I feel like if I have some real blind spots in 2022 it would be in the category of documentary. There are a few of the big hitters I never got around to seeing, and to be honest, unlike last year where we had two big frontliners for the Oscar’s and some very real hopefuls things have felt quieter this year as a whole. Still though, definitely did come across a few worthwhile titles.
Here is my top 5 ranked in decendimg order, along with two outliers:
Fire of Love (Directed By Sara Dosa)
Gorgeous to look at. See it on the big screen if you can as much of the story’s weight stems from the fact that the footage this eccentric couple captured through their generally fearless love affair with volcanoes helped to reshape our understanding of what volcanoes are and how they work. The footage helps to tell this story.
It’s also unquestionably sentimental in the way the Documentary filmmakers write their story. The degree to which this a positive or negative will depend on the viewer, but there is some heavy interpretive work on display here that reaches far beyond the reality of the volcanoes themsleves and their story of capturing these volcanoes in their element, especially when it weaves this into a commentary on the nature of existence.
Stutz (Directed By Jonah Hill)
Raw and honest experiment that is best experienced rather than critiqued. I’m not sure it has an appropriate measure. It’s basically a camera set up to capture the story of Hill’s therapist, or more importantly the ideas his therapist has given him through their time together.
Given it is an experiment it takes some random turns as it becomes aware of its own process. Becomes a film intended to capture and communicate that then instead begins to observe the process of therapy itself. No matter how hard Hill tries to keep it on his therapist, turns out the best way to know his therapists ideas is to see him in action. Through that we get to know intimate parts of of both of them.
Not sure quite where to categorize it. Feels like there is a Buddhist subtext to the therapy? In any case it didn’t isolate me watching it as a Christian. I think it leaves plenty of space for that external force or power to occupy the unknown, the uncertain, the hopeful and unspoken longings. That space where the self meets the other.
My Top 5 Docuementaries of 2022:
Good Night Oppy (Directed By Ryan White)
Very basic but also designed to be a crowd pleaser. If the measure of its success is accomplishing what it sets out to do- making us feel for these robots as though they were human- it should be defined as a success story both in the field and on screen. Of course one of the things the doc needs to do is translate the investment of the professional in their field both emotionally and scientifically, to our own investment in humanity’s and the earth’s future, and it mostly succeeds on this front as well. Do the two things- the sentimentality and the seriousness- sometimes feel a bit at odds? I guess. But that’s not really a detriment to the experience of the film itself
Navalny (Directed By Danuel Roher)
A shocking story that I imagine hits harder if you know nothing about it. Timely given the Russian context. Given the shocking nature of what happens to this singular individual, future leader and critic, the film offers one of the most intense experiences of 2022,
Son of Cornwall (Directed By Lawrence Richards)
“I tried living without God. It was a mes…
So if we’re taking about what drew me back to the love of God, it was a terrible mess I was in.”
A quiet, unassuming doc about an opera singer returning to his home to revisit his past. Lovely and touching, mixing humor with the honesty of his story.
Adrienne (Directed By Adrienne Shelly)
Ya, I’m crying.
And so are you. Or you will be
Tells the heartbreaking story of Adrienne Shelly, affectionately know around here for her work on and in the amazing film Waitress
Decendent (Directed By Margaret Brown)
Shocking and hard-hitting, this documentary set in Africatown, Alabama is a great example of the power of the form at work. It’s a film that digs into the soil of a forgotten history to find the story of what really happened in this place where the last slave ship made landfall. It’s about the past, it’s about the dead. It’s also about the living and the present as it attempts to grapple with the tragic realities of slave history and race relations in America