Documentaries reflect the world around us. Some aim for the truth and nothing but the truth, offering a fly-on-the-wall perspective. Others play like genre movies, capturing the spirit of the story behind the subject, offering more entertainment value and blurring the line between fiction and reality. These fine documentaries are now streaming…
HOW TO WITH JOHN WILSON S1
“It’s kind of like that show, Planet Earth, but if it was only in New York and David Attenborough was forced to film everything himself,” says John Wilson in the trailer to How To with John Wilson, Rotten Tomatoes’ third highest-rated docuseries of 2020, with a 100% critics rating.
As the Rotten Tomatoes’ critics’ consensus puts it, “Surprising, thoughtful, and superbly strange, How to with John Wilson‘s blend of documentary styles comes together to create a singularly delightful experience.”
Or as Kathryn VanArendonk put it in Vulture, “Maybe no TV show in 2020 has surprised me as much as How to with John Wilson, a documentary/comedy/personal essay/glorious portrait of weirdos unlike anything else I’ve seen. Much of the pleasure of the show comes out of its strange sense of humour, and it absolutely benefits from a hefty dose of surprise. Wilson has this fantastic capacity to notice unusual moments in everyday life. Even better, he has this ability to present those discoveries as beautiful treasures while also making clear that they are utterly, totally ordinary.”
Filmed over five years in Kansas City, Transhood follows four kids – beginning at ages 4, 9, 12, and 15 – in a never-before-told chronicling of growing up transgender in the heartland of America. Directed by multi-award-winner Sharon Liese, the HBO documentary has an 86% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes and won the Audience Award at the 2020 AFI Docs Festival.
The Hollywood Reporter hailed Transhood as “gentle and absorbing,” adding, “Filmed cinema verité-style over five years, starting in 2015, Transhood follows four Kansas City families in various stages of this conversely agonizing and rewarding process. Offering no narration, expert talking heads or text interstitials, Liese forgoes contextualizing the culture wars and instead lets her subjects speak for themselves…”
FAKE FAMOUS | First on Showmax
The HBO documentary Fake Famous follows a social experiment in which an actress, a fashion designer and a real estate assistant attempt to become social media influencers by buying fake followers and bots to boost their popularity.
Peeling back the layers to reveal what’s really happening behind the scenes of influencer fame, Fake Famous highlights our obsession with the number of likes, followers, and favourites we get, and how most of our online world is more fabricated than we realise.
“While their tales don’t unfold entirely as planned, the HBO documentary exposes how ripe for manipulation this whole culture is, and the powerful incentives to game the system,” says CNN.com.
Bruce Springsteen fans will be swept away by Western Stars, the live, intimate concert performance of the 20-time Grammy winner’s 19th studio album, released in 2019.
Filmed at the artist’s own ranch, the film documents an intimate gig in a 100-year-old barn, where Bruce is backed by a band and a full orchestra as he performs all 13 songs from the album, taking us on a journey of love, loss, loneliness, family and the passage of time.
Western Stars was nominated for Best Music Documentary at the 2019 Critics’ Choice Documentary Awards, where Bruce himself won for Best Narration. The documentary has a 94% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes, where the critics’ consensus calls it “a cinematic gift for Springsteen fans” and “a worthy companion piece to the album.”
Also look out for these documentary classics recently added to Showmax:
From Emmy-nominated filmmaker Chris Moukarbel (Gaga: Five Foot Two), Wig offers a vibrant cultural history of drag and the annual outdoor festival that came to epitomise it: Wigstock. Drawing on unfiltered access to some of New York’s most famed drag artists, the 2020 GLAAD Media Award-nominated HBO documentary follows legendary drag queen Lady Bunny as she aims to resurrect Wigstock for a new generation. Featuring appearances by the likes of RuPaul and the documentary’s co-producers, Neil Patrick Harris and his husband David Burtka, Wig is a high-energy, uplifting and provocative celebration of inclusivity and respect. Note that the documentary is rated 18 for nudity and language.
IT WILL BE CHAOS
Against the backdrop of the ongoing European refugee crisis, It Will Be Chaos unfolds between Italy and the Balkan corridor, intercutting two unforgettable stories of human strength and resilience. The HBO documentary film won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Current Affairs documentary at the 2019 News & Documentary Emmy Awards and has a 100% critics’ rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
STOLEN DAUGHTERS: KIDNAPPED BY BOKO HARAM
HBO’s 2019 Emmy-winning documentary Stolen Daughters: Kidnapped By Boko Haram follows the story of one freed group of the Chibok Girls, who were kidnapped in Nigeria in 2014 by Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. Filmmaker Karen Edwards, a two-time Emmy nominee and exec producer of Channel 4’s Dispatches series, and Emmy-nominated director Gemma Atwal (Marathon Boy) also examine the plight of the thousands of “Forgotten Girls”, whose struggle to reintegrate into society continues.
THE JINX: THE LIFE AND DEATHS OF ROBERT DURST
The winner of two Emmys in 2015 and a Peabody Award in 2016, The Jinx: The Life And Deaths Of Robert Durst follows a seven-year investigation by Oscar-nominated filmmakers Andrew Jarecki and Marc Smerling (Capturing the Friedmans) into the complicated life of reclusive real estate icon Robert Durst, the key suspect in a series of unsolved crimes. Boasting unprecedented access and the full cooperation of Durst himself, the mini-series has a 95% critics rating on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.7/10 rating on IMDb, where it’s at #103 on the list of Top Rated TV of all time.