Documentaries of 2015: Top of the Doc’s

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December is not only a time to set expectations but also review the past year. 2015 has been a tremendous year for documentaries. As Michael Brault once said,

“I don’t know what the truth is. Truth is something unattainable. We can’t think we’re creating truth with a camera. But what we can do, is reveal something to viewers that allows them to discover their own truth.

The kind folks at I-D have been kind enough to draft some of their favourite documentaries of 2015. Take note.

‘Cartel Land’ showcases a haunting portrayal of combatting crime at either side of the Mexico/US Borders. (If this is something you are interested in, also be sure to check out Sicario, one of my favourite films of 2015). If you fancy expanding your knowledge of Tom Cruise’s religion of choice, Scientology watch ‘Going Clear’. Costume jewellery icon, Iris Apfel was immortalised in her own biopic, ‘Iris’. There is clearly no stopping this accessories fashionista.

Good documentaries are defined by their ability to inform the viewer and provoke further speculation, in an effort to make their own assessment. The nature of the human being is that of curiosity. Especially orientated around elite people like singers, politicians and actors. It would be criminal not to note the films acknowledging the singers Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse former years.

The Top 6 from the collaborative list denotes common themes of both sadness and triumph. Whether from a union of brothers to eclipse their corporeal bounds, singers that lyrics will live on long after they are gone or the urging of a film maker that simply, all lives matter.

Field Niggas

“The combination is simple: a lot of slow motion portraiture combined with a soundtrack of snippets of people’s conversation and interview, This straightforward method yields one of the most powerful and compassionate statements on race, on politics, on class, on policing, on drugs, that I’ve encountered in contemporary American cinema”  Zach Campbell, Critics Roundup

The Look of Silence

“So singular a high-wire achievement is “The Act of Killing,” Joshua Oppenheimer’s blistering 2012 documentary about the Indonesian communist purge of the 1960s, that following it up so shortly with a second film on the subject might seem complacent on paper. There are as few safe moves as there are false notes, however, in “The Look of Silence,” an altogether stunning companion piece that shifts its emphasis from the perpetrators of the atrocity to their victims, all the while maintaining its predecessor’s ornate moral complexities, keen sociological shading and occasional, devastating jabs of humour. U.S. rights have again been snapped up by Drafthouse Films; it’s hard to imagine any distributor that successfully took a chance on Oppenheimer last time around passing on this equally formidable work, which will be accumulating festival berths and trophies well into 2015.” Guy Lodge, Variety Magazine

Heart of a Dog

“Near the end of her dreamy, drifty and altogether lovely movie “Heart of a Dog,” Laurie Anderson does what she is so great at doing: She tells a story. This one is too powerful to ruin here, but the story and its placement speak to how she makes meaning. Speaking in voice-over, as she does throughout, with her perfect phrasing and warm, gently wry tone, she recounts a harrowing episode from her childhood.” Mahnola Dargi, New York Times

The Wolfpack

“Director Crystal Moselle first met the long-haired Angulo brothers in Reservoir Dogs drag (shades and suits) as they enjoyed a rare outing on the streets of New York. Raised in seclusion by their dominating Peruvian father, Oscar, the boys had been home-schooled and sheltered from the world – one year, they didn’t leave their Lower East Side apartment at all. Instead, they learned about life through watching and restaging popular movies (The Dark Knight proves a transformative text), honing the performance skills which make them such camera-ready subjects for this revelatory yet admirably unsensationalist documentary. Mark Kermode, Observer Film Critic

Kurt Kobain: Montage of Heck

“Montage of Heck director Brett Morgen has said that the structure of his ­documentary was inspired by Lenny, Bob Fosse’s 1974 biopic about comic Lenny Bruce, another mythologized artist whose life ended tragically. The parallels are there, but visually and aurally, Montage of Heck, which debuted on HBO on May 4, felt like another ’70s classic, Apocalypse Now, with a doomed central character named Kurtz, not Kurt.” Frank DiGiacomo, Billboard Magazine


“It is the achievement of Amy, Asif Kapadia’s accomplished, quietly devastating documentary, that it makes the story of this troubled and troubling individual surprisingly one of a kind by allowing us to, in a sense, live her life along with her.” Kenneth Turan, Los Angeles Times

So, did I-D surmise the best documentaries of 2015? If not, what would you recommend? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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