Fellow explorers of documentary land. Put your plans on ice, float across the ocean of your living room, mount the couch iceberg, then abseil into a cosy crevice to witness these glacially cool docs.
A crew of seafaring artists, scientists and philosophers sail to one of the most remote and beautiful areas in the world—the frozen fjords of northern Greenland—to ponder provocative questions about our place in the world.
Dir. Daniel Dencik (2012)
Adventurer turned documentarian Robert Flaherty spent a year living with Inuit hunters in the harsh conditions of Canada’s Hudson Bay, and emerged with an enchanting, controversial film that’s perhaps the father of all documentaries.
Dir. Robert J. Flaherty (1922)
New York has always been a bastion of cultural fusion: this flamenco krump hybrid interpretation of a Greek play we encountered is quite a testament to the creative crossroads of city. So get into the New York state of mind, or not, and watch these two urban tales of dancing and finding yourself.
Spanning more than five years on the streets of New York City, this intimate story of survival follows Lucky Torres, a homeless mother masked in tattoos who longs to rise from a life of darkness.
Dir. Laura Checkoway (2014)
Join a group of fearless young dancers on an emotional journey as they vie to make something of themselves and their communities by competing in awe-inspiring battles of strength, grace and creativity.
Dirs. Deidre Schoo, Michael Beach Nichols (2013)
Drifting into the jolly season of mythical elves, white-bearded saints, zombie shopping and flying reindeer, we embrace rational abandonment by offering two stories of magical dreamers.
Sepideh Hooshyar, an Iranian teenager, dreams of becoming an astronaut, but cultural and economic factors make her goal difficult to achieve.
Dir. Berit Madsen (2013)
An unnamed character wanders through three seemingly disparate moments in his life: on a small Estonian island, in isolation in the majestic wilderness of Northern Finland and during a concert in Norway.
Dir. Ben Rivers & Ben Russell (2013)
As millions of citizens join the global climate march today, we bring you two powerful stories direct from the front lines of climate change.
Beyond Clueless is a dizzying journey into the mind, body and soul of the teen movie, as seen through the eyes of over 200 modern coming-of-age classics.
Dir. Charlie Lyne (2014)
The ongoing story of the summer in the Europe has been one of migration. Many reports on this subject speak only of policies and statistics, so this week we are offering two true stories of personal experiences.
Dir. Sean McAllister (2002)
Good evening guys and ghouls. It's time to don your halloween costume, lock the doors, light a dripping candle and see something haunting from the comfort of your cavern.
An eccentric Ukrainian artist and survivor of Chernobyl discovers a dark secret and has to decide whether to risk his life by revealing it.
Dir. Chad Gracia (2014)
'The function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education.' Martin Luther King. Here are two powerful films about the importance of education.
This intimate documentary follows the 12-year journey of two African-American families pursuing the promise of opportunity through the education of their sons.
Dirs. Joe Brewster, Michele Stephenson (2013)
The close bond between humans and domesticated animals may seem petty to some. Look deeper, spend some time with our pet friends and surreal things can happen. Sit the cat on your lap and chase a mouse over to these two films tonight.
This quirky film showcases workers in the animal burial industry while dealing with heavier existential questions regarding mortality and the afterlife.
Dir. Errol Morris (1978)
This week the gloriously ridiculous 'Back to the Future' film turned 30. So we are zapping over an electronic mail with a documentary about another possible future and one that foresaw a future past.
This experimental documentary details the history of plane hijackings as portrayed by mainstream television media.
Dir. Johan Grimonprez (1997)
The poetry of self-expression often walks and talks a pliable path between truth and fantasy. Here are two films bursting with words, sometimes spoken, sometimes shouted and mostly inspiring.
We Are Poets presents a moving and poignant story of youth, art and freedom of expression, as it intimately follows six young poets from youth literary group, Leeds Young Authors.
Dir. Alex Ramseyer-Bache (2012)
A compelling documentary about truth, lies and the legacy of faking everything in the desperate pursuit of fame. This is the story of how a hip hop duo from Scotland manufactured American identities and duped the music industry.
Dir. Jeanie Finlay (2013)
A recent art installation in Sheffield, England brought together the worlds of unholy brothers and holy sisters. Thus we've given birth to a holy communion of related documentaries for your home nurturing.
This compelling documentary details the strange-but-true murder trial of Delbert Ward, accused of the mercy killing of his brother in rural upstate NY.
Dirs. Joe Berlinger, Bruce Sinofsky (1992)
On Sunday, after a right-angled snooze, we listened to this podcast in a quiet corner. It realigned our minds into Euclidean space and before us, in a black box, appeared a line and a square. So we thought we'd share them in the form of film.
In 1976, Randall Adams was wrongly sentenced to death for the murder of a Dallas policeman. Errol Morris' stunning documentary exposed the truth of the case and is credited with overturning Adams' conviction.
