10 Best REALITY Documentaries

Documentaries are one of the most powerful genres of film. Documentaries provide the viewer with an intriguing story that illustrates that real life is stranger than fiction.

The following documentaries are not only captivating, but have enhanced my life by educating and entertaining me.

Don’t miss Wild Mind Film Camp, our 11-day intensive master class for documentary filmmaking in the Washington Cascades, happening this summer from July 17th-28th. As an alumni of Wild Mind, I guarantee you will grow professionally and personally!

1. I Like Killing Flies
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Killing Flies is a captivating story about an eccentric cook in a cafe in Greenwich Village, New York. The chef brings liberal politics, philosophy and art into every meal he cooks for his patrons. Once you enter the diner you immediately know that this small restaurant is unlike any other. This raw, gruff and ironically comforting eatery with over 100 items on the menu is an obscure slice of life. This film brings the viewer one man’s mission to teach perspective and the importance of questioning by offering strange combinations of food that symbolize the complexities of life.

As the story unfolds you feel as if you have witnessed 10 Jews arguing over the Talmud, a sacred Jewish text. Killing Flies is an entertaining look at an unique diner with a very out of the box chef. He also is great at swatting flies. FUN!!

2. Seven and Up

“Seven and Up” is a prolific look at the development of 14 students from the age 7 until 14 years of age in England. The viewer watches the children go through elementary adventures, and the awkward pre-teen and teen years. The creator of “Seven and Up” has gone onto follow these students up to 56 years of age. The film is funny and sometimes sad. Can life be predictable by class, family structure, genetics and/or educational opportunities?

If you are up for an enjoyable and insightful film this is it!! You get to watch lives unfold and you can choose to reflect on your own.

3. Following Sean

The audience is given a look into the world of Haight-Asbury during the 1960s through a four year olds eyes. Little four year old Sean’s experiences are quite different from the norm for a child, especially in 2013 terms.

The Haight in the 1960s was one of rioting, defying the norm, as well as a great deal of experimenting with drugs and sex.

Sean witnesses many of the cultural signatures of the 1960s. What happens to this little boy who smoked pot as a four year old, runs around the Haight barefoot and lived completely free of rules? Do you think you can predict who he becomes? Travel on this boy’s journey to manhood. This documentary is one of a kind.

4. Pina
“Pina” simply knocked my socks off and instantly made me want to dance. I left the theater with an enormous desire to feel the energy, grace and jump into the 3D intoxicating footage.

As a former dancer this film is the first one to communicate the beautiful ability for dance to tell stories. This film is for those who love dance and are open to feeling the movement that exist in life.

5. Herb and Dorothy

Dorothy and Herb were not the usual couple (and who the hell knows what that is), but they are interesting. Their lives were dedicated to collecting art. You learn why they are who they are and about their incredible ability to know what is good art and why it is important to society.

It is a quirky and very educational film. Jump in and go on a ride with this couple who live a life that is tender and meaningful. They never had kids, nor were they rich, but they did love art. Art opened a world to them that otherwise is only for rich collectors.

6. Blue Eyes Brown Eyes
A earth shattering documentary that has been viewed for entertainment, education and validation of the human desire to feel superior or at least accepted by the society that surrounds them. Dr. Martin Luther King had just recently been shot.

A teacher Ms. Elliot decides to constructed a lesson plan with the objective to replicate the racist conditions of their moment in history.

The class was arbitrarily divided into two groups. One was the brown eyed and the other the blue eyed group. Ms. Elliot spent one day favoring brown eyes and one blue eyes, you get to watch what happened. Take the challenge and examine your own prejudice…or not.

7.Forgiving Dr. Mengele

Ever wonder what you would do if you met your arch enemy? He/she is not just your nemesis, but a cold blooded murderer, a crazy scientist who did experiments on people. Would you hurt them, scream at them, or forgive them?

The main character, Eva Mozes Kor is a Holocaust survivor. She and her twin sister had the incredible misfortune of knowing Dr. Mengele. Mengele was and is one of the most notable death monsters of Auschwitz.

Much later in Eva’s life after raising her kids in Indiana, her sister dies. The journey she takes after her death is fascinating and ultimately leads to forgiveness. Could you?

8.Happy: A Documentary

A far cry away from the horrors of WWII, Happy: A Documentary brings the topic of happiness to the screen by following personal stories and interviews of scientists who study happiness. I was surprised by which characters were content and which were not.

I guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised by what happiness means to people, regardless of their visible human condition.

9. Stop Making Sense

Dance your booty off…In 1984, this then-innovative film rocked the world of music. MTV was just beginning to get a national following. This film made music into a time lapsed event. It was no longer about a record, radio or attending a concert. It was put in a new format: film.

The groundbreaking and charismatic David Byrne gives the audience a 3-D musical experience, minus the funny glasses. He is an entertainer, of the likes of David Bowie, a satirical song writer and true artist.

If you got the blues, “Stop Making Sense” is the answer! Watch and boogie.

10. 51 Birch Street

Ask yourself if you would like to know who your parents are outside of being Mom and Dad, and what was or is the reality of their marriage. This very personal documentary created by Doug Block explores all aspects of his parents’ lives through candid interviews.

He is stunned and yet not surprised by what he learns while filming their 50th wedding anniversary. Through his father’s behavior after his mother’s death, he continues to gain insight into their lives.

Enjoy this funny, yet sad true story of two people that created a family together filled with hopes and dreams of love. Truth can be painful, but freeing at the same time. Yes, cliché.

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