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Documentaries of 2013 (and other years)… December 28, 2013

Posted by WorldbyStorm in Culture, Economy, The Left.

…que suggested we crowdsource suggestions for the best documentaries of the year. As que says:

I’ve seen/listened to some crackers recently and would love to tap into what others here have already heard/seen

So if there are suggestions fire ahead with them, and if there are other documentaries that people think worth including go for it.


1. workers republic - December 28, 2013

There were great documentaries on TG4 . I wouldn’t hazard a guess on what was the best, they were so good .Seachtar Dearmatha (the Forgotten Seven) series was excellent.Brathadori (informers) was excellent also.
The documentary on RTE 1 on how the 1913 Lock Out affected families Our 1913 was interesting.


2. que - December 28, 2013

Thanks wbs!

Radio Eireann has a few great documentaries.

This was a fine one. It included many of the elements of what makes documentaries so engaging. A bit of local history, a bit of light humour, and then unexpectedly a personal story within all that that’s stops you in your tracks and makes you think.

The medium of radio for a documentary is a powerful one.

Another highly recommended doc. is Kindness of strangers. The story of a woman in the UK who one day helped a total stranger by helping them buy a stamp when they realised they did not have enough money. She then engaged in 366 days of random acts of kindness.


Finally a brief taste of the Ted talks. An overview of the weird and weirder world of bio-engineering. This is one of the most disturbing videos I have ever seen but its likewise fascinating


3. Justin - December 28, 2013

‘Weight of Chains’ 2010 Canadian director Boris Malagurski attempts to explain the war in and on Yugoslavia. Funny, sad, enlightening.

Harlan County, USA. 1976 A miner’s strike in a poor community in Kentucky. Brilliant portrayal of working class solidarity.

‘Marjoe’ 1972 Former child preacher named after Mary and Joseph, in his twenties Marjoe invited a film crew to show how he scammed money from poor folks through his born again preacher act. After the movie Marjoe went on to try his hand at singing and made a few awful-looking B movies.

Judgement: in the mid-90s ITV made global waves by saying that the Trnopolje camp in Bosnia was a death camp. On the day they filmed a serbian tv crew was also there and this documentary shows how the itv crew framed the story to get the ‘scoop’ they wanted.

All are watchable online. Marjoe and Harlan County won Oscars.


Joe Mooney - December 29, 2013

How anyone could so easily dismiss the movie career of Marjoe Gortner is truly shocking – the man was in both “Food of the Gods” and “Viva Knieval”.



Justin - December 29, 2013

Well Joe,
I’ve certainly never worked with Evel Knievel, Gene Kelly, Red Buttons, Leslie Nielsen nor with various giant insects or rodents. So. If that’s the benchmark, I suppose the answer must be, nothing. 🙂


FergusD - December 30, 2013

Saw Harlan County back in the day. Amazing. An old miner gets up at a union meeting and says something like “let them eat lead” regarding the violent goons hired by the mine owners.

The conditions of work and life of those US miners, working for private “coal barons” were (are?) truly awful.


4. Justin - December 28, 2013

More documentaries.

Sherman’s March 1986
Director/auteur Ross mcElwee ‘initially planned to make a film about the effects of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s march through Georgia and the Carolinas … during the American Civil War. A traumatic breakup McElwee experienced prior to filming made it difficult for him to separate personal from professional concerns, shifting the focus of the film to create a more personal story about the women in his life, love, romance, and religion. Other themes include the spectre of nuclear holocaust in the context of the Cold War and the legacy and complexity of General Sherman’s own life.’ From Wikipedia . On top of all this, for some odd reason McElwee keeps bumping into Burt Reynolds.

Plus, I forgot these three, all of which can be seen online.

Inside Job (2011) a searing account of the financial meltdown of 2007-8, which gets to interview some of the powerful actors and occasionally makes the bastards cringe. Matt Damon narrates.

Greek documentary Debtocracy 2011, ‘seeks the causes of the Greek debt crisis and proposes solutions sidelined by the government and the dominant media. It follows countries like Ecuador that created debt Audit Commissions and tracks this process in Greece.’ (IMDB) basically, a marxist account of the debt crises with contributions by Samir Amin, David Harvey among other luminaries.

From the people who made Debtocracy comes Catastroika (2012) which shows the disastrous effects that privatisation of public services and utilities has had on countries around the world. The information on the way that the infrastructure of the GDR was so criminally broken up and flogged off is particularly illuminating.


