Three New Documentaries To Watch Now
Wednesday 1 April 2020, by
Documentary Weekly creator Benjamin Hollis shares his top three doc picks available to watch online.
Cunningham – Curzon Home Cinema, Amazon Prime, iTunes
As unfortunate and disruptive as the Covid-19 outbreak has been for the film industry, the resulting boom of online releases will be welcomed by cinephiles around the world. On March 20th, Alla Kovga’s highly anticipated « Cunningham » joined the growing list of films forced into an early online release.
An ode to legendary dance choreographer Merce Cunningham, the film blends artistic performance with archival footage, interviews and excerpts from letters to provide a fascinating account of his phenomenal career that spanned the best part of the 20th century.
But it’s the dazzling modern-day interpretations of Cunningham’s dances that will keep you watching. These are beautiful, modern, trance-like performances enhanced with cutting-edge camera work and breathtaking sets, whether shot in the courtyard of a French chateau or in the midst of a pine forest.
Despite being originally slated as a 3D cinematic experience, this documentary and dance performance hybrid serves well as a refreshing escape from isolation via the small screen.
Midnight Family – Curzon Home Cinema, Amazon Prime, iTunes
The Ochoa family operates a private ambulance in Mexico City, where only 45 publicly funded ambulances watch over 9,000,000 people. That’s one ambulance per 200,000 citizens. The Ochoas help to fill the gap, saving lives as they go, but they don’t do it out of charity, they do it for a living.
After befriending the Ochoas on his walk to work, director Luke Lorentzen joined them in the back of their van for a night. Gobsmacked by what he witnessed, he grabbed his filming gear and lived out of the ambulance for 6 months. The result is a thrilling first-person account that charts not only the shocking cases they come across, but also their increasingly desperate financial plight and the tough decisions they’re led to make.
Indeed, despite patrolling wealthier areas of the city, the Ochoas are not paid often. Even when they beat rival ambulances to the scene, many patients won’t, or simply can’t, pay them. On top of that, they’re alert to marauding police, more likely to request a bribe than to help them get paid.
“Midnight Family” inevitably asks a lot of questions of the system it portrays, most of which go unanswered. But as debate rages on healthcare systems in both the US and the UK, the film serves as a gut-wrenching insight into what a fully privatised system can look like.
Tell Me Who I Am - Netflix
Although not as recent a release as the previous two, “Tell Me Who I Am” can’t be missed. This is one of 2019’s best documentaries with a truly unbelievable story at its heart. If you’ve already heard about it, you’ve probably been told of how disturbing it is, but don’t let that put you off.
After falling into a coma, 18-year-old Alex Lewis wakes up in hospital. He recognises his identical twin brother Marcus but is confused by the anxious woman beside him and unable to recall his own name. Marcus starts by reintroducing Alex to his own mother and showing him how to tie his shoelaces but before long, he starts re-writing his brother’s past, omitting a horrific childhood that Marcus himself doesn’t have the strength to relive.
Upon making a peculiar discovery in his thirties at his recently deceased mother’s house, Alex discovers the brothers’ secret. But Marcus refuses to tell the whole story, leaving Alex with a gaping hole in his memories and identity.
Twenty years later, in the process of making their documentary, the brothers are seen together on screen for the first time in a surreal and cathartic unscripted climax nearly 40 years in the making. Finally, Marcus is able to tell his brother, and us, what happened all those years ago.