Lets look at some documentaries!

It seems to me documentaries aren’t given enough credit in modern filmmaking, often being overlooked for whatever Michael Bay seems to have managed to attach his name and some explosions to, and unless they seem to involve some kind of pressing issue or cover a recent event they mostly pass over us remaining unheard of.  Just go log onto Netflix and scan down the documentary section and you’d probably struggle to recognise more than 15 different titles unless you are some sort of documentary connoisseur.  I can safely say I don’t fall into that category, before this assignment the last time I watched a documentary that I can remember was some point after 2 am on a Sunday night.  It was about a man who decided to travel to the amazon to find out about tree frogs that happened to give a hallucinogenic effect should you decide to cut yourself and spread the venom inside the wound.  You can watch that one here if you’re interested. 

Nanook of the North

I was told this is thought of as the first documentary to ever have been created but I think I may have exaggerated that somewhere in my mind.  I can at least say with a reasonable degree of certainty that this is one of the earliest documentaries to have been made, being released back in 1922.  I’m pretty certain I don’t know anyone who saw this back in 1922 but I bet they thought eskimos were pretty rad.  I’ll be the first to say it, the quality of camera work left something to be desired but perhaps I’m being too harsh, it must have been pretty cold and I suppose the camera was held quite steady.  Still the picture quality wasn’t great though maybe that wasn’t aided by the fact I started watching this on a projected screen from the back of a classroom, so again perhaps too harsh.  For what it’s worth I’m sure this blew people’s minds back in 1922, just like how I was impressed by the depth of Nanook’s boat as the entire family left it.   I bet eskimos can do magic.

On a serious note however I was impressed by this documentary, especially for pioneering the format.  It was really cool to see a civilisation unknown to many just going about their everyday life.  I think this documentary has convinced me I’d like to meet an eskimo, maybe take a ride in their deep boat and then they can teach me magic.  

Triumph of the Will

This documentary was the one that interested me most from the list, probably because I struggle to comprehend just how awful Nazi Germany was and it brings me back to my GCSE history days.  I can still remember the pain in my hand from all the essays.  

I was genuinely a little shocked by the content but to almost the same extent how far documentary production had come along in such a short amount of time.  The difference in camera work between this and Nanook of the North was astounding, featuring tracking shots and focus pulls.  It’s a shame the content is a bit ‘ehh…’ but all the same I’m glad someone captured all this on film so I can try my best to understand what went on.  From a 2013 perspective watching mass crowds of people greet Hitler with a wave and a smile was a little unsettling.  

The Thin Blue Line 

This documentary had everything I’d ever expect to find in a documentary that I accidentally end up watching after falling asleep in front of the TV and waking up at 1 am confused and hungry.  I’d probably order a pizza and end up watching the entire thing and walk around for the next week or two telling everyone Randall was innocent and I knew it all along.  

This documentary went into an insane amount of detail about the trial and conviction of Randall Dale Adams and the documentary even captured the confession of the person who really killed that Dallas police officer.  Apparently the director Errol Morris didn’t even mean for it to turn into an investigatory documentary but I suppose if you prove someone’s innocence after such a long time you can’t be feeling too bad about yourself can you?

The documentary was tedious in parts and almost captivating in others.  At times I found it hard to keep up with even though it was ridiculously slow paced but towards the end I guess it picked up, you know?  I though there were a few too many interviews split up into a strange order to follow the story at times also, I feel as though it could have been put across in a much simpler way.


At first when I began watching this I was very confused, and later on I was confused.  Towards the end I was still confused but by that point it was a kind of confusion that I felt everyone could relate to and I think that’s what this documentary was trying to do, find a relation between humans. Thats at least got to be part of it.  I’m probably too used to being told things through plain narration.  Thankfully this documentary left me so dazzled by it’s pretty visuals and confused but starting to take a grasp on something vague that I decided would like to see more documentaries like this one in the future.  I want to reach this higher level of understanding and if the titles are all going to sound as fun as the word ‘Baraka’ then sign me the heck up.    

Baraka takes a mesmerising look at 152 locations from all around the world and ties them all together into this stunning visual journey.  There’s no narration or context ever given, and weirdly when I think back on it I’m glad I didn’t have to listen to someone tainting my mind with their words as I watched this.  Not even Attenborough or Freeman could convince me to listen to them talking over any part of Baraka.  In a similar way I don’t even want to say too much about Baraka so I don’t influence anyone who happens to read this.  You should definitely watch it, maybe try meditating or something afterwards.  If you need convinced, it was recently decided to be the first film to be restored to 8K format.  It’s that gosh darn pretty.

The director Ron Fricke developed his own cameras especially for this film and his subsequent works.  And he is really good at time lapses. 

Super Size Me

Everyone’s heard of this one.  It’s about that guy that decided to eat McDonald’s lots and lots for a month to see what’d happen. He probably made a lot of money from this and as far as selling yourself for research goes I guess this is a pretty good one to get roped into, even if he had to sacrifice a few years of his life.  At first I found myself hungry while watching this, and was shortly swayed from wanting McDonald’s again for a long time.  There’s something sad about watching a man struggle to eat his 3rd cheese burger of the day.

This film was independently made which is pretty impressive, it’s no Baraka but as far as engaging topics go I think its clear to see this film was pretty successful in gaining people’s attention.  It probably even scared a few people into eating less McDonald’s which is pretty okay if you ask me.  I remember having to watch this in a biology class a few years ago, and if a documentary is making its way into education systems to make an example you’re doing something right.  

The only problem I’d have to say here is that the documentary seems a little unnecessary to me, it’s still interesting to watch but it just appears to be a tad obvious what’ll happen to the human body if it consumes greasy mystery meat constantly.  I suppose as far as research goes though this was carried out pretty well, and Spurlock did well to eat that much McDonald’s.

The Race That Shocked The World

I would compare this documentary to The Thin Blue Line for its purpose into exposing a truth.  The main issue I had with this documentary is the excessive amount of interviews it had.  It was awfully difficult to keep up with who was telling what part of the story, it felt like it really needed to be refined further in order to easily convey information to the viewer.  I feel as though to maintain an interest in what was being discussed in this documentary you’d need some sort of prior relation or interest in the sport, to me this isn’t one of those documentaries that compels you to watch on.

I suppose being the most recent documentary on the list it didn’t have the help of any new great new technology that separates it from the others currently being made, and it really needs a strong subject matter in order to get past this.  It does have a very current and pressing matter, I just feel like it was told in a very unimpressive way.