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Filmography - Documentaries, 500 Essential: 2017 Additions

Titles available on DVD and streaming video as of November 2017

Filmography - 500 Essential Documentaries (and Mockumentaries) to Watch Before You Graduate

Titles available on DVD and streaming video as of November 2017.

See also: Films for Teaching School of Communication Topics

Most streaming videos listed are available exclusively to AU students, staff and faculty after an online authentications by AUID#.

This is a selective list of video holdings in the American University Library. Filmographies are created by doing multiple keyword searches in the ALADIN catalog to capture as many titles on a topic as possible.  All DVDs listed below are located in Media Services on the Lower Level of Bender Library. To search the library’s complete videos holdings on prison topics (including VHS tapes) search the library catalog at:


Notable Documentary Titles Added to the Media Services Collection in 2017

Amy. 2015. 1 videodisc (approximately 128 min.).  The incredible story of six-time Grammy winner Amy Winehouse - in her own words. Featuring extensive unseen archival footage and previously unheard tracks, this strikingly modern, moving, and vital film shines a light on our culture and the world we live in today. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 1287

Best of enemies. 2015. 1 videodisc (88 min.).  Dead last in the ratings in 1968, ABC hired two towering public intellectuals to debate each other during the Democratic and Republican national conventions. William F. Buckley Jr. was a leading light of the new conservative movement. A Democrat and cousin to Jackie Onassis, Gore Vidal was a leftist novelist and polemicist. Armed with deep-seated distrust and enmity, Vidal and Buckley believed each other's political ideologies were dangerous for America. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 12748

The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the revolution. 2015. 1 videodisc (approximately 120 min.). "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution is the first feature length documentary to explore the Black Panther Party, its significance to the broader American culture, its cultural and political awakening for black people, and the painful lessons wrought when a movement derails. Master documentarian Stanley Nelson goes straight to the source, weaving a treasure trove of rare archival footage with the voices of the people who were there: police, FBI informants, journalists, white supporters and detractors, and Black Panthers who remained loyal to the party and those who left it. Featuring Kathleen Cleaver, Elaine Brown, Emory Douglas, Jamal Joseph, and many others, it’s an essential history and a vibrant chronicle of this pivotal movement that birthed a new revolutionary culture in America."--Container. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13025

Brooklyn castle 2012. 1 videodisc (101 min.). Brooklyn Castle tells the stories of five members of the chess team at a below-the-poverty-line inner city junior high school that has won more national championships than any other in the country. The I.S. 318 team’s victories go beyond a room full of trophies-through chess they learn patience and long-term planning, and the importance of analyzing the wrong or right decisions they make after the game. Chess provides skills that will serve them well for the rest of their lives, regardless of what profession they choose. The film follows the challenges these kids face in their personal lives as well as on the chessboard and demonstrates remarkable and improbable achievements of this dedicated team. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 2826 and Streaming video.

Cameraperson. 2016. 2 videodiscs (103 min.). A boxing match in Brooklyn; life in postwar Bosnia and Herzegovina; the daily routine of a Nigerian midwife; an intimate family moment at home with the director: Kirsten Johnson weaves these scenes and others into her film, a tapestry of footage captured over her twenty-five-year career as a documentary cinematographer. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13957

Cartel land. 2015. 1 videodisc (101 min.).  In the Mexican state of Michoacán Dr. José Mireles, a small-town physician known as "El Doctor," leads the Autodefensas, a citizen uprising against the violent Knights Templar drug cartel. Meanwhile, in Arizona's Altar Valley, Tim "Nailer" Foley, an American veteran, heads a small paramilitary group called Arizona Border Recon, whose goal is to stop Mexico's drug wars from seeping across our border.  HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13133

OJ, made in America . 2016. 5 videodiscs (463 min.).  ESPN 30 for 30. An essential examination of the rise and fall of Orenthal James Simpson, and parallels between his incredible story with that of race in America. This critically-acclaimed documentary series reveals how he first became a football star, why America fell in love with him off the field, what happened in the trial for his ex-wife's murder, and finally, why he is now sitting in jail for another crime 20 years later. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13289

Fuocoammare = Fire at sea. 2016. 1 videodisc (114 min.).  Samuele is twelve years old and lives on an island in the middle of the sea. He goes to school, and loves shooting his slingshot and going hunting. He likes land games, even though everything around him speaks of the sea and the men, women, and children who try to cross it to get to his island. But his is not an island like the others, its name is Lampedusa and it is the most symbolic border of Europe, crossed by thousands of migrants in the last twenty years in search of freedom. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13846

