Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. Both entertaining and enlightening, these documentaries investigate powerful tales that make up our collective zeitgeist.
The defining moment of one’s life shouldn’t be swept under the rug—but for two brothers who survived a 1974 plane crash that killed their family near Aspen, Colorado, it was. After 40 years of silence, the pair embarks on a road trip to retrace their flight in this somber documentary.
Filmed in the aftermath of the 2018 mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, this documentary intimately chronicles the plight of grieving students and parents as they strive to come to grips with the unthinkable tragedy and search for ways to make sense of the senseless.
Just as the Amazon River flows through Brazil, so do the heritage and folklore of its musicians and composers flow through their rhythms and lyrics. This breathtaking documentary synthesizes the myriad musical styles of the region—each telling a story of the land and its people.
The inimitable Errol Morris sits down with self-described “apocalyptic nationalist” and political strategist Steve Bannon in a documentary that will be irresistible to political junkies and blood-boiling to anyone who has deliberately avoided the news over the past few years.
It takes a village to make a movie—but when that village is Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, rather than Hollywood, the creative process can go painfully, hilariously, unforgettably awry. A heartfelt tribute to underdogs everywhere, this acclaimed 1999 documentary remains a cult favorite today.
Scottish artist and musician Bill Drummond is on a 12-year world tour—but instead of performing in any traditional sense, he’s baking cakes and shining shoes in a documentary so quirky it almost reads as parody.
Documentary and narrative fiction merge in this spellbinding experimental tale of a young woman who travels up the Amazon from her small village to the gold-mining towns of northern Peru in search of a better life, only to get caught in the trap of violence and degradation set by poverty.
In war-torn Syria, a group of doctors operates in a subterranean hospital known as The Cave. This tense documentary is both a tribute to their persistence and an eloquent examination of the costs of heroism to a people under attack by their own government.
The city in which a film is set is often referred to as a character in its own right. This documentary aims to explore that concept, reflecting on the art of cinema in relation to its environment. With appearances by Wim Wenders, David Lynch, and Bernardo Bertolucci, among others.
A century-old tradition bonds the people of Nenana, Alaska, who bet on the arrival of spring during the Ice Classic: When the river ice melts, the winner can take up to $350,000. This heartwarming documentary considers the contest as an important source of not only community pride but autonomy.
More than 44 million Americans collectively owe a whopping $1.5 trillion in federal student-loan debt. This new series tackles the crisis head on, working with struggling young people in L.A. to change their habits, gain financial confidence, and become the CEOs of their own lives.
This stunning documentary about visionary modern-dance choreographer Merce Cunningham bursts onto the screen in glorious 3D. Moscow-born director Alla Kovgan traces three decades of Cunningham’s genius through archival footage and the recreation of some of his most memorable works.
At 75, Italian professor, feminist, and former supermodel Benedetta Barzini is ready to escape the male gaze by withdrawing from the world. She fantasizes about moving to a remote island—just as her filmmaker-son begins making this intimate, often contentious documentary.
This cleverly edited documentary uses archival footage to paint a portrait of charismatic and renowned director Milo Forman as war orphan and outsider, contrarian young artist in 1960s Prague, and immigrant with an anti-establishment bent who became one of America’s great filmmakers.
The American Dream may be the most enduring tale we as a nation tell ourselves. But is the guarantee of upward mobility in exchange for hard work—regardless of color, class, or creed—just a myth? This frank documentary asks whether we’re lying to ourselves about the even level of the playing field.
With unprecedented access to key players, this absorbing behind-the-scenes documentary reveals how, in the 1990s, the United States nearly achieved the impossible—securing peace between Israel and its neighbors. The lessons to be learned from the not-so-distant past couldn’t be more urgent.
In this experimental documentary, a group of undocumented young people purposely get detained by ICE in order to infiltrate a for-profit detention center where people are held for years without due process. Their goal: to reunite detainees with their families by gaming the system from within.
Against a backdrop of military occupation and suicide bombings, life goes on in the capital of Afghanistan, unfolding in this lyrical, achingly gentle portrait of ordinary people struggling to get by—among them hapless bus driver Abas and Afshin, ordained “man of the house” at the tender age of 12.
The death of northern white rhinoceros Sudan, the last male of his species, isn’t surprising—but that doesn’t mean it’s any less impactful not only for the world’s rhino population but also for his human caretakers, as this emotional, forceful documentary shows.
