Documentaries

145087521_7e877def3f

Recommended viewing

Peak Oil

A Crude Awakening – The Oil Crash– Award-winning filmmakers examine the world’s dependency on oil and the impending chaos that’s sure to follow when the resource is dry in this straight-from-the-headlines documentary. Through expert interviews on a hot-button topic that might represent the world’s most dire crisis, the film underscores our desperate need for alternative energy and spells out in startling detail the challenge we face in finding it.

Crude Impact– Oil may have fueled the development of the modern industrial society, but as this compelling documentary explains, it’s also triggered political conflict, greed, environmental devastation and an addiction to consumption. Director James Jandak Wood traces how the world has become dependent on fossil fuels — a resource that someday will be gone — and how little has been done to develop alternative energy sources.

The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and the Collapse of the American Dream– This provocative documentary, a regular on the film-festival circuit, examines the history of suburban life and the wisdom of this distinctly American way of life. A post-World War II concept, suburbia attracted droves of people, giving rise to sprawl and all that comes with it — good and bad. How has the environment been affected by this lifestyle, and is it sustainable? Canadian director Gregory Greene dares to ask all the tough questions.

Escape From Suburbia: Beyond the American Dream– After condemning America’s oil dependency in his 2004 documentary The End of Suburbia, filmmaker Gregory Greene here addresses the solutions that will avert catastrophe, outlining the issues actively moving the energy crisis from theory to reality. Spurred to action by the realities of peak oil, Greene focuses his camera on individuals across the country brave enough to challenge and instigate their communities into serious change.

The Oil Factor– Despite official statements that U.S. wars in the Middle East and Central Asia are being waged in the name of terror, it’s hard to ignore that three-quarters of the world’s oil supply comes from these regions. This thought-provoking documentary explores the realities of the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan and sheds light on the United States’ true motives. Featured experts include Noam Chomsky and author Ahmed Rashid.

The Power Of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil– When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1990, Cuba’s economy went into a tailspin. With imports of oil cut by more than half – and food by 80 percent – people were desperate. This film tells of the hardships and struggles as well as the community and creativity of the Cuban people during this difficult time. Cubans share how they transitioned from a highly mechanized, industrial agricultural system to one using organic methods of farming and local, urban gardens. It is an inspiring look into the Cuban culture during this economic crisis, which they call “The Special Period.” Cuba, being the only country that has faced such a crisis – the massive reduction of fossil fuels – is an example of options and hope.

Economics

Ascent of Money– British historian and author Niall Ferguson explains how big money works today as well as the causes of and solutions to economic catastrophes. Through interviews with top experts, such as former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker and American currency speculator George Soros, the intricate world of finance, including global commerce, banking and lending, is examined thoroughly.

i.o.u.s.a. – With the country’s debt growing out of control, Americans by and large are unaware of the looming financial crisis. This documentary examines several of the ways America can get its economy back on the right track. In addition to looking at the federal deficit and trade deficit, the film also closely explores the challenges of funding national entitlement programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

FRONTLINE: Ten Trillion and Counting – What do you do when you’re hundreds of billions of dollars in debt and still counting? That’s what “Frontline” seeks to find out in this episode that explores the impact of the growing national deficit on President Obama’s plans for this country. Enlisting commentary from financial experts and government finance insiders, the program explains why our national debt has soared and offers solutions for reducing it.

Frontline: Inside the Meltdown– Shining a light on the economic meltdown that changed the mood of the 2008 presidential election, this edition of “Frontline” offers an inside look at what caused the crisis and who — if anyone — could have stopped it. Segments focus on the failures of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG; the U.S. government bailout costing taxpayers $700 billion; and the roles of the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve in repairing the damage.

In Debt We Trust– Danny Schechter investigates Americans’ ongoing love affair with credit cards and the staggering level of personal debt it’s created, paying special attention to the relationship between Congress and the credit card industry. In a modern society that’s increasingly “financialized,” consumer debt is so common that extending credit has become highly lucrative.

Frontline: Breaking the Bank – With an eye on the financial crisis that sent Wall Street reeling in the midst of the 2008 presidential election, this penetrating edition of “Frontline” investigates what went wrong, who’s to blame and how long it will take to repair the damage. Specifically, the program looks at the role of so-called “superbanks” and other players in the housing market’s soaring fortunes — and its ultimately devastating decline.

