Best of 2018: Documentary Films
“In a way you’re on a serendipitous journey, a journey which is much more akin to the life experience. When you see somebody on the screen in a documentary, you’re really engaged with a person going through real life experiences. So for that period of time, as you watch the film, you are, in effect, in the shoes of another individual. What a privilege to have that experience.”
—Albert Maysles, documentary filmmaker
– Crime + Punishment
– The Bleeding Edge
– Recovery Boys
– Mercury 13
– Seeing Allred
– They Shall Not Grow Old
– Reversing Roe
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a legal legend with an incredible intellect to slowly lay down the foundation to put sexual discrimination on the map and in the minds of those in the highest of power. Directors Betsy West and Julie Cohen have put together an eloquent documentary that gets insightful and personal, and you can’t help but relish in the time you get to spend with the Notorious one. It’s a dashing discovery of her perseverance, her gift of getting people to listen, and her power that should never be underestimated.
MINDING THE GAP
An unexpectedly beautiful and stirring documentary about three young men who share a love of skateboarding that becomes their way to heal from their pasts, even if only for a moment. In his stunning first feature, director Bing Liu captures compelling stories in a crumbling Illinois city where family abuse leaves an incredibly lasting impression that must be forgiven. The friendships and relationships that are explored are complicated with no easy answers; but that’s how life is and this immense, intimate journey is them figuring it out.
THREE IDENTICAL STRANGERS
A mind-blowing doc about the significance of nature, and the unbelievably loving way parenting can alter a life. Director Tim Wardle shapes an astonishing, unsettling true story that is part discovery and part detective mystery about triplets being separated at birth, only to be reunited by fate 20 years later. The less you know the better, but brace yourself to be stunned, furious, and left questioning humanity’s empathy for the innocent.
WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?
We are enlightened by director Morgan Neville’s terrific and timely documentary about a television pioneer who gave his life to embolden childhood education while rocking one colorful sweater after another. Being shocking doesn’t seem like Fred Rogers’ style, but he absolutely was for his time. Children were able to understand what it meant to be accepting and kind with each episode when he walked through the door. He had such a pure heart. And, it’s refreshing to see a person have such a genuine understanding of kids and knew love (or lack thereof) could make a world of difference in their lives. In all of our lives. This touching, thoughtful 94 minutes will make most smile, a lot cry, and have us all wanting to be better humans.
Be prepared to have your legs tingling and your palms sweaty. Filmmakers Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin make you a nervous wreck through the entirety of their extraordinary doc about free soloist climber Alex Honnold as he tries to conquer his dream of climbing El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. With no rope and scaling up 3,000 feet, it’s clearly not for the faint of heart. By having laser focus and unflinching dedication, Honnold knows what’s at stake on and off the mountain. But, the risk is heavily outweighed by the reward. The jaw-dropping beauty that surrounds his death-defying moves is just one of many ways this viewing experience is exhilarating and fucking unreal.
“Nature Boy” Brandon Vick is the resident film critic of the SoBros Network, and star of Brandon’s Box Office In Your Mouth. Follow him on Twitter@SirBrandonV and be sure to search #VicksFlicks for all of his latest movie reviews.