Back to IndieWire

Best Documentaries Ever? Shame on IDA’s 25 Best List

Best Documentaries Ever? Shame on IDA's 25 Best List

When I received a personal email about the annnouncement of IDA’s new 25 Best Documentaries list, I saw it as a provocation, an invitation to rant, as it were, because said emailer probably had a hunch that I would respond in a hostile manner: And he’s right! Shame on the International Documentary Association for going the facile way of the American Film Institute, with their incessant, ultimately meaningless, hierarchical lists that do more to raise the profile of the organizations and their sponsors — in this case Netflix, provider of screeners — than really shine a light on the best of movies.

Of course, it’s not the “best” of anything here, but a few great documentaries, sprinkled in with several recent, high-profile documentaries that just happen to be on IDA members’s minds. For instance, what the hell is “An Inconvenient Truth” doing there, let alone at #6? And why does “Bowling for Columbine” (#3) trump “Roger and Me” (#10). I take serious issue with “Spellbound” (#4) “Super Size Me” (#11), “Born into Brothels” (#18), “Winged Migration” (#22), and can’t believe that “Grizzly Man” (#23) is the only Herzog doc that made the list, and barely. I wonder if the list is more disparaging for IDA members — who are to blame for the votes — than the organization itself. I would also imagine that the INTERNATIONAL Documentary Association members might have more discriminating and worldly tastes: Why is only Alain Resnais’s “Night and Fog” (down low at #23) the only foreign-language doc? Ugh.

I could go on and on and on about what films have been sorely, humilatingly overlooked (“Man With the Movie Camera“, “Triumph of the Will,” “Land Without Bread,” “Blood Of the Beasts,” not a single Peter Watkins, etc. etc.), but what’s the point?

It is interesting to note that Netflix admitted the fact that Frederick Wiseman’s “Titicut Follies” (unfairly, insultingly at #19, but who’s counting?) is the only film not available on their service, because it’s never been released commercially. I guess it would be a good thing if someone saw the list and aimed to make “Titicut Follies” available on Netflix. That would be real cause for celebration.

This Article is related to: Uncategorized


David Wilson

Couldn’t have said it better myself, Anthony. Spot on.


Rant on!

Steve Erickson

I generally agree with your criticisms, although I can only imagine the firestorm that would result if a Riefenstahl film made this list. However, Peter Watkins, while a great director, has never made a full-fledged documentary. Although THE WAR GAME won an Oscar for best doc, it’s an account of a fictional nuclear war. If Watkins counts, THIS IS SPINAL TAP deserves a place on the IDA poll as well.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *