Filmmaker and writer Jay Cheel (pictured), founder of The Documentary Blog, weighs in with his Best of 2010.
Happy People: A Year of the Taiga
Directed by Dmitry Vasyukov
Director Dmitry Vasyukov’s film spends one year following a few hunters and gatherers as they live and work in the Siberian Taiga. This version of the film is actually a 90-minute cut of what was originally a four-and-a-half hour epic, a task that was overseen by legendary documentary filmmaker Werner Herzog, who also wrote and narrated the film. I found the traditional routines of the men – crafting skis and cabins by hand – and their bonds with their dogs both inspiring and touching.
Directed by Errol Morris
Tabloid is a complex, scandalous tale that, like most of Errol Morris’ films, thrives on details. It’s full of quirky little points of minutia that add a texture of insanity to his obsessive storytelling. Morris never shies away from the tabloid nature of the tale, peppering the film with bold HEADLINES!!! and indulging in the melodramatic and the sensational. For me, it was a great return to Morris’ character driven filmmaking, reminding me of the equally obsessive and dense The Thin Blue Line.
Directed by Michael Madsen
Here’s a documentary that successfully blends science fiction with non-fiction, giving us a hypothetical look at the future state of our buried nuclear waste. From the austere waste management facilities to the ominous, Kubrickian title cards, Into Eternity works as both a thrilling sort of pre-apocalyptic doomsday genre film and a thought-provoking, environmentally conscious issue doc. Beautifully filmed and cinematically realized, Michael Madsen took me by surprise at this year’s Hot Docs film festival and his great work remains as one of my top docs of 2010.
Jay Cheel runs The Documentary Blog, and as you can see through his choices here, is an avid fan of Herzog and Morris, as well as the Maysles.