The documentary film is an interesting creature. Film fans often find them and adore them, becoming cheerleaders for films like The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters and Exit Through the Gift Shop; while a large chunk of the movie-going audience seemingly abhor these slices of life on celluloid. Sure, every now and then a few good documentaries slip into the mainstream but these tend to have sensational topics (Super Size Me), are particularly current (Bowling for Columbine) or star some kind of celebrity (An Inconvenient Truth). The stigma of these films being boring or preachy is unfair. Documentaries can be just as exciting as the gluttony of superhero films that invade multiplexes and can easily make you have more feels than any super pale and sparkly vampire. I’m here to change your mind.
Let’s start off with a freebie. Out now on numerous instant platforms and coming to theaters June 28 is a little film called A Band Called Death. Oh, you want to know what it’s about? Well, here you go. In the early 1970s Detroit, Michigan was the home of Motown. Hitsville U.S.A. is responsible for everyone from Aretha to Michael and a genre of music that is enjoyed to this day. Meanwhile, in the spare bedroom of a small house three teenagers were inventing a genre all their own. The brothers called themselves Death and they were not only the first all black punk band, but the first punk band period, years before the Sex Pistols or the Ramones. The band’s name and a culture that expected a different sound prevented the trio from making it big, but time has a way of fostering discovery.
Does that sound like a film worth seeing? If you said no, Smurfs 2 comes out this summer and it might be more your speed. Documentary film has plenty of great stories to tell; it’s time to open your mind and start branching out into the non-narrative game. In hopes that you’ll heed my call, here is a starter pack of 10 documentaries that you’ve probably never seen but are totally worth your time.
This article was first posted on June 14, 2013