documentary films


there are no accidents
what are your favorites?

i really dig the BBC nature ones like Life in the Undergrowth -- just amazing photography. so great to watch insects mate and transform and war i feel like a kid. what other nature shows are good?

of course Herzog has made some truly great ones... the one on the auctioneering convention... or the evacuated town in... Argentina was it? so bizarre, yet he finds universal themes in such strange particulars. (or maybe not find but "allows them to be revealed" :confused:

what else is worth seeing? i want to see the new one on Scott Walker.

and what would you LIKE to see a documentary film made about that has not been done?

I would like a series on various cultural anthropological field studies... which reminds me there is one called Keep the River On Your Right, about modern day Cannibals in Peru.
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Well-known member
im always meaning to start a collection of nature docs but never do - though i find them endlessly watchable...there was a documentary i saw a while back about animals living in & scavanging from a rubbish tip - somewhere in eastern europe i think. and another about monkeys living on rooftops in india - the cinematography in that one was beautiful.
id like to see more films about animals living (or failing to live) in urban environments.


there are no accidents
oh and on my list is I Have Nothing to Say and I'm Saying It, the Cage documentary.


tell your friends
Travelling Birds.

My brother bought this a while back and I put in when I was hungover/coming down and was completely enthralled. It's a documentary (with a bit of storytelling) about flocks of birds doing their annual migration. Most of the film consists of hypnotic shots of birds in flight. It's not heavy on the education side of things but focuses more on the drama of the migration.

I highly recommend it.
few favourites

Errol Morris-
Gates of Heaven, The Thin Blue Line

Titicut Follies, High School

Maysles Bros.
Salesman, Grey Gardens

Some good ones online, for those with the divx plugin:

RD Laing- Asylum

The Man Who Eats Badgers

Searching for the Wrong-Eyed Jesus

The Strangest Village in Britain

Elvis in Jarrow

some music ones:

Hawkwind- Do Not Panic

Alchemists of Sound (Radiophonic W/shop)

The Burger and the King (Elvis)

Devil and Daniel Johnston- with spanish subtitles. shhh

I saw The Klaus Nomi doc recently, that was worth a look.

Also if you can get hold of it, the BBC doc " For Better, For Worse" is amazing. follows a rock drummer through a couple of disastrous bands. a friend of a friend got a copy of this from nirvana's tour bus of all places. apparently it was a favourite of some guy in the band called Kurt Cobain. I think this dude might be dead or something now though? I'm not sure.

Karl Kraft

Well-known member
There are two surreal Nature Docs I'd dearly love to track down.. The first I saw several years ago, twas about a small cave under a cellar, in Italy I think, that had sealed up 100's or 1000's of years ago, trapping an entire little ecosystem inside without light, but fed by water seeping through the limestone. All the creatures trapped inside like spiders and other bugs were blind and brilliant white. Everything was white, total white out, it was beautiful.
The second a friend told me about. It was about a third world Baboon colony that lived on a landmine infested area near a landfill. Apparently shards of mirror were highly prized by the baboons, with the higher ranking baboons having big hoards of mirrored glass that they admired themselves in, while the others competed over fragments and incrementaly the troop were wittled down by land mine explosions!
These ring an bells for anyone?

mister matthew

Active member
I just saw a lovely documentary film on teh 1976 Paris-Roubaix cycle race - A Sunday in Hell. Really rather beautiful and simple.

yep that is terriifc. Merckx altering his bike by millimeters like a maniac, the obligatory French workers protest..

and best of all, and im not sure if i just invented this from my shitty pigeon French, but the rider abandoning and getting in the broom wagon, and asking "Am i the first?" "yep" "merde!"


henry s

Street Fighting Man
I get a kick out of contemporary religion documentaries, it's sorta like bearing witness to some kind of odd and exotic civilization, like those Pitcairn's Island folks...two of the better ones are:

Hell House - a peek into a "haunted house" created by a hardcore Pentecostal church at Halloween to dissuade young people from succumbing to the evils of the modern world (homosexuality, drugs, abortion, and of course the one thing that unites them all: the rave!)

Devil's Playground - looks at Rumspringa, the Amish tradition in which teenagers are allowed to "sow their oats" for a year, after which they must decide to rejoin the church (and banish all that fun stuff forever), or ditch Amish culture, and be shunned by their's a tough question!


tell your friends
while your title is infinitely more direct and to the point, i think the actual name of the film is "Winged Migration"? a friend of mine trained the birds for it...

Well it's original name is Le Peuple Migrateur and outside the US/Canada it's English title was 'The Travelling Birds'.

empty mirror

remember the jackalope
My favorite Herzog doc is The Great Ecstacy of Woodcarver Steiner; slow motion shots of ski-jumpers in mid-air. Though Lessons of Darkness (Kuwaiti oil fires) and Fata Morgana are well-worth seeking out. Grizzly Man (the documentary of the Grizzly Man music sessions [called In the Edges] is fantastic if you are a fan of Richard Thompson [keep an eye out for Jim O'Rourke putting screws in the piano!]) and Little Dieter Needs to Fly can't be left out.

Grey Gardens is classic. After it ended, I just started playing the disc again.

Chris Marker's Sans Soleil is required viewing. I had the good fortune of seeing this on film some years back. But DVD seems rather more appropriate.

The Sun Ra doc, A Joyful Noise, is pretty great for Ra fans. Lots of footage of the man himself rambling on about time and the cosmos. Shots of him inside the Masonic Grand Lodge in Philly, and the band playing on the roof of the International House.
There are two surreal Nature Docs I'd dearly love to track down..

I want to see these two as well now!

this fellows stuff is beautiful
Love life of the octopus soundtrack by pierre henry too!

going to have to buy the dvd there.

I enjoyed hell house.

ulrich siedl's tierische liebe is another jawdropper. finally got hold of that recently. forgot about morris' vernon florida, and also i saw an affecting swedish doc of teen delinquents a few years ago, dom kallar oss mods.

sans soleil isn't really a documentary- if we can have that in here we can almost have spinal tap as well ;)

empty mirror

remember the jackalope

I enjoyed hell house.

sans soleil isn't really a documentary- if we can have that in here we can almost have spinal tap as well ;)

hell house was fantastic! born-again christians is mainly a US-phenomenon, no?

as far as sans soleil not being a documentary... i wonder how strict we have to be about the term. herzog does not consider his docs to be documentary, but prefers the term "science fiction" because he is known to fabricate/stretch the truth in service to a deeper artistic, ecstatic truth, rather than the truth of book-keepers. nevertheless, you and i would consider those films documentaries rather than "science fiction" for the ease of communication and a facile taxonomy. i have no trouble considering sans soleil a documentary because it is a document of a poetic truth, a mapping of the mind of an earth traveler.

i forgot to list Agnes Varda's documentary "The Gleaners and I". Another poem in film; this one explores the act of gleaning; that is, stooping to gather what is valuable, and leaving behind the detritus.


there are no accidents
Grizzly Man (the documentary of the Grizzly Man music sessions [called In the Edges] is fantastic if you are a fan of Richard Thompson [keep an eye out for Jim O'Rourke putting screws in the piano!])

huh? i've seen this but don't remember no jim o'rourke?

i really enjoyed the faux documentary about herzog making a documentary about the Loch Ness monster as well - Incident at Loch Ness. some genuine WTF moments for me.

Sans Soleil

this is one of the few things i need to have around at all times. who knows how many times i've seen it, and everytime as if not more enjoyable than the last.

went to a chris marker "festival" once and saw some other equally as amazing things... one about Africa was so amazing... i need to track it down pronto!