Posted by Mark Az.
Before streaming services, the documentary was seen on art house big screens, pay services like HBO and, dare I mention, PBS. They’ve always been around and the good ones always found viewers. But they were mostly one-offs. I remember the first one that really stuck in my head, and I’m not including The World at War and other war docs, because I put them in a separate category. I put them in the “Okay, dad is watching this old war footage and I want to watch The Jeffersons so I guess I’m going to have to catch George and Wheezy during the summer rerun and I’ll sit down and stomach this.” Of course, once I started watching, I was completely enthralled. But most of the time, the doc was an hour or feature-length. As I started to mention, the film that really sticks with me was Errol Morris’ The Thin Blue Line. This was a doc about a murder in Texas. It was the first time I saw re-enactments in a doc done in a creative way. Phillip Glass’ score and the unfolding of the story was compelling stuff. Since then, I search out all Errol Morris films.
Now, we still have incredible feature-length docs. Watch any Kirby Dick/Amy Ziering film. Intense, thought-provoking stuff. Just watched the Netflix doc on Sam Cooke, part of their new Remastered Series that will focus on, I’m guessing, musicians. Can’t wait. But what has really taken off and overtaken my television are the Netflix docs that are between four and eight episodes in length. Some are longer. I can’t stop watching them. All the fiction movies in my queue are like, “Why have you forsaken us?”. Don’t worry, The Raid Redemption, I’ll get to you in time (I write that with Mercedes McCambridge’s voice from The Exorcist in mind).
In the past few months, I’ve cranked through Murder Mountain, The Evil Genius, Wild Wild Country, The Staircase, and a few others I can’t remember. The Fyre Festival films are single films, but there are two of them so I can sort of put them on the list. Anyway, the latest I watched was “Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes.” I remember when all of this was the biggest story in the news in the late 1970s. But I didn’t know all of the story. Joe Berlinger, who is a superb filmmaker (The Paradise Lost films, Brothers Keeper and many others ) unfolds the story but not only focusing on Bundy’s rampage of horror and death, but also of the investigations in Seattle, Utah, Colorado and Florida. Didn’t know half of what happened. The story is indeed incredibly tragic, sad and upsetting. Not a pleasant watch, but a compelling one. We talk about the series in depth in our latest CInemondo Podcast. Please give it a listen and let us know if you agree with our take or not.
Many more docs in my queue - can’t wait to get to them. Thanks for reading…and listening! - Mark Az