This is an ever evolving list of important documentary films that deal with the pressing issues of the day. They range from the effects of war on soldiers and citizens to the indoctination of children at a religion-themed summer camp, from the wonders of nature and animal life to the dangers of propaganda and causes of our economic breakdown. Documentaries are a rich source of information and inspiration. Of the many must-sees, these are, in alphabetical order, current top ten recommendations.
Yael Hersonski's A Film Unfinished is a remarkable holocaust documentary comprised primarily of previously unedited historic footage that was shot by Nazi filmmakers, ostensibly chronicling daily life in the infamous Warsaw Ghetto during World War II. In showing how the Nazi's manipulated information and public impressions about life in the Warsaw Ghetto, it reveals the tremendous power of media and the dangers of propaganda. The film reminds us that we must be continually wary of misinformation and disinformation.
In The Cove, the 2010 Oscar-winner, animal rights activists, Richard O'Barry, the man who trained dolphins for Flipper, and Louis Psihoyos recruit an A Team-like crew of filmmakers and environmentalists to expose Taiji, Japan's fishermen's annual dolphin roundup and slaughter of thousands of dolphins. The film plays like a spy thriller, while revealing the nasty practices of Taiji's annual dolphin slaughter.
Before escaping from Cambodia in 1979, at age ten, Thet Sambath witnessed the murder of his father, forced marriage of his mother to a Khmer Rouge soldier and disappearance of his eldest brother. In 1998, Sambath, by then a journalist in Phnom Penh, embarked on a personal journey to uncover truths about the genocide in his country under the Khmer Rouge. After years of getting to know former Khmer Rouge soldiers and gaining their trust, Sambath got to meet and interview Nuon Chea, Pol Pot's second in command. Sambath's quiet demeanor and objectivity make Nuon Chea's shocking revelations all the more heartbreaking.
Nominated for an Oscar, this 2006 documentary reveals preteens who are being taught to talk in tongues, go into trances and commit themselves to crusading--to dying, even--for Jesus. We follow them from their home environments to summer camp, and then to the streets where they preach to strangers. Much to the credit of directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady, Jesus Camp maintains its objectivity to the degree that the movie is praised equally by fundamentalists, who consider these kids to be their next generation of missionaries, and by liberals, who identify them as potential religious fanatics and terrorists. It is up to you to take in the information, and make your own judgment.
Forty years after the 1964 murders of civil rights workers James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, the State of Mississippi's indictment and trial of 80 year old racist preacher Edgar Ray Killen, the alleged mastermind of the killings, brings out dissension about whether the belated revelation of truth and consequent punishment will bring reconciliation to the community or ignite residual racial tensions.
By all accounts other than his own, Pat Tillman, the pro football player who turned in his multimillion dollar contract to turn himself into a patriot soldier, was a hero -- no, make that Hero, with a capital H. His death in combat came as a shock to his bereaved family and fans, especially as Pat's mother persisted in finding out the truth about its circumstances. This film follows her steadfast journey to learn the truth.