Who needs fiction when real life is so utterly compelling? Fandor’s Liz Ogilvie picks five documentaries that never fail to entertain and surprise.
Leave it to the former Head of Programming at Docurama films to be wild about our documentary selection. Fandor’s Director of Marketing Programs Liz Ogilvie has been working in the film industry for more than 15 years and she’s watched a lot of films during that time. In other words, she knows what’s good.
“I’ve always been fascinated by non-fiction filmmaking and the Fandor library has an incredible collection of great documentaries. In selecting my top five picks, I took a deep dive into the genre and in the process added 24 films to my queue, cut my ‘blog’ master list from 32 titles to just 5, and watched 6 films along the way! It was a tough call but my selections are below. I love my job!”
“I confess I know nothing about ballet, but I have a fascination with golden-agers reminiscing about their lives and careers. When I watched Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine’s wonderful documentary Ballet Russes, I found new respect for the discipline. It’s an intimate portrait of a group of pioneering artists—now in their 70s, 80s and 90s—who gave birth to modern ballet. What strikes me most about this documentary is the feeling of love and respect that the filmmakers had for these dancers—it’s almost palpable. It’s brilliant, moving and beautiful to watch.”
“I first saw a rough cut of Monster Road in 2003 when it was submitted for a work-in-progress program run by the New York based organization DocuClub. I was captivated by the main character, legendary animator Bruce Bickford, and the amazing story that unfolded. I particularly liked director Brett Ingram’s seamless combination of traditional documentary filmmaking and the main character’s bizarre claymation. It stayed with me for many days after watching it. The film went on to win “Best Documentary,” at the 2004 Slamdance Film Festival and eventually screened at over 85 festivals around the world.”
“I was delighted to come across the film F.T.A. It had disappeared from the world and was impossible to see, until now. The director Francine Parker (one of the first women directors to be accepted into the Director’s Guild of America) made the documentary with Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. The film chronicles a tour of antiwar entertainers during the Vietnam War era. It was incredibly controversial at the time and watching it made me realize why it was pulled from theaters within a week of its 1972 release. Also, although scruffy, what a good looking duo Jane and Donald were back then.”
“In 2007, I had the honor of being on the short film jury for the AFI/Silverdocs Film Festival [now AFI/Docs] with my fellow jurors David Nugent, Artistic Director, Hamptons International Film Festival and Yance Ford, Series Producer, P.O.V. American Documentary. After much deliberation we selected Sam Green’s short film lot 63, grave c as the winner. It is fascinating story about the death of Meredith Hunter, who was killed at the Altamont Free Concert in 1969. Although his death became a symbol for the end of the Summer of Love, he now lies forgotten, buried in an unmarked and unvisited grave. Told in 10 mins, the challenge is telling a compelling story in such a short amount of time, and Sam does this perfectly. It also looks really cool.”
“I like a documentary that doesn’t take itself too seriously and award-winning New York independent filmmaker Alan Berliner’s The Sweetest Sound does just that. Suffering from an acute case of “Same Name Syndrome,” Alan decides to rid himself of this affliction and get to the bottom of the mystery of human names. This is an entertaining and fun film, but one that also stimulates deeper thought about the meaning of identity.”