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The Playlist

The Best Documentaries Of 2014 So Far

  • By The Playlist Staff
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  • July 23, 2014 3:32 PM
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  • 14 Comments
Best Docs of the Year... So Far
The truth, the maxim goes, is stranger than fiction. And even while we're about to see a $200 million starring a talking raccoon and a tree-man, that's often held up by cinema: almost every week features a documentary hitting theaters or VOD telling a story just as, if not more, compelling than anything that can be found in more mainstream multiplexes.

Review: 'The Newburgh Sting' Explores The Thin Line Between Entrapment And Fighting The War On Terror

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • July 21, 2014 7:38 PM
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  • 7 Comments
The Newburgh Sting
In an era of mass surveillance, and increasingly broad rules of engagement given to law enforcement, you would think that the FBI wouldn't need to carefully manufacture cases against ordinary citizens to show that they're winning the so-called "war on terror." But that would be forgetting that in addition to maintaing the security of the nation, FBI officials are also concerned with their public image (hello Twitter), as well as their presentation in the mainstream press. In a 24 hour news cycle, you are only as effective as your last headline, and the documentary "The Newburgh Sting" paints a troubling portrait of an agency more concerned with their perception than with justice, all as part of a mission that broadly targets a religious group, rather than individuals whose fanaticism finds them both as outsiders at their mosques and society in general.

Review: Elderhood Documentary 'Alive Inside' Is Vital & Important

  • By Nikola Grozdanovic
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  • July 21, 2014 5:03 PM
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  • 0 Comments
Alive Inside
Elderhood. Is that even a thing? You grow from the innocence of childhood through the experiences of adulthood and then...you just get old. Nobody likes to talk about that. Kids dream about growing up so they can do all the adult things they see adults do, and adults wish they can turn back the clock and be kids again. Have you ever heard anyone say, “Man, I cannot wait to get old. I’m going to have the sweetest walker ever.” From Grandpa Simpson to reactions after an 82-year-old Clint Eastwood talked to an empty chair, American culture has always greeted old age as comic relief from a distance. But as one of the most insightful interviewees says in “Alive Inside,” “American Culture is wrong.”

Review: Is Dinesh D'Souza's 'America' The Worst Political Documentary Of All-Time?

  • By Gabe Toro
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  • June 30, 2014 10:45 AM
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  • 537 Comments
America: Imagine The World Without Her
“America: Imagine The World Without Her” is book-ended by scenes of co-director (and credited “creator”) Dinesh D'Souza. At the start, he is a triumphant filmmaker who made “2016: Obama's America," which he accurately credits as “the second highest grossing political documentary of all-time.” By the end, he's referring to the charges against him of completely transparent campaign finance law violation as a “mistake” on his part, but also calling himself a victim of Obama's America, a martyr for loving his country too much (and also breaking the law and being caught). In between is the weakest and most pathetic straw man argument ever put to film, set to be released on the Fourth Of July for audiences who are sick of answering political arguments with, “Because!”

Review: Documentary 'Ivory Tower' Is a Sobering Look At The Cost Of Higher Education

  • By Kimber Myers
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  • June 13, 2014 3:55 PM
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  • 3 Comments
When one of the talking heads in “Ivory Tower” uses the word “apocalyptic” to describe the higher education system, it at first seems like an exaggeration. But throughout its 90-minute runtime, Andrew Rossi’s documentary offers a number of frightening statistics that make the adjective seem earned.

SFIFF Review: Jesse Moss' Effective Oil Boom Doc ‘The Overnighters’

  • By Sean Gillane
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  • May 6, 2014 6:07 PM
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  • 0 Comments
The Overnighter
The small town of Williston, North Dakota has had an oil boom and people desperate for work from around the country are making the trip out in search of high paying jobs. They’ve heard stories on the news and from a friend of a friend that describe Williston as the unique remaining land of opportunity in a struggling post-recession United States. The reality is that these jobs do exist, but they aren’t as plentiful as promised. Also missing from the stories that drew these men to Williston is the incredibly high cost of housing in the region, inflated due to the influx of people new to the city.

Review: Documentary '12 O'Clock Boys' Is A Beautifully Shot Look At Baltimore's Dirt Bike Riders

  • By Kimber Myers
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  • January 31, 2014 2:19 PM
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  • 2 Comments
12 O'Clock Boys
This first film from Lotfy Nathan benefits from a pair of engaging subjects: teenage Pug and the city of Baltimore. In “12 O’Clock Boys,” Nathan captured Pug’s life for three years, following him as he moved from childhood to adolescence across several rough Baltimore neighborhoods.

Watch: Trailer For Acclaimed, Oscar Contending Documentary 'Tim's Vermeer'

  • By Kevin Jagernauth
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  • December 30, 2013 2:22 PM
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  • 1 Comment
Tim's Vermeer
Try as we might to cover every corner of the film world in a given year, some movies, even as acclaimed as "Tim's Vermeer," for whatever reason manage to escape our grasp but you can bet this is one we'll be catching up with in 2014.

Short Doc 'Mr. Christmas' Will Light Up Your Holiday Spirit

'Tis the season for holiday movies, and to start it off right, check out something new with the short documentary "Mr. Christmas," by director and screenwriter Nick Palmer. After making the festival circuit last year, with appearances at Silver Docs, Hot Docs, L.A. Film Festival, and winning awards at Palm Springs Shorts Fest and Aspen Shorts Fest, the film is now available to watch on Vimeo (it's currently the Staff Pick). Read More »

Review: ‘Narco Cultura’ Is A Disturbing Look At The Mexican War On Drugs & The Idolatry Within

  • By Rodrigo Perez
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  • November 21, 2013 7:29 PM
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  • 2 Comments
Narco Cultura
Since 2006, when the War on Drugs was officially declared in Mexico—a joint operation by Federal Police and the Mexican military known as Operation Michoacan—approximately 60,000 known murders have been recorded. At the epicenter of the major narcotics trafficking and drug cartels that ravage Mexico is the city of Juarez. Its murder rate has absolutely skyrocketed—4,500 people have been killed since 2006 making it the homicide capital of the world, and just across the border is El Paso, Texas, named one of the safest cities in the United States. This juxtaposition is staggering, and marks the impetus for the film.

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