Gimme danger. 2016. 1 videodisc (108 min.).  An in-depth look at the legendary punk band, The Stooges. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13727 

Going clear Scientology & the prison of belief. 2015. 1 videodisc (119 min.).  "... [A] look inside the controversial religion from Academy Award-winner Alex Gibney. The film profiles eight former members of the Church of Scientology, exploring the psychological impact of blind faith, how the church attracts new followers and keeps hold of its A-list celebrity devotees."--Container. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 12652

Heart of a dog. 2015. 1 videodisc (76 min.).  The Criterion collection In this film essay, multimedia artist Laurie Anderson presents a monologue touching upon her relationship with her rat terrier Lolabelle, the death of her mother, the heightening of surveillance following 9/11, and other topics. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13628

Hitchcock Truffaut. 2015. 1 videodisc (80 min.).  In 1962 Hitchcock and Truffaut locked themselves away in Hollywood for a week to excavate the secrets behind the mise-en-scene in cinema. Based on the original recordings of this meeting, used to produce the mythical book, Hitchcock/Truffaut-this film illustrates the greatest cinema lesson of all time and plummets us into the world of the creator of Psycho, The Birds, and Vertigo. Hitchcock's incredibly modern art is elucidated and explained by today's leading filmmakers.  Includes bonus materials. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13618

The hunting ground. 2014. 1 videodisc (103 min.).  From Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning director Kirby Dick, and Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning producer Amy Ziering comes a startling expose of sexual assault on US campuses, their institutional cover-ups, and the devastating toll they take on students and their families. Weaving together cinema verite footage and fist person testimonies, the film follows the lives of several undergraduate assault survivors as they attempt to pursue both their education and justice. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 12837 

I am not your negro. 2016. 1 videodisc (94 min.).  Using James Baldwin's unfinished final manuscript, Remember This House, this documentary follows the lives and successive assassinations of three of the author's friends, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr., delving into the legacy of these iconic figures and narrating historic events using Baldwin's original words and a flood of rich archival material. An up-to-the-minute examination of race in America, this film is a journey into black history that connects the past of the Civil Rights movement to the present of #BlackLivesMatter. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13955 and Streaming video.

The jinx the life and deaths of Robert Durst. 2015. 2 videodiscs (360 min.).  A groundbreaking documentary series sheds new light on real-estate icon, Robert Durst, while unraveling one of the most notorious unsolved crimes in New York history. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 12496 

Kate plays Christine. 2016. 1 videodisc (113 minutes).  In preparation for a film role, actor Kate Lyn Sheil conducts an investigation into the death of Christine Chubbuck, a Sarasota, Florida newscaster who in 1974 committed suicide on the the air, the event that served as inspiration for Sidney Lumet's Oscar-winning film Network. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13854

Kurt Cobain: Montage of heck. 2015. 1 videodisc (132 min.).  Experience Kurt Cobain like never before in the only fully authorized portrait of the famed music icon. Directed by acclaimed film maker Brett Morgen, who expertly blends Cobain's personal archive of art, music, never before seen movies, animation and revelatory interviews from his family and closest friends. This DVD format includes the two hour plus documentary plus 48 minutes of additional interview footage. HOME USE COLLECTION BLU 12871

The look of silence. 2014. 1 videodisc (103 min.).  A family that survives the political anti-communist genocide in Indonesia confronts the men who killed one of their brothers. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 12786

The mask you live in. 2015. 1 videodisc (90 min.).  "The Mask You Live In follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America's narrow definition of masculinity. Pressured by the media, their peer group, and even the adults in their lives, our protagonists confront messages encouraging them to disconnect from their emotions, devalue authentic friendships, objectify and degrade women, and resolve conflicts through violence. These gender stereotypes interconnect with race. class and circumstance, creating a maze of identity issues boys and young men must navigate to become 'real' men. Experts in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, sports, education, and media also weigh in, offering empirical evidence of the 'boy crisis' and tactics to combat it. The Mask You Live In ultimately illustrates how we, as a society, can raise a healthier generation of boys and young men"--Representation Project website. DVD 12085 and Streaming video.

