I read a thoughtful interview with Marshall Curry recently, whose work I greatly admire, in which he explained how he become a filmmaker:
I really loved documentaries. I watched them and read about them obsessively, and for years I thought, “That’s what I’d really like to do.” Eventually I realized that if I wanted to make a documentary, I just needed to leap into the abyss and try.
No film school – he just picked up a camera and began a personal project that eventually became Street Fight, his first feature film. It ended up being nominated for an Oscar. The film is about the 2002 mayoral race in Newark, New Jersey, which pitted an idealistic political newcomer, Cory Booker, against a long-time incumbent, Sharpe James, famous for his use of questionable campaign tactics. (Bonus info: watch the film (you can instant-play the film on Netflix), then click here to find out what Cory Booker is doing today).
I’m looking forward to seeing Curry’s latest film, Racing Dreams, which won best documentary at the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year and continues to rack up more wins as it makes its way through the festival circuit. (Side rant: I wish major festivals would offer an option to screen their selected films online when they are at festival for those of us who can’t fly to the festival to see it in person. Gigantic Digital is one ray of hope on this horizon, but their list of films is still pretty short, although you can screen some seriously great documentaries online there like The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. I’d gladly pay the festival ticket price to be able to watch this current-year major festival films online.)
To continue my own education as a documentary filmmaker, I’m taking a cue from Marshall Curry by promising myself to screen 100 documentary films in the first 100 days of 2010.
I’ll be posting brief reviews of each film that I watch here, with an eye for how they were made, and outline the techniques and approaches aspiring filmmakers can learn from each.
So, what documentary films should be on my list?