Documentaries

WikiLeaks’ lawyers sharply criticize Laura Poitras’ documentary Risk

By David Walsh, 19 May 2017

Poitras’ film about Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, the four lawyers contend, undermines the credibility of the organization at a critical moment and exposes the documentary’s subjects “to considerable legal jeopardy.”

The Coming War on China: A pacifist appeal

By Richard Phillips, 14 April 2017

Pilger’s documentary exposes something of Washington’s escalating war plans against China but suggests that protests can prevent a nuclear conflagration.

Revolution: New Art for a New World—A careless, unserious treatment of Russian Revolutionary art

By Joanne Laurier and David Walsh, 17 March 2017

British filmmaker Margy Kinmonth is out of her depth in her documentary about Russian avant-garde art.

The Look of Silence: Important documentary on the aftermath of the 1965 Indonesia massacres

By Clara Weiss, 6 March 2017

In a profoundly moving, intimate and disturbing way, Joshua Oppenheimer’s film deals with the long-lasting and devastating impact of the mass murder of up to one million Communists and suspected Communists.

National Bird: “I don’t know how many people I’ve killed,” says US drone pilot

By Joanne Laurier, 9 November 2016

Sonia Kennebeck’s film, whose title suggests that drones should now be considered the US national emblem, is a documentary that brings to the screen the story of three whistleblowers.

Werner Herzog’s Lo and Behold: Reveries of The Connected World

Exploring the origins and impact of the Internet

By Kevin Reed, 8 October 2016

The movie examines the origins and implications of the Internet and related technologies such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things and space travel.

Miss Sharon Jones! Barbara Kopple’s documentary

By Kevin Martinez, 12 September 2016

Veteran documentarian Barbara Kopple has returned with a lively and inspiring film about soul singer Sharon Jones and her battle with pancreatic cancer.

The Score of War: A haunting documentary film on Ukraine

By Bernd Reinhardt, 17 August 2016

In April of last year, the Ukrainian violinist and composer Mark Chaet, accompanied by a small film crew, travelled from Berlin to his home in Eastern Ukraine.

Hillsborough: A powerful and moving account of Britain’s worst sporting disaster

By Robert Stevens, 14 May 2016

The documentary reconstructs key events and includes harrowing footage of the crush and its aftermath, as well as interviews with family members, survivors and police officers on duty.

Of Men and War: Among the countless victims of American imperialist violence

By Joanne Laurier, 8 April 2016

The damage of post-traumatic stress disorder inflicted by the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on US soldiers is addressed in this immersive documentary by French filmmaker Laurent Bécue-Renard.

In Jackson Heights: Documentarian Frederick Wiseman on life in a New York City neighborhood

By Mark Witkowski and Fred Mazelis, 29 December 2015

If nothing else, Wiseman’s new documentary is a reminder of the fact that, even in this wealthiest city in the world, the working class makes up the vast majority of the population.

The Wrecking Crew: The “secret star-making machine” of 1960s pop music

By Joanne Laurier, 14 November 2015

Denny Tedesco’s lively documentary is a heartfelt tribute to a group of studio musicians in Los Angeles, nicknamed the Wrecking Crew, who were behind some of the biggest hits of the 1960s.

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution: No lessons learned

By Clare Hurley and Fred Mazelis, 9 October 2015

Riveting video footage along with complacent commentary adds up to a misleading account.

PBS documentary Putin’s Way: Half-truths and lies in the service of US warmongering against Russia

By Andrea Peters, 9 September 2015

The half-truths, omissions and hypocritical expressions of moral indignation that characterize this supposed exposé of Putin are intended to make the case for regime-change in Russia.

What Happened, Miss Simone?: The life of African-American singer, pianist and civil rights activist Nina Simone

By Helen Hayes and Fred Mazelis, 22 July 2015

Simone did not so much move between different genres—jazz, gospel, blues and folk—as combine them into her own unique and powerful style.

“Frontline” broadcast documents CIA torture program

By Eric London, 21 May 2015

The PBS series’ May 19 episode is a chilling account of the CIA’s torture of hundreds of detainees during the Bush administration.

German television documentary on the troika and Greece

By Christoph Dreier, 28 February 2015

While the film shows how the troika engineered a social catastrophe, it promotes the policies of Syriza and other bourgeois critics who support the EU austerity program.

