Top 10 documentaries of 2022

Between social media and gossip sites, it sure seems like we know everything we need to know about the rich and famous. However, in our 2022 batch of notable documentaries, one of the dominant themes was intimacy with celebrities. People who spend too much time in the public eye often lose control of their story, as the press and audience push them into soap opera narratives full of romance, betrayals, heroism, and villainy. In movie after movie in 2022, the celebrity dips back, taking us deeper into mental health issues and family trauma, and explaining how hard it can be to keep fans and critics happy all the time.

The list of “Top 10 Documentary Films of 2022” could be made from just those films: Jennifer Lopez: First half (about the stress of preparing a Super Bowl show), Louis Armstrong Black and Blues (which tells the story of a jazz hero through his private archives), Lucy and Daisy (A look back at one of TV’s most volatile couples), Nothing compares (tracing the rise and fall of Sinéad O’Connor), The return of Tanya Tucker (about a country music legend’s reluctant return to basics), Selena Gomez: My mind and me (a harrowing glimpse into the star’s performance scares), Spring Awakening: The One You Know (as now-famous stars reflect on Broadway crushes on their youth), Stutz (as Jonah Hill celebrates both his therapist and his own), SR. (Robert Downey Jr.’s simultaneous homage to his filmmaker father and lament for his drug-fuelled lifestyle), and Tony Hawk: Until the Wheels Fall (Study of Mathematical Obsession).

As it happens, these all failed to make the final cut on our list. But their spirit is represented by some of the list makers below. More importantly, all of these films (including the ones mentioned above) show how great documentary storytellers find original and bright angles in material we think we already know. Whether it’s celebrity, gun violence, systemic racism, addiction, or love, these movies made common problems seem fresh.

10. Princess

Photo: Alamy Stock Photo/HBO Max

The British royal family has been in the news a lot in 2022, perhaps as much since the ups and downs of the romance between current King Charles III and his late ex-wife Diana Spencer. Ed Perkins is surprisingly intense the princess It tells Diana’s story from her first introduction to the public as a bride to her later embrace of philanthropy and social activism – and her eventual death while trying to escape relentless paparazzi. Using only news clips and home movie footage, Perkins underscores the pressures of fame, evident in the constant questions and camera clicks Diana faced. It is a cautionary tale about what happens when the press and the public turn a real person into a fictional character.

the princess flows on HBO Max.

9. All the beauty and bloodshed

Middle-aged Nan Golden with short hair standing in front of the window, turned away from the camera, showing several scars on her back in all the beauty and bloodlust.

Image: neon

Photographer Nan Goldin rose to prominence in the New York art world by documenting the communities in which she lived throughout the 1970s and 1980s: gay people, punks, sex workers, and political extremists. Laura Poitras Documentary All beauty and bloodshed Partly about how Goldin’s creative journey was shaped by living among misfits, artists who build their own scenes, then make it through the ravages of AIDS and drug addiction. But the film is also about the uproar the artist has created as an activist by asking museums to sever ties with the Sacklers, a wealthy art patron family that gained much of its fortune thanks to the opioid epidemic. Poitras incisively relates these pieces of Goldin’s life, showing how they are propelled by grassroots organization and radical honesty.

All beauty and bloodshed It is currently playing in a limited theatrical release.

8. Is this black color enough for you?!?

Billy Dee Williams sits in the director's chair on stage, his back facing the audience's empty chairs

Image: Netflix

This stirring amalgamation of cultural history and soulful personal essay is the work of Elvis Mitchell, a seasoned film critic who uses the heyday of the 1970s in exploitation films like Aviation High or Excellent And the Foxy Brown As a way to delve into the complex history of black representation in American cinema. Over the Is this black enough for you?!?clips from hit motion pictures such as aperture Switch back with scenes from a long-forgotten anomaly, peppered all over with commentary by Black showbiz legends like Whoopi Goldberg and Samuel L. Jackson. But the essential voice and perspective here belongs to Mitchell, whose vast cinematic knowledge and experience allow him to find the greater meaning in even the smallest of moments.

Is this black enough for you?!? flows on Netflix.

7. Jeans

Three brunette women wearing glasses and a woman with her hair tied back stand in line at the police as the arrested members of the Jane family.

Photo: HBO Max

The most obvious selling point for Tia Lessin and Emma Pildes’ thoughtful look back at the history of abortion rights is that it’s suddenly relevant, given the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn its earlier decision. Roe v. Wade resolution. But treating the movie as homework would do a disservice jeans, which is less about abortion per se and more about how the feminist movement flourished in the 1960s, thanks to the underground networks that tried to lift the secrets ladies whispered to each other and make them public knowledge. Surviving members of the secretive Chicago health care organization JANE tell stories of not only connecting desperate women with helpful doctors, but of how they told these sisters they were never alone.

jeans flows on HBO Max.

