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DOCUMENTARY RECOMMENDATIONS

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  27.9.2018

HOOP DREAMS

This Oscar-nominated feature from Steve James follows two boys in Chicago (William Gates and Arthur Agee) over the course of eight years of their lives. Gates and Agee are recruited from their inner-city high schools to attend the suburban St. Joseph High School in Westchester, Illinois, and play in its renowned basketball program. Hoop Dreams depicts the culture shock Gates and Agee experienced in the predominantly white high school, to which the two boys commuted 90 minutes every day. A modern masterpiece...

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  27.9.2018

BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK

Bill Cunningham was a notable figure in New York City until his death last year; a Bill Cunningham spotting was almost as exciting as having your picture taken by him. The New York Times columnist, who documented how the city's residents expressed themselves through fashion in their own particular ways, was a cheerful and outgoing presence in the city—serving less as a fashion photographer and more as a cultural anthropologist. This portrait, filmed when he was 80 years old, follows him through the city on...

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  27.9.2018

SOUND AND FURY

This Oscar-nominated film follows the Artinians, who across three generations have deaf and hearing members in their extended family. When brothers Peter (who is deaf) and Chris (who is hearing) both had deaf children and considered giving them cochlear implants, they opened up a debate within their family—one that also exists within deaf culture at large. Sound and Fury is a powerful look at how we create communities based on shared experience, abilities, and language, and the importance we place on where...

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  27.9.2018

LIFE, ANIMATED

Based on Ron Suskind's book about his son, this Oscar-nominated film depicts Owen Suskind who, after being diagnosed with autism at 3 years old, withdrew into a nearly silent state of being. With Suskind and his wife on the verge of losing hope that their son would have a meaningful life and the ability to connect with others, they discovered he responded intensely to the world of animated films—particularly those produced by Walt Disney—giving him a new chance to understand the confounding world around him....

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  27.9.2018

JIRO DREAMS OF SUSHI


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  27.9.2018

GLEASON

New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason achieved near-holy status when he blocked a punt in a game against the Atlanta Falcons—the first the team played in their hometown after Hurricane Katrina. Years later, at the age of 34, Gleason was diagnosed with ALS—otherwise known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Direct Clay Tweel followed Gleason and his wife, Michel Rae Varisco, after they learned of Gleason's diagnosis—and of Varisco's pregnancy with their son, Rivers. The result is a heartbreaking yet ultimately triumphant film...

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  27.9.2018

CAPTURING THE FRIEDMANS

Andrew Jarecki set out to make a light-hearted documentary about birthday party clowns. When he began researching one of his subjects, David Friedman, he discovered a more interesting—and disturbing—story: Friedman's father and brother, Arnold and Jesse, had been convicted of child sexual abuse in their Long Island hometown. Culling together interviews with the police that investigated the Friedmans and the victims in the case—and combining those conversations with the family's home videos archives—Capturing...

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  27.9.2018

BEST WORST THING THAT EVER COULD HAVE HAPPENED

Lonny Price's dreams came true when he landed one of the lead roles in a brand-new Stephen Sondheim musical, directed by the composer's frequent collaborator Hal Prince. When Price and his fellow cast members (many teenage actors making their Broadway debuts, including future Seinfeld star Jason Alexander) opened Merrily We Roll Along in 1981, they expected it to the first in a long line of career successes. The show, however, was a flop, and a massive disappointment for Sondheim's fans—and the show's cast...

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  27.9.2018

THE OVERNIGHTERS

Director Jesse Moss examines the residents of Williston, a small town in North Dakota that saw a huge population spike following an oil boom in the midst of the recession. With jobseekers flocking to the town and overwhelming Williston's housing market, the town's locals turned against their new neighbors—with the exception of Jay Reinke, a Lutheran pastor who offered up the confines of his church as a sanctuary for the town's newest residents. The Overnighters looks at what exactly defines a community for...

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  27.9.2018

KURT COBAIN: MONTAGE OF HECK

At 27, Kurt Cobain was one of the most famous musicians on the planet—a status that he would have rather avoided, and a level of fame that, along with his mental illness and drug addiction, led to his downfall. Two decades after his suicide, Montage of Heck attempts to piece together a portrait of Cobain, one told by the loved ones he left behind (including his Nirvana bandmates), as well as his personal audio recordings and juvenilia. Rather than hold Cobain up as a rock and roll saint and the typical doomed...

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  27.9.2018

MAN ON WIRE

In 1974, a week before his 24th birthday, high-wire artist Philippe Petit stunned the typically cynical denizens of New York City when he walked on a wire between the towers of the World Trade Center. Balancing himself over 1,000 feet in the air, Petit made eight passes between the skyscrapers over the course of 45 minutes before his arrest by the NYPD. James Marsh’s Man on Wire uses archival footage of Petit’s training and performance—as well as staged scenes of Petit and his crew setting up the wires, constructed...

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  27.9.2018

THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE

In April 1989, 28-year-old Trisha Meili was brutally assaulted and raped as she was jogging in New York City’s Central Park. That same night, five young men—four black, one Hispanic—were arrested for suspected gang activity in the park; after hours of interrogations and coerced confessions, the teenage boys were charged with assault, robbery, rape, sexual abuse, and the attempted murder of Meili. What ensued was a media firestorm, in which racism within the confines of the courtroom—and on the front pages...

