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Documentary that you found facinating/interesting?


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Posted on May 4, 2012 10:18:10 PM PDT
Deep Water (2006)

This documentary is stunning. "Deep Water" is one of the most thought provoking, powerful films I have seen. Incredibly tragic, with, I assure you, no happy ending, I feel the need to watch it again to think and digest what was presented to me. The description on the film sleeve doesn't do it justice: "In 1969, Donald Crowhurst, a former engineer whose bravado outweighed his sailing experience, entered a London Times-sponsored yacht race around the world....Refusing to turn back even as his homemade boat took on water, he depended on his ingenuity to survive the dangers of the sea and the threat of insanity." Yeah, that's part of it, but there is so much more to this story.

This is a Greek tragedy in spades. I compare Crowhurst's experience to the sinking of the Titanic in that if ONE thing had turned out differently anywhere along the line, maybe the ending would have been different. Crowhurst was at best a weekend sailor, attempting a solo, round the world race (at this point in world history, no-one had successfully done this), on a boat that wasn't finished, wasn't seaworthy, and that took on water in calm seas. No-one tried to talk him out of his hair-brained idea of competing. He had strong financial reasons for staying in the race, and was in danger of bankruptcy and losing his home (he had a wife and four small children) if he quit. Early in the race, he knew he wouldn't be able to quit and return home, and he knew his boat couldn't survive the rough waters in the southern oceans. So his choice was: ignominy, failure, and bankruptcy vs probable death. What to do?

Crowhurst created a third option, which actually impressed me in that had it succeeded, he would have found a clever way out of a terrible predicament. I can't tell you what he did without revealing a major spoiler. Just remember this is a Greek tragedy. Let me simply say, things didn't go well (for once, through no fault of his own) and his plan did not succeed. His metamorphosis from genial loser to tragic hero has my head and my heart reeling. What would I have done in his shoes? What makes a hero? When is it okay to step on someone's dream? Is it braver to face certain ridicule and failure or to keep on trying, even when the odds are virtually 100% against you? I will be pondering these and other questions for some time to come.

This documentary incorporates actual race footage of Crowhurst and other competitors, readings from his logs, as well as current interviews with family and others involved.

This is the best film I have seen all year. 5 of 5 stars. Highly recommended!

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2012 7:00:34 AM PDT
bella7 says:
Sounds good. Thanks Mischief Girl!

Posted on May 5, 2012 8:33:29 AM PDT
AKN says:
Has anyone seen the documentary on blimps and unusual aircraft which shows a giant blimp picking up giant trees that were logged in the Pacific Northwest?

One scene shows old footage of six helicopters holding a huge platform in the air with a huge blimp on it, and the entire thing crumbles horribly, pulling the copters down with it.

I saw this decades ago on TV and would give anything to see it a again.

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2012 9:45:32 AM PDT
bella7 says:
Hi Bernadette,

I've been searching to try and find this for you.

Could it be:
Zeppelin,
Airships: Dirigibles and Blimps or
The Airships (http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Airships-DVD/dp/B0012YG7P0/ref=pd_bxgy_d_h__img_b)?

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2012 12:23:09 PM PDT
FLbeachbum says:
Yes, you're absolutely right; "Deep Water" is extraordinary - and so is the book it stems from: "The Strange Last Voyage of Donald Crowhurst". It's possibly the most compelling story I've ever read (and I read all the time).

Posted on May 5, 2012 1:08:34 PM PDT
curious cook says:
King Corn

A funny, charming--and alarming--film about two guys who set out to discover the pervasiveness of corn in our current food supply. During the course of making the film, the two convince a Nebraska farmer to allow them to cultivate an acre of corn from planting it to selling it at the grain elevators. It is an informative film about a rather insidious ingredient. The two manage to be respectful of the farmers even while dissecting the issue. Currently it is free to Prime members.

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2012 1:14:55 PM PDT
bella7 says:
curious cook,

I saw that one. Very interesting, indeed.

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2012 4:37:14 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 5, 2012 4:37:51 PM PDT
AKN says:
bella7: Thank you so much for trying to help..!

