Saturday, December 10, 2022

Best Documentaries of the Century: How The Artform Has Grown and Proven Increasingly Popular

Documentaries have risen in prominence over recent years: no longer the often dry and colorless affairs of the past, they now are often held in the same regard as blockbuster movies or critically acclaimed tv series, with the best of them garnering critical praise and sky-high viewing figures.

This new accessibility has fueled their popularity, and we explore this and other factors in their ascension below, as well as taking a look at some ground-breaking examples of the genre.

Winter On Fire

This compelling, raw, and often distressing documentary from 2015 showcases how the medium has evolved to recount the individual narratives that are woven – often unseen – through seismic national events.

Winter On Fire covers the unrest in Ukraine during 2013 and 2014, telling the stories of students involved in the initially peaceful demonstrations; these demonstrations were the springboard that culminated in a violent, nationwide revolution that demanded the resignation of Ukraine’s then-president, Viktor F. Yanukovich.

Winter On Fire was nominated for a slew of awards, including in the category of Best Documentary Feature at the 2016 Oscars, and won the People’s Choice Award at the Toronto Film Festival a year earlier.

Using a mixture of footage captured from those on the ground, stock footage, and filmed interviews with a range of people involved in and affected by the unrest (including protesters, activists, medical workers, and artists), the documentary is an affecting, important watch, especially relevant today in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which can help viewers to get a deeper understanding of the country and the scope of the current tragedy being experienced by its people.

Blue Planet II

Often heralded as a turning point in public awareness about the environment and the damage our lifestyles are increasingly inflicting upon it, the documentary Blue Planet II is an example of how the medium has risen in importance.

First aired on the BBC in 2017, Blue Planet II focused on marine life and the catastrophic consequences of plastic pollution. The documentary had over fourteen million viewers in the UK when it was released, and its emotive, powerful messages about the need to conserve our oceans and waterways – combined with stunning cinematography that captured the beauty of these environments – had a massive effect.

In the first half of 2018, an analysis of conversations happening on Twitter regarding plastic waste had doubled compared to the same period of the previous year; and people weren’t just talking about this issue – public behavior was changing, too. The ‘Blue Planet Effect’ is credited with being largely responsible for the shift in how we use and consume plastic, a shift that was just the starting point for wide-ranging alterations in the way in which we view and use our planets’ precious resources.

With its stunning shots, cinematic music, and concern to protect the environments it captures, Blue Planet II is a testament to the power of the documentary form today.

Fahrenheit 9/11

Well-known filmmaker and left-wing political activist Michael Moore wrote and appeared in this documentary from 2014; Fahrenheit 9/11 is a great example of how the style of documentary-making has made the medium more accessible than ever before. With his caustic wit, razor-sharp observations, and no-holds-barred look at American internal politics and foreign policy, the documentary is a deceptively easy watch that pulls no punches nonetheless.

The film focuses on the presidency of George W. Bush, the war in Iraq, and how the conflict was covered by the media.; it made its debut at the Cannes Film Festival in 2014 and went on to win the prestigious Palme d’Or. Upon its release, Fahrenheit 9/11 became the highest-grossing documentary feature of all time.

Hoop Dreams

This 1994 documentary film tells the story of two boys from inner-city Chicago who want to undertake the journey to become professional basketball players by first obtaining college scholarships.

The film follows the boys through four years of high school, focusing on their determination to get the grades to facilitate their scholarships and the challenges to their dreams they face along the way. Issues of racism, drugs, peer pressure, and poverty are all explored in this powerful and absorbing documentary.

Exit Through The Giftshop

And finally, a romp of a film from 2010 that regularly features on ‘best documentary of all times’ lists. Exit Through The Giftshop is the creation and brainchild of a French artist and amateur filmmaker who sets out on a mission to track down and film legendary UK graffiti artist Banksy. The film features appearances from Banksy himself, as well as other infamous street artists, including Invader and Shephard Fairey.

The film was a huge hit with critics and audiences alike and picked up a raft of award nominations, including an Oscar nod in the Best Documentary category.

Inventive, funny, and vibrant, Exit Through The Giftshop perfectly demonstrates the capacity that the documentary medium has to be life-affirming, inspiring, and joyous. The unofficial premiere of the film was held beneath Waterloo railway station in an abandoned tunnel – tickets sold out within minutes, and attendees were presented with tins of spray paint as they departed the screening.

Aarif Kapur
Aarif Kapur
Aarif Kapur is a guy who is 25 years old and likes to try new things. He has been writing for for a long time. His main goal is to give accurate information to users.

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