Average Life Of A [__]
June 29, 2010 12:41 PM   Subscribe

Looking for more "average life" documentaries.

Looking for documentaries in the veign of HBO's Thin, Jesus Camp, or Disconnected. Looking for how diverse groups of people spend their days, to get insight into the ways they think.

I'm particularly interested in mental disorders, religion, and college students, just to cast a wide net. Hope me, MeFites!
posted by iarerach to Media & Arts (31 answers total) 75 users marked this as a favorite
American Teen. It's about high school kids, not college, but I really enjoyed it.
posted by something something at 12:44 PM on June 29, 2010

American Splendor. It's half documentary, half fantasy, but given the subject matter--the life and times of a renowned independent comic author--it just works.
posted by valkyryn at 12:47 PM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

posted by nitsuj at 12:52 PM on June 29, 2010

October Country

51 Birch Street
posted by Fairchild at 12:52 PM on June 29, 2010

The 7 Up Series!
posted by ifjuly at 12:56 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Seven Up! and its numerous follow-up films.
posted by bcwinters at 12:57 PM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Average Life of a New Teacher: The First Year
posted by arcticwoman at 12:57 PM on June 29, 2010

devil's playground -amish teenagers during rumspringa.
posted by nadawi at 12:57 PM on June 29, 2010 [5 favorites]

Frederick Wiseman's documentaries will probably be up your alley - "Titicut Follies" and "Essene" might be good places to start.
posted by ryanshepard at 12:58 PM on June 29, 2010

Many of the BBC's Storyville or Wonderland series.

On radio: I love when This American Life do their 'Scenes from...', where they go to a location and just interview people passing through.
posted by mippy at 12:58 PM on June 29, 2010

"Into the Great Silence" is also well-worth checking out.
posted by ryanshepard at 1:00 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

Paradise Lost.

This is definitely a recommendation that's possibly on the outer rim of your guidelines, but you mentioned religion. This documentary takes on "Satanic Panic" and how it affects the people in a small Arkansas town.

Be warned, it's dark and a little disturbing due to the subject matter. I saw it over ten years ago and I haven't ever forgotten it.
posted by BrianJ at 1:04 PM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

I can't believe that I forgot Grey Gardens.

From the IMDB description:
An old mother and her middle-aged daughter, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, live their eccentric lives in a filthy, decaying mansion in East Hampton.
posted by BrianJ at 1:06 PM on June 29, 2010

Dark Days was really interesting.
posted by usonian at 1:07 PM on June 29, 2010

Plagues and Pleasures on the Salton Sea — partly about how the Salton Sea got to be how and where it is, but also a good bit of the people who live there.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:15 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I really enjoyed Doctor's Diaries.
posted by juliplease at 1:39 PM on June 29, 2010

posted by JanetLand at 1:44 PM on June 29, 2010

The Up Series really is the gold standard in this area. Your search begins and ends there.
posted by fso at 4:52 PM on June 29, 2010

Some of these may veer a little far from your "average life" scenario, but I enjoyed the documentaries you listed and think they're pretty close.

I liked Monster Camp more than I thought I would.

Hell House runs along similar veins as Jesus Camp.

Word Wars is about competitive Scrabble players.

Also King of Kong and Bigger Stronger Faster.

I live half my life in the Netflix Watch Instantly documentary section, so I'll probably think of more later.
posted by good day merlock at 5:01 PM on June 29, 2010 [1 favorite]

I'm not a documentary professional, but I have worked for the IDFA documentary festival in Amsterdam for 10 years -- just a few days each year, but I get to see pitches and works in progress of upcoming films, which is nice.

IMO, Grey Gardens is a classic: here's a good starting point for classic docs, although it's a bit US-centric. Stevie is in there, but it's still underrated, and you have to see it. Really.

Apart from that, a couple of European ones off the top of my head:

Georgi and the Butterflies (trailer)
The trailer shows little to nothing of the comedic brilliance of this film. Man who oversees Bulgarian insane asylum has increasingly outlandish ideas to get rich. Now who's crazy?

Carmen Meets Borat aka "When Borat Came to Town" (trailer)
Documentary about a young woman in a Romanian village and her dreams changes focus when the crew for the Borat film arrives to shoot their "Kazakhstan" scenes there. Aided by a gung-ho lawyer, some villagers travel to London to exact their revenge.

Sync Or Swim (excerpt)
Not to be confused with the U.S. film. A Welsh filmmaker travels to Sweden and joins a male synchronised swimming team. They think they're the only one.
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:12 PM on June 29, 2010

Spellbound was fantastic.
posted by SisterHavana at 6:49 PM on June 29, 2010 [2 favorites]

Vernon, Florida is sublime. It's played perfectly straight, and comes of as both incredibly deep and dryly funny.
posted by Rinku at 11:04 PM on June 29, 2010

Anvil is amazing, sad and fulfilling, all at once.
Home Movie
American Movie - same director as Home Movie. Heartbreaking.
The Devil and Daniel Johnston - defies categorization, but hits all three of your specs - mental disorders, religion, and college students. Too good for words.
posted by dbiedny at 12:36 AM on June 30, 2010 [2 favorites]

Sick. It's not for everyone.
posted by snowjoe at 7:26 AM on June 30, 2010

Okie Noodling -- a fantastic documentary about hand-fishing for (very large) catfish in the lakes and river of Oklahoma. Love this movie!
posted by amanda at 2:57 PM on June 30, 2010

Thank you all! These are fantastic!
posted by iarerach at 4:47 PM on June 30, 2010

Wordplay is terrific, too. Maybe as a double feature with Word Wars.

Also, not actually a documentary, but Dear People: Remembering Jonestown is a rare glimpse into the thoughts and lives of the people who lived and died in Jonestown. (The people who did The Laramie Project created a similar piece about the Peoples Temple, and the script was apparently published, but I can't find it anywhere. Seeing Peoples Temple in Berkeley was one of the most moving things I've ever experienced.)
posted by kristi at 11:08 PM on July 1, 2010

I don't know if it fits, but Capturing the Friedmans documents a normal family uprooted by the scandal of the father being accused of pedophilia. It's...intriguing how normal and yet troubled they are in their interactions with each other.
posted by ifjuly at 10:21 AM on July 4, 2010

This American Life also happens to be a pretty entertaining TV program on the normal life or average Americans with interesting stories. Two seasons have already seen shown on Showtime and are currently available on Netflix Instant Watch.
posted by 1awesomeguy at 1:15 AM on July 16, 2010

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