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  27.9.2018

THE ACT OF KILLING

Between 1965 and 1966, an anti-communist purge took place in Indonesia, a mass killing that historians have estimated a total of 400,000 to 3,000,000 victims. Half a century later, director Joshua Oppenheimer (along with Christine Cynn and an anonymous Indonesian filmmaker) crafted The Act of Killing, a compelling and brutal look at former members of the death squads—now revered for creating the society in which they now live. In a manner that highlights the banality of their work (and their cultural attitudes...

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  27.9.2018

PINA

Legendary director Wim Wenders offers a moving portrait of his friend Pina Bausch, an internationally acclaimed dancer and choreographer who died unexpectedly in the early days of the production of Wenders’s documentary. The members of Bausch’s company, Tanztheater Wuppertal, became Wenders’s collaborators, offering their own memories and perspectives of their mentor and leader. Shot in gorgeous 3D, Pina is unlike any dance performance you’ve ever seen: Rather than watching the movement from the audience,...

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  27.9.2018

THE WORK

Within the confines of the infamous Folsom Prison, level-four convicts—prisoners assigned to maximum security—meet for an intensive three-day group therapy session that serves as part of their rehabilitation. It’s there that arguably most intense moments of their stay takes place, when the convicts reach deep inside themselves to revisit their past traumas and vulnerabilities that have played a role in their violent behavior. The Work follows three outsiders who join the retreat, slowly revealing their own...

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  27.9.2018

The King

Released: June 22

Director: Eugene Jarecki (Reagan)

Why it’s great: One of two great looks at the legacy of Elvis Presley out this year (the other is HBO’s two-part series Elvis Presley: The Searcher), this feature paints a picture of America through the metaphoric lens of celebration and criticism of the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. Eugene Jarecki, who tends to swing for the fences with big ideas...

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  27.9.2018

24 Frames

Released: February 2

Director: Abbas Kiarostami (Close-Up)

Why it’s great: The final film of one of Iran's cinema masters, 24 Frames is an absolutely mesmerizing documentary -- although many purists will disqualify it as such. The film is an experimental work that takes 24 static images, mostly photographs by Kiarostami plus one Dutch Renaissance painting, and animates them as four-and-a-half-minute...

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  27.9.2018

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

Released: June 29

Director: Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom)

Why it’s great: Nobody can deny that Fred Rogers, aka children’s television icon, "Mister Rogers," makes for a great subject worth watching in any form (that’s one reason Won't You Be My Neighbor? is already one of the top-grossing docs of all time). Fortunately, this particular film comes in the form of a tightly focused profile on the late...

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  27.9.2018

McQueen

Released: July 20

Directors: Ian Bonhôte and Peter Ettedgui

Why it’s great: Fashion designer Alexander McQueen gets one of the most widely appealing biographical documentaries in some time with this perfectly constructed film. Don’t care about fashion? Don’t know who he was? Not a problem, since McQueen’s rags-to-riches story is universally compelling and thoroughly riveting, even if ultimately it...

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  27.9.2018

Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda

Released: July 6

Director: Stephen Nomura Schible

Why it’s great: Unlike most music documentaries, this one isn’t so much geared for fans of the artist as it is fans of intimate character portraits. Of course, those familiar with the Oscar-winning film composer aren’t lacking for an appreciation of Ryuichi Sakamoto. We see the cancer-stricken artist working on various endeavors, including...

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  27.9.2018

The Cage Fighter

Released: February 2

Director: Jeff Unay

Why it’s great: Calling The Cage Fighter a real-life version of Darren Aronofsky’s The Wrestler, as pretty much every review has done, is a disservice to both films but certainly gives you an easy sell on this verité profile of an aging small-time, mixed-martial-arts competitor. Unay, whose past credits are mostly in visual effects for such...

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  27.9.2018

Generation Wealth

Released: July 20

Director: Lauren Greenfield (The Queen of Versailles)

Why it’s great: Lauren Greenfield follows her hit 2012 documentary The Queen of Versailles with a continued look at the problems -- er, problem -- of the rich and famous. The film is partly based on Greenfield’s book of the same name, both critical indictments of the increasingly popular desire around the world to be, or -- and this is apparently...

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  27.9.2018

The Road Movie

Released: January 19

Director: Dimitrii Kalashnikov

Why it’s great: There is a disturbing pleasure to be enjoyed in dashboard-cam footage of traffic accidents, though The Road Movie isn’t just a compilation of Russia’s craziest car videos. Through these recordings, viewers also witness strange encounters with bears and brides and prostitutes and parachuters. We experience a camera’s theft by...

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  27.9.2018

A Dangerous Son

Released: May 7

Director: Liz Garbus (Bobby Fischer Against the World, What Happened, Miss Simone?)

Why it’s great: Liz Garbus is one of the most prolific, proficient, and versatile documentary filmmakers working today (the two-time Oscar nominee also has the Emmy-nominated political series The Fourth Estate out this year). With this important and deeply concerning feature, which is difficult to watch at moments, she tackles the ever-timely...

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