Stating the obvious as a documentary filmmaker and author of a book with the words "true stories" in its subtitle, I love documentaries and true stories, and over the past year several have come out that I feel are extremely important and should be on everyone's list of must-see films.
Three Must-See Documentaries
Three of the most powerful, informative films I've seen are:
1.) Waiting for Superman, an extremely eye-opening film about our education system and crisis.
2.) Inside Job, the Academy-award winning film about the recent financial meltdown of our country. Contrary to popular belief, this film is bi-partisan and really gives the everyday person who doesn't completely understand how it all worked (like me) an idea of what and how it happened.
3.) I Am, the journey of a man who has an epiphany which sends him on a quest to find out what exactly is wrong with our world and how we might be able to fix it. I just saw this one and in some cities you can still even catch it in theaters so I'm going to talk a little more about it.
I AM - What is wrong with the world and what can we do about it?
The filmmaker, Tom Shadyac, is a big-time Hollywood director whose credits include films like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Nutty Professor, Liar Liar, Patch Adams, and Bruce Almighty. He had an epiphany after having an accident that made him evaluate his life and change it drastically. He then goes on a quest with a camera crew asking world-renowned thinkers and leaders primarily in science but also religion, spirituality and philosophy (people like Desmond Tutu) about what is wrong with our world and what we can do about it. He seems to have come up with a very different, much more dynamic outcome than he expected, which I've found tends to happen when people embark on these kinds of quests (my experience included).
Shadyac calls the film "I Am" because back in the day, when the prolific English writer G.K. Chesterton was invited by The Times along with several eminent authors to write essays on the theme "What's Wrong with the World?" Mr. Chesterton wrote:
G. K. Chesterton
If you see this film, you will understand this quote and title even more.
Some things scientifically proven to be true throughout the journey of I Am were:
1.) The entire human race is connected.
2.) We are all hard-wired to cooperate and live in community, not competition.
3.) When species in nature take more than they need from the earth, they end up being destroyed. ie: when cells start taking more than they need in our bodies, it is known as cancer. In other words, humans beings might want to stop and take a look at what we're doing and consuming and consider this. (Also see Story of Stuff or read Annie Leonard's interview in my book.)
I also saw Oprah talk about this (I'm one of "those" people DVRing the last 25 shows, just because they're the last 25 shows), and she said the film also proved, "If you don't do what your heart wants you to do, it can destroy you." I agree with this, but I didn't feel like this was as obvious a conclusion to his research as the others, though there is lots of incredibly interesting scientific research about the heart included that I'd never heard before. But as Oprah talked about on her show, this film opens a conversation that needs to be opened.
The film is dense with information, it's interesting, humorous at times and it definitely makes you think much later after you've left the theater about the societal structures we've designed and our part in them and how they might be improved, changed - maybe even overhauled - so that we are living more harmoniously with nature and one another. Maybe it will only slightly change your perspective and way of looking at our structures and the ways we're living our lives, but if enough people have that happen, it could make a difference. Maybe it does nothing for you but entertain you. Maybe you will hate it, I doubt it, but everyone is different. But for only two hours out of your life and a few bucks, you can see for yourself and join the conversation.