Hidden Gems: More Real Than Reality

By Walid Habboub

November 30, 2004

We didn't include it, but Winged Migration deserves a spot on the list, too.

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The Reality TV boom that was started with Survivor almost four years ago is slowly losing steam as gluts of reality TV shows disappear faster than Mariah Carrey’s movie career. The irony is that while these shows prospered, the original form of reality television, the feature film documentary, struggled to even maintain itself as a genre. Relegated to art house theatres where they received little fanfare but much critical acclaim, documentaries rarely received much attention. Films such as Heart of Darkness and Hoop Dreams, with the backing of some high profile critics, managed to find a small audience, and while they presented truly real lives, contrived television programs such as Survivor and The Bachelor prospered. The last couple of years, however, have seen a slight shift in people’s attitudes towards documentaries.

To be fair, it might be more accurate to say that documentaries have changed their attitude towards their audience. Documentaries are more accessible today than they have ever been. The films have become less obtuse and focused on more accessible subject matter. The success of Michael Moore has helped fuel in a great way, however; more and more filmmakers are finding unique ways of telling interesting stories outside of simple character studies. Today’s documentary features a high sense of drama and strong emphasis on story telling. While it stops far short of the manipulative garbage presented as “reality” on television, it has catered itself to its audience. Documentary filmmakers understand that it is far more effective to tell an interesting story in an interesting way than it is to present highbrow research and thesis.

We here at BOP have put together reviews of some of our favorite documentaries. These are films that you may have heard of, yet you were on the fence about. All are excellent films that range from the merely fascinating to the powerfully important. We hope we have highlighted a varied array of interesting films that are both entertaining and informative. At the end of the day, these films are reality programming at its best and offer and honest look at interesting people in wholly unique and absorbing situations. We encourage you to read our reviews and strongly consider these films the next time you go to the video store or go to Amazon.com. Every single one of these films is worth the money.

Read reviews of the following films:
Capturing the Friedmans
Death in Gaza
Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara
Hands on a Hard Body
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
Lost in La Mancha
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
Spellbound (by Kim Hollis)
Spellbound (by David Mumpower)



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