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‘Sight & Sound’ releases 50 greatest documentary films list

‘Sight & Sound’ releases 50 greatest documentary films list

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As reported over at The Dissolve, highly respected British film magazine Sight & Sound is famous for its list of the greatest films off all time released once every decade. Since 1952, Citizen Kane held the number one spot until Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo dethroned it in the 2012 poll. Now for the first time Sight & Sound has released a list of the 50 greatest documentary films of all time. The list was compiled after polling from over 200 critics and curators and 100 filmmakers, including “John Akomfrah, Michael Apted, Clio Barnard, James Benning, Sophie Fiennes, Amos Gitai, Paul Greengrass, Jose Guerin, Isaac Julien, Asif Kapadia, Sergei Loznitsa, Kevin Macdonald, James Marsh, Joshua Oppenheimer, Anand Patwardhan, Pawel Pawlikowski, Nicolas Philibert, Walter Salles, and James Toback”.

The top 10 are:

  1. Man With A Movie Camera, (Dziga Vertov, 1929)
  2. Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985)
  3. Sans Soleil, (Chris Marker, 1982)
  4. Night And Fog (Alain Resnais, 1955)
  5. The Thin Blue Line (Errol Morris, 1989)
  6. Chronicle Of A Summer (Jean Rouch & Edgar Morin, 1961)
  7. Nanook Of The North (Robert Flaherty, 1922)
  8. The Gleaners And I (Agnès Varda, 2000)
  9. Don’t Look Back (D.A. Pennebaker, 1967)
  10. Grey Gardens (Albert and David Maysles, Ellen Hovde and Muffie Meyer, 1975)

The top ten and most of the list doesn’t have too many surprises. Man With A Movie Camera is an undeniable classic. Upon the film’s release in 1929, there was nothing else like it and even today there are few films that are as original. Lanzmann’s Shoah is a ten-hour epic that is one of the most powerful and richly detailed Holocaust films ever made.

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At number seven we have Nanook of the North, an ethnographic film that is considered to be the first documentary film ever made. Flaherty’s chronicle of the life of an Inuit family is a harrowing tale of the daily struggles a man named Nanook and the harsh life of the freezing cold northern Quebec. Though some of sequences are now known to be staged, it doesn’t take away from the power as they “depict real-life Inuit survival skills”.

Other things to note on the top 50:

  • Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, and an anonymous filmmaker’s incredible The Act of Killing and Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel’s Leviathan are the two newest films on the list, both being from 2012.
  • Werner Herzog has two films on the list, 2005’s Grizzly Man at number 12 and 1992’s Lessons of Darkness at number 31
  • Abbas Kiarostami’s Close-up, a favorite of many, is tied at number 35 with Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb and Humphrey Jennings’ A Diary for Timothy

Again, for the full list and descriptions, click here.