Right on time, "MLK/FBI" will be available for all to see, over Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend. It's the latest documentary from Oscar-nominated filmmaker, Sam Pollard (watch my recent interview with Sam Pollard), whose last two docs, "Mr. SOUL!" and "Two Trains Runnin'" were two of the best documentaries of the last decade.
As always, Pollard's latest effort could not have come at a better time, when our country should heed the lessons of Dr. King's non-violent protests, juxtaposed against the government's continuous effort to keep powerful black leaders in check.
Earlier in 2020, a Showtime documentary called "Kingdom of Silence" detailed the brutal murder of The Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, as he entered the Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, and was never heard from again. That documentary was one of the best of the year, with this being my only critique:
"While "Kingdom of Silence" does a great job in setting the stage for his disappearance, it would have been even more effective had it put into context exactly why his murder has meaning, and the political fall-out of the American-Saudi relationship being tested as it never quite has before." (Read Full "Kingdom of Silence" Review).
Well, my request has been answered in the form of a new documentary film called, "The Dissident." These two films were made independent of one another, but together they paint a brutal, shocking and unbelievable picture of not just what happened to Khashoggi, but why each and every American should care.
It might not be remembered as such (there were a few other things going on this year), but 2020 was one heck of a year for documentary film. Because there were so many GREAT docs released this year, I thought it only appropriate that they deserved their own "best of" list.
Here then, are the ten best documentary films of 2020 (I may have cheated a bit and included 11 total films...read on for explanation):
Young talented high schoolers from all walks of life compete in the annual August Wilson Monologue Competition, giving them the opportunity of a lifetime: To not only get a chance to appear on Broadway, but gain exposure to some of the greatest, most poignant and culturally impactful works of the 20th Century.
The life and career of John Belushi is given the oral history treatment, in the new Showtime documentary simply titled, "Belushi." There is some great archival footage and some behind-the-scenes stories included, even if the film falls short in really letting us understand what made him tick.
The phenomenon of psychotic men with dissociative identity disorder (DID) - also known as multiple personality disorder (MPD) - is examined through the eyes of Dr. Dorothy Otnow Lewis, an American psychiatrist and leading expert in the field, in the new HBO documentary, "Crazy, Not Insane."
Among other things, 2020 will be known as one of the best years for documentary film. "Collective" should be at the forefront of this list, a gripping and urgent doc that highlights the power and necessity of a free press.
Review: 'Feels Good Man' tells the story of Pepe, the slacker frog who just so happens to be a symbol of hate
Pepe the Frog wasn't supposed to represent white supremacy and the alt-right. The character - and his creator, Matt Furie - are profiled in the entertaining and eye-opening "Feels Good Man," a documentary about the power of going viral.
It's the latest documentary from Werner Herzog, which might be enough of a reason for his fans to see it. For everyone else, it's fairly straight-forward documentary about the impact (no pun intended) that meteors have had on this planet, and on human civilization, over the centuries.
Just nominated for a leading FIVE Critics Choice Documentary Awards, including "Best Documentary Feature," "Mr. SOUL!" is a story about one of the most important and influential TV shows of a generation, and the man who put the soul in SOUL!.
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