Welcome to Documental, a monthly column keeping fans of nonfiction films and docuseries up to date on all the documentary content coming to theaters and your favorite streaming services. Here’s a guide to all the essential documentary titles to watch in January 2022.
Happy new year! January is typically a light month for new documentary releases. The awards contenders have made their debuts by the end of December, and now we’re waiting for Sundance to premiere this year’s initial hopefuls. So, January’s Documental guides are best for highlighting exciting programs of classic docs and notable documentarians.
First up, though, is something new, or at least a fresh season of a recent favorite. Let’s get right into it. Here’s your guide to all the documentary films and series new to theaters and streaming in January 2022:
Pick of the Month: Cheer Season 2
The Netflix docuseries Cheer made its debut in January 2020 to great acclaim. It went on to win three Primetime Emmy Awards and two Critics Choice Real TV Awards. Coming from Greg Whiteley, creator of Last Chance U, the series’ success wasn’t surprising. But soon after its release, COVID-19 struck and plans to continue the show were put on hold.
Actually, I was told back in 2020 that the series wasn’t going to be able to continue at all due to the pandemic (it was deemed a limited series for CCA consideration). And when Cheer‘s most popular “character,” Jerry Harris (named Best Male Star in 2020 by the CCA), was later arrested on child pornography charges, the series appeared to be best left behind.
Well, surprise! Cheer Season 2 was announced out of the blue last month by Netflix for release this month. The continuation will pick up with events starting two years ago, again following the rival cheer squads from Navarro College and Trinity Valley Community College as they aim for the National Championship in Daytona Beach.
Season 2 of Cheer covers the cancelation of the 2020 championship due to COVID-19 as well as the event’s return in April 2021. The series also addresses Harris’ arrest and follows that story as well. With so much time and material to cover, it’s not surprising that this season has nine episodes compared to Season 1’s six. Make a binge day of it when it arrives.
Cheer Season 2 premieres in full on Netflix on January 12th.
The Docs of Sundance ’92
With the 2022 Sundance Film Festival coming up soon, The Criterion Channel is looking back to the program of 30 years ago. The 1992 Sundance Film Festival was a big deal, as it’s credited with launching indie film into mainstream awareness thanks to such films as Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Allison Anders’ Gas, Food Lodging.
The former didn’t make the cut for Criterion’s “Sundance Class of ’92: The Year Indie Exploded” program, but we’re focused on the docs anyway. Their selections include Errol Morris’ A Brief History of Time and Camille Billops and James Hatch’s Finding Christina, both of which tied for the Grand Jury Prize for documentaries that year. Morris also received a directing award for the film, an adaptation of Stephen Hawking’s book of the same name.
Other nonfiction titles in the mix: Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky’s Audience Award-winner, Brother’s Keeper; Marlon Riggs’ Color Adjustment, about the representation of African Americans in prime-time television; Lucille Carra’s poetic travelogue The Inland Sea; Alan Berliner’s Intimate Stranger, a film about his maternal grandfather; and Michael Apted’s Incident at Oglala, about a shootout on a Native American reservation in 1975;
Plus: T. Minh-ha Trinh’s Shoot the Contents, which looks at the China of its time (and which won a cinematography award that year); Jean-Pierre Gorin’s My Crasy Life, about a Samoan street gang in LA; and Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s road trip doc Where Are We? Our Trip Through America. Robert Mugge’s music doc Deep Blues: A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads is also technically a part of the program but isn’t available until April 1st.
Sundance Class of ’92: The Year Indie Exploded begins on January 1st.
Documentaries by Lee Grant
Lee Grant has officially only won a single Oscar, for her supporting performance in Shampoo. But she also directed the Oscar-winning documentary feature Down and Out in America and for some reason isn’t credited with the honor alongside its producers. Anyway, you can now see the film and celebrate her achievement with it via The Criterion Channel.
The streaming service is highlighting the filmmaking career of Grant, who recently turned 96 years old. She’s best known as an actress (with three other Oscar nominations to her credit for her performances) but she also went behind the camera and made a number of important nonfiction films such as the early transgender doc What Sex Am I?, released in 1985.
The program mostly covers her 1980s work. There’s 1981’s The Willmar 8, about a women’s bank strike, 1983’s When Women Kill, about women behind bars for murder, and 1989’s Battered, focused on domestic abuse. Also included is her final doc, from 2005, A Father… A Son… Once Upon a Time in Hollywood featuring Kirk and Michael Douglas.
Documentaries by Lee Grant are streaming on The Criterion Channel starting January 3rd.
