THE BEST Documentaries

Creative Spark: Jennifer Yuh Nelson

Creative Spark: Jennifer Yuh Nelson

“I think creativity is a byproduct of not trying so hard.” Director Jennifer Yuh Nelson (Kung Fu Panda 2 & 3) spoke with the Oscars about her style of filmmaking, making art in her free time to keep her creativity burning and how inspiration can come from anywhere.

Eight Days a Week (Teaser)

Eight Days a Week (Teaser)

Director Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind) takes us back to the Fab Four’s brief but revolutionary takeover of rock and roll, and music in general. Featuring lots of never-before-seen footage and interviews with Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.

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How Waze Works

How Waze Works

Despite its cluttered interface, Waze is a shining example of crowdsourcing – it turns parts of a problem into parts of a solution. Google employees Nat and Lo visited their co-workers to learn more about the community-based interactive map app.

Where Hoop Dreams Are Handmade

Where Hoop Dreams Are Handmade

Basketball is one of New York City’s favorite pastimes, and the city’s Parks Department plays a big role in keeping the sport alive. Great Big Story spoke with one of the city’s blacksmiths, who’s made around a thousand basketball rims for public courts.

The Heart Followers

The Heart Followers

Ingrid and Benjamin Hjertefølger (“heart follower”) are advocates of sustainable living. They live in a greenhouse that they built partly out of cob, clean all of their waste water and are encouraging their children to also form a deep bond with nature.

The Secret World of Foley

The Secret World of Foley

Bouncing between surreal and genuine, Daniel Jewel’s wordless short film is about a Foley crew recreating the sounds of an entire film, from waves breaking on the beach to a freshly caught fish twitching on a fisherman’s hand.

Kirby: The Fun of Simplicity

Kirby: The Fun of Simplicity

In the early ’90s, Nintendo was looking for more Game Boy exclusive games. Then 19-year-old Masahiro Sakurai – who would go on to create Super Smash Bros. – answered the call with a new title that could be enjoyed by first-time gamers. The result is Kirby’s Dream Land.

Man vs Snake (Trailer)

Man vs Snake (Trailer)

In 1984, Tim McVey played the arcade game Nibbler – a predecessor of the mobile game Snake – until he became the first person to score a billion points in a video game. In 2009, after rumors spread of someone beating his record, he tried to set the bar higher.

Mutual Rescue: Eric & Peety

Mutual Rescue: Eric & Peety

“I decided that I wanted to be the person whom he thought I was.” In 2010, Eric’s doctor said he’d be dead in 5 years. He was severely overweight, had high cholesterol, high blood pressure and diabetes. Then a nutritionist gave him a life-changing advice: get a shelter dog.

From Deep Dish to Thin Crust

From Deep Dish to Thin Crust

Munchies and Brooklynite restaurateur Frank Pinello visited Chicago to sample some of the best pizza that the Windy City has to offer, and talk to some of the best local pizza makers and their biggest fans.

Lo and Behold (Trailer)

Lo and Behold (Trailer)

Legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog explores the good and bad effects of our increasing dependence on the internet by speaking with both experts and his fellow laymen, including a few unfortunate victims. More here.

We Live This

We Live This

(PG-13: Language) “The crowd shouldn’t know what you’re going through. Your show shouldn’t reflect on your day.” James Burns’ award-winnning documentary about We Live This, a group of teenagers who dance on New York City’s subway to make money.

Spitting Distance 360º

Spitting Distance 360º

Red Bull followed photographer Ulla Lohmann, her husband Sebastian and a small film crew as they descended as near as possible to one of the lava craters in Vanuatu’s Ambrym, one of the world’s most active volcanoes. Full episode here.

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Instagram’s Best Skateboarder

Instagram’s Best Skateboarder

“I’m not trying to prove anything. I’m just trying to have fun.” Veteran skateboarder Daewon Song has never been comfortable in the limelight. But he’s smart enough to leverage social media to stay relevant. These days he’s playing HORSE against himself on Instagram.

Creative Spark: Deborah Cook

Creative Spark: Deborah Cook

Deborah Cook (Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Boxtrolls, Coraline) is a costume designer who specializes in making clothes for stop-motion puppets. She spoke with the Oscars about what her job entails, the challenges of designing small scale clothing and more.

Man & Grizzly Bear: Rewriting History

Man & Grizzly Bear: Rewriting History

GoPro celebrates Endangered Species Day with this documentary about naturalist Casey Anderson. About 13 years ago, Casey rescued a grizzly bear, who’s now one of his closest pals and inspired him to create a grizzly sanctuary. Quite a contrast from The Revenant.

Home

Home

Thomas Gleeson’s wordless short film about a transported home. Thomas says it’s his way of exploring what makes a house a home and exposing its fragility. But what we love most about the film is that it seems to be told from the house’s perspective.

The Rise of the Synths

The Rise of the Synths

Castell & Moreno Films upcoming crowdfunded documentary looks at the growing popularity of 1980s style Synthwave music, and the musicians, technology and sounds that provide their inspiration. Sizzle/concept reel here.

My Scientology Movie (Teaser)

My Scientology Movie (Teaser)

BBC journalist Louis Theroux’s Scientology meta-documentary is a making-of of itself. Predictably stonewalled by the group, Louis decides to use actors to reenact testimonies from former members, which angers them so much that they begin filming him.

Building Hollywood’s Monsters

Building Hollywood’s Monsters

Great Big Story introduces us to artists Tom Woodruff Jr. and Alec Gillis of Amalgamated Dynamics Inc. to learn about their numerous contributions to moviemaking, in the form of amazing, handmade creatures, along with the performances that go with.

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Being a Creature Performer

Being a Creature Performer

Creature designer and performer Tom Woodruff Jr. has been acting in monster suits for around 25 years. He spoke with the Oscars about falling in love with monsters, his big breaks and his favorite creature to act out.

Tickled (Trailer)

Tickled (Trailer)

Journalist David Farrier stumbled upon a company that creates videos of “tickling competitions.” Little did he know that it would lead him to a creepy rabbit hole of exploitation, harassment and blackmail. Review here.

Beyond Beauty

Beyond Beauty

(PG-13: Language) i-D and tattoo artist Grace Neutral explore South Korea’s bizarre conservatism on physical beauty. Plastic surgery is par for the course there, but tattoos are so frowned upon that only doctors are legally allowed to operate tattoo parlors. Part 1 here.

Jia Zhangke, A Guy from Fenyang (Teaser)

Jia Zhangke, A Guy from Fenyang (Teaser)

A documentary about Chinese filmmaker Jia Zhangke (Still Life, Mountains May Depart), whose meditative films often depict the ill effects of China’s economic boom from the perspective of normal citizens. Directed by Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries).

Creative Spark: Brenda Chapman

Creative Spark: Brenda Chapman

Veteran animated film artist, writer and director Brenda Chapman (Brave, The Prince of Egypt, Beauty and the Beast) spoke with the Oscars about her creative process, the idiosyncrasies of editing animated works, and her inspiration for Brave.

Nuts! (Trailer)

Nuts! (Trailer)

Filmmaker Penny Lane (Our Nixon) presents Nuts!, a documentary about the infamous scammer John R. Brinkley. Brinkley became rich and famous by transplanting goat testicles into people as a cure for impotence and other diseases. Which of course didn’t work.

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