They say truth is stranger than fiction, but those people probably never watched Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone. Nonetheless, there are a stack of excellent docos around right now. Maybe it’s the whole true crime trend, or the fact the world is slowly melting, but people seem to care more about real stuff now. That’ probably a good thing.
Grab the popcorn, guys. These are all the documentaries you should be watching in February.
This story is weird. Icarus follows the film’s maker, Bryan Fogel, as he tries performance-enhancing drugs to try and dope his way through a local cycling event (for research purposes, obvs). It ends with him uncovering a world-shaking drug scandal and helping the head of Russia’s anti-doping program flee to America. 91% on Rotten Tomatoes says it all.
Jiro Dreams Of Sushi
An oldie, but a goodie. If you haven’t seen this one yet, let’s make this the month, eh? Jiro Dreams Of Sushi (great title) follows 85-year-old Tokyo sushi master Jiro Ono, who set up what’s got to be the smallest and the most exclusive Michelin starred restaurant in the world: a 10-seat sushi-only restaurant in a Tokyo subway station.
Faces Places is the story of two French artists (director Agnes Varda and photographer JR) who travelled ‘round rural France, meeting people, taking their photos, and then blowing them up and plastering them in unlikely locations. Part experimental art, part heart-warming tale. It’s also sitting at 100% on Rotten Tomatoes, which is unheard of (even Finding Nemo is on 99% FFS).
Strong Island picked up a Jury Award at Sundance and a swag of other nominations, and it’s generating some serious Oscar Buzz. The film follows the Ford family and their three kids as they navigate the geography of race in modern-day America. Probably not going to have you rolling in the aisles, but it IS essential viewing.
Abacus: Small Enough To Jail
Abacus sounds absolutely insane. It’s the story of a small, family-run Chinese bank in midtown Manhattan, which became the ONLY financial institution to face criminal charges as a result of the sub-prime mortgage crisis. Basically the big banks were ‘too big to fail’ and these guys were ‘small enough to jail’. Go and get woke.
Last Men In Aleppo
Another Oscar nominee, Last Men In Aleppo is the work of Syrian documentary maker Feras Fayyad. This thing is classic boots-on-the-ground reporting—an inside look at the so-called White Helmets, a Syrian civilian organisation who follow military attacks to try and save lives. Confronting, but the reviews are stellar.
Imagine you’re trying to build a world-class French restaurant in Cleveland. Now imagine most of your staff just got out of prison and have never cooked before. Now imagine you’re opening in two months. Knife Skills is the story of what happened next—the launch of social project Edwin’s Restaurant in Cleveland, USA.
Edith + Eddie
Pro tip: don’t wear mascara to this thing. You will cry. A lot. Edith + Eddie is the story of America’s oldest interracial couple and the family forces trying to tear them apart. Edith (96) and Eddie (95), found love late in life, but now their court-appointed guardians are trying to keep them apart. It’s a confronting look at love, loss and guardianship abuse.
The thing about Heroin(e) is it’s NOT your typical drug doco. Sure, it looks at the little town of Huntington, West Virginia, whose heroine abuse rate is 10x the national average. Poverty, crime and health issues are out of control. But Peabody Award-winning director Elaine McMillion Sheldon takes a deliberately hopeful angle. This isn’t a story about how a town fell apart, it’s the story of how it’s going to pick itself up.
Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond
You might have noticed this one floating around your Netflix homepage. Jim & Andy follows the production of the 1999 Andy Kaufman biopic, Man On The Moon. Specifically how Jim Carey drove everyone bonkers by staying in character at ALL times. In a way, he kind of became Andy Kaufman (it’ll make sense when you watch it). Warning: prepare to spiral down a three-hour Andy Kaufman-Jim Carey-REM Wikipedia rabbit hole after watching. We know someone who did this...
...it was us.
Image credit: Andy & Jim | Netflix