Dir. Errol Morris (1988)
Rumour has it, there's big trouble stirring in little Japan. Here are two digital docs about other troubles altogether: love, the economy and earthquakes.
Yoshi, Naoki and Sean work long hours to tell a love story of survival in the world's second richest economy.
Dir. Sean McAllister (2008)
After a brief trip to Venice to experience some radical, political art we're back in town with this duet of docs about extreme activism.
Dir. Sam Green (2003)
This week we discovered that some brassy town planners in China have forged some rather wonderful forgery. Let's celebrate the art of twisted metal with these two hand-crafted docs.
Overcome by an unwavering determination to become a professional Oldtime Strongman, Chris Schoeck trains out of his basement to prepare for his first performance at New York’s historic Coney Island.
Dir. Dave Carroll (2013)
The British Labour Party, once the great supporter of workers and national health care, is descending into a push and pull struggle for a 21st century vision. So put your feet up and get to work watching these two archive docs celebrating the toil and triumph of yesteryear.
This rousing documentary illuminates and celebrates a period of unprecedented community spirit in the UK, the impact of which endured for many years and which may yet be rediscovered today.
Dir. Ken Loach (2013)
An inspired documentary depicting the ill-fated mining community in North East England. The film depicts the hardship of pit work and the role of Trade Unions in organizing and fighting for workers' rights.
Dir. Bill Morrison (2014)
After four years without a passport, we are celebrating the freedom of an artist by sending these two great films your way way.
Dir. Andreas Johnsen (2013)
A gentleman with a name as wild as his world once warbled: "Come with me and you'll be in a world of pure imagination. Take a look and you'll see into your imagination." Join us this week and indulge your eyes in these two tales about searching for sweet stories behind a name.
Alan Berliner is tired of being mistaken for people who might share his name and decides to rid himself of the dreaded Same Name Syndrome. His solution: invite all the Alan Berliners in the world over to his house for dinner.
Dir. Alan Berliner (2001)
Unveils the incredible and mysterious story of Rodriguez, a ‘70s US rock icon who disappeared into oblivion and rose from the ashes decades later as a megastar on another continent.
Dir. Malik Bendjelloul (2012)
Impending disaster, ridiculous explosions and unimaginable destruction have long been the fodder of Hollywood dramatics, but even the wildest scenarios originate in the real. After a short trip to this sublime Bruce Conner show in London, we recommend these two Earth shattering docs.
While the U.N. debated strategies for control of atomic energy, the U.S. Navy was preparing for nuclear tests on Bikini Island, forcing residents to move away for more than 40 years.
Dir. Robert Stone (1988)
Our daily bread can be both art and sustenance, but should never be wasted. Here are two freshly baked stories about feeders and foodies.
Revered sushi chef Jiro Ono strives for perfection in his work, while his eldest son, Yoshikazu, has trouble living up to his father's legacy.
Dir. David Gelb (2013)
The inside story of the scandal involving one company's manipulation of California's energy supply and how its executives stole a billion dollars out of the resulting crisis.
Dir. Alex Gibney (2006)
There are few aspects of society that drug abuse has failed to infiltrate, corrupt and corrode. In recent weeks allegations have even tarnished the name of a globally admired sports coach. Here are two powerful behind the scenes films about the culture of drugs and drug culture.
Oxyana is a harrowing front line account of a community in the grips of an epidemic, told through the voices of the addicts, the dealers and all those affected.
Dir. Sean Dunne (2014)
On seeing this series of cluttered images we pondered a future where the crisp rustle of dull inked headlines turned between finger and thumb has dissolved into swipes and glare. Here are two films about the age of the newspaper.
The film follows stranger-than-fiction adventures of Joyce McKinney, a former “beauty queen” whose single-minded devotion to the man of her dreams leads her across the globe and directly onto the front pages of the British tabloid newspapers.
Dir. Errol Morris (2011)
In an era when newspapers are becoming increasingly obsolete, this film offers a glimpse behind the scenes of the newsroom that has kept America informed for generations yet now struggles to remain relevant as more readers turn to the Internet to stay informed on current events.
Dir. Andrew Rossi (2011)
The camera art of self-portraiture is presently having a moment with the magic wand of narcissism (the selfie stick) and a certain machine of loving grace (the selfie drone). The craft is as old as the technology: this reflective photograph by fauvist Henri-Jacques-Edouard Evenepoel dates back to 1898. Indulge in some more self-indulgence with these two performative documentaries.
Returning to the beaches which have been parts of her life, Agnès Varda invents a kind of self-portrait-documentary.
Dir. Agnès Varda (2008)
A groundbreaking work of docu-fiction. Idealistic young filmmaker David Holzman decides to document every waking moment of his life in an attempt to understand himself and his world.
