Documentaries are definitely not the first on anyone’s list of “Must See” movies, and we’ll tell you why. We are already overrun with too much news. When one thinks of documentaries, we think of hours of watching real people go through difficult ordeals, conspiracy theories and depressing climate change and natural disaster films. Not so this year. This year it gets personal.While many documentarians go the extra mile and create more of a docudrama featuring a famous actor to carry the story like Will Smith in Concussion, there have actually been quite a few amazing documentaries released in the past six months. What are they about? People – people we are interested in…a lot.
Amy follows the rise and artistic accomplishments as well as the downfall and tragic death of British jazz singer Amy Winehouse and has grossed over $8.4 million in box office revenues, which placed it in the top 75 highest grossing documentaries of all time.
Winehouse released only two studio albums and several other live, compilation and extended albums. Her second album Back to Black was the best selling album in the UK for 2007, with more than 1.85 million copies. It won her 5 Grammy awards, including “Best New Artist.”
Director Asif Kapadia provides a shattering biographical profile in this moving documentary. The film introduces us to the singer before she became famous, through photographs and home videos. It is easy to fall in love with the loudmouthed hilarity of this bubbly girl with the sultry voice.
Kapadia gives free reign to her childhood friends, those who loved her and really lost her, and is not so gentle with those who influenced her most. Her father, Mitch Winehouse is painted as pushing his daughter past her limits and her ex-husband is given much of the blame for introducing her to her many addictions.
The singer herself is portrayed as less of a victim and more an escapist. Live footage from the performances she walked out on show her terrible downfall. It is no wonder Kapadia’s film won “Best Documentary” at the 88th Academy Awards.
The rags-to-riches story is a popular one, in feature films and documentaries alike. Much like another Academy Award winner, Slumdog Millionaire, the new documentary KidPoker constitutes another story where determination, wit and natural talent leads the protagonist to success – in this case, Daniel Negreanu. The pro poker player has over $30 million in lifetime career scores, and in this film, he shares his very humble beginnings and credits the support that got him to be the highest earning and most marketable poker player of our time.
Born in Toronto, Canada to Romanian transplants, Negreanu found his love of poker, pool and game playing at the young age of 16. A natural with numbers and probability, Daniel found himself playing and winning with adults twice his age. At the age of 21, he took on Las Vegas.
While he took his share of losses, he finally broke into the tournament scene in 1997 and became the youngest player ever to win a World Series of Poker bracelet at the age of 23, playing the $2000 Pot Limit Texas Hold’em. The win earned him the nickname “Kid Poker” and, soon, a place on the roster of a popular poker cardroom PokerStars. Poker provider PokerStars also produced this documentary, to satisfy the interest of fans who actually placed Negreanu on the very top of the most searched-for poker players online for 2015, according to the Hendon Mob.
Over Negreanu’s 19-year career he has won 6 bracelets, been named the 2013 WSOP Player of the year, won innumerable tournaments, written books and even made appearances in television programs and films like X-Men Origins: Wolverine.
In 2014, he won over $8 million at the WSOP, making him the highest winning player ever. He has never looked back. This documentary is a tribute to one of the friendliest faces in the world of professional poker.
2015 was a very busy year for Oscar winner Asif Kapadia. In addition to Amy, he also produced an astonishing and intimate look at Portuguese footballer Cristiano Ronaldo, who interestingly enough, is also a poker player. Ronaldo was released worldwide to the delight of football fans, and there is no doubt that this incredible player has paid a price to be the best. Often considered the best player in the world, Ronaldo has won 2 World Cups and is Portugal’s all-time top goal scorer.
It seems Ronaldo takes some comfort in the blanket of his fame, but similarly, he is never able to escape it. One clip, taken at his godson’s baptism, show the priest performing the ceremony whipping out his cell phone for a quick picture with the player. Another clip shows a fan throwing herself into his arms after breaking from the crowd. While Ronaldo tries to make sure she is okay, she is just trying to get him to follow her on Twitter.
The film also shows the inner circle of his family. The stress his mother goes through every time he plays is palpable. “It’s tough to be the mother of someone who needs to win,” she says. As one of Time’s Most Influential People, Ronaldo is certainly a lesson in competitiveness and an inspiration to all footballers and poker players alike.
Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper
From millionaires, we move on to billionaires. While the only box office scores it will receive will be from Home Box Office, Nothing Left Unsaid: Gloria Vanderbilt and Anderson Cooper is a very worthwhile couch watch.
Born in one of the nation’s wealthiest families, Gloria Vanderbilt has been in the spotlight for the entire 92 years of her life, and she has handled the success and the many tragedies with the same undeniable elegance. In this touching documentary, her youngest son, CNN anchor Anderson Cooper leads her through the amazing stories of her life.
GV broke into the professional world of fashion and perfume-making at the age of 54. Her designer jeans and the eight fragrances bearing her name dominated the markets for the next twenty years. But in the years leading up to that, she had to face a series of personal losses and tragic events.
Later in life, she took up art as a way of revisiting what was lost in her past, and Cooper gets her to speak of what art has meant to her. Some argue that the documentary is too much of a fairy-tale and doesn’t go as deep as some would like, but it certainly is an interesting and enjoyable watch.
Tony Robbins: I am Not Your Guru
After all that success, you have to wrap up your documentary watching with a film on the biggest success coach of all time. Tony Robbins: I am Not Your Guru was directed and produced by Joe Berlinger. The documentary takes you inside Robbin’s “Date With Destiny.” This six-day workshop in Florida maxes out at 2500 attendees and costs nearly $5000 per person. The documentary will be released on Netflix in July.
This 56-year-old life coach has written three best-selling novels, held a multitude of workshops hosting over 200,000 attendees each year and produced several infomercials about taking charge of your life and your financial freedom. His first infomercial, Personal Power, was released in 1988 and an estimated 1 million Americans had viewed it by 1991.
This recent documentary follows the behind the scenes activities and captures the immense effort of producing this seminar and delves into Tony Robbins uncompromising approach to making people take control of their lives through new perspectives on what motivates behavior. The best part about it? The viewer gets the experience without forking over the $5000 cash!
Next time you feel like watching a documentary, try one of these for an insightful look into the human psyche. Determination, willpower, persistence in the face of adversity and fascinating real-life twists will keep your interest and inspire you.