With the year wrapping up, there’s no better time than to look back at the year that was and check in with a couple of prominent documentary bloggers to hear what they rated as their top three docs of 2010.
Doug Block – The D-Word
ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE:
This story of a Cambodian journalist and his relentless quest to get a top level Khmer Rouge leader to acknowledge his personal culpability starts out as quietly and unassumingly as its protagonist. Slowly it begins to gather force until it has you in its riveting grip. One of the most powerful accounts of the banality of evil I’ve ever seen committed to film.
LAST TRAIN HOME:
Lixin Fan’s chronicle of a peasant family in transition is also a portrait of modern-day China struggling with the impact of globalization and literally bursting at the seams. Both intimate and epic, the story has the feel of a fiction film. Its opening scenes set during the annual mass exodus over the new years holiday are particularly astonishing – I’m still wondering how they managed to film it. [Note - this was also on Doug's 'best of 2009' list, but as it gained wider release in 2010, we'll let that go. - Ed.]
DAVID WANTS TO FLY:
Virtually unheard of here in the U.S., this personal documentary by David Sieveking was the most pleasant surprise of the year for me. The filmmaker sets out to meet his cinematic hero David Lynch, who has become something of a spokesperson for the transcendental meditation movement. Suitably inspired, Sieveking turns to TM as a cure for his personal woes. But soon he has his doubts about the movement, he begins to probe further and suddenly Lynch’s lawyers threaten to sue. What starts out as a light comic romp morphs into a serious and effective expose, and a courageous bit of hero slaying.
Filmmaker Doug Block’s latest documentary, The Kids Grow Up (www.thekidsgrowup.com), is currently in the middle of its U.S. theatrical release (with an HBO broadcast on Father’s Day), and he is the executive producer of Resurrect Dead (www.resurrectdead.com), a new documentary premiering at Sundance. Block is also the founder and co-host of The D-Word, a worldwide online community for documentary professionals.
Raphaela Neihausen – Stranger than Fiction
Director Robin Hessman has spent years immersing herself in Russian culture. That investment of time pays off in this fascinating look at the generation that came of age during Perestroika. Hessman deftly uses home movies and Russian archival footage to juxtapose past and present dreams and realities.
Director Jeff Malmberg strikes documentary gold in the world of Mark Hogancamp, who emerged from a tragic beating to turn his therapy into brilliant art. Hogancamp’s photographs of dolls dressed and posed in elaborate scenarios of an imagined landscape are a wonder to behold.
SURVIVING HITLER: A LOVE STORY:
This personal tale of the plot to assassinate Hitler draws upon an incredible archive of never-before-seen home movies. Director John-Keith Wasson pulls off an impressive feat of bringing a fresh angle to World War II. The woman at the center of the film, Jutta Cord, is mesmerizing in her interviews. Following its acclaimed festival run, it richly deserves wider distribution or broadcast.
Raphaela Neihausen is the executive director of the Stranger than Fiction doc series, hosted by Neihausen and Thom Powers and is the executive director of DOC NYC.