Gone are the days of associating documentaries with the daggy history films we were forced to watch in high school. With a combination of beautifully authentic shots, thoughtful editing and unscripted dialogue, it’s no surprise docos are having a resurgence.
We’ve pulled together a list of our favourites to get you started. And the best part? You can stream these all on DocPlay – available on your Telstra TV.
This beautifully confronting documentary follows the life of Tilikum, a captive performer who gave new meaning to the term ‘killer whale’. The film marries shocking footage with emotional interviews to deep-dive into the creature’s extraordinary nature and its cruel treatment in captivity, leading to the death of several trainers in the sea-park industry.
Emotionally wrenching and thought provoking, Blackfish forces us to reconsider our relationship with the highly intelligent mammals that reside in our oceans, proving how nature can get revenge on man when pushed to its limits.
20 Feet From Stardom
Taking out the 2014 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, this eye-opening film gives a behind-the-scenes look at the world of often under-appreciated backup vocalists. Featuring exclusive interviews from legendary singers and musicians, 20 Feet From Stardom shines light on the untold stories of extremely worthy voices that support the world’s biggest stars.
This real life thriller gives audiences an exclusive front-row seat to the exact moment Edward Snowden changed history as he handed over classified documents to filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald, revealing widespread government surveillance around the world. This exciting minute-by-minute revelation will change the way you think about your phone, email, credit card, web browser and online profile.
Their major 1995 hit ‘Wonderwall’ is still belted out at bars and clubs over twenty years on, but there’s much more to this iconic Manchester band than you probably know. Featuring extensive unseen archive footage and candid interviews, this brilliant doco follows the meteoric rise of Oasis in just three action-packed years. The enjoyably nostalgic film addresses everything from backstage sibling rivalry to the infinite highs and lows that come with worldwide fame.
Searching for Sugar Man
In the early 1970’s, rock musician Rodriguez rose to fame in South Africa, and was set to achieve mass success in the United States before he swiftly disappeared into oblivion. Momentarily hailed as the finest recording artist of his generation, two fans were determined to uncover the truth behind his rumoured death. Searching for Sugar Man follows this passionate duo around the world on their hopeful venture, reminding us once again of the resonating power of music.
Louis Theroux: My Scientology Movie
As one of the big names in modern-day docos, Theroux pushes boundaries as he attempts to infiltrate one of the most publicised, and mysterious, organisations in the Western world. The Church of Scientology, who boast notable followers such as John Travolta and Tom Cruise, have famously remained tight-lipped about their inner workings and practises. In My Scientology Movie, we watch the daring filmmaker conduct a detailed plan to infiltrate the headquarters, leading to a stranger outcome than any Hollywood script.
Bowling for Columbine
Filmed back in 2002, Bowling for Columbine is as relevant as ever, with renowned filmmaker Michael Moore delving into the culture of violence in America, a nation traumatised by terrorism, teen killers and economic inequality. Focusing on the Columbine High School mass shooting, Moore interviews the surviving students alongside trigger-happy suburbanites and militia members, National Rifle Association spokesman Charlton Heston and shock rocker Marilyn Manson, amongst others. This award-winning film is a great starting point for documentary novices.
The First Monday in May
Each year, on the first Monday in May, New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art opens its doors to host the biggest event on the fashion calendar. This glamourous doco follows Vogue’s editor-in-chief and Costume Institute curator as they orchestrate the yearly Met Gala, giving viewers exclusive all-access passes to the show. Get intimate insight into creative icons like Baz Luhrmann, Karl Lagerfeld, Jean Paul Gaultier and Rihanna as the film captures the passion and inspiration behind fashion’s biggest night.
David Lynch – The Art Life
He’s the brilliant director behind Eraserhead and Twin Peaks, and now David Lynch is taking audiences on an intimate journey through the formative years that led to his creative success. Starting from his idyllic upbringing in small town America and diving into the dark streets of Philadelphia, Lynch recalls key events that shaped him as a notable director and passionate painter.
Dior and I
Established in the fashion world as a minimalist designer, Raf Simons designed his first haute couture collection for Christian Dior in 2012. This film highlights the high-pressure world of fashion as Simons is only given eight weeks to complete the collection and make his vision a reality. With echoes from Dior’s past, the film is also a colourful homage to the long-serving seamstresses at the couturier, as history is once again created at Dior.
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