1. I Called Him Morgan – In a year of great documentaries, the most unshakeable one is “I Called Him Morgan,” a haunting account of the life, and untimely demise, of promising jazz superstar Lee Morgan.
2. City of Ghosts – Filmmaker Matthew Heineman puts himself directly in harm’s way in “City of Ghosts,” an riveting study of courage under immense fire, which concentrates on Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently (RBSS), a group of “citizen journalists” committed to documenting ISIS’ reign of terror in their Syrian hometown of Raqqa.
3. The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson – Dubbed “the Rosa Parks of the LGBT movement,” trans icon Marsha P. Johnson was a New York City fixture whose life was cut tragically short in 1992 when her body was discovered in the Hudson River. Though police deemed her death a suicide, director David France’s outstanding documentary argues otherwise.
4. The B-Side: Elsa Dorfman’s Portrait Photography – The latest doc from Errol Morris trains his empathetic and inquisitive gaze on Elsa Dorfman, a Massachusetts shutterbug whose claim to fame was her use of a now-discontinued 20×24 Polaroid camera for large-canvas portraits of everyday and famous subjects—including her close friend, poet Allen Ginsberg.
5. Trophy – Using the 2015 killing of Cecil the Lion as its starting point, directors Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau investigate the topic of big-game hunting from a variety of angles.
6. Spettacolo – In Italy’s tiny Tuscany region lies Monticchiello, whose residents have a most unusual annual ritual; they stage a play about their own lives, starring themselves.
7. Icarus – Everyone but Donald Trump seems to know that Vladimir Putin doesn’t play by the rules, and additional confirmation of that obvious fact comes courtesy of “Icarus,” a Netflix-exclusive documentary rife with eye-opening revelations about Russia’s athletic nefariousness.
8. Rat Film – Comprised of archival photos and documents, news clippings and maps, 3D video game sequences, shots from rats’ POVs, scenes involving amateur urban rat killers, and panoramic vistas of Maryland’s most famous city, director Theo Anthony’s film employs a thoroughly idiosyncratic style in order to link Baltimore’s long-running rat infestation with its geographic and socio-cultural development—a process that routinely involved segregating its black and white populations.
9. All This Panic – Female teenagerdom is presented in all its raw, messy, complicated glory in “All This Panic,” a documentary from Jenny Gage that charts the ups and downs of a collection of New York City girls over the course of three years.
10. Obit – On the face of it, few journalism jobs seem more depressing than penning obituaries. Yet Vanessa Gould’s “Obit” is a penetrating and uplifting portrait of the men and women handling those duties at The New York Times.
Read the story at Esquire.
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