Where do you go when you want to watch award-winning and acclaimed documentaries from around the world as well as artistic and experimental classics of nonfiction cinema?
This month, Nonfics is proudly sponsored by GuideDoc, which is our answer to the question above. GuideDoc is a streaming service with a handpicked selection of nonfiction films, many of which you won’t find anywhere else. They curate from programs out of Sundance, IDFA, DOK Leipzig, Hot Docs, Cannes, Visions du Réel, and more international film festivals. GuideDoc introduces a new film to its platform every day, and none of them ever expires.
From the hundreds of titles available, we’ve handpicked some of our favorites to get our readers started with what to watch after subscribing to GuideDoc. Kicking off with the newly relevant political doc A Campaign of Their Own, which focuses on Bernie Sanders’ bid for the U.S. presidency in 2016, our own curation consists of 31 films so that you can watch one per day throughout the month.
These picks are not ranked in order of the best of GuideDocs, but they are listed in an order that’s worth following for optimal appreciation. They’re somewhat arranged by genre and subject matter, and titles by the same filmmaker — there are multiples by Peter Mettler and Michael Glawogger — are grouped together. We’ve added a mini description to each and quoted from our own reviews where available.
- A Campaign of Their Own (Lionel Rupp, 2017) – follows the 2016 U.S. presidential election from the perspective of a devoted Bernie Sanders supporter.
- Citizen Havel (Miroslav Janek and Pavel Koutecký, 2008) – this European Film Award nominee takes a deep and close look at the presidency of Vaclav Havel beginning with his election as the first leader of the Czech Republic, following the fall of communism.
- Cold Waves (Alexandru Solomon, 2007) – considers the history of Radio Free Europe and political propaganda specifically from the viewpoint of Romania.
- The Blockade (Igor Bezinovic, 2012) – pulls you into the extensive student protests in Croatia in 2009, making you feel like you’re part of the successful demonstrations.
- Enemies of the People (Rob Lemkin, Thet Sambath, 2009)
“This Emmy and Sundance-winning film focuses on Khmer Rouge second in command Nuon Chea as interviewed by Thet Sambath, whose parents and brother were killed during the 1970s Cambodian Genocide. It’s a chilling work…one that continues to be relevant to how we look at and confront the great human catastrophes of the past.” – Christopher Campbell
- The Quiet One (Sidney Meyers, 1948)
“The Quiet One tells the story of a young boy named Donald Peters, who grew up in a broken home in the city but finally begins to find love and a future in the nurturing environment upstate [at a boarding school for juvenile delinquents] … Meyers’ fictional scenes and Levitt and Loeb’s nonfiction photography blend together to create something almost undefinable, a collaboration not just between artists but also between modes of filmmaking.” – Daniel Walber
- Far From the Trees (Jacinto Esteva, 1972) – a critical essay of Spanish life and traditions that calls to mind Luis Buñuel’s Land Without Bread.
- Workingman’s Death (Michael Glawogger, 2005) – this Grierson Award winner spotlights extreme physical laborers around the world, including illegal miners in Ukraine, slaughterhouse employees in Nigeria, and steelworkers in China.
- Megacities (Michael Glawogger, 1998) – Glawogger’s earlier film showcases people struggling in the slums of Bombay, Mexico City, Moscow and New York.
- Life in Loops (A Megacities RMX) (Timo Novotny, 2006) – just as it sounds, this experimental music documentary is a remix of Glawogger’s Megacities.
- Picture of Light (Peter Mettler, 1994)
“A scientific adventure flick of sorts, chronicling an expedition to capture the Northern Lights on film. The goal is both scientific and spiritual, not that Mettler necessarily sees a difference between those two categories. This is about transcendence, which can be a similar experience regardless of whether it is rationalized through faith or the mathematics of refraction.” – Daniel Walber
- Gambling, Gods and LSD (Peter Mettler, 2002)
“[Mettler] looks at an almost absurdly wide variety of human efforts to elevate or dislocate the mind and the spirit. He begins at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship Church, where believers speak in tongues and flail around on the floor in their religious passion. From there the journey is limitless. There are gamblers in Las Vegas, sex chair manufacturers, crowds gathered to watch the demolition of giant buildings, recovering drug addicts, Swiss scientists and Indian pilgrims, to name a few. The brilliance of the film is the way in which Mettler treats all of these elements equally, placing the honesty of Canadian Christians and Swiss heroin addicts on the same plane as the less verbal testimony of ancient petroglyphs in Monument Valley.” – Daniel Walber
- The End of Time (Peter Mettler, 2012)
“The End of Time begins at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, making the crystal-clear point that space and time are hardly unrelated concepts. This foundation then kicks off what might very well be Mettler’s most philosophically ambitious nonfiction film yet…The End of Time brings together time, space, nature and humankind in a way that other recent documentaries have perhaps only begun to consider.” – Daniel Walber
- Blue Eyed (Bertram Verhaag, 1996) – this IDA Awards nominee is a documentary record of Jane Elliott’s famous “Blue eyes – Brown eyes” social experiment.
