The Imposter Released: 2012 Filmmaker Bart Layton chronicles the tale of Frederic Bourdin, a con artist who seemingly tricked a Texas family into believing he was a relative who disappeared years earlier. A frightening documentary that will have you questioning the closest people who surround you.
Undefeated Released: 2011 In the heart of Memphis, Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin film a struggling high school football team, as they face defeat over and over again. Since the high school opened in 1899, Manassas High School has never had a football team win a playoff. In 2004 coach Bill Courtney made it his goal to help this struggling and doubtful team not only physically, but emotionally too. In 2009 Bill Courtney’s efforts did not only take off, but saw victory when Manassas High School’s star player gets inches away from completing this 110-year long awaited dream.
Vernon, Florida Released: 1981 Vernon, Florida is an Errol Morris documentary about some of the residents of Vernon, Florida, a small, one-stop-light town in Northern Florida. In the film, Errol Morris interviews the residents and gives them a forum to share experiences, tell stories, and rant and rave about whatever is on their mind. While Vernon, Florida is basically just a documentary about the weird residents of a town in Florida, it’s high intriguing! As Florida has kind of become a running joke throughout history, this documentary goes hand-in-hand with stereotype.
Encounters at the End of the World Released: 2007 Many of Netflix’s generic nature documentaries sport titles that promise pleasures both simple (Lions! Pandas! Owl Power!) and terrifying (Invasion of the Killer Whales! Speed Kills! Pelican Dreams!). But if you’re looking for a carefully balanced mix of natural beauty and existential panic, it’s probably best to stick with the master: Werner Herzog. Like other Herzog films, Encounters at the End of the World is filled with stunning images, bleak musings on the chaos of the world around us, and moments of sublime hilarity.
Hot Girls Wanted Released: 2015 Hot Girls Wanted premiered at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. The documentary follows several young women who begin working in the amateur porn industry. The major focus of the film is on how the amateur porn industry exploits women. The subject matter isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but it is a real look at the porn industry that outsiders haven’t seen before.
Rich Hill Released: 2014 This film is depressing and uplifting at once. It follows three boys growing up in an impoverished Midwestern town (Rich Hill). It is depressing because these boys live a tragic existence, one in which the cycle will most likely continue with them. It is uplifting because you are offered a unique and beautiful glimpse into the resiliency and optimism of youth, regardless of circumstance.
Virunga Released: 2014 How do you stop a billion-dollar business from laying waste to an oil-rich national park? Make a movie. Part nature doc, part eco-thriller, Virunga catapults viewers into a struggle to protect Congolese mountain gorillas from poachers who may or may not be tied to SOCO International, a British conglomerate eying the lush lands. With a style akin to Hollywood action movies, Virunga sets out to investigate and muckrake, firing off accusations between actual firefights and appreciating the beauty of Virunga National Park, a place no viewer could imagine losing.
Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger Released: 2014 James “Whitey” Bulger is one of the most notorious gangsters of all time. At one point in his career of crime, he joined Osama Bin Laden on FBI’s Most Wanted List. In his notorious 2013 trial, he was accused of 33 crimes, including the alleged murders of 19 people, but Bulger had no interest in proving he was innocent; he just wanted to set the record straight that he was not a snitch.
Brother’s Keeper Released: 1992 Filmmakers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky directed this documentary about a death in upstate New York in 1990. The eldest of a family of four brothers, William Ward, was found dead in his home, and his brother Delbert was accused of suffocating him. The ensuing trial leads to tensions within the small rural community in which the brothers live, due to media coverage that presents the quiet, hardworking family as illiterate bumpkins, and to growing real estate speculation in the area.
Fed Up Released: 2014 Fed Up primarily focuses on the sugar industry and how much sugar is included in our processed food. The film presents overwhelming proof that sugar is the problem for why America and other major countries in the world have such a problem with obesity and obesity-caused diseases.