Dir. Jim McBride (1968)
Yesterday an experimental aircraft took to the skies to cross the Pacific ocean powered only by human dreams and sunlight beams. Thus we are carefully landing two more stories of personal discovery and experimentation directly in your inbox.
An experimental road movie across Europe magically charged with creative contours and explosions. This is a film about immersing yourself, letting yourself be infected, then travelling on.
Dir. Peter Liechti (1996)
This sensory film puts the viewer inside musician Edwyn Collins' experience as he fights back from the brink of death. The result is an intimate journey of rediscovering art, music and love.
Dir. James Hall, Edward Lovelace (2014)
Contemporary life rarely affords us the luxury of absolute silence, but perhaps that's a good thing. Here are two noisey narratives to vibrate your perceptive devices this week.
When two punk friends tape record their violently noisy neighbours, they accidentally create one of the first 'viral' pop-culture sensations.
Dir. Matthew Bate (2011)
After spending £400,000 the British Government lost a legal battle against a Freedom of Information Act request. The result was this week's publication of Prince Charles' correspondence with MPs revealing requests to preserve huts and albatrosses but cull badgers. Here are two more revealing portraits of mysterious laws in action.
Through a series of frank interviews this film explores the four-decade-old Israeli military legal system in the Occupied Territories.
Dir. Ra'anan Alexandrowicz (2012)
A rising star in Russia's nationalist youth movement begins to have a change of heart about the Russian president and her organization.
Dir. Lise Birk Pedersen (2012)
This week marked the centenary of an ill-fated military campaign where thousands of young men perished on Turkish shores. Here are two moving windows upon the nature of contemporary warfare and the lives it affects.
Fearless journalist Jeremy Scahill leads us on a thrilling globe-trotting mission, exposing the truth behind America's secret wars.
Dir. Rick Rowley (2013)
From his embed with US Marines Echo Company in Afghanistan, photojournalist and filmmaker Danfung Dennis reveals the devastating impact a Taliban machine-gun bullet has on the life of 25-year-old Sergeant Nathan Harris.
Dir. Danfung Dennis (2011)
In April this article asked whether it's possible to worship religious art without belief, and these images of ancient idols being hammered out of existence shocked lovers of historic art globally. Pull up a pew for some sacredly profane documentary time this week.
Dir. Erik Gandini (2009)
The late and wonderful mind of Mr Márquez observed 'It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.' Here are two dreamers blowing your way fresh out of the windy city.
An exploration into the cycle of neglect, violence and exploitation which each year pushes thousands of girls and women into prostitution and the individuals who strive to help them.
Dir. Kim Longinotto (2015)
Follows the tumultuous existence of three boys and the bonds that sustain them throughout the more difficult moments encountered while living in an impoverished town in the Midwest.
Dir. Tracy Droz Tragos, Andrew Droz Palermo (2014)
Pop music is often derided as cheap and nasty, yet it has provided a space for some of culture's most eccentric figures to beat our mental drums and shake our hypnotic bums. Here are two offbeat portraits of wild pop masters.
A visually absorbing portrait of the seminal avant-garde composer, singer-songwriter, cellist, and disco producer Arthur Russell.
Dir. Matt Wolf (2008)
Small black and yellow fellows are reported to be packing some new kit to understand and counter their population decline. This week we bring you two very different interpretations of the 'buzzin' lifestyle.
Several beekeepers around the U.S. learn to cope with colony collapse disorder - the phenomenon that has caused millions of bees to mysteriously disappear.
Dir. Carter Gunn, Ross McDonnell (2009)
With unprecedented access to previously unseen archive footage, MADE OF STONE is a revealing journey through the life of one of the most revered and influential bands in British music history.
Dir. Shane Meadows (2013)
A visually dazzling film that records the flight of dozens of different birds as they follow their navigational instincts and make the taxing journey to more temperate climates in the fall.
Dirs. Jacques Cluzaud, Michel Debats, Jacques Perrin (2001)
This week we bring you two gloriously inquisitive stories searching for paternal answers, in memory of one of the most curious fathers of modern documentary cinema.
Alan Berliner takes on his reclusive father as the reluctant subject of this poignant and graceful study of family history and memory. What emerges is a uniquely cinematic biography that finds both humor and pathos in the swirl of conflicts and affections that bind father and son.
Dir. Alan Berliner (1996)
Deeply affectionate filmmaking.
A film that excavates layers of myth and memory to find the elusive truth at the core of a family of storytellers.
Dir. Sarah Polley (2013)
An insight into our complex relationship with manufactured objects and, by extension, the people who design them. It’s a look at the creativity at work behind everything from toothbrushes to tech gadgets.
Dir. Gary Hustwit (2009)
Outside a small bar in Kingston, NY, Mark Hogancamp was beaten nearly to death, his memories wiped away. Seeking recovery, he builds Marwencol, a miniature World War II-era town filled with doll versions of his friends, fantasies, and even his attackers.
