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Great Documentaries

I have decided to compile a list of some of my favorite documentaries. This is not to say that these are the only ones I have seen because there have been a couple that I truly didn’t enjoy. But these were some that I recommend. I would also love to know about any that you have seen that I may enjoy. Most of these I heard of by word of mouth.

Jesus Camp:
A 2006 documentary about Evangelical Christian kids attending the “Kids on Fire” camp to learn the ways of preaching, repentance, and becoming a true warrior of god. Run by Pentecostal minister Becky Fischer, the camp sought to further emblazon the concepts of extremist religious view points. The story is told through the subjects of the movie such as; the shy boy who only has confidence when trying to convince other children that their generation is most vital to the lord or the little girl who loves dancing but is worried that her “dances for the flesh” will weigh against her in the afterlife. This movie goes on and on about how important it is to get these children to believe while they are young so that they can work on other children as well. Their argument is that if radical Muslims can give their kids guns why can’t evangelicals arm their kids with psychological weaponry? I was appalled by some of the behavior of the adults in this movie but even more so by the effect it has on the children. This movie toes the fine line between having a strong belief structure in your family and indoctrinating your children to fall in line for the war against religious separation from state and freedom.

Comedian Bill Maher is the satirical archer shooting the apples off the heads of the major religions in this hilarious documentary. This movie is all about asking questions that no one seems to be asking. Why do decent and intelligent people choose to believe in concepts that seem cartoonish in nature while refusing to be questioned on why they believe in the first place? Where did these religious stories come from? How far are some people willing to go for their faith? He asks these questions of people with hilarious and sometimes frustrating results. His cocky humor comes across at some points as smarmy but the questions he asks are anything but. This movie does drag a little bit toward the end but it really left me wondering why we let certain groups dictate our lives when they need morality tales to tell them how to be a generally good person.

Bowling for Columbine:
One of several popular Michael Moore documentaries, this film starts by looking at the events surrounding the Columbine shooting in Littleton Colorado in 1999 and casts a wider net to try to explain how our country has become largely “gun crazy”. The thought that columbine may not have happened if our society wasn’t so quick to jump to violence is interestingly and playfully illustrated through interviews with families of victims as well as the families of the accused. In the end we are primed to ask ourselves why does America seem so much more prone to violence and why isn’t anyone trying to stop it before more innocent people are killed.

Crazy Love:
This documentary follows the twisted relationship between an obsessed, philandering lawyer and the object of his affection in 1950’s New York. The events of their relationship made for scandalous headlines when they first occurred and continue to be topics of conversation for anyone who learns more about what happened between them. Burt Pugach fell in love with Linda and wanted to spend all of his time and money on her and showered her with lavish gifts and affection. Unfortunately, Linda found out that Burt was married and had a severely disabled child. She broke it off with him until he divorced. Soon enough he showed her papers and they were an item again…until she found out that the divorce decree was falsified. She was finally over his games and split from him. This is where the story gets interesting dark. Through his own admission, he became extremely fanatical about her and wouldn’t leave her alone. Through her admission, she was scared for her life and had good reason. This movie takes you through the long hard road of their relationship and leaves your jaw on the floor by the end.

Food Inc.:
This shockumentary focuses a harsh lens on the global food production business and how it has set up boundaries that force farmers to obey or be blackballed. While those restrictions were being built up, the standards for treatment of animals and production of food plummeted leaving us to wonder where our food comes from today and where it will likely be coming from in the future. This is one of those movies that will get you so mad at the process that you want to do something but will leave you feeling frustrated because the problem is a lot bigger than a simple boycott. Very informative.

Super Size Me:
This film from Morgan Spurlock follows him as he takes on one of the most invisibly dangerous challenges. For 30 days he eats fast food for every meal and documents the effects it has on his body. I say invisibly dangerous because there are people that do this every day, completely unaware or willfully ignorant of the damage it does to their bodies. Concurrent to his challenge, Morgan also shows us that our society is being plagued by poor nutrition and widening waistlines for the sake of convenience and complacency.

Super High Me:
If Morgan Spurlock held up a mirror to America’s eating habits, comedian/marijuana enthusiast Doug Benson holds up a mirror to the myths surrounding marijuana use in his documentary. Similar to Spurlock’s challenge, Doug quits smoking pot for 30 days and then consistently gets high for 30 days, all while taking a series of tests to determine the effects on the body and mind that this practice would have. He also educates about our countries drug laws and the raiding of medical marijuana dispensaries at the hands of the federal government despite state laws to the contrary. The results are surprising and hilarious.

Dear Zachary:
Easily the most startling documentary I have seen thus far. I can’t describe much of this movie without completely ruining the experience. This movie is the director’s video love letter to Zachary about his father that passed away while Zachary was still a little child. What follows is a thread of moments that will leave you gutted by the time the credits begin to roll. Highly recommended.



4 thoughts on “Great Documentaries

  1. I am going to look into some of these movies. I have only seen Super Size Me, I can’t believe how much soda we drink and no longer wonder why it hurts my stomach when i have more than my fair share.

    He had another documentary called Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden. It wasn’t anywhere near Super Size Me, but there were a few great moments.

    Posted by Sonya | January 6, 2013, 5:55 pm
    • I would say if you are going to watch Dear Zachary, do not look it up. It’s on netflix and youtube. It is difficult to avoid spoilers nowadays, but for this documentary I would make a very solid effort.

      I saw the trailer for “Where in the world…” but it was after we killed him so I wasn’t entirely interested.

      Posted by jeffartpaul | January 7, 2013, 1:37 pm
      • I will not search for Dear Zachary at all, just go straight to youtube! I hate spoilers especially when you come upon them by accident. It is like reading the last chapter of a book (as my Dad does) before deciding to read the book itself. I don’t understand that concept at all; I dislike accidently reading ahead on the next page, I wouldn’t invest in a story if I knew the ending.

        “Where in the world” was almost exactly what one would expect, actually the trailer sums it up nicely http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fYmEA4O6a10 if you watch at 1:10 in they talk about “Where is Osama?” Then all the guys point in the same direction, hands down the best part of the film and it happens rather often. Watch the trailer and you have missed nothing.

        Posted by Sonya | January 8, 2013, 9:46 am
  2. Yeah, I watched the trailer. I think I am all caught up now.

    That is so weird about your dad’s reading habit. I think I am like you in that, reading a book is about the journey. Skipping to the end is just insane to me.

    Posted by jeffartpaul | January 8, 2013, 9:13 pm

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