Whether you like him or his films is one matter but there is little debate over the influence that Michael Moore’s gadfly-style and provocative documentaries have had in helping to reestablish the documentary film as both a socially relevant means of inquiry and as a big money generator for Hollywood studios. He also can be credited with both raising the awareness of those who were already working in this area (Errol Morris e.g.) and for convincing Hollywood studios that quality documentaries neither have to be boring and didactic affairs nor box office busts.
The library collects a wide and diverse array of documentaries that cover the topical gamut, including art, politics, nature, religion, popular culture, history and sports. Those films that have struck a chord with me over the past several years are too numerous to mention but here is a brief list of those that stand out.
The Kid Stays in the Picture (The rise and fall and rise again of Hollywood producer Robert Evans)
Born Into Brothels (A heart wrenching examination of Indian children caught up within a vicious cycle of poverty and exploitation)
The Cool School: How L.A. Learned to Love Modern Art (a look back at a closely knit group of artists who played a large role in the making of the post-war, Los Angeles art scene)
The Fog of War (Academy Award Winner follows the life of former Secretary of Defense, Robert S. McNamara as he opines about the lessons he’s learned about war, diplomacy and foreign relations)
American Hardcore: The History of American Punk Rock 1980-1986 (Examines the cultural and historical roots of this seldom chronicled style of music)
The 50 Years War: Israel and the Arabs (An excellent historical introduction to many of the topics central to Middle Eastern conflicts that still persist today)
Riding Giants (Everything you ever wanted to know about the history of big wave surfing is here with panache and style)
An Inconvenient Truth (Global warming has never been so stylishly presented for the masses)
The Endurance: Shackleton’s Legendary Antarctic Expedition (Few stories are as compelling and unbelievable as this one)
The Devil and Daniel Johnston (More than just a biography of the cult singer/songwriter but also a tender portrayal of someone who suffers from schizophrenia and depression)
The Bridge (A difficult film to watch but one that humanely grapples with the subject of suicide)
Rivers and Tides (Chronicles the way in which the artist Andy Goldsworthy goes about working on one of his earth sculptures)
Kid Stays in the Picture