Globalization

Life And Debt – This searing documentary examines how the policies of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other aid organizations have changed the Jamaican economy over the past quarter of a century, leaving the local people to struggle in poverty and work in sweatshops.

Darwin’s Nightmare– Only the fittest survive in this moving documentary by Hubert Sauper about hard-scrabble life in Tanzania. While hungry Tanzanians are left to fend for themselves on whatever they can get their hands on — fish heads, scraps — their waters are emptied of perch that’s imported to wealthier nations. Weapons are brought in far more often than food and clothing for the needy, as the country teeters on the brink of devastation.

Food

Food, Inc.– Drawing on Eric Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation and Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, director Robert Kenner’s documentary explores the food industry’s detrimental effects on our health and environment. Kenner spotlights the men and women who are working to reform an industry rife with monopolies, questionable interpretations of laws and subsidies, political ties and rising rates of E. coli outbreaks.

The Future of Food– Before compiling your next grocery list, you might want to watch this eye-opening documentary, which sheds light on a shadowy relationship between agriculture, big business and government. By examining the effects of biotechnology on the nation’s smallest farmers, the director reveals the unappetizing truth about genetically modified foods: You could unknowingly be serving them for dinner.

King Corn– In Aaron Woolf’s thought-provoking documentary, friends Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis move back to America’s Corn Belt to plant an acre of the nation’s most-grown and most-subsidized grain and follow their crop into the U.S. food supply. What they learn about genetically modified seeds, powerful herbicides and the realities of modern farming calls into question government subsidies, the fast-food lifestyle and the quality of what we eat.

Super Size Me – On the heels of recent lawsuits against McDonald’s, this documentary takes a hilarious and often terrifying look at the effects of fast food on the human body. For one month, Spurlock eats nothing but McDonald’s, ordering everything on the menu and “super-sizing” his order whenever asked. The result is a sobering examination of the line between personal and corporate responsibility.

Bad Seed: The Truth About Our Food– Sixty percent of the food Americans eat has been genetically altered or engineered, and the jury is out on whether this could harm the population. Wanting to explore this issue further, 20-year-old Adam Curry traveled to San Francisco, Oregon, Washington, Iowa, Virginia, Britain and Nova Scotia to make this documentary. He talks to nutritionists, physicians, scientists, farmers and other experts in an effort to uncover the truth about our food.

Fed Up! Genetic Engineering, Industrial Agriculture and Sustainable Alternatives – Nominated for an Environmental Media Award, this eye-opening documentary explores the United States’ food production system from the organic farming of the Green Movement to the genetically engineered food of the Biotech Revolution. Through fascinating archival footage and interviews with farmers, scientists, government officials and activists, Fed Up! provides a detailed and sometimes disturbing overview of contemporary food production.

Fast Food Nation – Richard Linklater’s fictional tale (inspired by Eric Schlosser’s 2001 nonfiction book of the same name) critiques the junk-food juggernaut that’s arguably responsible for America’s alarming obesity rates. Greg Kinnear plays Don Henderson, a corporate exec of a national fast-food chain, who follows beef’s journey from the corrals to the slaughterhouses — and ultimately to your stomach.

Water

Flow: How did a handful of corporations steal our water– From both local and global perspectives, this documentary examines the harsh realities behind the mounting water crisis. Learn how politics, pollution and human rights are intertwined in this important issue that affects every being on Earth. With water drying up around the world and the future of human lives at stake, the film urges a call to arms before more of our most precious natural resource evaporates.

Environment

Who Killed the Electric Car?– Amid a volatile climate of ever-changing gas prices, this documentary delves into the short life of the GM EV1 electric car — a fuel-efficient auto that was once all the rage in the mid-1990s and now has fallen by the roadside. How could such a green-friendly vehicle fail to transform lives? Through interviews with government officials, former GM employees and concerned celebs, filmmaker Chris Paine seeks to find out.