5. CMK - December 28, 2013

Jeremy Scahill’s ‘Dirty Wars’ is well worth watching, particularly the final 20 minutes or so which deals with the killing of a radical Islamic preacher, who was a US citizen, in the Yemen.


6. Joe Mooney - December 30, 2013

Excellent documentary from PBS on the occupation of Wounded Knee in 1973 . Quite balanced , with good footage from both sides of the barricades . Part of a longer series on the history of the American Indians.

I also liked this one , about the investigation into the death of Irish Immigrant labourers in Pennsylvania in 1880’s.


Bob Smiles - December 31, 2013

TG4 had many good history ones- esp on Michael Mallin


7. Eamonncork - December 31, 2013

I had intended at one stage to put up a list of docs available on the web which might be of interest.
The following should all be of interest. I doubt that there’s any CLR person, including myself, who’d find themselves politically in agreement with all of these programmes but they are all well made, well argued and worth viewing.
1. Mary Holland’s masterpiece on the effect of the Troubles on people in Derry.

2. Fine documentary series on Labour post Wilson and pre Blair.

3. Absolutely terrific BBC4 series on aspects of Left Wing Britain in the seventies.

4. Documentary on history of CND.

5. The Angry Brigade. Excellent.

6. Legendary doc about the paranoia of the nuclear age.

7. Brilliant on the Civil War in Greece at the end of WW2.

8. Comprehensive history of Russia v Germany in WW2.

9. Interesting PBS documentary on history of anti-semitism.

10. Classic BBC series on break-up of Yugoslavia.

11. Operation Gladio, conspiracy theorist territory . . . . or is it?

12. Marvellous and definitive Canadian series on Vietnam War.

13. Ground-breaking attempt to tell history of Africa without condescension.

14. History of 20th century China, a subject many of us, myself included, probably don’t know enough about.

15. Oscar winning doc on confrontation between American Indian Movement and forces of the state.

16. I think this Canadian documentary on history of war is brilliant, some may find presentation quirky.

17. Spanish Civil War. As good a TV history series as was ever made.

18. Peerless drama-doc by genius Peter Watkins on battle of Culloden.

19. Israel v Arab States.

20. Legendary classic of Latin American anti-colonial agit-prop from 1968..

21. The Weathermen as they saw themselves in doc by great Emile de Antonio. Fascinating while being like an artefact from another planet.

22. De Antonio’s great Vietnam War documentary made while it was still raging. Essential.

23. Jim Jones and the souring of egalitarian dreams.

24. If you’re a sucker for seventies English politics.

25. Fascinating history of communism in the US.

26. Touching documentary on Michael Foot.

27. Doc on El Salvador civil war following group of guerillas who are sympathetically portrayed.

28. One of TV’s greatest achievements. The struggle for Civil Rights in the US.

29. Remarkable footage in portrait of Black Panther leader.

30. Major network series on Cold War.

31. Utterly inspiring documentary about female trade union activists.

32. Documentary on Black Power icon George Jackson.

33. Horrifying, and banned for decades, Peter Watkins portait of Britain under nuclear attack.

34. Fascinating documentary about crumbling New York in the seventies seen through eyes of firemen.

35. One of the most famous series of all-time. Should be repeated in toto next year to mark the anniversary.

36. Not a documentary but my favourite ever political movie.

37. Not a documentary but the best ever mainstream left-wing TV series. Which is probably why it never came out on DVD.

38. Another pinnacle of political cinema.

39. Classic by Alan Clarke, one of finest directors to work in TV.

40. The overlooked classic by Ken Loach.


fergal - January 3, 2014

Eamoncork- a huge thank you for such a wonderful ist of documentaries, a really great list.Hard to add to it-The Sorrow and the Pity, The Battle of Algiers, Hearts and Minds. The BBC did a fly on the wall documentary on a working class family, called Family in the 70s which was convincing and compelling.
Interesting that according to Wikipedia the BBc’s Great War series was broadcast by RTE, and not only that but that it won a Jacob’s award in 1964. People like Fintan O Toole seem to believe that the 50th anniversary films of the Rising created a generation of provos. The fact that RTE showed the Great War series suggests that other views were shown and actually rewarded for their quality.Eamon McCann dismissed O Toole’s argument by pointing out that the 1967 Easter Rising commemoration in Derry was only attended by a handful of people including the special branch…that it was the bread and butter issue of civil rights that got the crowds out demonstrating a few years later.
I dread the kind of militarist guff we’ll have to put up with on the centenary of WW1. The only question that I’d love to see answered is why were millions of people slaughtered?


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