2014 is the year documentaries began to take over. At least this seemed to be the case. The most acclaimed fiction film of the year, Boyhood, has primarily been praised for its nonfictional element of showing the actual 12-year growth of its cast. Another critical favorite is Under the Skin, a sci-fi/horror film that prominently features non-actors interacting with its protagonist, unknowingly captured with hidden cameras. Then there’s the footage from The Dust Bowl in Interstellar, the footage from Baraka and Samsara in Lucy and documentary material in Selma, Godzilla and Foxcatcher.
Meanwhile, some of the best nonfiction films of 2014 veer into fiction film territory. Although this kind of blurring of real and scripted isn’t new, docs like Robert Greene‘s Actress and Roberto Minervini‘s Stop the Pounding Heart continue to find creative new ways of mixing up modes of storytelling as the most appropriate way of exploring and presenting certain subjects. More and more docs are playing like cinema rather than term papers, giving us works that are thrilling, beautiful, funny, frightening — entertaining as well as enlightening. Even issue films are tending to focus on character study over arguments and data from so-called “experts.”
Documentary in 2014 saw few mainstream standouts, but it seems to have delivered more knockouts for those of us who love nonfiction cinema. There were few simple trends, more variety of styles and genres, overall a broad range of exceptional works that made it terribly difficult to determine an ordered ranking of only 14 titles released this year. The following list was compiled democratically from four Nonfics critics — Christopher Campbell, Daniel Walber, Dan Schindel and Landon Palmer — and it’s a representation of our admittedly unaligned personal top 20s (which will be posted next week). Documentary fandom and appreciation takes all kinds, and as such we’re happy to have all favored different films this year.
Boyhood is quite a cinematic achievement, but for the honor of the best coming-of-age story of the year, it has some strong competition from this documentary by Jillian Schlesinger. The film chronicles the 2010-2012 solo round-the-world sailing trip of Laura Dekker, who broke the record for youngest person to circumnavigate the globe alone. She began her voyage at the age of 14 and grew up a lot over the next year and a half at sea, making this as much a personal journey to discover herself as a physical adventure across the oceans. And we get to witness both firsthand, most of the footage in the doc having been shot by her along the way. Maidentrip is as metaphorical a tale as any about seafaring characters (“she heads out into the uncertain waters of her own existence, ” I wrote in my review), but even greater here is the shining presence of the character herself. Dekker is the sort of documentary star you wish had signed a multi-picture deal. – Christopher Campbell
13. Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart
Jeremiah Zagar’s detailed overview of the media frenzy that covered the trial of Pamela Smart, who was convicted in 1991 for her involvement in the murder of her husband, explores the overlap between the justice system and the court of public opinion in the age of 24-hour news media. Arguing that Smart’s case was a turning point in an infotainment age that has only grown worse in knee-jerk sensationalism, Captivated revisits the trial as a means to gain wisdom and insight into a contemporary commercial news industry without ever didactically filling in the dots. The film’s sober yet enthralling examination of Smart’s intersecting “trials” does not so much constitute a revisitation of a famous case but instead carefully constructs a portrait of the ways that public interests converge to the point that a news story explodes with a life all its own. Take that, Gone Girl. – Landon Palmergold jordan 1 gold johto medal gold kitchen faucet gold kiiara gold key gold karat gold knobs gold kiiara lyrics gold kiwi gold kitchen hardware gold leaf gold locket gold locket necklace gold line gold leaf sheets gold lamp gold label gold lamborghini gold medal gold mirror gold mine gold market cap gold mountain gold melting point gold macbook air gold medal gymnastics gold necklace gold necklace women gold nugget gold necklace for men gold name necklace gold news gold nose ring gold nails gold over america tour gold ore gold ornaments gold over america gold on the ceiling gold ounce price gold on the periodic table gold over america tour tickets gold price gold price today gold price per ounce gold party hat rs3 gold price per gram gold per ounce gold price in usa gold price chart gold quarter gold quest gold quotes gold quarter value gold quartz gold quinceanera dresses gold quarter 2000 gold queen bed frame gold rush gold rings gold rate gold rush season 12 gold rate in india gold rope chain gold rate today gold rush cast gold star gold spot price gold stock gold standard gold star chili gold star family gold standard whey protein gold shoes gold teeth gold toe socks gold tree collar gold tip arrows gold texture gold tree skirt gold teeth near me gold top gold ucsb gold usa gold utensils gold uses gold under eye patches gold uniform shirts gold usd gold urn necklace gold value gold vermeil gold value today gold vase gold value per ounce gold value per gram gold vans gold vinyl gold watch gold wedding bands gold watches for men gold wallpaper gold wedding rings gold watch women gold wall decor gold wrapping paper gold xbox gold xbox one controller gold xmas tree gold x teal gold xbox 360 controller gold x auto sales gold x ring gold xlr gold yellow gold yarn gold ysl heels gold youtube play button gold ysl bag gold yachtmaster gold yahoo finance gold yacht gold zippo gold zeo ranger gold zebra loach gold zekrom gold zacian v gold zamazenta gold zelda nes gold zodiac necklace gold about to explode gold about information gold about to crash gold about 2019 gold about sentence gold about history gold about rate gold after hours gold after 5 dress gold after etf gold after five shoes gold after 50 gold after america tour gold after five dresses gold after hours price gold against the soul gold against inflation gold against us dollar gold against inflation chart gold against loan gold against dollar gold against cash gold against the soul vinyl gold among us gold among us character gold among us pop it gold among the dross gold among the sand gold among us wallpaper gold among the dross meaning gold among us logo gold around america tour gold around pupil gold around the world gold around tooth gold around me gold around teeth gold around the american flag gold around iris gold as an investment gold as inflation hedge gold as a gas gold as a hedge against inflation gold as a conductor gold as an element gold as currency gold as an investment 2021 gold at the bottom of the ocean gold at the bottom of lake michigan gold at the bottom of the pyramid gold at the bottom of niagara falls goldfish at bottom of tank gold at bottom of world trade center gold at bottom of waterfall gold at bottom of american flag gold at the top of the pyramids gold brick top of moving stairs top golf what happened to the gold at the top of the pyramids what happened to the gold on top of the great pyramid gold at the end of the rainbow gold at room temperature gold at fort knox gold at spot gold at the end of the rainbow meaning gold at walmart gold at world trade center gold at higher levels 5e gold before and after etf gold before it is refined gold before processing gold before purification gold before election gold before you wake up gold before mining before gold coast what was the name of ghana gold behind the couch table gold behind currency gold behind waterfall rdr2 gold behind boulders gold behind glass gold behind the names behind gold icon behind gold's rally gold beneath world trade center gold beneath the waves gold beneath dark waters