Edith Wharton—The Sense of Harmony: A documentary about the American novelist

By Joanne Laurier, 12 December 2014

IndiePix Films has recently released a one-hour documentary about American novelist Edith Wharton (1862-1937), featuring fascinating, never-before-seen archival footage.

Still The Enemy Within: The 1984-85 British miners’ strike according to the pseudo-left

By Paul Mitchell, 15 November 2014

The central problem with the documentary is its promotion of the state capitalist Socialist Workers Party’s perspective, which lets the Labour Party and the unions entirely off the hook for the betrayal of the miners.

The Newburgh Sting: A case of entrapment

By Isaac Finn, 27 August 2014

The HBO documentary reveals how the FBI and mainstream media worked to get four impoverished men in New York state convicted of a “terrorist plot.”

Rich Hill: A story that “could be told in hundreds of towns”

By Joanne Laurier, 20 August 2014

The documentary, directed by cousins Tracy Droz Tragos and Andrew Droz Palermo, movingly chronicles the lives of three boys living in an impoverished, rural southwestern Missouri town.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2013—Part six

Two very different documentaries: Sofia’s Last Ambulance and Sing Me The Songs That Say I Love You—A Concert for Kate McGarrigle

By David Walsh, 4 June 2013

The recent San Francisco film festival screened a number of documentary films, including these two, contrasting works.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2013—Part one

The Kill Team: The murderous reality of the US war in Afghanistan

By Joanne Laurier, 16 May 2013

The 56th San Francisco International Film Festival recently concluded. The event this year screened 158 films from 51 countries, including 67 fiction features, 28 documentary features and 63 short films.

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States

By Christine Schofelt, 11 April 2013

Untold History is a 10-part documentary series that premiered on Showtime in November 2012. Its stated aim is to shed light on little known or deliberately obscured aspects of American history.

Vadim: German documentary chronicles a family destroyed by immigration authorities

By Bernd Reinhardt, 24 January 2013

The tragic story of Vadim K. and his family documents the callous inhumanity of Germany’s immigration authorities and politicians and refugee law.

Dangerous Remedy: Bertram Wainer and the struggle for abortion rights

By Richard Phillips, 3 December 2012

New Australian telemovie falsely marketed as crime drama.

Detropia: A compassionate, confused study of a devastated city

By James Brewer, 11 October 2012

The deindustrialization and dismantling of Detroit is the subject of a new documentary.

The Queen of Versailles: American “royalty” seeks to build its own palace

By Fred Mazelis, 11 August 2012

A new documentary tells the tale of a Florida billionaire and lifts the lid on a portion of American social reality.

San Francisco International Film Festival 2012—Part 2

Crulic—The Path to Beyond from Romania: The tragic fate of a decent, humble human being

By Kevin Kearney, 19 May 2012

The second film by Romanian filmmaker Anca Damian, Crulic—The Path to Beyond, was another noteworthy documentary (or semi-documentary) featured at the 2012 San Francisco film festival.

An interview with Chad Freidrichs, director of The Pruitt-Igoe Myth

By Fred Mazelis, 17 February 2012

The director of The Pruitt-Igoe Myth, a documentary about public housing in the US, speaks to the WSWS.

The Pruitt-Igoe Myth: A serious look at public housing and the fate of US cities

By Fred Mazelis, 1 February 2012

A new documentary film examines the history of a St. Louis housing project.

Images of a dictatorship: La Cantuta in the Jaws of the Devil

By Armando Cruz, 13 September 2011

Directed and written by Amanda Gonzales

Werner Herzog’s Cave of Forgotten Dreams

By Philip Guelpa, 8 July 2011

This documentary affords viewers the ability to experience the interior of Chauvet Cave in southern France, which contains the oldest known cave art anywhere in the world.

100 years since the historic workplace tragedy in New York City

HBO’s Triangle: Remember the Fire

By Charles Bogle, 25 March 2011

The excellent production values of Triangle: Remember the Fire leave an indelible visual memory of one of the greatest tragedies in American workplace. Sadly, the documentary’s limited perspective dishonors the legacy of the tragedy.

