In general, I’m more of a non-fiction than a fiction reader. It’s not that I object to fiction, or genres like sci-fi or fantasy; it’s the writing style that pushes me away. Writers trying to impress you with their command of language, their so-called imagination, or their dense, baroque descriptions. Not that these things affect all fiction, nor that they can’t affect non-fiction, but it happens much less often.
For film, the situation is different. Making a good documentary is difficult. Many of them fail to find a good rhythm, a narrative thread, or engaging interview subjects. Also, some documentarists seem to think that tackling an important topic excuses them from needing to make a good movie. On the other hand, fiction films can be easy to digest, the descriptive element shifted from language to cinematography and soundtrack.
When documentaries are successful, though, they can be among the best of films. You see in them characters and plots that a fiction film cannot pull off. Reality can beat fiction. I was reminded of that when watching my latest documentary discovery: The King of Kong. I’ve seen some good films in the last months, but The King of Kong had me jumping in my seat.
Since documentaries aren’t that well known, here’s a few I recommend highly:
The King of Kong: yes, it’s about men playing video games, but trust me, watch it.
The Fog of War
The Thin Blue Line: film noir which happens to be a documentary.
Food Inc.: the best environmentalist documentary I’ve seen.
Does anyone have more recommendations?