2013 showcased a strong field of documentaries that examined many facets of life around the world. As strong as most narrative films, these ten docs top my list of the best documentaries of 2013 (in alphabetical order) and are definitely worth checking out:
Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s illuminating documentary took a thoughtful, well-documented look at the 8000-pound orcas or killer whales (also known as “Blackfish”) held in captivity at marine parks. Riveting footage and thought-provoking interviews paint an eye-opening experience.
Winning the Jury Prize for Best Documentary at the Los Angeles Film Festival, Ryan McGarry’s “Code Black” followed a group of idealistic ER residents as they rotated through Los Angeles County Hospital. This is one riveting documentary.
“The Crash Reel”
Lucy Walker’s amazing documentary chronicles 2010 Olympic snowboarding hopeful Kevin Pearce and his near death crash shortly before the Olympics. Walker explores Kevin’s recovery from traumatic brain injury (TBI) via his incredible family, including Kevin’s brother David who has Down Syndrome. This thrilling film wondrously captures the personal, as well as a professional sport prone to life-threatening dangers. A must-see documentary.
“Cutie and the Boxer”
Winning Best Documentary Director at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and on many year-end “Best Lists”, Zachary Heinzerling’s “Cutie and the Boxer” examines the world of 80-year-old artist, Ushio Shinohara and his wife Noriko. A fascinating look at two artists’ passions and struggles.
“Happy People: A Year in the Taiga”
Werner Herzog brings us another remarkable film about people living on the outskirts of modern life in this stunning documentary looking at hunters and fishermen living in the Siberian Taiga. Co-directed by Dmitry Vasyukov.
“Llyn Foulkes One Man Band”
Tamar Halpern and Chris Quilty’s “Llyn Foulkes One Man Band” examines the greatness and at times self-destructive life of an artist and musician who refuses to play the art world game.
Environmental documentarian Robert Stone has his beliefs up-ended when he sets out to make this documentary about nuclear power. Might nuclear energy be the answer to our environmental challenges? This smart documentary gives viewers something to think about.
Jehane Noujaim (“The Control Room,” “Startup.com”) documents the Egyptian Revolution from 2011 to 2013 through the eyes and cameras of a group of Egyptian activists. Still a story very much in the news, “The Square” shows how people fight for a “new society of conscience” with social media technology and grassroots passion.
“Stories We Tell”
Sarah Polley once again proves that she’s one of the more interesting filmmakers working today. In this documentary we hear stories about Polley’s deceased mother Diane, an actress and mother whose life reverberates amongst the family even today.
“Venus and Serena”/”The Armstrong Lie”
A tie between these two intriguing documentaries that follow three elite figures in the world of sports. In Maiken Baird & Michelle Major’s “Venus and Serena” we are given unprecedented access to the usually very private lives and practices of Venus and Serena Williams during their challenging 2011 tennis season.
In acclaimed director Alex Gibney’s “The Armstrong Lie,” Gibney set out to make what he thought would be a chronicle of Armstrong’s 2009 return to cycling. Instead he was witness to Armstrong’s admission about doping. This comeback story becomes something very different.
For other film articles by Lori Huck, check out:
’12 Years a Slave’ Review: A Knock-Out History Lesson; An Amazing Cast
‘The Hunt’: Mads Mikkelsen Astounds in This Modern Day Witch Hunt
2012 Year in Review: Best Documentary Films