No one is going to argue that this has been an extraordinary year for nonfiction film.
Film blogger Scott Feinberg has even gone so far as to declare 2010 "The Year of the Documentary" - "the strongest - or, at the very least, the deepest - year yet in the history of documentary filmmaking".
The other week I had a conversation with someone who I frequently discuss the various politics and maneauverings of the Oscar race for Best Documentary and we agreed that this year it was entirely possible to come up with three completely different lists of five nominees - and that each list would be not just acceptable but pretty sterling.
But let's take Oscar (and Cinema Eye and IDA and Spirits and Gothams and critics prizes) out of the equation for a little while...
I actually meant to write this post back in June, when I'd already seen so many tremendous films - by newcomers and veterans alike. But I put it off because I had so many other films that I hadn't seen yet - and I still have not seen a number of the year's most talked about films (INSIDE JOB, CATFISH, TILLMAN STORY, CLIENT 9, LAST TRAIN HOME and ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE).
But - as evidenced by this intro - talking about these films as we go into October changes the conversation from the stuff I loved in early 2010 to the stuff that should be considered going into awards season. There's little to do about that other than to plunge forward.
A final caveat - just picking these seven films from the list of great and near-great stuff I saw in 2010 was a challenge in itself. I could easily include RESTREPO, BUDRUS, MY PERESTROIKA, SPACE TOURISTS and a handful of others.
But thus far, these are the films that have settled in with me for the long haul and these are the films that have made my documentary viewing in 2010 so exceptional:
Perhaps my favorite film of 2010 thus far is Banksy’s EXIT THROUGH THE GIFT SHOP – a skillful, note-perfect dissection of art world hype and the often thorny creative process.