We Need to Talk About Cosby
Do we need a documentary about Bill Cosby? According to comedian and Emmy-winning TV personality W. Kamau Bell, we do. And he’s probably right. Bell directs this four-episode docuseries for Showtime, and it’s also part of the documentary program at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival this January. It might even be the first Sundance ’22 doc released.
We Need to Talk About Cosby covers the debate on whether we can still enjoy art and other content created by people who turn out to be terrible people. Bell believes Cosby is the ultimate example and addresses how big a part of our lives he was up until he was revealed to be a serial rapist. This isn’t going to be an easy doc to watch, but it is indeed necessary.
We Need to Talk About Cosby debuts on Showtime over four weeks, starting on January 30th.
Now here is your calendar for all the documentaries and reality series releasing in January 2022:
Documentary Release Calendar for January 2022
|1/1||8 Broken Hearts (2017)||Tubi|
|The Accidental Wolf -- Season 1 (2022)||Amazon Prime -- Topic Channel|
|Along the Coast (1958)||The Criterion Channel||French New Wave Shorts|
|Antarctica: A Year on Ice (2013)||The Criterion Channel|
|Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (2011)||Tubi|
|Becoming Santa (2011)||IMDb TV|
|Black Panthers (1970)||The Criterion Channel||French New Wave Shorts|
|A Brave Heart: The Lizzie Velasquez Story (2015)||Tubi|
|A Brief History of Time (1991)||The Criterion Channel||Sundance Class of ’92|
|Brother's Keeper (1992)||The Criterion Channel||Sundance Class of ’92|
|Chronicle of a Summer (1961)||The Criterion Channel||French New Wave|
|Cocaine Cowboys (2006)||Crackle|
|Cocaine Cowboys: Reloaded (2014)||Crackle|
|Color Adjustment (1991)||The Criterion Channel||Sundance Class of ’92|
|Facing Ali (2009)||Amazon Prime Video|
|Fastest Cars in the Dirty South -- Season 1 (2022)||Amazon Prime -- MotorTrend Channel|
|Finding Christina (1991)||The Criterion Channel||Sundance Class of ’92|
|Follow the Money -- Season 1 (2022)||Amazon Prime -- Topic Channel|
|Food, Inc. (2008)||Amazon Prime Video, Tubi|
|Freedom on My Mind (1994)||HBO Max|
|Good Hair (2009)||Amazon Prime Video|
|The Gospel According to to André (2017)||HBO Max|
|Hillary's America: The Secret History of the Democratic Party (2016)||IMDb TV|
|Incident at Oglala (1992)||The Criterion Channel||Sundance Class of ’92|
|Inequality for All (2013)||Tubi|
|The Inland Sea (1991)||The Criterion Channel||Sundance Class of ’92|
|Intimate Stranger (1991)||The Criterion Channel||Sundance Class of ’92|
|Matthew Barney: No Restraint (2006)||Hoopla|
|Miss Sharon Jones! (2015)||Hoopla|
|More Than a Game (2009)||Amazon Prime Video|
|My Crasy Life (1992)||The Criterion Channel||Sundance Class of ’92|
|Neil Young: Heart of Gold (2006)||Showtime|
|Ô saisons ô chateaux (1958)||The Criterion Channel||French New Wave Shorts|
|Pharos of Chaos (1983)||The Criterion Channel||Starring Sterling Hayden Series|
|The Pleasure of Love in Iran (1976)||The Criterion Channel||French New Wave Shorts|
|Pumping Iron (1977)||IMDb TV|
|The Queen of Ireland (2015)||Hoopla|
|The Queens of Comedy (2001)||Showtime|
|Salut les Cubains (1963)||The Criterion Channel||French New Wave Shorts|
|Shoot for the Contents (1991)||The Criterion Channel||Sundance Class of ’92|
|Soul Power (2008)||Crackle|
|Spellbound (2002)||Max Go|
|State of Play: Trophy Kids (2013)||Hoopla|
|Stories We Tell (2012)||IMDb TV|
|That's Dancing! (1985)||TCM|
|That's Entertainment! (1974)||TCM|
|That's Entertainment, Part 2 (1976)||TCM|
|That's Entertainment III (1994)||TCM|
|The Tillman Story (2010)||Tubi|
|Uncle Yanco (1967)||The Criterion Channel||French New Wave Shorts|
|Venus and Serena (2012)||HBO Max|
