The international film magazine Sight & Sound has ”polled 340 critics, programmers and filmmakers in the search for authoritative answers”, which are now published in two parts (click on link below) – ”the top 50 documentaries as nominated by 237 critics, curators and academics” and ”the greatest documentaries ever made, as voted by 103 directors”.
Why… they give the answer themselves: ”The new Sight & Sound documentary poll is the result of a “why didn’t we think of that before” moment. In the light of the amazing recent success and cultural impact of several nonfiction films, a group of curators, myself included, were chewing over what the BFI might do specifically for documentary films and television. It soon became obvious that we were not sure exactly what it was that we were trying to discuss.”
And the result: “What’s remarkable about the Top 50 documentaries list is that it feels so fresh. One in five of the films chosen were made since the millennium, and to have a silent film from 1929 at the top of the list is an absolute joy. That allusive essay films feature so strongly throughout demonstrates that nonfiction cinema is not a narrow discipline but a wide open country full of explorers. The current print edition of S&S contains only the highlights of our results; the real explorers among you will want to browse the full results and commentaries which goes live online on the 14th August.”
Let me reveal the top three of the critics etc.: 1. Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov, USSR 1929. 2. Shoah, Claude Lanzmann, France, 1985. 3. Sans Soleil, Chris Marker, France, 1982 – and the top three of the filmmakers: 1. Man with a Movie Camera, Dziga Vertov, USSR, 1929. 2. Sans Soleil, Chris Marker, France, 1982. 3. The Thin Blue Line, Errol Morris, USA, 1989.
Not that surprising – the freshness that is mentioned above comes in when you examine the list more detailed and find films like “The Act of Killing” and “Leviathan”.
I was asked to participate in the voting as critic/programmer. Tomorrow I will bother you with my list.