Those don't look old enough, this would have been maybe 20 years old, it had lots of very old footage of airships, much in black and white, mostly of various wierd disasters. I have never forgotten that documentary for all the incredible old film clips of the strangest aircraft ever invented, much of it shown disintegrating, crashing or blowing up.

Posted on May 5, 2012 7:14:49 PM PDT
AKN says:
I think I found it, Ballooning, Blimps and the great Airships.

I found a link to some rare documentaries with old footage at this link:

www.michiganhistoryvideos.com

In reply to an earlier post on May 5, 2012 9:52:42 PM PDT
Hikari says:
M.G.
Now my interest is piqued. I was not familiar with Donald Crowhurst, but his story sounds like Into the Wild on water. I will have to check it out.

My list is now up to: 2 from bella and now this one.

In reply to an earlier post on May 6, 2012 12:38:52 PM PDT
I'm watching Deep Water again, tonight, with the boyfriend. He's a sailor and fisherman from way back, so I think it will be interesting for him to see.

In reply to an earlier post on May 6, 2012 7:26:31 PM PDT
Hikari says:
That really was an excellent review. That one's going in the Netflix queue if I ever manage to return my copy of "Carnage". lol

In reply to an earlier post on May 14, 2012 9:08:01 PM PDT
thanks, Hiki, for the compliment. I only just saw your post.

I just finished the documentary Southern Comfort, from 2001

Southern Comfort tells the story of a transgender female-to-male, and follows his story during the last year of his life. Tragically and ironically, he is dying from ovarian cancer. When he went through his gender reassignment surgeries, he requested to have a hysterectomy, but the doctors said "You're going through menopause, there is no need." So, yes, the last female part of his body that he has was killing him.

I can't imagine the guts it took to make this film, especially as the major players live in Georgia. One was quite open about her fear of losing her job once the movie came out. Several talk about their fear of neighbors coming to do them harm, as they would believe they were following "God's will".

We meet Robert and his partner, Lola, who is transexual. We also meet two other couples, one of whom was a female-to-male married to a genetic female, the other couple were post-surgery transgenders (so the female used to be a male, and the male used to be female). Still with me? Good.

I watch documentaries to learn about cultures, people and experiences unknown to me, and this community certainly was unknown to me (despite my having lived in San Francisco for 10+ years). I was expecting to have a more emotional response to this man's fight for life and his situation, but I never got drawn in. I thought this movie was interesting clinically, but I was left fairly cold by it. I should say I have no problem with transgender or transexual people, so it isn't a phobia or a hatred of people different from me that triggered this non-response.

When Robert dies (no surprise; you knew he was going to die by reading the DVD cover) and his ashes are spread around a Christmas tree planted on his property to memorialize him, I got annoyed that the tree looked dead compared to others around it. At least get the man a nice tree!

There were a couple of other scenes that potentially could have tugged on the heart strings, but the opportunity was missed. For example, a letter is read that was written to a man's mother, asking her to contact her (now) son, acknowledge him and tell him she loves him. Then you hear the phone message the mother did leave, in which she does say "I love you" and calls the man by his chosen male name. That should have been a HUGE OMG moment, and I merely thought, "Well, that was nice of her."

The most eye-opening things for me in this film were the lack of medical care and consideration transgenders get, which boiled my blood. Many doctors and hospitals did not want Robert to come to them for care once they heard he was transgender. And I was surprised to learn about the sloppy, botched surgeries many transgenders have had. I don't know if the few we heard about from the film are representative, but it was shocking to hear about these surgeries and see the results (nothing gross, don't worry). These are PEOPLE, and it does seem as though they did not get the same consideration or quality of care as, for example, I have had when I have had some surgeries.

Overall, though, something was really missing for me in this documentary. I cannot recommend it. 2 of 5 stars.

Posted on May 24, 2012 8:25:07 PM PDT
My Kid Could Paint That
2007

This is a fascinating documentary about a little girl named Marla Olmstead and her painting prowess. Marla was 4 and 5 years old when this documentary was filmed. Her canvases have sold for over $20,000. Abstract art, of course. (I say of course because what 4 year old has the motor skills to paint well representationally?) She had earned over $300,000 at the time of filming, so many canvases had sold.

