Best Documentaries of 2012 (Part Two)

the imposter

The Imposter
Directed by Bart Layton

Your mind play tricks on you all the time. You’re presented with a clear-cut fact, something that is immutably true, and you doubt it. You wake up in the middle of the night, but your mind convinces you that you’ve had a full night’s sleep or it’s actually mid-morning and you’re running late. Someone you care about hasn’t answered your call, so your mind tells you something terrible—a car accident, maybe—has happened to them, even if the real answer is they just didn’t pick up their phone. Why does anyone—and we all do it–play these games on their psyches? What compels us to believe a convenient lie as opposed to accepting the cold, harsh truth? Such heady questions are at the center of The Imposter, a high-intensity and thrilling new documentary… (read the full review)

~ Josh Spiegel

The Invisible War
Directed by Kirby Dick

Kirby Dick’s latest investigative documentary begins with a simple title card stating that all statistics used in The Invisible War come from the US government. The move is bold, effective, and sets a sharp tone. So clear is the crime, so large is the epidemic of rape in the US military, that the US government can’t even contest the main weapon The Invisible War wields to condemn them… (read the full review)

~ Dave Robson

Jiro Dreams of Sushi
Directed by David Gelb

There’s a twist towards the end of Jiro Dreams of Sushi, as revealed by Yamamoto. It’s effective, ultimately heartfelt, and handled deftly by Gelb, who could easily have spiraled the film into melodramatic father-son enmity to play for cheap thrills. Instead, the twist, mentioned only in passing and easily missed, adds to the wonder and respect with which the film treats its subjects. These two men, Jiro and Yoshikazu, are nearly mythical. As Yamamoto says, this is the kind of restaurant that you travel to another country to eat at… (read the full review)

~ Neal Dhand

Special Mention: Leviathan
Directed by Véréna Paravel and Lucien Castiang-Taylor

French anthropologist Véréna Paravel and Harvard professor Lucien Castiang-Taylor direct Leviathan, an 87 minute nightmare projected on screen by a dozen or so strategically placed digital helmet-cams in and around a North Atlantic fishing vessel. This isn’t so much a documentary as it is a ride-along with the crew. There is no narrative, no commentary, no exposition, nor anything normally associated with documentaries. All we are offered is a Biblical title card and an endless wave of disorienting and terrifying images.

~ Ricky D

best-documentaries-2012

Meaning of Robots
Directed by Matt Lenski

Sullivan’s New York city studio apartment looks like the before picture in a Hoarders episode, strewn with odd machinery and what we eventually realize are hundreds and hundreds and thousands of doll-sized robots obviously modelled loosely on Fritz Lang’s Metropolis robot design.

The film acts like a giant optical illusion, the camera roaming over the piles of robots, hiding nothing, but it is only when Sullivan explains that he has built the robots for a stop-motion robot porno to be called The Sex Life of Robots that you realize that they are not just piles of robots, but “thousands of Robots with weiners“! The insanity is only compounded when Sullivan reveals his robotic horses, built to film the climax of his film, a stop-motion recreation of the death of Catherine the Great. (According to apocryphal legend, she was killed when the harness holding up her equine lover snapped.)… (read the full review)

~ Michael Ryan

My Amityville Horror
Directed by Eric Walter
USA, 2012

Whether or not one believes in the events that occurred during Mr. Lutz’s stay on Ocean Avenue is up to individual interpretation. The documentary does not try to verify or debunk the claims made by either side, although there are lengthy interviews with both skeptics and believers, and if you listen carefully, there’s some indication that the filmmakers are skeptics too; at its heart, the documentary is about the deep emotional and psychological scars inflicted on a ten year old boy, scars that remain untreated and raw. They may stem from an actual haunting, or it may come from the dark cloud of reputation that followed both the house and Mr. Lutz wherever he went. These scars are real to Mr. Lutz, and that’s all that really matters in the end… (read the full review)

