsetting; I think I just had something else to do. But I googled the case because I was interested to know more, and yeah, while the whole "innocent Westerner in Indonesian jail" angle is interesting, if I had to guess I'd say she's guilty. I don't remember the details too well, but there were things about her claims of innocence that just did not add up.

There's a documentary *I* would like to make some day. My focus will be on the fascinating and dynamic individuals who spend 24/7 hopping around the internet carping about a show that they hate.

Now THAT sounds like an interesting documentary!

I saw "Born Into Brothels" a few months ago, and that was very good too, though sad.

SamanthaNC said...

Fiona-
I saw Jesus Camp a few weeks ago.

Quiltart said...

I am a documentary junkie...Maybe that's I like reality TV.

One of my all time favorites is a BBC series that was first filmed in 1964. It followed the lives of seven seven year olds... all from different walks of life ... from a child living in a charity home to a child of aristocracy to an Eastender and others from outside London. I saw this for the first time in the 70's and didn't want it to end. Since that time, and the shows success, every seven years they have done a new episode. As the children became adults some of them chose to drop out of the study.. some dropped back in. Some realized their dreams, many didn't. The last episode was done in 2005, when the seven turned 49. The first six titles are available in a boxed set called The Up Series and the 2005 episode is available on a separate DVD.

Another favorite of mine... I like series, because I can savor them longer... is Paul Burn's PBS series on jazz... Great history and great music!

Anonymous said...

Jesus Camp is very good.
Hard as nails - about the ministry

Deliver us from evil - about catholic church and the molestation

God Grew Tired of Us - africa

Invisible Children - child soldiers

Many other good ones I can't think of right now. I'm wanting to see the one about giving birth made by Ricky Lake.

themrs said...

i love the one shown on DH called "in the womb". they use ultrasound technology and cameras to show a baby from conception to birth. it's really incredible. the first time i saw it i was pregnant with #4 and i cried through most of it (not a crier normally :) it was on a few weeks ago and i recorded it so i can watch it again. it's really cool to watch all the things a baby does in the womb.
i also saw a documentary recently about legalized prostitution which was really interesting. i'm always watching things like that because i founded an outreach to prostitutes in my community. i think of it as "research".

Quiltart said...

Another favorite of mine... I like series, because I can savor them longer... is Paul Burn's PBS series on jazz... Great history and great music!

Duh... I mean KEN BURNS!

The person who mentioned Ricki Lake's childbirth film reminded me that I was IN a documentary... Back in the 70's, I was one of six moms shown in a Lamaze film called "Nan's Class" .. They followed us for the last month of our pregnancies and our births. I ended up being the one in six who had a C-section. This film was shown on PBS and in childbirth classes for over 10 years. Strangers used to stop us on the street and tell us we looked familiar... We'd ask the age of their kids...Yep, they saw us in childbirth classes. FWIW, the "baby" I delivered in the movie is now almost 32!

Bridget said...

I used to be totally hooked on any documentary about Titanic. My family has always been fascinated by the ship because my grandmother, her parents, and her sibs all had second class tickets to New York on her maiden voyage. They were "bumped". Yes, I have seen the tickets. It has always been unreal, that if they had been on the ship, what might have happened. Being second class, it's highly unlikely my great grandfather would have gotten off the ship, and who knows about my grandmother and her mom and sibs.

I also saw Jesus Camp. I love animal documentaries, especially polar bears!

Nina Bell said...

Quite a few good ideas here, thanks Merryway for the post.

Quiltart,

That must have been a pretty exciting experience at the time. My first was born in 1981, so Lamaze was the "in" thing. Were you pioneers in that field in the 70's? Hence the documentary? Did they come into your home also or just the classes and the birthing experience at the hospital?

Bridget,

There is something to be said for being "second class and getting bumped." Are those tickets worth quite a bit today?

Bridget said...

I would guess the tickets would be worth something. My mom has them. My grandmother passed in 1998 during the Titanic movie craze. I don't know that we would ever try to sell them, even though it's been ten years, we miss my grandmother so much that it's really hard to part with anything that belonged to her.

This is totally off topic (sorry) but my grandmother had a very interesting life. She socialized with a lot of politicians and celebrities in the 1940s, due to her husband's families' political connections.She was also very active in helping the Japanese who had been interred at the work camps in California during WWII. She hired many Japanese who were without jobs to work for her and helped them find housing. But she never talked about it to her children or grandchildren because she was a very quiet, modest woman who did not like to bring attention to herself. The only reason we know about her earlier life is because of newspaper articles and her journals which she wrote in extensively and we only discovered after her death.
We have talked about possibly trying to publish some of her journals, however, knowing how quiet and private she was, I'm not entirely comfortable with doing that. I do share all I can about her with my daughter who never got to meet her great grandmother.

Oh, crud. Now I'm choked up :( I miss my grandmother so much.
Well thanks for reading this.

Quiltart said...

Quiltart,
That must have been a pretty exciting experience at the time. My first was born in 1981, so Lamaze was the "in" thing. Were you pioneers in that field in the 70's? Hence the documentary? Did they come into your home also or just the classes and the birthing experience at the hospital?



Lamaze had already been around for a long time, but the film they used in classes was probably 15 years old. The film we made was used for a LONG time... If you had a baby in the 80's, you probably saw it.
The did come to our home and followed me to my part time job at the time. We were to be the older first time parents. (30 years ago, anyone having their first over the age of 30 was considered older, and I was almost 30 when my son was born.) At the end, when they decided to do a C-section, the hospital decided they could not film, so they ended up doing a montage of still photos for the birthing part. Looking back, I can't believe I ever consented to do it! The film won all sorts of documentary awards... The participants signed away any rights.. If your kids were born in the 80's and you did Lamaze, you probably saw it!

Nina Bell said...

Thanks Quiltart,

I did Lamaze but too long ago to remember the movie.

Bridget,

Thanks for sharing. I have great memories and stories from my grandparents also. You are fortunate to have the journals and I am sure there would be a lot of people interested in reading them if you do ever decided to publish.

SamanthaNC said...

Bridget-

She sounds like an amazing woman, thanks for sharing with us.

bigsis88 said...

I lurk sometimes, but rarely post (since I don't watch J&K+8), and I enjoy reading this blog. Anyway, I would suggest that everyone watch "Maquilapolis" (Spanish with English subtitles). It's about female factory workers just over the Mexican border who are exposed to harsh chemicals, paid little, and given no severance when fired. Very powerful, and the movie really makes you think about how different things are on one side of an invisible line. There's this great split-screen at the beginning; the upper half is the bright, shiny, industrialized US; the lower half is polluted, underdeveloped, impoverished Mexico. The two images are divided by one thing: a sign on a freeway.

Keep up the good work with the blog!

bigsis88 said...

Agreed, Anonymous--"God Grew Tired of Us" was really good. Sad, but an excellent story.

Lizzie said...

Jesus Camp is a must see! Interesting to see how easily children can be manipulated.

MoreCowbell said...

I love documentaries about popular music. I was a Behind the Music junkie when they showed them on VH-1. I loved the documentary on The Dixie Chicks called "Shut Up and Sing," and a couple weekends ago, I sat down to watch the Peter Bogdonovich documentary about Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on a movie channel. I didn't realize it was FOUR HOURS LONG until I was well into it.

Guinevere said...

MCB, "Shut Up and Sing" is indeed a great documentary - I saw it in a theater when it came out.