The 11th Hour– Actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s documentary on the global environmental crisis paints a portrait of a planet at risk while also offering some exciting and radical solutions for making life on earth sustainable. Tapping the brains of leading scientists and thinkers — including Stephen Hawking and Mikhail Gorbachev — the film ultimately delivers a hopeful message: Our planet may be in crisis, but that doesn’t mean it’s too late change.

National Geographic: Six Degrees Could Change the World– This sobering documentary examines the incremental effects of climate change across the globe. Each degree of temperature change means devastating new consequences, and some scientists believe mankind is just six degrees away from utter disaster. Heat waves, drought, rising ocean levels and armed conflict over resources are just some of the grim predictions. Is there anything that can be done to reverse this alarming trend?

National Geographic: Human Footprint – With the aid of eye-opening visuals, this National Geographic special illustrates the true nature of the “footprints” human beings leave behind on the planet. By tracing the arc of an average person’s life — a time period that spans about 2.5 billion seconds — the program reveals how much energy a person consumes, how much waste he or she produces and even how many people they will have met by the time they die.

Planet in Peril– CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, CNN’s chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and Animal Planet host and wildlife biologist Jeff Corwin take viewers around the globe for a two-part documentary on the threats to the world’s environment. Filmed in 13 countries, “Planet in Peril” brings viewers the stories behind the statistics, uncovering places where environmental change is not a theory or a future forecast but a crisis happening in real time.

Life After People– Imagine what Earth would be like without people. … Based on expert research and featuring Industrial Light and Magic’s state-of-the-art imagery, this program reveals what the planet could be like centuries from now, without human inhabitants. Stunning animations present the effect a human-free Earth would have on natural resources, plants and animals. The program also examines the fate of many manmade structures.

An Inconvenient Truth– Director-producer Davis Guggenheim (HBO’s “Deadwood”) captures former Vice President Al Gore in the midst of waging a passionate campaign — not for the White House, but for the environment — in this Oscar-winning documentary. Laying out the facts of global warming without getting political, Gore makes a sobering impression on the audiences who hear his message, urging them to act “boldly, quickly and wisely” … before it’s too late.

Out of Balance – Documentarian Tom Jackson turns his lens on some inconvenient truths about energy titan Exxon Mobil and its effect on climate change. Spotlighting the company’s efforts to fund skewed media campaigns and support global-warming skeptics, Jackson builds his case in interviews with leading writers and scientists in the field of climatology. The film also explains the science behind global warming, as well as offering up some solutions to the crisis.

Everything’s Cool– In this documentary, the filmmakers follow a troupe of self-proclaimed global warming “warriors” on a mission to get the world to care about rising temperatures and melting polar ice caps. Taking a topic that’s inherently serious and applying their signature blend of humor and emotional heft, Gold and Helfand advance the environmental dialogue in a surprisingly entertaining way.

No Impact Man– A Fifth Avenue family goes very green when writer Colin Beavan leads his wife, Michelle Conlin, and their baby daughter on a yearlong crusade to make no net impact on the environment in this engaging documentary. Among their activities: eating only locally grown organic food, generating no trash except for compost and using no carbon-fueled transportation. Laura Gabbert and Justin Schein’s film premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.

Toxins/Pollution

Blue Vinyl: The World’s First Toxic Comedy– In this sardonic but sobering exposé, activist filmmakers Judith Helfand and Daniel B. Gold reveal the potentially toxic effects of polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is used in everything from cars to water mains to toys. Armed with a piece of blue vinyl siding, Helfand and Gold head to Louisiana — America’s vinyl-manufacturing capital — and to Italy, where bigwigs from a PVC-producing company stand accused of manslaughter in a landmark case.

Poison Dust– By telling the stories of three veterans of the war in Iraq who haven’t been able to find explanations for the medical problems they’ve suffered since their 2003 tours of duty, director Sue Harris reveals a public health issue few people are aware of. Could the increased use of radioactive depleted-uranium weapons — and a subsequent Pentagon cover-up — be to blame for the rise in serious health issues among soldiers returning from Iraq?

Media / Advertising

Frontline: The Persuaders – Frontline examines the inner workings of advertising and public relations and the men and women — dubbed “persuaders” — whose job it is to influence the buying habits of today’s consumers. See how they research the preferences of shoppers, pique their interest, entice them to part with their hard-earned money, and get their own messages across in an increasingly complicated and tech-savvy world.

