Documentary films used to trigger yawns among ordinary mortals. These are films you would watch in schools, museums, or other places for intellectual stimulation. You would not pay to pay watch, as they are probably subsidized by the government or some non-profit agency.
But things have changed. Documentary films are now mainstream entertainment - and some of them are riveting and very interesting. In fact, some are superior to a lot of Hollywood dreck. The more powerful documentaries not only divert you, they open your eyes to new realities, and sometimes change your life.
Below are my personal picks for the best documentary films in recent memory.
An Inconvenient Truth - if you have to see one, see this one about global warming and its terrible far-reaching effects. If you care about how we're leaving our planet for future generations, this will open your eyes. All of a sudden, any other issue is dwarfed.
Fog Of War - a very informative film about the once Secretary of Defence McNamara and the lessons he has learned in life, looking back, in his 80 something years. Our generation should learn lessons from history, ("Empathize with your enemy", "Rationality will not save us", to name a few), but sometimes we don't.
Enron - with this doc, I was able to finally understand how corporate smart guys steal from investors and ordinary people. Ken Lay, Skilling and Fastow's tragic endings show that being smart and greedy is a road to hell.
Winged Migrations - to those who care about nature, and birds in particular, this feature about birds' migratory habits is phenomenal!
Microcosmos - It's fascinating to see things we take for granted when we walk through the woods. The details it shows about insect life is beautiful and amazing.
Supersize Me - this doc will wake you up to the unhealthiness of fastfood (McDonald's) eating. Very gutsy to take on big business. Also very instrumental in making changes to fast-food offerings.
Fahrenheit 9/11 - Moore's entertaining take about the guy whom many have judged to be the worst president of the U.S. To me, it's like shooting a fish in a barrel.
Bowling for Columbine - Moore's sometimes thought-provoking, sometimes funny take about gun violence in America.
The Corporation - an eye-opener, showing how corporations' efforts to maximize profit can be a scourge to our lives - and an even bigger threat to the future. Bovine Growth Hormone, Agent Orange, marketing research on how to inspire children to nag their parents to buy products - it makes its case convincingly.
Darwin's Nightmare - Documentaries about the effects of rampant capitalism on Africa's ecology and people.