Marla was considered a prodigy. Her fame started with a local newspaper article, which the NY Times picked up, and TV from around the world took it from there. She was widely acclaimed as a prodigy and a genius. Indeed, her artwork from that time is very interesting to look at, quite thought provoking, visually provocative and captivating. Then 60 Minutes did a piece on her, and in that piece a professional art critic is observed watching Marla paint, at which point the critic expresses her significant discomfort with what she is seeing. Because Marla, being taped painting, looks like a 4 or 5 year old pushing paint around a canvas. She doesn't look anything like a prodigy.

The rest of the documentary explores the "is she or isn't she?" question, as well as showing the after-effects of the 60 Minutes piece. Marla's family consists of Mom and Dad, plus a younger brother. After seeing the documentary, I feel certain that Marla did not paint those early acclaimed pieces, certainly not without a lot of help, most likely from Dad. Mom appears completely innocent of wrongdoing, but I don't trust Dad at all. (After "Balloon Boy" in Denver, I have no trouble believing the stunts parents will pull for fame). EVERY time Marla is filmed painting-even when she doesn't know she is being filmed (so there can't be an excuse of "she froze because she got camera shy"), her results look as though a typical child painted them. There is nothing innately interesting or visually arresting about those pieces. She is unable to express anything about her paintings when asked. In one scene, she asks her father to continue painting for her.

I am convinced Dad perpetrated a scam on the art world and collected some big bucks in the process. Collateral damage are the mother, who seems genuinely innocent of wrong doing, and, probably, a local gallery owner who sold many of Marla's paintings before the 60 Minutes piece. His take on abstract art is worth the price of rental alone. As for the folks who bought her artwork...they got some lovely pieces, but they weren't painted by a 4 year old. I hope they feel they still got their $20,000 worth. There is one scene, filmed after the 60 Minutes exposé, in which a couple with waaay too much money to spend buy one piece that Marla was filmed painting. Even the wife (of the rich couple) says that the canvas doesn't look as though it was painted by the same person as the others, yet she still pays $20,000 for it! What chumps!

I googled Marla last evening. She's now 11 years old. If she was a prodigy, her talent would have grown and her painting would have grown with her. Current artwork on her website don't look like as though that has happened.

This documentary is short (only and hour and 20 minutes), but it is fascinating. Highly recommended for anyone interested in artwork, pathological lying, family dynamics or child development. 4 of 5 stars.

Posted on May 24, 2012 10:09:57 PM PDT
RichieV says:
Fat sick and nearly dead, was interesting too watch. The main character decides to do a Juice fast. It was interesting watching his journey.

Posted on May 25, 2012 10:31:43 AM PDT
KinoChelovek says:
"Burden of Dreams," of course, or just about any Herzog or Wenders documentary works.

Posted on May 26, 2012 8:34:01 AM PDT
Bad Grandpa says:
I just got through watching a documentary on NatGeo about the Joplin tornado. It is the best tornado coverage I've ever seen and also excellent from the point of view of the survivors.

Posted on Jul 15, 2012 7:32:45 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 15, 2012 7:40:34 AM PDT
Unmistaken Child
2008

This is a wonderful documentary about a Tibetan Buddhist monk who travels to find the unmistaken child who is the reincarnation of his deceased master. The monk relies of instructions and signs from the Dalai Lama, his dreams, the cremains of the Lama, astrology and the advice of more senior monks to find this child. The story is compelling, the scenery and cinematography are beautiful, and I got a sense of what it's like inside a Tibetan farmer's house as well as a monastery.

The film maker thankfully doesn't narrate, only subtitles conversations, so you get to focus on the emotions on people's faces-sadness when the Lama dies, excitement as the child correctly identifies four personal items belonging to the dead Lama, pain when the mother leaves her child behind with the monks. This is a moving story and never boring. It is quintessentially human, involving death and (re)birth (depending on your belief system), the quest for meaning in one's own life-"why am I here?" "what will I do with my life?"-and human relationships.

