For Your Netflix Weekend: Documentaries

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Note: This post is the second in what I’m hoping to make a weekly feature. Do you plan to spend a weekend night or two watching Netflix, then instead spend most of the night trying to decide what to watch? This is for you. Recommendations from me. I’m including runtimes, links to IMDb profiles and basic topic info, where I can. Let me know what else you’d like to see. Thanks!

Something very exciting is happening this weekend in my college town, Columbia, Mo.: The True/False Film Festival. It’s a four-ish-day extravaganza centered around documentary films. I went three times while I was in school and had such a great time, seeing great movies and learning a lot. If ever you have the chance to go, please do.

This year, I can’t make it to True/False, so I’m planning to make up for it by having a little Netflix documentary film festival of my own. And you should, too! Even if you’re “not a documentary person.” Before I went to my first True/False, I wasn’t, either. I hadn’t seen many documentaries, and I had it in my head that they were boring. Wrong! So wrong. True/False taught me how fantastic they can be, how they can be just as gripping as “normal movies,” how they’re inspirational and entertaining as much as they are educational or informative. I learn, I laugh, I cry, I cheer, I get angry. Documentaries are great.

I’m going to give you two lists: Documentaries I’ve seen and loved, and documentaries I want to see. Use them to plan out a festival of your own! One of the things I love most about documentaries is that they’re generally pretty short, so you can get two or more in a night, if you want. Everything listed was on Netflix as of Feb. 26.

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True/False 2014: Private Violence

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Domestic violence against women is something we see in the news unfortunately often — women killed by their husbands, beaten by their boyfriends, attacked by their exes. But for all the headlines, how much do we actually talk about it? How many people hear about a “domestic disturbance” and dismiss it, thinking, “Oh, that’s between them, it’s not anyone else’s business”? How many ask the wrong questions — “What did she to do make him so mad?” or “Why didn’t she just leave?” — instead of asking, “Why does this terrible abuse continue to happen?”

Private Violence, directed by Cynthia Hill, brings domestic violence out of other people’s houses and right onto your screen, where you have to face it. And it’s powerful. It’s so powerful.

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True/False 2014: Jodorowsky’s Dune

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After seeing Jodorowsky’s Dune, here’s what I know about director Alejandro Jodorowsky: He’s a little crazy, he has an amazing imagination, and he’s not afraid to chase exactly what he wants.

Throughout the documentary, which was directed by Frank Pavich, Jodorowsky tells several stories about recruiting people for his dream adaptation of Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel Dune. Most of them go something like this:

I saw that man’s work, and I knew, he is the one! So I called his agent [or encountered him at a party, or chased him down at a restaurant] and said I wanted him for the movie. And he said yes.

Artists. Writers. Pink Floyd. Salvador Dalí. Orson Welles. Whoever Jodorowsky wants, Jodorowsky gets.

Unfortunately, because of financial problems, Jodorowsky never actually got his movie. But this documentary doesn’t give the story a sad ending. As the True/False host said while introducing Jodorowsky’s Dune, it’s about a failed movie, but it feels like it’s about an artistic triumph.

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