PICKS OF THE YEAR
diskurso art magazine's
55 Favorite Documentaries from 2020
Published January 22, 2021
Here are our top 55 favorite documentary films and documentary series (or series episodes) from the past year's releases. They were picked, mostly from streaming media sources, then ranked, not so much according to their demonstration of intricate craftsmanship than to the overall emotional strength of their respective (resultant) end-products and the tenable politics, philosophy, or social theory behind those strengths.
A Thousand Cuts
(Streaming premiere: 12-13 June 2020, Showtime on YouTube / Ramona S. Diaz, writer-director)
AFTER its edit-down of 500 hours of footage, this new film by Ramona S. Diaz (Imelda) got finished in 2020 and finally premiered on YouTube for Philippine viewers on 12 June, Philippine Independence Day.
The film acts as an introduction to the Philippine matrix containing what it and its subject imply are the reinvigorated art of gaslighting, alternative facts dissemination, Russian whataboutism, and Stalinist diktats via lists touted as intelligence-deriving. That last art fits snugly into what is positioned here as a fearmongering stance of an official policy constantly flaunting the argumentum ad baculum.
(Philippine limited release: 29 January 2020; Showtime TV and Amazon Prime premiere: 28 February 2020; Singapore limited release: 30 July 2020 / Lauren Greenfield, writer-director)
IMELDA Marcos would qualify excessiveness as an expression of a "mothering" philosophy. And so, today, she seems to be continuing the practice of a certain mothering mission by becoming something like a dowager queen to a would-be future king of the nation in son Bongbong Marcos. [Read our full mini-review...]
The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend a Broken Heart
(Streaming release: 12 December 2020 / Mark Monroe, writer; Frank Marshall, director)
THIS is likely the most comprehensive contribution to the filmography on the Bee Gees, as far as we know, scanning the trio's struggles and successes as a pop, then beat music, then psychedelic pop/rock, then art rock and baroque pop, then folk rock and country folk, then symphonic rock, then pop rock, then funk rock and blue-eyed soul music-making Aussie marvel . . . before they finally settled into their biggest identity as one of the most popular darlings of disco music. The film does explore the conflict between the brothers, but would surprise some with that chapter about the trio's biggest one with the largely racist and homophobic violent anti-disco movement that virtually cancelled the Bee Gees from the airwaves for a while.
Beastie Boys Story
(Streaming release: 24 April 2020 / Adam Horovitz, Spike Jonze and Mike D, writers; Spike Jonze, director)
KUDOS to Spike Jonze for applying the auditorium lecture format for the remaining Beastie Boys wherein they were given the freedom to present the trio's evolution. That proved quite strongly that the dudes aren't only great at memorizing rap lyrics but also a continuous lecture-like script.
The remaining Beastie Boys' telling of their story is also quite the confession, mostly in regards to their birth as Def Jam's white heroes doing the usual Def Jam routines of toxic masculinity and unrelenting misogyny, especially with their hit "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party)." As we all know, that Ill Communication part of their lives would soon go, as it had to, and things would then lead to critical (though not always chart) successes that had Mike D, MCA and Ad-Rock returning to their own old selves that many more, including girls, could love to have on their earphones.
(Streaming release: 20 March 2020, Netflix / Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, directors)
THIS true crime television documentary miniseries explores the personalities, lives and (alleged) crimes of people involved in the big-cat zookeeping business. Focusing on Joe Exotic and that woman considered by many big-cat keepers as their adversary, big-cat "conservationist" Carole Baskin, the series' seven episodes follow the years that culminated in PETA's and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service's entering the picture. The series' focus on Joe Exotic's narcissistic personality and eventual downfall and arrest is quite coincidental to the film's time of release, viz., this last year of the presidency of Donald Trump. You get our drift. Incidentally, the near-absent laws against big cat ownership tells you a lot about a country looking out for the freedom of the wealthy to do just about anything that would pet their egos, never mind the ecology elsewhere or the neighbors' concerns or the threat of wildlife viruses.