In this searing documentary about rampant sexual abuse within a sect of ultra-Orthodox Jews, a man scarred by his childhood returns home to his old community on the outskirts of Tel Aviv in search of answers. Or apologies. Or reconciliation. Or vengeance. The truth is even he’s not sure.
This harrowing documentary follows the Ochoa family as they run a private ambulance service in Mexico City. In a sprawling metropolis that’s home to 9 million people but fewer than 50 public ambulances, they compete with other for-profit EMTs for patients while struggling with their own ills.
As the founder of the World Toilet Organization, Jack Sim knows that the lack of access to bathrooms is a global health crisis. By “turning poop culture into pop culture,” he’s on a crusade to improve sanitation for billions of people in this surprisingly funny, heartfelt, and complex documentary.
In 2011, Stephen McCoy set out to make a documentary about Boston’s homeless, dubbing the outcasts and addicts whose lives he captured with his camcorder “nightcrawlers.” Little did the budding filmmaker know that, a few years later, he’d be one of them. This is his video diary.
How does a feisty British woman become “a prophet for Mexican food?” Intensive research, thousands of travel miles, and a passion for down-to-earth regional cuisine earned 94-year-old Diana Kennedy the title. The author of eight cookbooks is profiled in this mouthwatering documentary.
In Pahokee, a small agricultural town in the Florida Everglades, many young people share one overriding goal: to get out. This nuanced, engaging documentary follows four high-school seniors as they face the challenges that await us all on the cusp of adulthood.
For more than 30 years, 24/7, eccentric activist Marion Stokes obsessively recorded American television news programs, preserving the truth even as networks secretly dropped their archives into the trashcan of history. This fascinating time capsule of a documentary explores her priceless legacy.
Digging through the vast collection of his father’s home videos, filmmaker Sasha Joseph Neulinger enlists his family to help him retell the story of childhood abuse that tore them apart—and to reveal the even darker secret at its core—in this devastating but ultimately hopeful documentary.
This locally produced documentary takes a look at Denver’s burgeoning homeless population in the context of a likewise-growing homeless-rights movement. How do governmental policies designed to turn Denver into a “world-class city” impact its most vulnerable citizens?
The National Enquirer pumps out salacious stories that stretch the limits of journalism, truth, and often decency—but it’s a potent cultural (and arguably political) force. This entertaining documentary examines the tabloid that has fed our obsession with the rich and famous for decades.
Growing up on the hardscrabble outskirts of Glasgow, teenaged Gemma has already seen enough trouble to last a lifetime. But there’s so much more to come in this startling, clear-eyed but compassionate documentary, which does its subject the justice she deserves by daring to show her just as she is.
For 20 years, the Sanford-Durant family has been using a video camera to record their daily lives in one of America’s most dangerous neighborhoods—just 17 blocks from the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. This searingly personal documentary gives new meaning to the term “raw footage.”
Calling this documentary “a love letter from a niece who wants future generations to know how much we owe the Greatest Generation,” Tom Brokaw sums up the efforts of filmmaker Louise Woehrle to share her uncle Charles’s story of heroism at the German POW camp that inspired The Great Escape.
Since 1961, more than 200,000 young Americans have served their country by joining the Peace Corps. This documentary chronicles the volunteer organization’s remarkable history while asking, at a time of sociopolitical uncertainty: What role should the Peace Corps play in our world?
The late great Nouvelle Vague pioneer Agnès Varda was an institution of French cinema but a fierce opponent of any kind of institutional thinking. This documentary invites you to join her on a retrospective journey through her unconventional oeuvre. It’s an honor.
With this humorous and visually stunning documentary, director Rebecca Stern takes viewers on a whirlwind tour of the competitive dog-grooming circuit, joined by the women who transform their beloved poodles into living sculptures.
As told through clips from 183 female directors with narration by Tilda Swinton, this epic 14-hour documentary by Mark Cousins (The Story of Film, DFF35) focuses on women’s integral role in the development of the art of cinema.
Upon its release in 1995, Showgirls was a notorious failure. Today, however, Paul Verhoeven’s salacious look at the lives of Vegas strippers is itself getting another look from critics. Jeffrey McHale’s thoroughly delightful documentary examines its journey from flop to alt-classic.
A man goes to his grandparents’ cabin in an attempt to revisit his childhood. That’s the plot—but Spanish director Oskar Alegria’s subtle, impressionistic follow-up to The Search for Emak Bakia (DFF39) explores much more than the unnamed narrator’s desire to exist outside of his own time.