lists: a ranking of recent documentaries (2010-2014)

I absolutely LOVE watching documentaries, as well as making them. If you like them too, or just want to get into them, I have compiled a list of my personal favourites.

Note: I decided to only include those docs released post-2000. There are just too many to choose from if I don’t limit the category somehow.

Last note: These are subjective. If you disagree, or have a personal favourite that isn’t listed here, please comment – because I like post activity and would love to hear everyone’s opinion!

And here we go…

1. First Position (2011)

Joan Sebastian Zamora.

Joan Sebastian Zamora of First Position.

Director: Angela Tucker
Starring:
Aran Bell, Rebecca Houseknecht, Joan Sebastian Zamora, Miko Fogarty, Jules Jarvis Fogarty, Michaela Deprince, Gaya Bommer Yemini

This documentary follows 6 aspiring young dancers as they train and prepare for the Youth America Grand Prix, a prestigious dance competition important to any ballet dancer who wants to turn their passion into a career. My lifelong passion for dance probably definitely causes a bias in the fact that I put this as my number one, but it really is a great documentary. Mixing in beautiful dancers with a rollercoaster ride of devastating stories and comedic characters, Tucker has truly captured the essence of the tough, elite dance industry.

2. Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)

Mouthwatering shots of sushi in Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Mouthwatering shots of sushi in Jiro Dreams of Sushi.

Director: David Gelb
Starring: Jiro Ono, Masuhiro Yamamoto, Daisuke Nakazama

If you like sushi, you are in for a treat with this one. Gelb’s documentary explores the story behind 85-year-old Jiro Ono’s sushi restaurant, located down in the Ginza Tokyo Subway station. A combination of loveable old characters and mouthwatering shots of sushi, dripping with soya sauce – you can’t really go wrong. The crisp image quality of this doc is just unreal. Once this film ended, I ran out with my sister to grab some sushi – only to be disappointed that the rolls and pieces weren’t as pretty as Jiro’s.

3. Blackfish (2013)

Killer whales featured in Blackfish.

Killer whales featured in Blackfish.

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Starring: Tilikum, Dave Duffus, Samantha Berg

This controversial doc exploits the world behind marine amusement parks – focusing on the captivity and abuse of various killer whales. The documentary explores the negative impacts on both humans and orcas involved. While watching this, I literally didn’t know what to think, I was actually just sitting there with my mouth hanging open the entire time. Definitely a mind-blower, this one.

4. The Act of Killing (2012)

The Act of Killing.

The Act of Killing.

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
Starring: Anwar Congo, Herman Koto, Syamsul Arifin

This intriguing doc follows former Indonesian death-squad leaders. These leaders take on the challenge of re-enacting various mass killings from their pasts, in a range of movie genre styles. Pretty self-explanatory, pretty shocking and simply mind-boggling. It was definitely a weird experience watching this. Obviously, don’t expect a light watch with this one – emotionally prepare yourself.

5. Catfish (2010)

Catfish, a doc turned reality show.

Catfish, a doc turned reality show.

Directors: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Starring: Yaniv ‘Nev’ Schulman, Ariel Schulman, Henry Joost

This doc was created independently by these young, aspiring filmmakers. While documenting the progress of Nev’s online relationship with a young female, and the rest of her family, things start to get weird, and facts regarding the family don’t seem to add up. The team of youngsters then go on to find the truth about this mysterious, falsified family. This doc has now been picked up and transformed into an MTV reality show, so that gives an indication of the success of this film.

And there they are, let me know what your fav docs are!

Other doc lists:
Eric Sasono – Top 10 Documentary Films of 2013
ViBlahBlah – Top Dinosaur Documentaries of All Time
Paste Magazine – The 15 Best Documentaries of 2013

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2 thoughts on “lists: a ranking of recent documentaries (2010-2014)

  1. If you get the opportunity, you must see Alive Inside…it will change the way you look at people who suffer neurological disease.

    I saw it at the 2014 Nashville Film Festival and wept openly, both with sadness and with hope. I blogged about it the night I saw it: http://createdbyrcw.com/2014/04/26/music-and-the-soul/

    The documentary’s web site is: http://www.aliveinside.us/

    If it is playing near you, watch it…and bring plenty of facial tissues.

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