(Streaming release: 8 January 2020, Netflix / Greg Whiteley, creator-director)
IN six parts, this docuseries follows the 14-time NCA National Championships- (and five Grand Nationals-) winning cheer team of the Navarro College Bulldogs of Corsicana, Texas. As much as the series gives us a long and exhilarating soak in the daily dangerous routines of the group, it also grants us a glimpse into coach Monica Aldama's personality as well as those of mainly five of the members of the 40-man squad whose competitiveness and struggles within and outside of cheerleading we found ourselves relating to emotionally. Aldama describes herself as a conservative in orthodox Texas who, however, has gone into arguments with her town's pastor regarding the sexual preference of some of her cheering crew's members. The film also takes a jab at the monopolistic influence of Varsity Brands on the US's billion-dollar competitive cheerleading industry, but mostly it's been the camaraderie between the not-so-affluent members of the team that had us rallying for them, finally sending us to the edge of our seats during the troupe's 2019 national competition participation in the series' culminating episode.
Knock Down the House free on YouTube
(First streaming release: 1 May 2019, Netflix; 2020 release: 17 April 2020, Netflix on YouTube / Rachel Lears and Robin Blotnick, writers; Rachel Lears, director)
RELEASED on Netflix in May 2019, the film returned in 2020 as an all-access video on YouTube (courtesy of Netflix's channel there). Which was just in time for candidate Cori Bush to get renewed exposure (or campaign support on social media) for her to win in the November 2020 US congressional elections and join fellow Justice Democrats-affiliated young politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on the US House of Representatives floor. [Read our review of the film in our May 2019 picks of the month list...]
The "Ilse Crawford: Interior Design" episode of Abstract: The Art of Design season 1 free on YouTube
(First streaming release: 10 February 2017, Netflix, as episode 8 of the series; 2020 re-release: 17 April 2020, Netflix on YouTube as an all-access video / Scott Dadich, series creator; Sarina Roma, episode director)
RELEASED on Netflix in 2017 as the eighth and final episode of Abstract: The Art of Design season 1, "Ilse Crawford: Interior Design" was released by Netflix on YouTube last April as an all-access video, giving us a sigh of relief . . . because it gets us into an interior designer's philosophy instead of the usual feel-good theatrics of, say, white paint-obsessed, happy interior designers like Shea McGee (and family) of Dream Home Makeover. Here, Crawford the history of architecture graduate talks about how interiors influence our behavior, even our humanity. Hey, while we're at it, why not attend this Crawford lecture, too, so you'd further get her point and that of our listing this episode here?
A Love Song for Latasha
(Streaming release: 21 September 2020, Netflix / Sophia Nahli Allison, director)
THIS is a documentary short film about Latasha Harlins narrated through the memories and tears of cousin Shinese Harlins and best friend Tybie O'Baird. And also through the filmic expressions of 2020 USA Fellowship recipient for film Sophia Nahli Allison, a promising name in the language of documentary filmmaking.
(Streaming release: 8 May 2020 / Matt Wolf, director)
AMAZING how a bunch of spiritual hippies would come up with a project they would call Biosphere 2 (with a vivarium) that would later get the interest of the research departments of the University of Arizona (now the project's owner) and influence other scientists' research into sustaining life on, say, Mars. Equally amazing how a consultant later hauled in by financier Ed Bass to oversee the project's future, one who goes by the name of Steve Bannon (yes, that Steve Bannon), would be more interested in getting rid of the science behind the project (for whatever freaking reason, it's up to you to surmise).
Connected: The Hidden Science of Everything
(Streaming release: 2 August, Netflix / Science historian Latif Nasser, host; Arianna LaPenne and Alyse Walsh, directors)
SO, you've probably been asking, what is this series and some of the other entries above doing in an art magazine's documentary picks-of-the-year list? The answer is simple. It's not so much that those films or series, and this series, were intended or are being presented as art . . . as the fact that everything could be seen as art.
For instance, there's the opening episode of Connected titled "Surveillance," and you might remember that there is, in fact, a thing called surveillance art. Remember Warhol's Outer and Inner Space film? So, . . . any of the instances of surveillance presented in this series' first episode can actually be seen as art, as we said, especially as they are being promoted as empirical parts of a philosophical whole, and philosophy has always been a part of art (in case you've been wondering why, say, Artforum would always treat Slavoj Zizek as one of its beloved figures of focus). So, in the same manner with which we would approach the surveillance art of Hasan Elahi, we can attack this episode's particulars as entries to that same art genre where Elahi belongs. Incidentally, where, really, would the difference between the approach to Elahi's art and this episode's approach to surveillance cases be? Oh, we know: the episode is loud and intermittently funny, Elahi's presentations relatively quiet in a gallery. But, . . . c'mon, now, is that all you can come up with in your rally against connections?