Outfoxed – Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism– Filmmaker Robert Greenwald delivers a no-holds-barred documentary on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News cable channel, which has been criticized in certain quarters as running a “race to the bottom” in television news. Featuring interviews with a range of media experts, the film offers an in-depth look at the dangers of burgeoning corporations that take control of the public’s right to know and explores Murdoch’s ever-expanding media empire.

America the Beautiful – This provocative documentary examines America’s fixation with outward appearance and the unrealistic standards of beauty dictated to the public by the media, pop culture and the fashion industry. Featuring interviews with fashion experts, media personalities and celebrities such as Mena Suvari and Aisha Tyler, the film looks at everything from plastic surgery’s growing popularity to widespread concerns about eating disorders.

Corporations

The Corporation– Filmmakers explore the genesis of the American corporation, its global economic supremacy and its psychopathic leanings, with social critics like Noam Chomsky and Milton Friedman lending insight in this documentary. With their merciless quest for profit and insatiable aim to sway every aspect of culture, conglomerates’ inner workings are scrutinized to draw conclusions about “business as usual.”

Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room– Based on the book of the same name by Peter Elkin,this documentary takes a behind-the-scenes look at the powerful energy company whose downfall forever changed the landscape of the business world. With a blend of fascinating footage, fast-paced interviews and a wealth of information, this film is a serious lesson in the potential trappings of dishonesty and unethical behavior dogging corporate America.

Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price– Filmmaker Robert Greenwald takes aim at the corporate giant that’s come to symbolize big business in America — Wal-Mart — blasting the box-store Goliath for allegedly paying substandard wages, skimping on employee benefits and gutting communities. This hard-hitting, emotional documentary profiles the struggle of everyday folks from around the country who’ve committed themselves to fighting the mega-retailer.

Frontline: Is Wal-Mart Good for America? – This PBS series dares to pose a question: Is one of America’s biggest corporations actually ruining the economy? Marching across the nation, the big-box chain brings jobs and much-needed retail options to many towns. But, as a major purveyor of goods, the company’s also hacked away at manufacturing jobs stateside, since the bulk of its products are made in China. Here, “Frontline” examines two cities profoundly affected by the Wal-Mart movement.

Politics

The Power of Nightmares– Given the impact of 9/11 and with media sensationalism at an all-time high, this three-part documentary explores the use of fear for political gain. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” examines historical aspects of international threats. “The Phantom Victory” looks at how two seemingly disparate groups — radical Islamists and neo-conservatives — apply similar tactics. And “The Shadows in the Cave” begs the question, “Is organized terrorism an illusion?”

Bowling for Columbine– Famed filmmaker and left-wing political humorist Michael Moore tackles America’s obsession with firearms in this Oscar-winning documentary that focuses mainly on the Columbine High School massacre of 1999. Moore also visits a bank that gives each new customer a free gun, recites statistics for gun deaths in the United States and interviews folks ranging from National Rifle Association spokesman Charlton Heston to shock rocker Marilyn Manson.

Unconstitutional – The War On Our Civil Liberties – Following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001, Congress passed a series of legislations known as The Patriot Act, which is designed to assist law enforcement in preventing future terrorist attacks. Take an inside look at this controversial bill through the eyes of legal analysts and constitutional experts as they examine the possible dangers The Patriot Act poses to our civil liberties and individual freedoms.

America Betrayed – In this searing documentary, investigative reporter Leslie Cardé shines a light on America’s crumbling roads, bridges and dams and exposes how self-serving politicians have shifted needed public funds away from the country’s aging infrastructure. Narrated by Richard Dreyfuss, the film examines the New Orleans levees that failed during Hurricane Katrina, revealing that this was not an isolated event, but one of many neglected public projects.

Healthcare

Sicko– Michael Moore sets his sights on the plight of the uninsured in this Oscar-nominated documentary that uses Moore’s trademark humor and confrontational style to ask the difficult questions and get to the truth behind the health care crisis. In the world’s richest country, 45 million people have no health insurance, while HMOs grow in size and wealth. Moore also explores the widespread use of antidepressants and their possible link to violence.