I Am Divine Released: 2013 This glimpse into the life of the man who became Divine peels back the boundary-pushing sexiness and menace of the iconic character. At a time when the closest thing to a gay scene was underground (and even illegal), Divine dared to be a movie star, and one of the most mesmerizing at that.
Bigger, Stronger, Faster Released: 2008 When Christopher Bell follows some of the most muscular people around, a lot is learned about the exercise world, or lack there of. The document follows the American obsession with winning, even if steroids are brought into the equation. The film focuses in on the Bell brothers who are both on various performance-enhancing drugs and think this is their ticket to all of their dreams. The film goes over interviews with various doctors, government officials, and more, as we realize that some Americans are so wrapped up in being the best, they cannot see the damage they are doing to themselves.
Love Me Released: 2014 Love Me takes on the “mail-order bride” industry as it thrives in the Ukraine. Director Jonathan Narducci follows several men looking for a wife overseas after they feel they’ve exhausted their options with local dating. Although the popular conception is that these arrangements are meant to satisfy the men, many of the women depicted are eager to find a match and build a family, something hard to do given the 87 to 100 female-to-male ratio in the Ukraine.
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About his Father Released: 2008 Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About his Father tells the story of Dr. Andrew Bagby, a 28-year-old man who was killed by his ex-girlfriend, Shirley Jane Turner, who revealed she was pregnant with Bagby’s child after the murder. And, that’s only the beginning of this tragic story. Director Kurt Kuenne was a good friend of Andrew Bagby and began making the film to show Andrew’s child, Zachary, but after more tragic events, Kuenne released the film to the public.
The Queen of Versailles Released: 2012 The Siegel family was incredibly rich. So rich, in fact, that they were able to set about building a replica of the Versailles Palace to live in; set to be the largest and most expensive single family house in the US. While this documentary was being filmed to chronicle all this, however, their time share business collapsed, and their fortune along with it. We witness a family’s descent into normality. It’s sometimes laughable just how out of touch they seem with how the rest of the world lives, but it’s also incredibly humanizing.
Jesus Camp Released: 2006 A terrifying portrait of religious extremism inculcated in the young, Jesus Camp follows the indoctrination of three children at an evangelical summer camp in North Dakota. As the children speak in tongues, decry Harry Potter as an enemy of God, and cast prayers that President George Bush will appoint “righteous judges” to strike down Roe v. Wade, you will fear for the future of this country.
Into the Abyss Released: 2011 Into the Abyss is a documentary from Werner Herzog about capital punishment and the death penalty. The story is told through the smaller scope of one man, Michael Perry, convicted of killing three people in Texas. Perry is waiting on death row in Texas when he is interviewed.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi Released: 2011 Jiro Dreams of Sushi is a documentary directed by David Gelb about Jiro Ono, an 85-year-old sushi master with a world renowned restaurant in Tokyo, Japan, Sukiyabashi Jiro, which is a small sushi restaurant located in a subway station.
Kumare Released: 2012 In an attempt to explore the sincerity of the guru “industry”, filmmaker Vikrim Gandhi poses as an Indian guru and sees how far it will take him. It would’ve been easy for this to have devolved into a sort of “Ha ha, look how dumb all these people are!” type thing, but it’s not at all. It’s sincere and respectful to everyone involved, but is also a very interesting look into the reality behind guru culture and spirituality.
Crazy Love Released: 2007 Crazy Love does an amazing job of showing the dark side of obsession and infatuation. While the word ‘Love’ in the title is highly subjective, you can be the judge of that yourself. The documentary concerns Burt Pugach’s relationship with Linda Riss, the woman he disfigured after throwing acid in her face.
Tricked Released: 2013 Tricked ends with a startling statistic: “More people are enslaved today than at any point in history.” There are 20.9 million victims, more than the populations of New York, Chicago, Miami, Houston and Los Angeles combined. Directors Jane Wells and John Keith Wasson set out to establish this lesser-known reality, that often the relationship between a prostitute and her pimp is not a business transaction, but form of human trafficking.
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