Ugly Delicious season 2 and Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi
(Ugly Delicious season 2's Netflix release: 6 March 2020; Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi's streaming release: 18 June 2020 / David Chang, Ugly Delicious presentor; Padma Lakshmi, Taste the Nation presentor; Eddie Schmidt, Jason Zeldes, Laura Gabbert and Morgan Neville, Ugly Delicious directors; Sarina Roma and David Shadrack Smith, Taste the Nation directors)
IMDB.COM's description notes for Taste the Nation with Padma Lakshmi goes: "Host Padma Lakshmi takes audiences on a journey across America, exploring the rich and diverse food culture of various immigrant groups, seeking out the people who have so heavily shaped what American food is today." Meanwhile, through a mere 4-episode stretch, Ugly Delicious' David Chang is still able to take us on an ample trip around the world over season 2 episode subjects like curry or steak, squeezing the history and politics around them. See what we mean? These two shows are a step beyond an Anthony Bourdain cuisine-based travelogue in terms of focus.
(Worldwide streaming release: 14 August 2020 / Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss, directors)
OKAY, so this is a peek into a summer leadership and citizenship program called the American Legion Boys State. Now, before you say anything, there's actually a paralleling leadership program called the American Legion Auxiliary Girls State.
So, okay, in this film you might be seeing quite a bunch of 17-year old conservatives and then a few 17-year old liberals and then some in between, but just remember that simply because one was an Ayn Rand fan when he was 17 (and was probably pretty mean with his being so) doesn't mean that he'd present himself at, say, age 40 as the same or worse sort of animal. This program, organized by the American Legion, would be one of those places where one's young mind would potentially see a pavement towards either radicalization or total conversion. We all learn from each other, after all.
The "Ty Dolla $ign - LA," "Dua Lipa - Love Again," "Nine Inch Nails - Hurt" and "Natalia Lafourcade - Hasta la Raíz" episodes of Song Exploder
(Streaming release: 2 October 2020 (volume 1) and 15 December 2020 (volume 2), Netflix / Hrishikesh Hirway, creator, executive producer and host; Nicola B. Marsh, director)
IN this series' episodes, like in the podcast the new Netflix show is based on, we get respective peeks into eight pop music songs' genesis. In short, we're talking about songwriting (and recording) processes, although some of them are accidental instead of pre-engineered. It's a the-making-of and "how did it all come together?" kind of thing, then.
But, we confess, we were most attracted to the social value elicited in the current moment by the episodes on Ty Dolla $ign's "LA," Dua Lipa's "Love Again" and Nine Inch Nails' "Hurt."
Now, although the nationalist/regionalist pride in Natalia Lafourcade's "Hasta la Raíz" might be questioned in the time of toxic nationalism, there is actually another form of regionalism the positivity of which is all in Lafourcade's song. Think of this kind of pride not as conservatism but as a kind of conservationism wherein each city culture is to be treated as part of an ecology. Most inspiring to us has been Lafourcade's choice to perform only in Mexican buildings that are at least a hundred years old.
John Lewis: Good Trouble
(Streaming release: 3 July 2020 / Dawn Porter, director)
AMY Nicholson of spcr.org/programs/filmweek/: "A great movie to watch now and see how a struggle gets conducted."
Ben Kenigsberg of The New York Times: "Although the film uses a conventional format, it makes an urgent argument: that a new wave of voter suppression has threatened the rights that Lewis labored to secure."
Lisa Trifone of thirdcoastreview.com: "Lays out just how much of this history the civil rights activist has been alive to see―and just how much of it he has impacted, as well."
