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Documentary Techniques
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Old December 12th, 2005, 06:35 AM   #1
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Recommended Watching - Documentaries I should see?

I'd just like to know from those who film or are interested particularly in documentary, what would make good watching for someone just starting out? Although I'm sure everyone has their own method, if there are any that stand out because either they are well filmed, or perhaps the 'flow' is particularly good from one scene to the next, or perhaps because the interviewer / film-maker got some extraordinary response from the subject/s.

I have watched some of the Broomfield documentaries, also Michael Moore and some of the Arena series - but I am sure there must be some 'classics' out there that would make good learning material for a beginner.
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Old December 12th, 2005, 08:32 AM   #2
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Tony,

Approaching this from the Director's category, try:

Errol Morris
Emile de Antonio

A good movie search site is http://www.allmovie.com/.


best wishes,
rj
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Old December 12th, 2005, 08:55 AM   #3
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Tony,

The Thin Blue Line. A classic crime/thiller documentary. Basically foreshadowed and influenced every true crime/forensics show on cable today (except way better).

Josh
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Old December 12th, 2005, 09:20 AM   #4
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Superb, thanks very much indeed!
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Old December 12th, 2005, 09:45 AM   #5
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And if you want to sell your stuff, HBO does a lot of documentaries that I find interesting. I never really studied them for "artistic purposes" so I can't comment on that. I judge it based on whether I fall asleep or not. Others may think otherwise...

FSTV and LINK and SUNDance and IFC are all good TV networks for docs.
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Old December 12th, 2005, 11:31 AM   #6
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ok, here's a topic i truly love:

his stuff is not available on DVD, but run don't walk to see anything projected in your area by frederick wiseman, the uber-documentary maker of them all....

then watch (yes, on DVD....)


The Atomic Cafe
Salesman (early Maylses bros. doc)
Marjoe
The Fog of War & The Weather Underground (two great docs that go great together!)
Genghis Blues
Mr. Death: The Rise and Fall of Fred A. Leuchter Jr.
Spellbound
Baraka
Hoop Dreams
Grass

for a coupla other recommendations, you can check out my totally truly independent film review podcast at http://www.ourmedia.org/node/101497

okay, maybe iit's kinda goofy, but it's something i've always wanted to do. real films from real film/vid makers.
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Old December 12th, 2005, 01:52 PM   #7
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Some more historical choices, but still worth watching because there is nothing new under the sun:

Robert Flaherty - Nanook of the North (1926)
Pare Lorentz - The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936)
Luis Bunuel - Land Without Bread (1932)
Leni Riefenstahl - Triumph of the Will (1937)
Humphery Jennings - Listen to Britain (1942) Fires Were Started (1943)
Alain Resnais - Night and Fog (1955)

Sometimes Frontline on PBS can be good when not reduced completely to talking heads. It is midway between TV news and documentary.
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Old December 12th, 2005, 02:05 PM   #8
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You might want to read the book "Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film" by Erik Barnouw. It's a high-speed journey through the history of documentary film. I didn't think it was a great book, but it did fill some holes in my knowledge and helped point me to some films to see. It's a decent book, and worth the time it takes to read. It's history, not a long theoretical treatise

If nothing else, it gives one a good grounding from which to view documentaries released in the last 20 years or so.

Oh, one specific film to recommend: Hands on a Hard Body. Not super-well shot, recorded, edited, or anything. But it's a great film. All the technical issues fade away because the filmmakers got the story. Some multi-million dollar docs could have learned a thing or two from that film.

Best,

Jim
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Old December 12th, 2005, 02:16 PM   #9
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just thought of another must-see doc!

pumping iron and pumping iron: the women

as i understand it, not available in re-release because of images of ahnald smoking weed. but i'm sure he didn't inhale. so, hard to find valuable antique VHS copies only!
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Old December 12th, 2005, 02:53 PM   #10
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Wow! Thanks so much, this forum really is something else!
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Old December 12th, 2005, 05:26 PM   #11
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I'm addicted to the "Seconds from Disaster" series.
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Old December 12th, 2005, 07:45 PM   #12
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Man...you guys suggested ALMOST everything I'd suggest. I'll add:

DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS
CHANNEL Z
ROGER AND ME
THE CORPORATION
SUPER-SIZE ME

And watch The History Channel, The Discovery Channel and National Geographic channel. Just to possbily catch something I edited. (lol)
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Old December 12th, 2005, 10:04 PM   #13
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Tony, here's my list with some descriptions. I won't repeat anyone else's.

BUS 174 - A Brazilian punk holds up a bus in the middle of rush hour and this begins a tense stand off that is broadcast live on TV sets around the nation. This came out the same year as "Phone Booth" and this is by far the most tense thriller of the two, despite being non-fiction. Most of the footage comes from the news broadcasts including the final moments which are played out frame by frame.

CANE TOADS - This is very funny documentary about the plague of cane toads in the eastern Australian coast. It documents how these giant, poisonous toads were imported to deal with a beetles that were eating crops but then they became an unstoppable infestation. Full of great characters.

MANUFACTURING CONSENT - This was the by the makers of "The Corporation" and "Why We Fight". It was a very successful documentary about the life and works of Noam Chomsky, one of the leading intellectuals who are critical of U.S. foreign policy. Although this sounds dry, the way it is filmed is very dynamic making use of props, animations, funny setups and good use of archival footage.

By the way, I think all of the Frontline documentaries are very good. You can see them on PBS.org in tiny streaming video. I recommend "The Man Who Knew" which is about John O'Neill, who had been the FBI's leading expert on al Qaeda before September 11th, his fight to make the threat known and how, tragically, he died in the World Trade Center.

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/knew/

I'll second THE FOG OF WAR and THE THIN BLUE LINE.
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Old December 13th, 2005, 02:47 AM   #14
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Um. . .

Weren't fog of war and Mr. Death by Errol Morris? Someone mentioned they were somebody else's work.

Hey. . .

Is "Salesman" about a Bible salesman in the 60s, or something?
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