What's up, doc?
When I was young, the idea of going to a cinema to watch a documentary was bizarre. Cinema was for Star Wars and Ghostbusters. Documentaries were for watching at school, or if truly unfortunate, at home.
The growth of documentary cinema has been one of the great surprise stories of recent years, its renaissance starting with 2003’s Touching The Void, the story of an ill-fated climbing expedition in Peru, it mixed interviews with the people involved with dramatic recreations and popularised the docudrama format, since seen in films like The Impostor and Dreams of A Life. The trend continued with Man on Wire in 2008, the story of tightrope walker Philip Petit’s 1974 walk between the twin towers, in turn inspiring 2015’s The Walk, a dramatised version with Joseph Gordon Levitt as Petit. Sadly, even 3D couldn’t compensate for dodgy French accents, and the documentary remains the better film.
There are so many interesting examples it can be difficult to know where to start, so I’ll recommend two available now on Netflix. Tower from 2016, recounts the 1966 University of Texas sniper siege, it uses animated re-enactments and interviews to tell the stories of those involved, showing events in a new and unusual way. Weiner, also from 2016, is the jaw dropping tale of disgraced US politician Anthony Weiner’s failed mayoral campaign. We see extreme hubris, like a modern version of the Icarus myth, but with added sexting. Weiner is painful viewing at times, but hugely watchable nevertheless.
Documentaries can be as funny as the best comedies (Next Goal Wins), can grip like a thriller (Precinct 175) and be as moving as any Oscar winning tear jerker (Amy). Why not try some of the ones coming to Oswestry soon, they’re just like the movies, but true!
By Michael Hudson