~ Justin Li

Samsara
Directed by Ron Fricke

Samsara is akin to stream of consciousness, where each successive image and sequence is connected to the last, albeit not always for the clearest reasons. Much like with Ron Fricke’s previous documentary of epic proportions, Baraka (1992), this new outing delivers patient audiences with a tableau of sorts, a window unto the world at large, where and how man fits in, questions which require glances at historic architecture, said architecture’s political and religious significance, Mother Nature’s love-hate relationship with Earth’s dominant species, the multiple, staggeringly varied cultures which characterize various countries, regions, communities, and so on and so forth. For all intents an purposes, and in a possibly clumsy attempt at making a comparison, Samsara is like a 90 minute version of 100 degrees of separation. Fricke, having traversed world over a five year period, constructs a collage of vignettes, sans narration, some barely a minute in length, but each revealing something about what it means to be human. No explicit questions are asked, nor does any one individual or group captured on camera theorize the matter, yet it is abundantly clear that, apart from its visual appeals, the film is intended to be profound and hopes to get viewers thinking… (read the full review)

~ Edgar Chaput

Searching for Sugar Man
Directed by Malik Bendjelloul

One problem the modern narrative documentary faces in the time of instantaneous online information is that the various twists and turns they present may well already be known to a viewer beforehand, them having looked into basic details about the documentary’s subject prior to watching. Searching for Sugar Man has a prominent role for much earlier days of the internet in its story, but the tool now presents a problem for director Malik Bendjelloul. The film concerns exploring what happened to Rodriguez, a Detroit musician whose records tanked in America and whose profile was miniscule. In South Africa, however, his first album is viewed as having fuelled the underground music revolution that helped influence the country’s resistance to apartheid. Rodriguez reportedly sold more records there than Elvis Presley and The Rolling Stones, but no one knew anything about the man, other than that he had killed himself in one of several mythologised ways… (read the full review)

~ Josh Slater-Williams

The Queen of Versailles
Directed by Lauren Greenfield

Anyone who believes excess is the American way would find the new documentary The Queen of Versailles to be a rock-solid example of their point. The film chronicles the last few years in the lives of David and Jacqueline Siegel, who endeavored to build and live in the biggest single-family home in the United States, clocking in at just about 90,000 square feet. (They couldn’t go for a cool 100,000? Where’s the ambition?) Because the Siegels made their fortune in the world of real estate, though, their story takes a disastrous turn after the financial world is rocked in the fall of 2008 by plummeting stock prices. What was once meant to be a simple, shocking story of unfettered greed turns into an equally astonishing riches-to-rags tale… (read the full review)

~ Josh Spiegel

West Of Memphis
Directed by Amy Berg

This exhaustive, horrific and deeply moving documentary is as equally uncomfortable as Amy Berg’s previous Academy Award nominated Deliver Us From Evil, which also centres on the horrific influence of adults upon minors, whilst that piece concerned itself with the Catholic Church abuse scandal it is many ways a companion piece to West Of Memphis, as institutional systems and hierarchies collude with each other in a incandescently fury generating fashion, where the victims both living and dead suffer the cruelties of an ideological purpose – these kids were weird and therefore must be guilty – obscures the facts and he notion of any moral or ethical centre. After presenting the public facets of the case – the murders, their discovery and the subsequent trial and conviction of the three innocent outsiders – the piece begins to unwind the shaky pillars of the conviction, including the mentally challenged Misskelley’s confession after hours and hours of intense and leading interrogation, of testimony from associates of the three who had their own reasons to fabricate their affidavits and have all since recanted their depositions. Once incarcerated a ground swell of protest begins to slowly coalesce, with celebrity figures such as Peter Jackson (who also produced the film with partner Fran Walsh), Henry Rollins and Eddie Vedder providing emotional, financial and strategic support to the growing movement to exonerate the trio, but the imperious attitude of the legal system doesn’t want to hear of any new evidence or illuminating discoveries, and the potential road to justice is obstacled by time and temperament… (read the full review)

~ John McEntee

10 Best Documentaries of 2011

By Ricky da Conceição

Some people take my heart, others take my shoes, and some take me home. I write, I blog, I podcast and I edit.

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One Response to Best Documentaries of 2012 (Part Two)

  1. Justine December 8, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    So many great films here! At least two in my top ten of the year (so far, still have a lot to catch up on!). One of my favourites that wasn’t mentioned is Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel. Though largely successful due to the larger than life persona of Diana Vreeland, I really like the conceptualization of documentary as a conversation, as well as cinematic representation of a magazine. Very cool.

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