While local rep theaters are out of commission, we'll be putting together weekly watchlists of films readily available to stream. This week's theme centers on documentaries teeming with empathy and compassion that aim to open our eyes and our hearts and, hopefully, make us feel a little less alone in the world.
When 19-year-old Singaporean filmmaker Sandi Tan asked her film mentor for help directing her independent feature, she never imagined he would run away with the footage, never to be heard from again. Decades later, Tan has found the film reels, and uses that deeply personal betrayal to investigate the ways in which those in power silence the marginalized. Netflix.
With over 50 cinematography credits to her name, documentarian Kirsten Johnson has collected a plethora of unforgettable footage over her 20-year career. But this particular film is a standout, serving as both an intimate autobiography and a discourse on media ethics while weaving mesmerizing images from around the globe into a docu-collage. Amazon Prime, Criterion Channel, Google Play, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube.
Stories We Tell (2012)
As the great Joan Didion said, "We tell ourselves stories in order to live." And writer-director Sarah Polley does just that—this wildly inventive docu-memoir about her own family's secrets is a maze of twists and turns, and Polley is constantly pulling the rug out from under the viewer. Amazon Prime, Google Play, iTunes, Kanopy, Tubi, Vudu, YouTube.
Grey Gardens (1975)
This documentary staple focuses on Jackie Kennedy relatives "Big Edie" and "Little Edie," an isolated mother-daughter duo who lived in the dilapidated Grey Gardens estate. Directors Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde, and Muffie Meyer's direct cinema approach ensured the pair were allowed to speak for themselves, rather than be mocked for entertainment. Amazon Prime, Criterion Channel, Google Play, Hulu, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube.
Uncle Yanco (1967)
It would be blasphemous to exclude auteur Agnès Varda from a list of documentaries—this 18-minute short chronicles the first meeting with her long-lost uncle Jean, nicknamed Yanco. Brimming with vibrant color, unconditional love, and that classic Varda joie de vivre. Criterion Channel, Vimeo.