|Where Are We? Our Trip Through America (1992)||The Criterion Channel||Sundance Class of ’92|
|Women Reply (1975)||The Criterion Channel||French New Wave Shorts|
|Zero Days (2016)||Amazon Prime Video, Tubi|
|1/3||Battered (1989)||The Criterion Channel||Documentaries by Lee Grant|
|Down and Out in America (1986)||The Criterion Channel||Documentaries by Lee Grant|
|A Father ... A Son ... Once Upon a Time in Hollywood (2005)||The Criterion Channel||Documentaries by Lee Grant|
|What Sex Am I? (1985)||The Criterion Channel||Documentaries by Lee Grant|
|When Women Kill (1983)||The Criterion Channel||Documentaries by Lee Grant|
|The Willmar 8 (1981)||The Criterion Channel||Documentaries by Lee Grant|
|1/4||Alex Murdaugh: Death. Deception. Power (2021)||Peacock|
|1/5||Madonna: Truth Or Dare (1991)||Paramount+|
|1/6||Joe Montana: Cool Under Pressure (2022)||Peacock||Peacock Original|
|1/7||Antisemitism (2020)||OVID||OVID Exclusive
|Hype House -- Season 1 (2022)||Netflix||Netflix Original Series|
|The Making of the King (2022)||Netflix|
|Pharma Bro (2021)||Hulu|
|State of Terrorism (2017)||OVID||OVID Exclusive
|Lands (2009)||The Criterion Channel||Documentaries by Maya Da-rin|
|Margins (2007)||The Criterion Channel||Documentaries by Maya Da-rin|
|Paper & Glue (2021)||Peacock|
|1/11||Ailey (2021)||PBS||American Masters -- Season 36 Episode|
|1/12||Cheer -- Season 2 (2022)||Netflix||Netflix Original Series|
|1/13||Brickmakers (Chircales) (1972)||OVID||OVID Exclusive
|The Calm After the Storm (2021)||OVID||OVID Exclusive
|Diego, The Last Goodbye (2022)||HBO Max||Max Original|
|Mute Fire (2019)||OVID||OVID Exclusive
|1/14||Betty White: First Lady of Television||Peacock|
|1/15||The Challenge - Seasons 12 & 25 (2006 & 2014)||Netflix|
|Life Below Zero - Season 17 (2021)||Disney+||National Geographic Original Series|
|Science Of Stupid - Season 8 (2021)||Disney+|
|Selling Tampa - Season 1 (2021)||Netflix||Netflix Original Series|
|The Repair Shop (2021)||Discovery+|
|Teen Mom 2 - Seasons 3 & 4 (2011-2012)||Netflix|
|Zero Days (2016)||Hulu|
|1/17||Betty White: 100 Years Young (2022)||In Theaters||Fathom Events Screening|
|The Murder of Fred Hampton (1971)||HBO Max|
|A Reckoning in Boston (2021)||PBS||Independent Lens Episode|
|1/18||The Last Tycoons: The Producers Who Made the Classics of French Cinema (2021)||OVID||OVID Exclusive
|1/19||Assembled: The Making of Hawkeye (2022)||Disney+|
|Heavenly Bites: Mexico (2022)||Netflix||Netflix Original|
|The Puppet Master: Hunting the Ultimate Conman (2022)||Netflix||Netflix Original Series|
|Searching for Gerda Taro (2021)||OVID||OVID Exclusive
|Too Hot to Handle -- Season 3 (2022)||Netflix||Netflix Original|
|1/20||Midnight Asia: Eat. Dance. Dream -- Season 1 (2022)||Netflix||Netflix Original Series|
|12/23||Dead Man’s Switch: A Crypto Mystery||Discovery+|
|1/24||Not Going Quietly (2021)||PBS||POV -- Season 34 Episode|
|Roger & Me (1989)||The Criterion Channel|
|Three Songs for Benazir (2022)||Netflix||Netflix Original|
|1/25||Hooligan Sparrow (2016)||American Cinematheque||Risk Taker:
The Documentaries of Nanfu Wang
|In the Same Breath (2021)||American Cinematheque||Risk Taker:
The Documentaries of Nanfu Wang
|Neymar: The Perfect Chaos (2022)||Netflix||Netflix Original|
|One Child Nation (2019)||American Cinematheque||Risk Taker:
The Documentaries of Nanfu Wang
|1/27||Flamenco at 5:15 (1983)||OVID|
|1/28||Framed! A Sicilian Murder Mystery (2022)||Netflix||Netflix Original Series|
|Getting Curious with Jonathan Van Ness -- Season 1 (2022)||Netflix||Netflix Original Series|
|Gorbachev. Heaven (2021)||OVID||OVID Exclusive
|Prism (2021)||OVID||OVID Exclusive
|1/30||We Need to Talk About Cosby (2022)||Showtime||Showtime Original|
|1/31||Missing in Brooks County (2021)||PBS||Independent Lens Episode|
|The Woodmans (2011)||The Criterion Channel|