100 years since tragic blaze killed 146 garment workers

Triangle Fire on PBS’s “American Experience”: compelling documentary marred by liberal perspective

By Charles Bogle, 12 March 2011

Triangle Fire recreates one of the truly tragic workplace disasters in US history. Producer-director Jamila Wignot offers a compelling portrayal of the inhuman conditions that led to the fire and the loss of 146 lives.

John Pilger’s The War You Don’t See: An indictment of news reporting as state propaganda

By Paul Mitchell, 4 January 2011

John Pilger’s The War You Don’t See examines the media’s role in wartime and asks whether it has become part of the propaganda machine of the state.

An additional comment on Inside Job, the documentary about the financial meltdown

11 November 2010

Joanne Laurier of the WSWS recently commented on the documentary film, Inside Job. A WSWS supporter adds this comment.

Toronto International Film Festival 2010

ANPO: Art X War—Art and opposition in postwar Japan

By Lee Parsons, 14 October 2010

ANPO: Art X War, a remarkable documentary from first-time director Linda Hoaglund, deals with the mass opposition that erupted in Japan in 1960 to the continuation of the US military presence in that country.

Waiting for Superman

American liberalism spearheads the right-wing attack on public education

By Dan Conway, 7 October 2010

Students are protesting today against attacks on public education under conditions of mounting social distress for millions of young people.

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould: A more intimate view

By Joanne Laurier, 10 September 2010

Genius Within: The Inner Life of Glenn Gould by Canadian documentarians Michéle Hozer and Peter Raymont is a compilation of previously unseen footage of Gould, as well as hundreds of photographs and excerpts of private home and studio recordings.

Globalization and its human consequences: The Red Tail

By Joanne Laurier, 6 July 2010

The Red Tail, a documentary co-directed by Dawn Mikkelson and Melissa Koch, is a human drama that treats a question of immense importance: the consequences of a globally-integrated economy.

A conversation with Austin Chu, co-director of The Recess Ends

A film about the impact of the economic crisis in the US

By Marge Holland, 9 December 2009

Earlier this year Austin and Brian Chu traveled to every state in the US in an effort to capture the reality of the recession, which was being so under-reported by the American media. The WSWS spoke to Austin Chu recently in San Francisco.

An exposure of corruption: Afghanistan, on the Dollar Trail

By Mathew Benn, 31 October 2009

Afghanistan, on the Dollar Trail, written and directed by Paul Moreira and produced by Sue Spencer

“Obama’s War”: A glimpse of US debacle in Afghanistan

By Bill Van Auken, 15 October 2009

“Obama’s War,” the hour-long television documentary aired on “Frontline” Tuesday, provides a telling glimpse of the debacle facing the US intervention in Afghanistan, but no real explanation of why the war is being fought.

Sydney Film Festival 2009—Part 3: Some perceptive documentaries

By Richard Phillips and Ismet Redzovic, 13 July 2009

This is the third in a series of articles on the Sydney Film Festival held June 3-14.

Afghan Star: Eyes not opened wide enough

By Peter Kloze, 23 June 2009

Afghan Star, a documentary about Afghanistan’s version of American Idol, the television talent show, includes some interesting human material, but glosses over all the complex questions.

Billy the Kid: “Can you see inside me?”

By Joanne Laurier, 31 March 2009

Billy the Kid is an unusual independent film, about a teenager in a small town in Maine.

The Silence of the Quandts: The history of a wealthy German family

A documentary film by Eric Friedler and Barbara Siebert

By Emma Bode and Brigitte Fehlau, 29 November 2008

The award-winning The Silence of the Quandts deals with the unscrupulous rise of one of Germany’s richest and most influential families. The family, which owns 47 percent of auto manufacturer BMW, is implicated in the crimes of the Nazi regime.

Robert Hughes: A refreshingly frank comment on the art market

By Paul Bond, 14 October 2008

On September 16, even as Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch were collapsing, Damien Hirst was setting a new record for sales at auction by an individual artist. His private auction at Sotheby’s netted him $197.8 million.

New documentary on Pinochet’s dictatorship: Some wounds should not heal

By Debra Watson, 25 September 2008

The Judge and the General tells the story of recent efforts to bring to justice the perpetrators of horrific acts of political repression committed three decades ago under Chilean military dictator Augusto Pinochet.