(Streaming release: 28 October 2020 / Frederick Wiseman, director)
HOW to describe this. Uhm, Rotten Tomatoes says this 4 hr. 32 min.-film is a "glimpse of local government at work that's as patiently observant as it is engrossing" and that it "adds another insightful gem to master documentarian Frederick Wiseman's filmography." Kudos to Mayor Marty Walsh, then, and all the work he and his people have been doing from that Michael McKinnell-designed Brutalist city hall in Boston. We can just imagine how this would have compared to a White House documentary that Wiseman might have done with the same concept and length, shot in the time of that man President Joe Biden once called a "clown." Would that latter film be as engrossing? Perhaps, in a dark-comic way. But maybe just as well that nobody thought of making it.
Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story
(Streaming release: 29 April 2020, Netflix / Daniel H. Birman, director)
THE laws of a land are not always synonymous with justice, given that the laws and concepts of "justice" are always going to be interpreted (and used) according to the ideology of the ruling people given the powers to interpret/use them. That is why there are procedures of law that would require one to plead guilty even if one is innocent, and so on and so forth. It is not so much about justice as simply those, tactics against further injustices from the prosecutorial procedures of law. So, often, by these procedures, the law (and judges, especially racist judges) would side with the pimping industry rather than with girls who might end up shooting one of their pimp's abusive clients. Unless one has got white privilege, in which case a judge might promptly point to the girl as a victim of sex trafficking.
And that is why governors and presidents are given the powers to pardon, in cognizance of injustice or justice gone too far at the hands of the procedures of the law. Of course, in turn, there are injustices in these pardons themselves, especially when coming from a racist (or simply biased) governor or president.
(Streaming release: 8 May 2020 / Sasha Neulinger, director)
UNFORTUNATE that actor-filmmaker Neulinger had to go through his horrors as that boy depicted in this film. Lucky for him, though, in contrast to other victims of sexual assault by pederasts (in incest situations or not), his father was quite the frustrated filmmaker from whose footage archives Neulinger was able to gather material for the technically and emotionally difficult task of portraying his situation as a boy in the long presence of his Uncle Harold and beyond.
Carla Hay of culturemixonline.com: "Rewind is not an easy film to watch, but it's an inspiring example of how someone can confront trauma and use the art of moviemaking as a form of therapy and as a way to help others."
Whose Vote Counts, Explained
(Release: 28 September 2020, Netflix / Leonardo DiCaprio, Selena Gomez and John Legend, narrators; Jennifer Davisson, Leonardo DiCaprio and Phillip Watson, executive producers / Vox, production company)
Top video: the official trailer for Whose Vote Counts, Explained. Bottom video: the full free-access video of "The Right to Vote," one of the three episodes of Whose Vote Counts, Explained.
I Am Greta
(Streaming release: 13 November 2020 / Peter Modestij, idea and concept; Thomas Jackson, story development; Hanna Lejonqvist and Per K. Kirkegaard, story consultants; Olof berglind, story editor; Nathan Grossman, director)
IT seems we really need someone so young with a bit of Asperger's to give us an unadulterated sense of priority and focus, especially this late in the game. [READ our review of the film in our November 2020 picks of the month page...]
Feels Good Man
(Streaming release: 4 September 2020 / Arthur Jones, director)
HOW would you feel if your art product has just been appropriated as a major symbol by a large group you wouldn't want to be associated with? Especially if you can't walk around anymore without being identified as the creator of that symbol.
All In: The Fight for Democracy
(Streaming release: 9 September 2020 / Jack Youngelson, writer; Lisa Cortes and Liz Garbus, directors)
After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News
(TV premiere: 19 March 2020, HBO; Streaming release: 26 March 2020 / Andrew Rossi, director)
Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution
(Streaming release: 25 March 2020, Netflix; 23 July 2020, YouTube / James Lebrecht, Nicole Newnham and David Radcliff, writers; Lebrecht and Newnham, directors)
Dirty Money season 2
(Streaming release: 11 March 2020, Netflix / Dan Krauss, Zachary Heinzerling, Daniel DiMauro, Morgan Pehme, Stephen Maing, Kyoko Miyake and Margaret Brown, directors / Jigsaw Productions, production company)
The "Platon: Photography" episode of Abstract: The Art of Design season 1 free on YouTube
(First streaming release: 10 February 2017, Netflix, as episode 7 of the series; 2020 re-release: 17 April 2020, Netflix on YouTube as an all-access video / Scott Dadich, series creator; Richard Press, episode director)
(Streaming release: 5 February 2020, Netflix / Lana Barkin, Jenner Furst, Jed Lipinski and Julia Willoughby Nason, writers; Furst and Willoughby Nason, directors / The Cinemart, production company)
ALMOST an indictment of the speed of US police and the FBI in solving drug-related crimes as well as of pharmaceutical companies as legal druglord corporations employing the services of pill mill doctors to rake in large profits from an opioid epidemic.
