Docs that are Different
February 15, 2012 4:10 AM   Subscribe

Docofi: Human Planet, One Giant Leap, Crossing the Bridge, Baraka, Playing for Change and the Qatsi trilogy are all great examples of documentaries that don't follow a traditional narrative. I'm looking for more documentaries that are neither investigative (Thin Blue Line, Capturing the Friedmans) nor quest/mission based (Catfish, 10 MPH), but rather paint a picture. If that's not clear enough, picture a nature documentary, but instead of animals the subject is "art" or "culture" or some kind of theme. Bombay Beach, The Gleaners and I and Dark Days are sort-of good examples.
posted by omnigut to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
Into Great Silence
posted by Obscure Reference at 4:47 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams?

You mentioned The Gleaners and I; have you watched Agnès Varda's other documentaries, like The Beaches of Agnès? That's about as "painterly" a documentary as you will ever find.
posted by bcwinters at 4:49 AM on February 15, 2012 [2 favorites]

The Century of the Self is a fantastic documentary about the invention of public relations and engineering consent. It was written and directed by the BBC's Adam Curtis and explains how corporations and governments collude to manipulate the public. It's all available to watch online and I can't recommend it highly enough.
posted by hazyjane at 4:57 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Have you tried any Frederick Wiseman documentaries? They don't investigate or have a mission; they don't have any narration or interviews. They immerse you, usually in a place and its inhabitants, which feels to me like painting a picture of a small slice of society/culture. For instance, here's a trailer for Boxing Gym.
posted by theatro at 5:28 AM on February 15, 2012

Into Great Silence looks perfect. The Cave and The Century seem a little investigative, but I'll give them a watch. Although I feel I should like her, for some reason I can't stand watching Varda — although I know her films perfectly fit the bill, so thanks for the suggestion!

Frederick Wiseman movies. I can't find any on (I'm in the UK), but his stuff also looks amazing.

Thanks, and any other suggestions welcome!
posted by omnigut at 6:08 AM on February 15, 2012

Wasteland, Microcosmos, both seem like they'd fit as well.
posted by omnigut at 6:09 AM on February 15, 2012

Hm, yeah, Wiseman is thin on the ground at although his 2009 La Danse is available there. I haven't seen it yet, myself.
posted by theatro at 6:20 AM on February 15, 2012

You might like Rivers and Tides and Manufactured Landscapes, both about artists (Andy Goldsworthy and Edward Burtynsky, respectively). Both have narrative elements, but they're not overwhelming.

You might keep an eye out for the upcoming Timescapes, too, and add the Spirit of Baraka website to your feeds.
posted by box at 7:39 AM on February 15, 2012 [1 favorite]

Touch the Sound
posted by obscurator at 8:01 AM on February 15, 2012

I think Sweetgrass fits the bill. No voice-over, no actual narrative, just a who' lotta sheep and beautiful Montana scenery, but it paints a picture for sure.
posted by heyho at 8:23 AM on February 15, 2012

Last Train Home
Ghengis Blues
The Story of the Weeping Camel (it is a little bit docu, a little bit drama)
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 10:09 PM on February 15, 2012

Errol Morris's Gates of Heaven:
The film, like Morris' other works, is unnarrated and the stories are told purely through interviews. It is divided into two main sections. The first concerns Floyd "Mac" McClure and his lifelong quest to allow pets to have a graceful burial. McClure's business associates and his competitor, a manager of a rendering plant, are interviewed. [...]

Gates of Heaven launched Morris' career and is now viewed as a classic. In 1981, Roger Ebert named it one of the ten best films of the year. The film's acclaim stems less from its coverage of pet cemeteries than how Morris builds on this base to explore issues such as mortality and the afterlife.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:37 AM on February 16, 2012

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