Why Not Watch?

20 Character Driven Documentary Favorites From 2014

What can we say? 2014 was a cornerstone year for docs. Now, more than ever, we can cry out that “documentary is not a genre” and work to redefine the boring, dry, talking heads comes to mind when a friend suggests watching a documentary together. Documentaries can be thrillers, dramas, comedies, romance, adventures, and feel-good films. And Influence Film Club’s 20 Character Driven Documentary Favorites are a testament to that. Narrowing this list down to 20 was no easy task, but after weeks of debate we carved out a list of this year’s documentary favorites.

Advanced Style
Based on Ari Seth Cohen’s blog, ADVANCED STYLE paints intimate and colorful portraits of seven independent, stylish New York women aged 62 to 95 who are challenging conventional ideas about beauty, aging, and Western’s culture’s increasing obsession with youth.

The Case Against 8
THE CASE AGAINST 8 offers a behind-the-scenes look inside the historic case to overturn California’s ban on same-sex marriage. The film follows the unlikely legal team and the two same-sex couples who act as plaintiffs in the story of how they took the first federal marriage equality lawsuit to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Life Itself
LIFE ITSELF explores Roger Ebert’s legacy, including his Pulitzer Prize-winning film criticism at the Chicago Sun-Times and his eruptive relationship with Gene Siskel, all culminating in his ascension as one of the most influential cultural voices in America.

Art and Craft
Beginning as a cat-and-mouse art caper concerning one of the most prolific art forgers in U.S. history, ART AND CRAFT is rooted in questions of authorship and authenticity, eventually giving way to an intimate story of mental health and the universal need for community, appreciation, and purpose.

The Possibilities are Endless
After experiencing a stroke, Edwyn Collins could only say two phrases: ‘Grace Maxwell’ and ‘The Possibilities Are Endless’. Placed inside Edwyn’s mind, we embark on a  journey from the brink of death back to language, music, and love on an intimate tale of rediscovery.

The Overnighters
THE OVERNIGHTERS is the story of the broken, desperate men chasing their dreams and running from their demons in the North Dakota oil fields and the local Pastor who risks everything to help them.

Jodorowsky’s Dune
Exploring the genesis of one of cinema’s greatest epics that never was – cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune – this inspirational story about the power of the creative spirit establishes Jodorowsky as a master of cinema and a true visionary.

CITIZENFOUR gives audiences unprecedented access to filmmaker Laura Poitras and journalist Glenn Greenwald’s encounters with Edward Snowden as he hands over classified documents providing evidence of mass indiscriminate and illegal invasions of privacy by the National Security Agency.

India’s Daughter
INDIA’S DAUGHTER depicts the investigation of the brutal gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old female medical student on a moving bus in Delhi, India, in December 2012.

Almost There
For filmmakers Rybicky and Wickenden, Peter Anton’s home is a treasure trove, a startling collection of unseen and fascinating paintings, drawings, and notebooks, not to mention Anton himself. ALMOST THERE is a remarkable journey following a gifted artist through startling twists and turns.

Anna, Ole, Fred and Peter are four members of the Emergencies Team, the most intrepid division of the respected, international Human Rights Watch organization. E-TEAM is the personal, intimate story of how they lead their lives as they set out to shine light in dark places and give voice to thousands whose stories would never otherwise have been told.

The Look of Silence
Through its footage of perpetrators of the 1965 Indonesian genocide in THE ACT OF KILLING, a family of survivors discovers how their son was murdered and the identities of the killers. THE LOOK OF SILENCE serves as a powerful companion piece that initiates and bears witness to the collapse of fifty years of silence.

Rich Hill
Directors Andrew Droz Palermo and Tracy Droz Tragos, cousins with family connections to the community of RICH HILL, return to chronicle the lives of three boys in an examination of the challenges, hopes and dreams of the residents in rural Missouri.

Garnet’s Gold
GARNET’S GOLD follows one extraordinary man’s quixotic adventure in search of hidden treasure, in a belated rite of passage to rediscover the meaning of his life.

Finding Vivian Maier
The discovery of over 100,000 photographs hidden away in various storage lockers unveiled the story of Vivian Maier, a mysterious nanny, who is now considered one of the 20thcentury’s greatest street photographers.

That Sugar Film
Follow director Damon Gameau as he embarks on a unique experiment to document the effects of a high sugar diet on a healthy body, consuming only foods that are commonly perceived as ‘healthy’. THAT SUGAR FILM will forever change the way you think about the foods you eat and the hidden sugars lurking nearly everywhere.

Meet the Patels
Filmed by Geeta V. Patel, the sister of Ravi – an almost-30-year-old Indian-American who enters a love triangle between the woman of his dreams and his parents –in what started as a family vacation video, MEET THE PATELS is a hilarious and heartbreaking film about how love is truly a family affair.

VIRUNGA is a gripping exposé of the realities of life in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the incredible true story of a group of brave people risking their lives to build a better future in a part of Africa the world has forgotten.

Point and Shoot
With a gun in one hand and a camera in the other, 28-year-old OCD-afflicted Matthew VanDyke set off on a 35,000-mile motorcycle trip through Northern Africa and the Middle East, where he undergoes a self-described “crash-course in manhood.”

20.000 Days on Earth
Delving into Nick Cave’s artistic processes, 20,000 DAYS ON EARTH takes us deep into the heart of how myth, memory, love and loss shape our lives, every single day. Fusing drama and documentary this film is a beautiful ode to the artistic process and an intimate portrayal of one musician’s creative journey.