(Streaming release: 31 January 2020 / Lana Wilson, director)
ALONSO Duralde of Breakfast All Day Podcast: "I think this movie has a lot of interesting things to say about fame, interesting things to say about how women are conditioned to be good and be nice and not make waves and get the approval of other people."
Ricardo Gallegos on polvora.com.mx (in Spanish): "It humanizes Taylor Swift and gives us a peek behind her public persona, emphasizing the political ideas and motivations behind her creative process."
Additionally, the film gives you a good appreciation of the kind of man Kanye West is, in a footage where he eggs his audience on to shout, "Fuck Taylor Swift!" And then some.
David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
(Streaming release: 4 October 2020, Netflix / David Attenborough, narrator; Alastair Fothergill, Jonathan (Jonnie) Hughes and Keith Scholey, directors)
TOUTED by Attenborough as his "witness statement" at age 93 about how our planet was back then and where it is headed, it goes beyond reasonable worry (for us, not for him) and scans some possible mitigations we can adopt now.
The Seeker - short film on Vimeo
(Vimeo streaming release: 11 October 2020 / Lance Edmands, director)
DESCRIBED as a "lyrical portrait of an excommunicated Amish woodworker struggling with spirituality, poverty, and life as an outcast from his strict, insular community," this short film was a winner of the Vimeo Staff Pick Award at the Camden International Film Festival, part of the official selection for the Tribeca Film Festival 2020, Nashville Film Festival 2020, and SF Documentary Festival (DocFest) competitions. It's a short story about faith and doubt, Protestant dogma and counter-"Protest". Read more about it here.
(Streaming release: 21 February 2020 (part 1), 19 June 2020 (part 2), Netflix / Kathryn Taylor, creator)
ROTTEN Tomatoes: "Filmed over the course of three years, Babies is a landmark series that explores the miracle of the first full year of life through the pioneering work of leading scientists from across the globe."
Dan Kois of Slate: "It's when I watched the researchers interact with their cherubic subjects, though, that I grudgingly gave in to the magic of Babies' scientific method."
Melinda Houston of The Sydney Morning Herald: "The research process is often as interesting as the results. This is also, of course, wall-to-wall adorable babies."
Helen Brown of The Daily Telegraph: "Although the whole thing could have been compressed into half the length, perhaps it all moves at the right, soothing, gooey-eyed pace for those whose brains are currently being pureed by newborns."
John Serba of Decider: "Just eggheaded enough to engage those of us who want to put a smidgen of math behind the overwhelming flood of emotional sludge we parents feel when we're being parents, or thinking about being parents, or generally existing as parents."
(Streaming release: 3 August 2020, Netflix / Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz, directors)
JEVA Lange of The Week: ". . . showing the inhumanity and unconscionable cruelty of [the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement] agency's tactics."
But finally, after legal threats from ICE, the series was released on 3 August 2020.
Rotten Tomatoes: "A rare and expansive look into the consequences of unfettered power, Immigration Nation is a powerful, harrowing indictment of the current state of American immigration."
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets
(Streaming release: 10 July 2020 / Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross, directors)
SIMRAN Hans of The Observer: "The sense of the watering hole as a haven for lost souls - not to mention the threat of gentrification to civic space - couldn't be more vérité."
Totally Under Control
(Streaming release: 13 October 2020 / Alex Gibney, writer; Alex Gibney, Ophelia Harutyunyan and Suzanne Hillinger, directors)
IAN Freer of Esquire: "A vital, powerful examination of how one political administration could get something so wrong by ignoring the experts."
Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly: "A methodical, devastating account of the American government's malfeasance and failure to act from the top down."