I don't believe in reincarnation, and I certainly don't believe in astrology mumbo-jumbo, but to realize that the Rinpoche's astrology signs about the unmistaken child all came true, and to see the child unhesitatingly pick items that belonged to the former Lama were fascinating. He was placed in front of a table crowded with items. He then had to pick the former Lama's bell, rosary, finger drum, and one other small container-four items-and he got every one correct and was quite adamant about them. "Not that one, this one!" It gave me a micro-second's pause. I can believe in coincidence, but that was amazing. This documentary spans about 4 ½ years, from the Lama's death, to the search for his reincarnation, to his welcoming into the Buddhist community. Talk about faith---you gotta' see the crowds of people waiting to be blessed by this child at a gathering in Southern India or the hundreds of people who lined the street to see this child brought to the monastery for the first time.

I have watched some stinker documentaries recently, and I am so happy to have finally seen an excellent one. I happily watched this film without doing my needlepoint, which is high praise from me, because I needed to pay attention to the subtitles as my Chinese is a wee rusty.

4.5 of 5 stars, only downgraded from 5 because I would have liked to have heard more of the internal struggle/dialogue the monk had during his long search. Did I mention the stunning scenery and cinematography? Brilliant!

Highly recommended!

Posted on Jul 15, 2012 8:04:47 AM PDT
Tim R. Niles says:
About 25 or 30 years ago there was a documentary called either "Breathing" or "Breathing Lessons" about a guy who was one of the last children to be struck by polio. He was still living in an iron lung after quite a long period of time; living in his own apartment, attending a nearby college, all with a lot of help of course. At the time, it was amazing to watch... now maybe a little too amazing, was it a fake, too?

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 15, 2012 8:20:22 AM PDT
You are referring to the 1997 short film (36 minutes) called Breathing Lessons about Mark O'Brien. O'Brien died in 1999, after drafting a book of his life. The book is available on Amazon.

Although I haven't seen the film, I doubt it was faked. Berkeley, California has an amazing Center for Independence for people with disabilities. I have no doubt this man was able to complete his education and write a book, etc., with help.

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 15, 2012 8:25:10 AM PDT
Tim R. Niles says:
Thanks for the information!

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 17, 2012 5:42:00 AM PDT
bella7 says:
Hi Mischief Girl,

I also liked Unmistaken Child and found myself glued to the screen. Films of similar topic (non-documentaries) that I've seen: Seven Years in Tibet, Little Buddha, Kundun (with music by Phillip Glass).

Posted on Jul 17, 2012 5:51:55 AM PDT
Hoop Dreams. Need I say more?

Posted on Jul 17, 2012 6:55:32 AM PDT
Bad Grandpa says:
I just saw a really eye opening documentary called "Culture of Fear".
It is about the Bush years and how we were subjected to non-stop manufactured terrorist threats in order to allow the government free rein to do what that wanted in the Middle East.

Posted on Jul 17, 2012 8:44:43 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 17, 2012 8:46:17 AM PDT
I recently came across a few fascinating DVDs of a documentary series produced in the 1950s by NBC News called Project XX which Donald Hyatt produced and directed. One of them, called "The Jazz Age" about the 1920s and brilliantly narrated by Fred Allen, I distinctly remember seeing when it was originally broadcast.

Other broadcasts delt with various periods of the twentieth century:
History repeats itself? Following World War I, the Republicans did everything they could to shoot down Wilson's 14 points which attempted soften Europe's treatment of Germany following World War I. They also voted down the U.S. becoming a member of the League of Nations. Wilson predicted at that time that there would be another major war within a generation if the U.S. did not become a member of the League.

Following the Crash of 1929, Herbert Hoover and his cronies decided that the government should not become involved in attempting to revive the economy -- that it would be best left in private hands.
The result was ten years of depression until Roosevelt's "New Deal" to some extent and World War II to a great extent revived the U.S. economy.

Any of this sound familiar regarding the present situation?
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