Killer at Large– Obesity causes 110,000 American deaths each year and plays a role in one-third of all cancer deaths. Yet, despite ballooning concerns, little is being done on the public policy level, as this probing documentary explains. Exploring the issue from individual, political, scientific and cultural perspectives.

History

Guns, Germs, and Steel– Why is life on Earth inequitable? After journeying to the four corners of the world to answer to that query, Prof. Jared Diamond came up with a straightforward explanation: People’s fortunes hinge on their geography and their contact with guns, germs and steel. Interlacing science, anthropology and historical reenactments, this insightful documentary based on Diamond’s best-selling book brings to life his intriguing hypothesis.

The Dark Ages– Beginning with Rome’s fall in the fifth century, this History Channel presentation sheds light on the Dark Ages, covering the continentwide chaos, including raids by Vikings, Vandals and Visigoths, bubonic plague, famine, civil unrest and more. The program takes viewers from the darkest of times to the dawn of a new beginning as the turmoil besieging Europe gives rise to the Crusades, the Enlightenment and the Renaissance.

Empire/Civilisation/Society

What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire– Human civilization is on a dire path toward self-destruction, according to this illuminating documentary that explains the often hidden connections between global warming, the waning supply of oil, the faltering economy and other critical trends. Making it clear that there are no easy answers to these world-threatening issues, writer-director Tim Bennett paints an ominous picture, supported by input from several prominent scientists and activists.

Radiant City – In the prosperity following World War II, American cities gave way to suburbs. This intriguing tongue-in-cheek documentary explores the development of suburban life over the last 50 years and the effect that urban sprawl has had on American society. Experts offer commentary on the reasons for the flight to the suburbs, the way of life it engendered and how inhabitants learned to create their own culture from essentially artificial surroundings.

War

Uncovered – The Whole Truth About the Iraq War – This controversial documentary takes you behind the walls of the U.S. government as CIA, Pentagon and Foreign Service experts address the government’s reasons for launching the “preemptive” war on Iraq in 2003. Through interviews, more than 20 experts (including weapons inspectors and a former CIA operative) offer their views on what they claim was distortion of intelligence information by the Bush administration to purposely mislead the public. 

The Fog of War – Eleven Lessons from the life of Robert S. McNamara– This Oscar-winning documentary traces former Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s career from government to the World Bank; but his work during the Vietnam War — examined through archival footage and interviews — is the real highlight. Having worked for both presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson, McNamara played a key role in shaping both administrations’ approaches to the conflict.

911

Fahrenheit 9/11– Michael Moore’s hard-hitting documentary addresses the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, outlining the reasons the United States (and, in turn, thousands of innocent Americans) became a target for hatred and terrorism. The film not only criticizes President George W. Bush’s response to the attacks but also reinforces Moore’s theory that the Bush Administration used the tragic event to push its own political agenda.

911 in Plane Site – This provocative documentary probes the theories behind the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, focusing on live video footage captured that day that aired only once on TV and was never shown again. The film examines alternative causes of the crash on the Pentagon and questions whether the damage was inflicted by a 757. The documentary also asks if explosives might have been already present in the World Trade Center and aboard United Airlines Flight 175.

Religion

Religulous– Politically provocative talk show host Bill Maher skewers the current state of organized religion in this hot-button documentary that derives its title from a blend of the words “religion” and “ridiculous.” Making stops in Jerusalem, the Vatican and other holy destinations, Maher travels the world to talk to believers from a variety of faiths to find out why they’re so sure their religion is right — and why they’re so certain others are wrong.

Jesus Camp– This riveting Oscar-nominated documentary offers an unfiltered look at a revivalist subculture in which devout Christian youngsters are being primed to deliver the fundamentalist community’s religious and political messages. Building an evangelical army of tomorrow, the Kids on Fire summer camp in Devil’s Lake, N.D., is dedicated to deepening the preteens’ spirituality and sowing the seeds of political activism.

Photo by: sugu

2 comments

  1. I`m pleased to see The Power of Nightmares on this list. I would suggest adding Century of the Self to the Media/Advertising section. It is from Adam Curtis as well.

    I have to check out some of the other names on your list, and looking forward (kinda…) to it!

    Great blog, by the way.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s