THE BEST Documentaries

Chasing Light

Chasing Light

“You’re telling me this bad news? I’m gonna make the best art I’ll ever make. Goddammit, you know, I’m gonna do it.” Steven Erra was diagnosed with tunnel vision when he was in college and is now legally blind. But that didn’t stop him from pursuing photography.

Why TI Calculators Are Expensive

Why TI Calculators Are Expensive

The short answer? Networking. By getting cozy with math teachers, Texas Instruments became the trusted brand for graphing calculators. Teachers now know the brand’s interface so well that it would be inconvenient for them to switch.

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New-generation Animators

New-generation Animators

“There’s a rawness to it, a sort of desperation. And that reminds you that this has been made by someone.” Like vinyl records, handmade animation refuses to die despite the abundance of modern alternatives. Monocle looks at some of the new students of this old school.

Elevatours

Elevatours

Andrew Reams aka DieselDucy has Asperger syndrome. One of his fixations is elevators, and for the past eight years he’s been uploading “elevatours” on YouTube. Eventually, it became a way for him to reach out to other people with autism and help lift up their spirits.

In Between

In Between

Muskoxen boast a resilience that’s been honed over millennia. But they are powerless against time and man. Wildlife cameraman Rolf Steinman traveled to the Arctic to shoot this powerful and heartbreaking film.

Back of the Mike

Back of the Mike

This neat short film from 1938 shows how voice actors and foley artists performed a radio show. The props and the “child actor” are interesting, but we’re most impressed by the fact that everyone’s all dressed up. And yes, the whole thing is actually a Chevy commercial.

The Making of Perfect Dark

The Making of Perfect Dark

“We’re gonna make a game, we’re gonna make it good, and it’s ready when it’s ready.” Rare interviews some of the key employees who were involved in the making of its classic Nintendo 64 first-person shooter Perfect Dark.

From Timber to Tide

From Timber to Tide

“It feels like an extension of yourself in a way. Like it’s your second skin.” In Pixillion’s short film, Cornwall-based boat builder Ben Harris talks about how he got into his profession and the unique feeling of riding a vehicle that you built.

How Pros Sit in Fighting Games

How Pros Sit in Fighting Games

(PG-13: Language) In 1-on-1 video game competitions, players either sit next to each other or far apart. It may seem trivial, but it could affect the success of players and eSports in general. Core-A Gaming explores the arrangements’ origins and consequences.

My Life in Monsters

My Life in Monsters

(PG-13: Language) Vice’s documentary on Phil Tippett, the stop-motion animator who helped create creatures for Star Wars, Jurassic Park and many other films. Today his studio mainly uses CGI, but his latest film, Mad God, is a stop-motion affair.

The Zero Waste Town

The Zero Waste Town

We’ve seen how one person produces only a handful of trash. This town has been doing the same thing for over a decade. The residents of Kamikatsu in Tokushima, Japan recycle, reuse or compost 80% of their waste. They hope to do that to 100% of their trash by 2020.

The Christmas Light Killer

The Christmas Light Killer

A documentary about James Cochran, whose job is to shut down a drive-thru holiday light show each night. He loves it. Like many adults, he doesn’t exactly hate Christmas, but there’s this resigned acknowledgment that there’s not much to be happy about.

The Underground Town

The Underground Town

We’ve seen a floating city and a condominium city. Here’s an underground town. The South Australian mining town Coober Pedy has about 1,500 residents living in underground homes aka dugouts to escape the scorching daytime heat on the surface.

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The Land of the Enlightened (Trailer)

The Land of the Enlightened (Trailer)

Filmed over the course of seven years, Pieter-Jan De Pue’s The Land of the Enlightened is a documentary about two gangs of children in Afghanistan and how they survive and dream in their war-torn land.

Inside Santa University

Inside Santa University

When you need Santa Claus to show up for a Christmas event, the company you turn to is Arvada, Colorado’s Noerr Programs, who doesn’t just dress white-haired, rotund men in costumes, but actually offers them a four-day course on how to be a good Saint Nick.

Sold Out: Supreme’s Reselling Scene

Sold Out: Supreme’s Reselling Scene

(PG-13: Language) “It’s worth whatever a fool is willing to pay for it.” Supreme addicts make Apple fans look reasonable. The brand’s style and limited releases mean resellers get away with up to 1200% markups. Complex takes a look at this underground economy.

Meet the Earthship

Meet the Earthship

Filmmakers Flora Lichtman and Katherine Wells look a look at a 100% off-grid community outside of Taos, New Mexico founded by architect Michael Reynolds. What makes these sustainable, solar structures unique is that they’re built from garbage like tires and cans.

Dark Horse (Trailer)

Dark Horse (Trailer)

Back in 2000, bar worker Jan Vokes convinced her neighbors in a poor village in South Wales to breed a racehorse – a rich man’s hobby – just for the heck of it. Director Louise Osmond shares their story in this feel good documentary.

Racing Extinction (Trailer)

Racing Extinction (Trailer)

The Oceanic Preservation Society – the team behind the anti-dolphin hunting film The Cove – infiltrated black markets that sell endangered animals and blasted infographics at the buildings of companies that harm animals. Airs on the Discovery Channel on 12/2/15.

Hotel 22

Hotel 22

(PG-13: Language) Line 22 is the only 24-hour bus line in California’s pricy Santa Clara Valley. As a result, homeless people take its 1.5 hour route to and fro at night to sleep in relative safety. Elizabeth Lo filmed the night crowd for a week to make her revealing short film.

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Life After 44 Years in Prison

Life After 44 Years in Prison

“I seen that everybody… was talking to themselves.” Otis Johnson went to prison in 1970. He was released only in 2014, and he’d lost contact with his family. So when he got out it was like he had traveled to the future, and to a bittersweet beginning.

Grandpa & Me & a Helicopter to Heaven

Grandpa & Me & a Helicopter to Heaven

In his final days, an old man teaches his grandson how to gather and cook a rare mushroom. Åsa Blanck and Johan Palmgren’s simple but powerful documentary reminds us to maintain and strengthen our bonds with the people we love.

Melo Visits Rikers Island

Melo Visits Rikers Island

(PG-13) “You get charged as an adult at 16. Why you gonna put me in there with murderers and think that I would come out different?” Carmelo Anthony and Vice Sports visited the infamous jail to talk to young inmates and remind us that everyone deserves a chance to change.

Blood and Sport

Blood and Sport

Retro Report looks back at Ray Mancini’s infamous bout with Duk Koo Kim and wonders if American football is close to a similar tipping point, as the NFL continues to deny the mounting medical evidence of the sport’s serious health risks.

Copycat

Copycat

Before Scary Movie and Scream, there was There’s Nothing Out There. Rolfe Kanefsky’s 1991 horror comedy copied horror movies to poke fun at them. But as Charlie Lyne notes in this documentary, Rolfe’s life took a bizarre turn when another movie seemingly copied his.

Distinct: Micah Ganske

Distinct: Micah Ganske

Micah Ganske’s art is inspired by technology and the future: space stations looming over old factories, a ghost town in an orbital colony, spaceships that form a giant humanoid structure, etc. Video by Alex Amoling and Anchor Light for Distinct Daily.

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