Shirley Li of The Atlantic: "Totally Under Control refuses to look away, and being reminded of how many warnings went unheeded is unnerving."
Pete Vonder Haar of Houston Press: "While many Americans have embodied the concept of 'my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge', few have done so with such tragic consequences as Donald Trump."
Audrey Fox of weliveentertainment.com: "As Totally Under Control goes on, it reaches a fever pitch, a fiery and vengeful scream into the void asking how this was ever allowed to happen."
Sarah Boslaugh of theartsstl.com: "...documents how COVID-19 came to dominate daily life in the United States, as well as how easily that story could have gone in a different direction."
Emmanuel Báez of Cinéfiloz (in Spanish): "In two hours of interviews and data presented in an engaging and understandable way, there is a thought-provoking summary in the hope that the future will take a better course when the next calamity strikes."
The "Bjarke Ingels:
Architecture" episode of Abstract: The Art of Design season 1 free on YouTube
(First streaming release: 10 February 2017, Netflix, as episode 7 of the series; 2020 re-release: 17 April 2020, Netflix on YouTube as an all-access video / Scott Dadich, series creator; Richard Press, episode director)
(Streaming release: 6 May 2020, Netflix / Nadia Hallgren, director)
CAMILLA Long of The Times: "Scrape away the gush and the swaggy fashion, and a fascinating portrait emerges of a rather unhappy and discontented high achiever."
Paul McGuire Grimes of KSTP-TV: "You feel a connection with Michelle Obama. She reminds us that you don't have to be the loudest one in the room or even the nastiest one to be heard. It's what we need to hear right now."
Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
(Streaming release: 27 May 2020, Netflix / Based on Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him, and All the Justice that Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein by James Patterson; Lisa Bryant, director)
ROTTEN Tomatoes critics' consensus was paraphrased thus: ". . . by focusing on the stories of survivors Filthy Rich sheds light on the lasting impact of Epstein's crimes."
Meanwhile, Adam Graham of The Detroit News averred: "There's a bigger, broader story to be told about Epstein, his web of secrets, the network of the rich and powerful and the ways that money corrupts. That will be a knockout. For now, 'Filthy Rich' is a good start."
Based on Filthy Rich: A Powerful Billionaire, the Sex Scandal that Undid Him, and All the Justice that Money Can Buy: The Shocking True Story of Jeffrey Epstein by James Patterson, of course Lisa Bryant's documentary series, being by Lisa Bryant (Unspeakable Crime: The Killing of Jessica Chambers, Gone: The Forgotten Women of Ohio), has no choice but to focus on the survivors' stories.
And of course there's a bigger, broader story to tell here. This is not, after all, just about the narcissistic evil that Jeffrey Epstein was. This is also about the corrupt authorities of America and the lacking laws that continue to enable them, as much as it is about individuals like Alexander Acosta, Alan Dershowitz, Prince Andrew, Les Wexner, Steven Hoffenberg, and all the other people that allowed Epstein to cater to their desires as part of their personalities' privilege.
The "Ralph Gilles: Automotive Design" episode of Abstract: The Art of Design season 1 free on YouTube
(First streaming release: 10 February 2017, Netflix, as episode 5 of the series; 2020 re-release: 17 April 2020, Netflix on YouTube as an all-access video / Scott Dadich, series creator; Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, episode director)
(Streaming release: 24 June 2020, Netflix / Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk, directors)
ROTTEN Tomatoes: "Harrowing yet essential viewing, Athlete A shines an unforgiving light on horrific abuses -- as well as the culture that allowed them to continue unabated for years."
Disclosure: Trans Lives on Screen
(Streaming release: 19 June 2020, Netflix / Sam Feder, director-producer)
ROTTEN Tomatoes: "Disclosure engrossingly illuminates the history and effects of the way transgender lives are portrayed on screen – and outlines how much progress still needs to be made."
