Documentaries of the Decade

Documentary has always been a strong filmaking strand but rarely made an impact at the box office. Sure there had been one offs like Chang and Nanook of the North but they were just that – one offs. This decade seemed to elevate the medium with docos beginning to do big business even, ahem, winning the Palme D’Or. These were the ones that stood out for me:

Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003)
Possibly the nerdiest film I’ve ever sat through. A three hour doco (plus intermission) featuring hundreds of clips from a century of film along with a professor discussing movie locations throughout Los Angeles. Absolutely rivetting from beginning to end.

Touching the Void (2003)
Phenomenal. Man’s ability to overcome the worst disaster with more or less pure force of will. Also effortlessly proves that, yes, there are atheists in foxholes.

Dogtown & Z-Boys
Dogtown & Z-Boys (2001)
Don’t give a damn about either surfing or skateboarding? It don’t matter, Peralta infuses so much passion into this that you can’t help being caught up in it.

The Power of Nightmares
The Power of Nightmares (2004)

King of Kong
King of Kong (2007)
The world record score for Donkey Kong has stood for 20 years…until now. Sounds like a pretty lame idea for a film, right? Wrong – this is fabulous.

Man on Wire
Man on Wire (2008)
A movie constructed almost entirely of a rich, rich seam of archive footage taken by an ego the size of Manhattan, then the main event has only nine still photographs to illustrate it? What a climax – the WTC never looked so beautiful.

Capturing the Friedmans
Capturing the Friedmans (2003)
What to say about this? It’s been six years since I’ve seen it and I still can’t decide which story to believe.

Dig! (2004)

Etre et Avoir
Etre et Avoir (2002)
If only all kids could be this rewarding to teach…

Fog of War
Fog of War (2003)
…and if only all old men with war memories could be this fascinating to listen to.

Deep Water
Deep Water (2008)
It took me a while to get around to this as docos about the Times Around the World Yacht Race tend to be around the last subjects to grab my attention. Glad I did – this is one of the most gripping things I’ve ever seen.

Honourable Mentions
In the Shadow of the Moon
Century of the Self
Filth and the Fury
Who Killed the Electric Car?
Enron:The Smartest Guys in the Room
Grizzly Man