- Give Up Tomorrow (Michael Collins, 2011) – this Emmy-nominated true crime film, an audience favorite at film festivals, chronicles the murder trial of a clearly innocent teenager.
- Sodiq (Adeyemi Michael, 2013) – this breakout student film examines the life of a promising young man who wound up a convicted murderer.
- Beyond Our Ken (Melissa Maclean and Luke Walker, 2008) – with close access, this documentary profiles the cult-like Australian company Kenja Communications.
- Big Boys Gone Bananas!* (Fredrik Gertten, 2011) – Fredrik Gertten chronicles his legal battles against Dole Food over his previous film, Bananas!*, which the company got banned.
- Joanna (Aneta Kopacz, 2013)
“Championed by cinema legend Andrzej Wajda (it was actually produced through his studio), the film chronicles the final days of Joanna Salyga, a Polish woman who began a popular blog after being diagnosed with terminal cancer. Mostly we see her with her five-year-old son and sometimes with her husband. One scene of her telling her husband that she fears for them being okay after she’s gone and how he needs to get a new cancer-free wife is devastating.” – Christopher Campbell
- Elena (Petra Costa, 2012)
“Taking inspiration from Chris Marker and Agnes Varda but still working in a poetic style distinctly her own, Costa recounts her move from Brazil to New York City to become an actress, following in the footsteps of her sibling more than a decade earlier. Much of the footage comes from Elena’s own home videos as Costa attempts to piece together what happened to her.” – Christopher Campbell
- A Girl of Her Age (Márcio Laranjeira, 2015) – Márcio Laranjeira calls his hybrid of fiction and nonfiction, which is about a young couple in Lisbon, a “documentary novel.”
- The Special Need (Carlo Zoratti, 2013)
“Here we meet a 29-year-old virgin named Enea and follow him on an intercontinental mission to have him deflowered…This is a sweet, tender and identifiably true portrait of a person simply trying to make a connection and find love. The title indicates a double meaning, but I think for the movie’s universality there’s only one meaning that matters here.” – Christopher Campbell
- NoBody’s Perfect (Niko von Glasow, 2008) – part expose of the company that produced thalidomide, part spotlight on people born with physical deformities caused by thalidomide as they post nude for a calendar.
- Black Sun (Gary Tarn, 2005) – this BAFTA nominee presents a visual collage as it profiles artist Hughes de Montalembert, who was blinded in an attack.
- Afghan Star (Havana Marking, 2009) – winner of an audience award and a directing prize at Sundance, this film follows a season of a singing competition show in Afghanistan.
- Echoes of Home (Stefan Schwietert, 2007) – a music documentary spotlighting Swiss yodelers.
- Sunday Warriors (Andreas Geiger, 2013) – a profile of five people among the tens of thousands who participate in live role-playing battles in Germany.
- The Man Who Skied Down Everest (Bruce Nyznik, 1975) – this Oscar-winning documentary is about exactly what its title says: Yūichirō Miura, who climbed and then skied down part of Mount Everest.
- Buffalo Girls (Todd Kellstein, 2012) – sports documentary about girls fighting in an underground child boxing ring in Thailand.
- Eighteam (Juan Rodriguez-Briso, 2014) – this film follows the story of the Zambian national football team after they lost 18 players in a plane crash in 1993.
- Linsanity (Evan Jackson Leong, 2013)
“Linsanity isn’t necessarily a sports movie, nor is it solely about Jeremy Lin and his struggles to go pro. It’s also a heavy reminder of how racially minded we are in the U.S. That’s not just the outright racism, although the doc certainly addresses over and over the implication that Lin’s skill was consistently dismissed by owners and coaches because he didn’t ‘fit the mold.'” – Christopher Campbell