Documentaries seem to have a reputation of being dull and repetitive accounts of historical events, frequently shown on TV channels like National Geographic and the Discovery Channel. And while those types of films appeal to documentary lovers like us, they are certainly not for everybody. Here, Roobla presents five documentaries about interesting and gripping topics.
5. Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer
Between 1989 and 1990, prostitute Aileen Wuornos killed seven men and, once caught, pleaded self-defence, arguing that the men had attempted to rape her. In Nick Broomfield’s 2003 documentary, Aileen is on death throw waiting for her execution, and through interviews between the two, it is clear that Wuornos’ mental state is declining; she is increasingly paranoid and claims that the prison uses sonic pressure to control her mind. Broomfield questions her death sentence in the interests of her mental health, and raises questions as to whether she was ever able to stand trial as a clinically ‘sane’ person.
4. Bowling for Columbine
In his documentary from 2002, Michael Moore explores the causes of the Columbine High School Massacre of 1999, in which two high school seniors opened fire on their fellow students and teachers, they also attempted to blow up the building with home-made explosives, resulting in 13 deaths and 21 injuries. Moore subjectively focuses on gun control laws in the United States and the National Rifle Association’s refusal to admit that the availability of weapons is the problem; he even opens a bank account to receive a free firearm to communicate his views. While Moore has received a lot of criticism as to the authenticity of some of his scenes, the film does present a lot of interesting ideas and opinions about the nature of violence in the United States.
3. Grey Gardens
In 1972, the National Enquirer and New York Magazine exposed the awful living conditions of an aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy, Big & Little Edie. The Maysles brothers’s 1975 documentary takes a non-interventionist look at the reclusive women living in squalor in a Hamptons estate, a house infested with fleas and filled with rubbish, and depicts their everyday lives, from their bickering and squabbles and visits from distant relatives.
2. The Bridge
On average, around 30 people a year commit suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. In The Bridge (2006), Eric Steel and his crew of 12 filmed 120 hours of footage of the bridge from afar, and captured one suicide every 15 days. Family and friends of the victims were interviewed unaware that their loved ones deaths were on film; and the project was kept a secret. This documentary is not for the faint hearted and is very upsetting as it clearly depicts the people jumping to their deaths. It also includes an interview with a man who survived, and the devastating consequences on his health. However, The Bridge does achieve a sense of compassion and is quite charismatic as it tells the story of each of the victims; it brings awareness to depression and the safety of the Golden Gate Bridge.
1. Man on Wire
James March’s 2008 Oscar winning Man on Wire depicts high-wire artist Philippe Petit’s amazingly illegal walk between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. It presents Petit’s history and previous famous high-wire walks, interviews with him, his friends and family and a reconstruction of the events in 1974. It’s exhilarating due to the nature of his terrifying acts and gripping in the film’s construction. A must watch.