The Doc of the Matter

I have been a pretty terrible television student.  In the past few weeks I have not watched nearly enough television.  I am keeping up fine with a few shows (Once Upon A Time, Elementary, and Community), but am not watching anything besides. A few weeks ago it was because I was on a deadline, but now that excuse is out and I am grasping at straws.

What was I watching while I should have been working on my spec?  Documentaries about design and social justice.  It started while I was still in San Francisco when I saw an ad for 56 Up.  When my mom heard of it we decided to watch all of the Up Series and then see the new one.  Then one day I had some time to kill and watched Eames: The Architect and the Painter, about Charles and Ray Eames.  Really interesting.  One thing lead to another and… here’s a short list of interesting docs on Netflix.

  • The Up Series.  Mentioned above, The Up Series consists of 7 Up, 7 Plus 7, 21 Up, and so on.  It’s a series of TV documentaries following kids who were 7 in 1964.  It’s a commitment if you’re truly going to watch all of them (56 Up is just coming out), but it’s interesting.
  • Eames: The Architect and the Painter.  I watched this on a whim a few weeks ago and was completely entranced.  It’s the story of Charles and Ray Eames, designers who created the Eames chair and many other architectural and product design-y things.  They made movies and furniture and curated art exhibits.  They lived really interesting lives and it made me want to do something with myself.
  • Urbanized.  A documentary about urban planning and all the nuances of designing a city.  This film looked at maybe 10 specific projects or situations.  A bit nerdy, but interesting.  Perhaps a bit long?  Worth checking out if you’re interested, but I found myself drifting.
  • Helvetica.  This is actually one that I watched a while ago, but it fits so well with the rest that I have to include it.  It’s about the creation of the font, Helvetica, and the process of creating fonts and how they are precised.  Really, really cool and super-duper nerdy.
  • Objectified.  By the same people as Helvetica, Objectified looks at the design and creation of the things that we use every day.  After watching it I wanted to create myself an oasis where everything that beautifully constructed to flow together.  I still wish that I lived in that world.
  • Vidal Sasson: The Movie.  This was made about a year before he died and includes interviews with Sasson.  It’s gorgeous, if a little long, and made me want to get the 5 point haircut that this guy invented.  Sasson has an interesting story and his interviews are captivating.

I think the thing that these docs had in common was that they all made me want to do something.  When we watch movies or television we want to be moved.  Moved to tears, to laughter, or in the case of documentaries, called to action.  These aren’t really “call to action” movies as much as some of the genre can be, but still moving in their own way.

There are a bunch more that I’m interested in too.  About architecture, origami, newspapers, dancing, puppetry, and happiness.  Documentaries get a bad rap for being boring, but I think you just need to find something you’re interested in.

What good documentaries have you seen?  Any suggestions for me?