By the time you read this, the Oscars may have just taken place, but, like many viewers, you may have found that many of the nominated films and actors were a surprise. One category that often garners the least attention (simply because of its lack of red carpet appeal), is Best Documentary, despite the fact that many of these films are the most fascinating.
The fact is that when you watch a great documentary (think Fahrenheit 9/11 or The Thin Blue Line), you usually can’t stop talking about it at dinner parties and other social gatherings, because documentaries deal with the subjects that matter the most to human beings: the current state of world politics, law, economics, and social relationships.
This month, we preview 2018’s most riveting documentaries, as determined by the members of The Academy of Motion Arts and Sciences in the U.S.
Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Director: Steve James
After the devastation caused by the 2008 crisis, the only bank in the U.S to face criminal charges was Abacus Federal Savings Bank, the first Chinese-owned bank in New York, which mainly catered to the Chinese immigrant community.
Founded by Thomas Sung in 1984 and run today by him and his daughters, the bank was accused of mortgage fraud, securities fraud, and conspiracy. The company was considered an ‘easy target’ for the Feds and a David vs Goliath battle ensued. The bank may have been tiny, but every single family member was a lawyer, and they were not willing to go down without a fight.
To them, the case was nothing more than an attack on the Chinese community and they were not willing to pay an unjust price, simply for being ‘small enough to jail.’
Last Men in Aleppo
Director: Firas Fayyad
Forget about The Hurt Locker; this is the real thing! The White Helmets, a civilian rescue squad in Syria, dig through rubble to find bombing survivors and retrieve bodies of the deceased.
Many of these heroes are separated from their families, while others worry about loved ones within Aleppo. Despite their fears for the future, three of the group’s founders vow to continue their invaluable work.
Director: Bryan Fogel
Amateur cyclist, Bryan Fogel, is dead set on proving that sports testing for doping can be rigged. He contacts Dr. Grigory Rodchenkov, head of the anti-doping team that tests Russian Olympic athletes.
As he attempts to cheat and outsmart every test, he builds a special bond with the doctor and uncovers one of the biggest scandals in modern sporting history.
Directors: Agnès Varda, JR
The filmmakers of this intimate work visit the remote French countryside to produce giant photographic portraits of the locals. They reveal the power of photography, and its ability to capture the hearts and minds of its subjects.
The film invites us to witness the special relationship that forms between Agnès Varda and photographer/muralist, JR, who enjoy nothing more than laughing at their differences.
Director: Yance Ford
The Ford family is broken by the loss of one of its members, William, shot down at the age of 24 in April, 1992, in a dispute with a white mechanic.
The killer was never convicted, and the family continues to attempt to come to terms with their loss, as they make their way through a complex mire of racial segregation, injustice, and violence.
Words Marisa Cutillas