Meru. 2015. 1 videodisc (90 min.).  Three renowned climbers navigate nature's harshest elements and their own complicated inner demons to ascend Mount Meru, the most technically complicated and dangerous peak in the Himalayas. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13516 

Miss Sharon Jones! 2015. 1 videodisc (95 minutes).  The inspirational story follows soul queen Sharon Jones during the most courageous year of her life as she battles life-threatening illness and triumphantly returns to center stage. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13523

Newtown 2016. 1 videodisc (84 min.). Three years after the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, CT that took the lives of twenty elementary school children and six educators on December 14, 2012, the small New England town is a complex psychological web in the wake of yet another act of mass killing at the hands of a disturbed young gunman. Documentary of a traumatized community three years after the horrific mass shooting in Newtown, CT that took the lives of twenty elementary school children and six educators. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13974

No home movie. 2015. 1 videodisc (approximately 117 min.).  The final film from groundbreaking auteur Chantal Akerman is a portrait of her relationship with her mother, Natalia, a Holocaust survivor and familiar presence in many of her daughter's films. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13382 

Notfilm. 2015. 2 videodiscs (129 min.).  Explores the making and meaning of Film, a 1965 short film starring Buster Keaton, that was written by Samuel Beckett, directed by Alan Schneider, and produced by Barney Rosset. Topics covered include the circumstances leading to the film's production, the production process itself, and the film's critical reception. Includes outtakes, never-before-heard audio recordings of production meetings, interviews, and other archival information. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13850 

The salt of the earth. 2014. 2 videodiscs (110 min.).  For the last 40 years, the photographer Sebastião Salgado has been travelling through the continents, in the footsteps of an ever-changing humanity. He has witnessed some of the major events of our recent history; international conflicts, starvation and exodus. HOME USE COLLECTION BLU 12456

The seven five. 2015. 1 videodisc (104 min.).  Examines rampant corruption in the New York City Police Department's notorious 75th Precinct in the '80s and early '90s, focusing on Michael Dowd, an officer who, in 1994, received a sixteen-year prison sentence for drug-related offenses. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 12712   

The story of film: An odyssey . 2012. 5 videodiscs (915 min.).  Film historian Mark Cousins takes viewers on a journey through the history of world cinema. Features a fifteen-part odyssey that begins with the invention of motion pictures at the end of the 19th century and goes all around the world, from Thomas Edison’s New Jersey lab, to Hitchcock’s London, to post-war Rome, to modern-day Mumbai, and more. The film concludes with a look at the globalized digital film industry of the 21st century. Also includes interviews with legendary filmmakers. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 10120 and Streaming video.

Tower. 2016. 1 videodisc (82 min.).  On August first, 1966, a sniper rode the elevator to the top floor of the iconic University of Texas Tower and opened fire, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes in what was a previously unimaginable event. This documentary combines archival footage with animated re-enactments of the dramatic day, based entirely on first person testimonies from witnesses, heroes, and survivors, in a seamless and suspenseful retelling of the unfolding tragedy. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 14600 and Streaming video.

Weiner. 2016. 1 videodisc (96 min.).  An examination of disgraced New York Congressman Anthony Weiner's disastrous 2013 mayoral campaign. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13499

Welcome to Leith. 2015. 1 videodisc (86 minutes).  "Welcome to Leith chronicles the attempted takeover of a small town in North Dakota by notorious white supremacist Craig Cobb. As his behavior becomes more threatening, tensions soar, and the residents desperately look for ways to expel their unwanted neighbor. With incredible access to both longtime residents of Leith and white supremacists, the film examines a small community in the plains struggling for sovereignty against an extremist vision."--Container. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13676 and Streaming Video.

What happened, Miss Simone? 2015. 1 videodisc (102 min.).  Profiles the life and career of American singer Nina Simone. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13721

Where to invade next. 2015. 1 videodisc (120 min.).  Presents the theory that the American dream, all but abandoned in the United States, has been adopted successfully in other countries, including Italy, France, Finland, Slovenia, Germany, Portugal, Norway, Tunisia, and Iceland, looking at such areas as worker benefits, public expenditure for the common good, and state-funded higher education. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13177

The witness. 2015. 1 videodisc (90 minutes). "On March 13, 1964, Kitty Genovese was repeatedly attacked on a street in Kew Gardens, Queens. The New York times published a front-page story asserting that 38 witnesses watched her being murdered from their apartment windows-and did nothing to help. The Witness follows the efforts of her brother, Bill Genovese, as he looks to uncover the truth buried beneath the story."--Container. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 13734 and Streaming video.;3401967

The wolfpack. 2015. 1 videodisc (89 min.).  The six Angulo brothers have grown up in their Manhattan apartment, home schooled by their parents, rarely if ever leaving their apartment. Their only connection to the outside world is television and the movies they watch and act out, complete with homemade costumes, in the apartment. When one of the brothers sneaks out for a few days on his own, the whole family dynamic is changed when he returns home. HOME USE COLLECTION DVD 12857