6. The second chance

An old photo from the 1980s shows a man in camouflage clothing and shorts walking across a field into a parking lot where his camouflaged sedan was parked

Photo: Showtime

Too many true crime docs lately have played up the sordid details of sex, violence, and deceit. And many are broken into multiple parts to fill hours of programming on cable and streaming services. The bizarre and surprising Bahrani ramen second chance It clocks in at a refreshing 89 minutes, and while its story is peppered with death and intrigue, it’s more than just a pointed character sketch about a colorful bulletproof vest magnate who sold himself as a friend to law enforcement and the military while his company put their lives at stake by cutting corners. While it’s often funny and engaging, this movie is really about how we define the term “criminal,” and about the people we as a society consider—rightly or wrongly—worth saving.

second chance It is currently playing in a limited theatrical release; It will be broadcast in 2023 (date to be announced) at Showtime at any time.

5. The fire of love

A person in a fire-resistant suit walks away from the geyser's lava-filled mouth.

Photo: National Geographic Documentaries

When French volcanologists Katia and Maurice Kraft died in action in 1991, they left behind a huge archive of notes, tapes and photographs, which collectively provide insight into the decades they spent risking their lives to understand one of nature’s most dangerous phenomena. But the real legacy of the Kraffts has been their films and videos, which capture stunning images of smoke and lava, dwarfing their fragile human figures. Sarah Dosa the fire of love It sets those images—full of searing colors and exotic landscapes, all abstract and whimsical—on a haunting score by Air’s Nicholas Godin and Miranda July’s novel, turning the couple’s romantic misadventures into something wonderfully cinematic.

the fire of love flows on Disney Plus.

4. We met in virtual reality

Two cartoon-style VRChat avatars, a girl with long pink hair and a girl with dark hair, watch the lighted lanterns float in the air at We Met In Virtual Reality

Photo: Joe Hunting/HBO Max

A welcome counterpoint to the scary that addresses alienation and extremism in the age of social media, animated documentary by Joe Hunting We met in virtual reality It considers the ways in which online interaction has been beneficial to people with physical, neurological, psychological, or logistical limitations. Recorded entirely within the online VRChat community, the film celebrates the real relationships that develop within virtual spaces, praising the creativity and contentment that has led users to construct many eye-catching gathering spaces populated by sexy and/or whimsical human-animal hybrids.

We met in virtual reality flows on HBO Max.

3. Descendant

A black man with braids and a black tank standing in a cemetery rests his hand on a towering tombstone inscribed with names

photo: participant/Netflix

Director Margaret Brown is known for her nuanced, realistic films about Southern culture, such as her outstanding 2008 documentary Order of legends. for descendingBrown brought her cameras to a coastal community in Alabama, where historians and treasure hunters were searching for an infamous shipwreck. In 2019, the discovery of the Clotilda—the last known slave-carrying ship to reach American shores, in the mid-nineteenth century—sparked a lot of interest and conversation internationally. But for this movie, what matters is that all the attention gave blacks in “Africatown” black Alabamians an opportunity to reflect on how the stories of their ancestors have been largely erased from the historical record, leaving only folklore and anecdotes as the way society preserves its truths.

descending flows on Netflix.

2. Riotsville, USA

A tank gun appears in frame above a crowd of protesters, one of whom holds a sign that reads

Photo: Magnolia Pictures

In the late 1960s, civil unrest across America led to a national debate about possible solutions, and to two major initiatives – taken up in the impressive and impressive Sierra Pettengill. RiotsvilleUSA. On one side, a bipartisan commission examined the root causes of the riots, finding that the best way to reduce crime and violence is to improve education, deliver programs of action, and acknowledge institutional racism. In another corner, a coalition of military and law enforcement leaders built mock city blocks in the middle of nowhere and used them to train soldiers and officers to crack the skulls of hippies and ethnic minorities. Compiled almost entirely from archive films and TV clips, Pettengill was filmed more than 50 years ago, but it feels like the year 2020.

Riotsville, USA Available for purchase from AmazonAnd the appleand Google Play.

1. Moonage Daydream

A young David Bowie's face is shown by splashes of purple and orange in Moonage Daydream

Image: neon

Don’t come for the exciting and sprawling Brett Morgan cinematic experience Monague Daydreaming Expect to know key facts about the late pop star and experimental artist David Bowie. With massive help from Bowie’s ranch — which gave the director access to a massive archive of audio and video — Morgen has produced a 140-minute film, blending old film clips and rock music into a dizzying swirl of sound and vision. The film frames its subject’s frequent shifts as a performer and public figure as the work of a brilliant actor, disguising himself in the role of eccentric celebrity as a way to entertain his fans while keeping his real life and self partially out of sight.

Monague Daydreaming Available to rent or buy on AmazonAnd the appleand Google Play.

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