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Fagan’s Flick Review–Documentaries

When I sit down to watch a film I want to be entertained, just as most people do. Of course, depending on my mood this takes on different meanings. Sometimes I want to laugh and sometimes I want a film to be thought provoking and, yet other times, being the girly girl that I occasionally am, I want a film that will make me cry. The desire for entertainment usually equates to me watching a fictional film. Until recently, I was never one to sit down and watch a documentary. Documentaries had a certain stigma: they were “educational tools” in high school that teachers used at the end of the year when they were too burnt out to teach another serious minute and when students had acquired that glazed look over their eyes from mentally checking out, the kind one gets while sitting on a beach. Lately, however, documentaries have taken on a compelling nature to me: they tend explore a localized or national controversy through facets that are often overlooked and that may be humanized, which reaches audiences through their capacity for empathy. 

I believe now, however, that my initial schoolgirl perceptions of documentaries are erased and in their place exists an appreciation for the often under-rated genre. Let me walk you through some highlights that I have encountered within the last few weeks. The most recent documentary I watched was Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell (2012), in which the director creates a profile of her complicated family, specifically honing in on her late mother. Polley simultaneously questions the art of storytelling and attempts to piece together an accurate understanding of her mother as she taps into many sources by interviewing family and friends, by reviewing her father’s memoir, and by examining and re-creating home movies. Recently I also watched Linda Bloodworth-Thomason’s Bridegroom (2013). In all honesty, it is an extremely heart-wrenching film so if you want to watch it, let this be your warning. The film follows Shane Bitney Crone’s devastating situation, as he finds himself without marriage’s legal protections when his same-sex partner of six years, Tom Bridegroom, meets an untimely and tragic death. This well made film truly brings home the meaning of equality in the phrase “marriage equality” and humanizes a debate that continues on a national level. Other noteworthy documentaries include (but are not limited to) Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio’s Cropsey (2009), James Marsh’s Man on Wire (2008), and Morgan Spurlock’s classic Super Size Me (2004).

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