Instructional Media Center

• September Feature - Documentaries •


42 Up - HQ792.G7 F6 1998 video
Who would have guessed that watching average British people grow up could be so compelling?  Director Michael Apted gives us the seventh installment of the Up Series.  Long before the advent of reality television, all the way back in 1964, 14 children from diverse backgrounds were interviewed about their lives and dreams. Every seven years, Apted has been back to talk to them, examining the progression of their lives. Check out the entire series and make a day out of it.  The mundane lifestyle of the average Joe has never been so fascinating and well documented.

American Movie -
 PN1995.9.P7 A43 2000 DVD
Documentary of the two-year effort by Mark Borchardt to finish his no-budget horror film, Coven.  The Spinal Tap of horror film making, except this is no mockumentary.

This is Spinal Tap - PN1997 .T488 2000 DVD
Christopher Guest and Rob Reiner invent the mockumentary with this iconic film based on the bloated rock dinosaur of the 60s and 70s.  The references are dated and the genre so thoroughly exploited that the humor may be underaprreciated. The ensemble cast is timeless, turning in a performance that's 11 out of 10.

Gimme Shelter - PN1997 .G866 2000 DVD
A documentary of the Rolling Stones' 1969 tour of the United States, culminating with the free concert at Altamont Speedway in CaliforniaBilled as "The Woodstock of the West", Altamont proved to be anything but - sending the 60s out on a tragic, bitter note.

Theremin: An Electronic Odyssey -
ML1380 .T48 1995 video
Russian inventor Lev Theremin produced some of the most bizarre and technically advanced electronic instruments in the 1920s and 30s.  Unfortunately with mounting cold-war tensions he is sent back to the Soviet Union where he endures Siberian prison camps, eventually ending up as a chief engineer for the KGB.  In the end, the reunion between Lev and former lover Clara Rockmore is bittersweet, a painful reminder of what could have been.

Straight No Chaser - ML417.M6 T5 1990 video
One the coolest and strangest musicians of the beebop scene, Thelonius Monk, is examined in this 1968 documentary that combines Michael and Christian Blackwood's footage of the jazz pianist and composer with new interviews, archival photos and more.

At the Heart of Impressionism - ND553.P55 P57 1998 video
Three master artists are examined in 4 short films.  The first film traces the artistic development and life of French impressionist painter, Camille Pissarro, using quotations from his letters. The second film is five minutes of silent, black and white footage of Jackson Pollack at work. In the third film, Jackson Pollock is interviewed as he paints on glass at his home on Long Island, and speaks about his natural urge to paint. The fourth film shows Dutch-American painter Willem de Kooning at work in his studio, and includes footage of the artist walking around New York.

Baseball - GV863.A1 B384 2000 and Jazz - ML3506 .J36 2000 DVD
Perhaps no filmmaker documents the American experience as thoroughly as Ken Burns.  In Baseball, Burns tells the history of American through its favorite passtime.  Jazz gives viewers American history thorough music.  Although Burns is often maligned by critics for being a bit too precious and nostalgic, the footage, interviews and subject material tell a story so thoroughly compelling, it's hard not to watch episodes back to back to back.  Give yourself some time.  Each series has 10 discs and over 12 hours of material.

When We Were Kings - PN1995.9.D6 W546 2005 DVD
In 1974 Mohammad Ali was an aging former heavy weight champ trying to get back on top.  George Foreman was the heavily favored undefeated heavy weight champ.  They met in Zaire in a fight dubbed "The Rumble in the Jungle".  The rest is history.  Winner of the 1997 Academy Award for best documentary. 

The Times of Harvey Milk -
HQ76.8.U5 T56 2004 DVD
No to be confused with the recent Sean Penn movie, this film documents the life of the real Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person elected to a city council.  Milk's life is examined, his successful efforts to politically represent San Francisco's gay community, and the city's reaction to the assassinations through extensive news footage and personal recollections

Mardi Gras Made in China - HF1718.C37 M37 2006 DVD
Filmed on location in Fuzhou, China and New Orleans, Louisiana, the film follows "The Bead Trail" backwards from the bacchanalia at Mardi Gras to the factories in Fuzhou where the beads are made. The film comments on the inequities of globalization by illuminating the clash of cultures by juxtaposing American excess and consumer culture against the harsh life of the Chinese factory worker

Planet Earth - QB 631.2 .P536 2007 DVD  
A stunning 11-part series that captures rare action, impossible locations, and intimate moments with our planet's best-loved, wildest, and most elusive creatures.  Narrated by David Attenborough.