Documentary filmmaking is an underrated medium with many films dismissed as dull and boring. This isn’t the case, as the majority of documentaries are actually very interesting and even quite entertaining. In April 2013, legendary film critic Roger Ebert lost his lengthy battle with cancer. To commemorate the life and career of Ebert, a new documentary entitled Life Itself has been released in theatres across America, with the documentary set to be released in UK cinemas later this year. To celebrate the release of Life Itself, here’s a look at some other truly great documentaries.
5. An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
This Academy Award winning documentary from 2006 focuses on the 45th vice president of the United States of America as he tries to educate the public about the severity of the climate crisis. It’s essentially Al Gore giving a power-point presentation displaying the effects of global warming. Although this may seem uninteresting and tedious, Gore is charmingly funny as he presents quite a serious issue. The highlight of the documentary is the use of a Futurama clip to demonstrate the greenhouse effect.
4. The Pixar Story (2007)
Pixar has been described as the innovative studio that revolutionized Hollywood, and this documentary focuses on the rise of the computer animation film studio. The film documents the struggle of three men – John Lasseter, Edwin Catmull and the late Steve Jobs as they attempted to create the first feature-length computer animated film. This documentary is a real treat for Pixar fans, as it contains interviews with the likes of Tom Hanks, Billy Crystal, John Lassester, Steve Jobs and Brad Bird, as well as Hollywood legend George Lucas.
3. Being Elmo: A Puppeteers Journey (2011)
Being Elmo looks at the life of a young African American man from Baltimore, Maryland, who went on to live his dream and become a puppeteer. If you mentioned the name Kevin Clash to people, the chances are that they wouldn’t know who you were talking about. As a young child, Clash was obsessed with puppets, particularly the Muppets that he saw on Sesame Street and The Muppet Show. The documentary covers his meetings and interactions with the creator of the Muppets and Sesame Street, Jim Henson and shows how he got the chance to become Elmo. Clash is a positive example to everyone – work hard and it will eventually pay off. The documentary also gave great insight into the importance of the role and Clash’s portrayal of a happy and loving puppet is exceptionally heart-warming.
2. Super Size Me (2004)
Perhaps one of the most entertaining documentaries on the market, Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me is centred on an American law-suit. Two teenage girls sued McDonalds claiming that its food caused them to become obese. Spurlock puts this theory to the test and for 30 days, he must only consume food sold at McDonalds. He must eat 3 meals a day and try everything on the menu. Spurlock started off in great physical condition, but by the end he had put on over 20 pounds. Super Size Me is presented well by Spurlock with a high level of comedy. As well as the challenge, he looks at the impact of big food companies on the children of the United States of America, and his findings are rather shocking.
1. Side by Side (2012)
Side by Side investigates the history of both photochemical and digital filmmaking. It shows the difference between the two, including the pros and cons of both filmmaking mediums. Presented and narrated by Keanu Reeves, the documentary asks legendary actors and filmmakers such as Martin Scorsese, David Lynch, James Cameron and John Malkovich about the different modes of filmmaking, and which methods they prefer to use. It gives a very interesting insight into the world of filmmaking, editing, cinematography, directing and even special effects. Every film fan should see this movie, and decide where they stand on the film vs digital debate.