The "Es Devlin: Stage Design" episode of Abstract: The Art of Design season 1 free on YouTube
(First streaming release: 10 February 2017, Netflix, as episode 3 of the series; 2020 re-release: 17 April 2020, Netflix on YouTube as an all-access video / Scott Dadich, series creator; Brian Oakes, episode director)
Kiss the Ground
(Streaming release: 26 October 2020, Netflix Philippines / Johnny O'Hara, Joshua Tickell and Rebecca Trickell [Rebecca Harrell Tickell], writers; Joshua Tickell and Rebecca Harrell Tickell, directors)
Dick Johnson Is Dead
(Streaming release: 2 October 2020, Netflix / Nels Bangerter and Marilyn Ness, writers; Kirsten Johnson, director)
ERIC Kohn of IndieWire: "Dick Johnson dies many times in his daughter Kirsten's poignant and personal documentary, starting with the opening credits. And yet he's very much alive the whole time, playacting in an elaborate form of cinematic therapy with his filmmaker offspring as she wrestles with the anxiety of losing him."
On The Record
(Streaming release: 27 May 2020 / Kirby Dick, Sara Newens and Amy Ziering, writers; Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, directors)
OPRAH Winfrey was executive producer, but she later withdrew from the film, citing "creative differences". Anyway, eight executive producers remained with the production, and with the script written by Dick, Newens and Ziering, the project went on under the helm of Dick and Ziering.
We don't know what "creative" flair Winfrey would have preferred, but as it is the end-product looks . . . perfect. Anyway, the film examines the sexual assault allegations against hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, and, according to Rotten Tomatoes' critics' consensus, "uses harrowing first-person accounts to powerfully and persuasively confront the entrenched sexism of an industry and its culture." In other words, the case is sensational enough you don't have to sensationalize it.
The Way I See It
(Streaming release: 21 October 2020 / Dawn Porter, director)
MARK Feeney of Boston Globe: "But what's best about the documentary is all that Obama sun. It's hard to come by these days, even in retrospect."
Kevin Crust of The Los Angeles Times: "Though it goes adrift at times, the film lands at a moment when you may need some uplift and provides a welcome reminder of what executive dignity looks like."
Nell Minow of moviemom.com: "(Pete) Souza reminds us of how much of our sense of events is formed by images, and in his new documentary, 'The Way I See It', like the photographs he took, reward a deeper look."
Richard Crouse: "The larger picture it paints is one of the importance of photography. If a picture is worth a thousand words this movie speaks volumes."
James Croot of Stuff.co.nz: "The result is a rare look into what goes on behind the gates, an opportunity to see two Commanders in Chief not only in their public prime, but also as husbands and fathers, and a fascinating study of the power of photography."
The "Tinker Hatfield: Footwear Design" episode of Abstract: The Art of Design season 1 free on YouTube
(First streaming release: 10 February 2017, Netflix, as episode 2 of the series; 2020 re-release: 17 April 2020, Netflix on YouTube as an all-access video / Scott Dadich, series creator; Brian Oakes, episode director)
The "Paula Scher: Graphic Design" episode of Abstract: The Art of Design season 1 free on YouTube
(First streaming release: 10 February 2017, Netflix, as episode 6 of the series; 2020 re-release: 17 April 2020, Netflix on YouTube as an all-access video / Scott Dadich, series creator; Richard Press, episode director)
The "Christoph Niemann: Illustration" episode of Abstract: The Art of Design season 1 free on YouTube
(First streaming release: 10 February 2017, Netflix, as episode 1 of the series; 2020 re-release: 17 April 2020, Netflix on YouTube as an all-access video / Scott Dadich, series creator; Morgan Neville, episode director)
A Secret Love
(Streaming release: 29 April 2020, Netflix / Chris Bolan, Alexa L. Fogel and Brendan Mason, writers; Chris Bolan, director)
The Social Dilemma
(Streaming release: 9 September 2020, Netflix / Davis Coombe, Vickie Curtis and Jeff Orlowski, writers; Jeff Orlowski, director)
IT doesn't dive deep into how social media platforms' intrusion into each of our data differs from how marketing and PR media (not to mention pollsters) have been doing their own data collection and data selling all this time. We don't know if it has enough in it to convince the common man of the danger of these platforms' business when provided to disinformation agents, but it's definitely a good enough introduction. Best to follow a watch of this with exposure to such docus as The Great Hack and After Truth: Disinformation and the Cost of Fake News and feature films like Brexit: The Uncivil War.