Dir. Jeff Malmberg (2010)
The crosscut tale of two men whose fateful meeting propelled them on divergent courses with Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, 9/11, Guantanamo Bay Prison and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Dir. Laura Poitras (2010)
Unfolding like a narrative drama, the film follows the gradual descent of one man caught in the tragic contradictions of the U.S. occupation of Iraq and its project to spread democracy in the Middle East.
Dir. Laura Poitras (2005)
In each film we recommend the story lasts 90 or so minutes. Each flashing second you see is made up of 24 or more individual frames per second. Thus on average you might see 130,000 still images whilst viewing just one of these moving images. This week we spent long long hours at an exhibition in London, powerfully reminding us that each frame is a story in itself.
Illuminates the lives and work of New York’s iconic street photographers and the incomparable city that has inspired them for decades. The documentary pays tribute to the spirit of street photography through a cinematic exploration of New York City.
Dir. Cheryl Dunn (2013)
A striking portrait of renowned photographer Edward Burtynsky, who's internationally acclaimed for his large-scale pictures which turn civilization’s materials and debris into beautiful art.
Dir. Jennifer Baichwal (2007)
This epic documentary recounts the story of the Holocaust through interviews with witnesses - perpetrators as well as survivors. The filmmaker spent ten years making the film, criss-crossing the world in search of interviewees and the film has become a commemorative act.
Dir. Claude Lanzmann (1985)
The filmmakers examine a country where death squad leaders are celebrated as heroes, challenging them to reenact their real-life mass-killings in the style of the American movies they love. An unsettling journey deep into the imaginations of mass-murderers and the shockingly banal regime of corruption and impunity they inhabit.
Dir. Joshua Oppenheimer (2013)
An unsentimental elegy to the American West, Sweetgrass follows the last modern-day cowboys to lead their flocks of sheep up into Montana's Absaroka-Beartooth Mountains for summer pasture.
Dirs. Ilisa Barbash, Lucien Castaing-Taylor (2009)
An ineffably beautiful meditation on the mysterious cycles of life. Set in Italy's mountainous region of Calabria, the film traces the path of one goat-herder's soul, as it passes from human to animal to vegetable to mineral.
Dir. Michelangelo Frammartino (2010)
In this book, Mr Bachelard, the bearded bard of domestic reverie wrote 'If I were asked to name the chief benefit of the house, I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.'
Here are two films about homes of dreaming and regretting.
A tragic and raucous portrait of a Russian farm family. Beautifully shot in vintage black and white, The Belovs tells the story of twice-widowed Anna Belova, who lives with her brother Mikhail.
Dir. Victor Kossakovsky (1992)
New York artist Jackie Sumell collaborates with prisoner Herman Wallace on an art project that leads to a remarkable friendship in this documentary examining the horrors of solitary confinement and the incredible power of art to transform our outlook on life.
Dir. Angad Singh Bhalla (2012)
William Wordsworth once wrote 'With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things.' Sometimes 'looking' is all that is needed to experience the dramatic wonder of this world and beyond. Here are works of two poetic documentarians that give us something to look at.
People who live in a wasteland are connected to people dwelling next to a volcano. Landscapes whose splendor touches the soul are juxtaposed with the clamor of a vast city. These antipodes seem mythically connected, united by their oppositeness in this poetic documentary.
Dir. Victor Kossakovsky (2012)
This has been a week to reflect on the challenges of toleration, freedom of speech and expression. Here are two films documenting the lives of comedians who didn't shy away from these boundaries of controversy, as Jon Stewart remarked 'Comedy shouldn't have to be an act of courage.'
Liberté, égalité, fraternité, documentaré.
A captivating animated documentary drama on the legendary Texas outlaw comic Bill Hicks, whose profound observations on American life changed the face of comedy forever.
Dir: Paul Thomas, Matt Harlock (2009)
An introduction the energetic, innovative and potentially illegal world of mash-up media. Web activist Brett Gaylor and musician Greg Gillis, better known as Girl Talk, serve as your digital tour guides on a probing investigation into how culture builds upon culture in the information age.
Dir. Brett Gaylor (2008)
An intimate, picaresque inquiry into French life as lived by the country's poor and its provident. The aesthetic, political and moral point of departure for Varda are gleaners, those individuals who pick at already-reaped fields for the odd potato, the leftover turnip.
Dir. Agnès Varda (1999)
A journey inside the world of Anonymous, the radical "hacktivist" collective that has redefined civil disobedience for the digital age.
Dir. Brian Knappenberger (2012)
The film follows the story of programming prodigy and information activist Aaron Swartz. This film is a personal story about what we lose when we are tone deaf about technology and its relationship to our civil liberties.
Dir. Brian Knappenberger (2014)