A Damn Fine Cup of Culture Podcast #68: Documentary film – The drama of the truth

It had to happen sooner or later: for our May episode, Alan, Julie and Matt got together to talk about the genre of documentary films. Their subjects may not be the ones you might expect: while the likes of Ken Burns, Werner Herzog and Errol Morris get a mention, our three cultural baristas picked examples of the genre that are perhaps less well known: Nostalgia for the Light (2010) by the Chilean filmmaker Patricio Guzmán, which draws a line from the astrological observatories in the Atacama Desert to the women who still search the desert for the remains of their loved ones who were murdered by the Pinochet regime; Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020), writer-director Kirsten Johnson’s attempt to come to terms with her father’s dementia and the reality of a death foretold, in which the daughter enlists the help of the eponymous Dick Johnson to pre-enact possible (and impossible) scenarios of his demise; and Mark Rappaport’s 1995 video essay From the Journals of Jean Seberg, about the actress who was hounded to her death by the FBI and the culture of a movie industry for whom women are commodities and screens onto which men can project their wishes, needs and fantasies. The focus of the conversation is firmly on these films, but obviously no discussion of documentary films can be complete without getting into questions like “What is a documentary?”, “How does it differ from fictional features?”… and “What are the worst documentaries we’ve ever seen?”

For more talk about documentaries and related topics, make sure to check out:

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