This is probably my very favorite, thanks to the sweet children who are the subject of this film. Initially one of the two filmmakers hoped to photograph the prostitutes in the red light district of Calcutta. She ends up instead forming this bond with some of the prostitutes children and giving them cameras to document their lives and surroundings. She begins teaching them basic photography skills and eventually exhibits the children's photos in an attempt to raise funds for their educations. You can go here to the official site to read a much better description of this movie. I think that my favorite thing is that I can get updates on the children on the site. Kids With Cameras is actually a non profit that started as a result of the children in Calcutta and continues helping to raise funds for the education and well-being of children around the world.
The Teachings of Jon is about a 40 year old man with Down Syndrome. It's both sweet and sad, as you get a look into Jon's daily life and interactions with his family and you learn that he was in an institution for the first seven years of his life. The film was actually made by Jon's sister and I love watching how Jon, who was once a family secret and source of shame, seriously brings so much joy into his family's life and I think makes them better and more accepting people. This one definitely makes me cry every time I watch it, but they're good tears and while preparing for this post, I found the official site and an update on Jon. Hooray for updates!
This one was actually released in theaters, so it's probably familiar to a lot of people. It's also much lighter than the first two documentaries, as it's basically the first year of the lives of four babies around the world. There isn't really any dialogue, which I think makes it stand out. Who doesn't want to watch a bunch of cute little babies?! I've never actually been a huge baby person, which is funny considering I've had two of my own and want a few more, but this film is so damn sweet. What I love the most is that the two babies who seem to have the least material-wise, are the happiest of the bunch. Ponijao is my favorite.
I haven't actually finished watching this one yet, but I am really enjoying what I've seen. I am really drawn to things about drug addicts and homeless people. I don't really know what that says about me, but again, I think it's my desire to help people. In this documentary, Pras, from The Fugees, spends nine days living on Los Angeles' Skid Row. Most of his experience is recorded using a hidden camera he has attached to his clothing. I have a few issues with Pras not fully immersing himself, but I still think this film raises some awareness of a serious dilemma. So far it only seems to give a brief glimpse into the lives of those on Skid Row, but it's a glimpse nonetheless.
This one is actually a six part series. I'm not a very religious person and I don't really know how to say this without offending some people, but here goes- Some religious folks scare the hell out of me with their extreme views and lack of acceptance and they're pushy about it. I think they're pretty much the opposite of what Jesus would want, but I guess I could be wrong. Jesus Camp is another documentary I thought about including in this list that pretty much is full of the people I'm talking about. Okay, on to this series. Jay Bakker is the son of Jim and Tammy Faye. Remember them? I absolutely adore Jay. After his experiences growing up, he became pretty disenchanted with the church and spent years struggling with addiction. He eventually rediscovered his faith and, along with some friends, started a church that loves and accepts everyone. Even if you aren't at all religious, I think you can appreciate this series and the message that Jay is trying to spread. You can read about his church here. Seriously, go read it! One of my favorite things he does is put up these stickers apologizing for Christians being judgmental. I'm seriously a fan of this guy, in case it was obvious.
Okay, these last two go together and are a favorite amongst my family. If you don't check out any other documentary on this list, watch these. They are wonderfully disturbing and entertaining.
This one opens with a beer can being thrown at a town's welcome sign. That's how you know it's going to be good. Jesco White is the mountain dancing star of this one and he is seriously a character! Jesco has three personalities; Jesse is sweet and loving, Jesco gets pretty violent, and then there's the third personality, Elvis. At one point I may have said that this was the best documentary ever, but then I saw this next one.
This one comes nearly twenty years after Dancing Outlaw and is about the rest of the White family. Jesco has seen a bit of fame and there's an appearance by Hank Williams III, who has written a song about him. It turns out the whole family is just as entertaining as Jesco and they probably deserve their own songs. His sister, Mamie, is a clear favorite, but they are all pretty disturbing and crazy. This film goes through a year in the life of the White family, which is filled with drug use, involvement in the criminal justice system, and some serious mountain singing and dancing.