Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Some of my favorite documentaries

Over the last two years, Christina has managed to turn me into a docu-phile (no, I don't have an unhealthy relationship with Word documents).  Last year Christina bought me a Roku player for my birthday which allowed us instant access to an incredible library of documentaries.  In the beginning of the Netflix on demand service, there was less of a selection of feature films, but a wealth of documentaries to choose from.  For a while there where we caught 2 of them a night.  This is a list of some that have stuck with me:

Bloodline- This follows the progression of an archaeological study and a series of interviews that attempts to validate the theory that Jesus and Mary Magdelene were married, have children and that Jesus didn't die on the cross. 

Witch Hunt- Details the events surrounding a town where something like 35 people were found guilty of child molestation by an overzealous DA.  The DA coerced children to testify against their parents, and permanently ruined families.  It's a great examination of manipulation and Group Think mentality fueled by political motivation.

The Last Word- A teenager with an IQ under 80 is railroaded by the criminal justice system and found guilty of murdering an elderly nun.  It's set within an interesting political context, since the real murderer was one of the Cuban refugees Castro released into Miami after the missile crisis.  It takes something of a supernatural turn at one point, but the courtroom stuff is just harrowing.  The fact that this is even possible outlines the porousness of our judicial system, and is one of many reasons I think that the death penalty is morally irresponsible.  It asks some great questions.

Music Instinct: Science and Song- Explores the impact of music physiologically on our brain, and explores it's impact on sociology.  Many, many interesting things in this documentary.  Their study found that there is a more developed bridge between right and left hemispheres in developed musicians. It also explores the idea of music as language, and it's healing affects on Alzheimer patients and those who have suffered strokes.

10 Questions for the Dalai Lama- One of the things i love about the Dalai Lama is his willingness to delve into specific spiritual problems we face and give great insight into how his philosophy manifests.  Many of these questions deal with the problem of evil in our society and how to proceed.  His answers on the Chinese occupation in Tibet are incredibly challenging. He is asked at one point if he believes in boycotting Chinese goods and services, and he refuses on the basis that it punishes the people of China who are not responsible for the decisions of the government.

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism- Details the many ways that Rupert Murdoch's empire willingly distorts reality to protect his political ties.  The interviews with former workers and their details of memos sent from Murdoch himself are all pretty damning evidence that journalistic integrity is not a high motivation here.  But probably the most powerful moment is watching just basic footage of Bill O'Reilly railing against the son of a victim of 9/11 for opposing the war.  It is really gut-wrenching.  Scary that a huge segment of our population considers Fox programming a moral compass. 

Dear Zachary- This was one of the most wrenching documentaries I've seen.  Best to not know much about it, other than it starts as a man's documentary for his growing son, and details a bitter custody battle.  If this were the plot of a movie I wouldn't have believed it.

Some others:
No End in Sight
The Human Face
This Film is Not Yet Rated
My Dog: An Unconditional Love Story
Facing Ali
The King of Kong
Jesus Camp
Les Paul: Chasing Sound
The Power of Forgiveness


  1. I've watched many of those as well - good picks! I'd still like to see the one on Les Paul, and Music Instinct sounds quite interesting, too.

    Here are some other good ones:

    Man on Wire
    Blind Spot: Hitler's Secretary
    Emmanuel's Gift
    This Film is Not Yet [R]ated

  2. I caught most of these, too. Loved Man on Wire in particular. The end set to the Satie Gymnopedie was particularly beautiful.

    Christina and I saw Religulous in the theater. Both of us felt initially like it was shooting fish in a barrel...that it missed some opportunities to make a more interesting statement...catching it on cable recently I liked it a lot more. I think it's pretty hilarious...Still have to see Murderball.