‘Lessons of Darkness’ is Aching and Horrifying

Lessons of Darkness (1995) is an hour-long documentary about the devastation in Kuwait’s oil fields. While this documentary could have been straightforward recounting in another maker’s hands, it becomes achingly and horrifyingly meaningful in the hands of Werner Herzog. Lessons of Darkness consists of 13 parts, and only the first part shows the city before… Read More ‘Lessons of Darkness’ is Aching and Horrifying

‘Lipstick and Dynamite’ Explores Women’s Wrestling History

Lipstick and Dynamite (2004) is Ruth Leitman’s look back at the lady wrestlers of the 1940s to the 1960s. Using interviews with the wrestlers themselves, this energetic documentary explores the culture around the sport and how it influenced these women. Some of the cultural expectations follow the gender norms in the 1950s. While these women… Read More ‘Lipstick and Dynamite’ Explores Women’s Wrestling History

Dancers Compete for Ballet Careers in ‘First Position’

First Position (Bess Kargman, 2011) is an enjoyable documentary about several children who want to pursue careers in professional dance, specifically ballet. In First Position ballet is unquestionably a sport and these dancers athletes, and this documentary follows the classic competition-driven narrative arc. First Position provides profiles of several dancers of various ages, with Aran… Read More Dancers Compete for Ballet Careers in ‘First Position’

‘Dogtown and Z-Boys’ Pays Tribute to Skateboarding History

Dogtown and Z-Boys (2001) is Stacy Peralta’s tribute and history to skateboarding and the Zephyr team of southern California during the 1970s. Situating the history within the Dogtown part of Los Angeles, this documentary traces the rise of the sport and this unique team. Most of the storytelling occurs through interviews with the dozen members… Read More ‘Dogtown and Z-Boys’ Pays Tribute to Skateboarding History

‘The Two Escobars’ Links Soccer and Drug Trafficking

The Two Escobars (Jeff Zimbalist and Michael Zimbalist, 2010) develops an intriguing thesis: how drug trafficking bolstered the Colombian soccer team to new heights and resulted in the death of one of its greatest players. The two Escobars profiled in this ESPN 30 for 30 documentary are Andrés Escobar and Pablo Escobar. Andrés Escobar was… Read More ‘The Two Escobars’ Links Soccer and Drug Trafficking

‘Bigger Stronger Faster’ Examines Steroids in Sport

Chris Bell’s Bigger Stronger Faster (2008) is a detailed exploration of the use of steroids in sports. In the process, Bell also explores the nature of American masculinity. Bell begins this documentary by highlighting the muscled icons of the 1980s: Schwarzenegger, Stallone, and Hulk Hogan. His questioning starts with the steroid use among himself and… Read More ‘Bigger Stronger Faster’ Examines Steroids in Sport

‘Senna’ Keeps Pace with its Moving Story

Senna (Asif Kapadia, 2010) tells the story of Ayrton Senna’s racing career starting with his rise to fame in Formula 1 to his untimely death. Senna jumps right into the story and keeps moving at a constant pace throughout this documentary. Kapadia draws on an amazing depth of archival footage to construct the narrative, including… Read More ‘Senna’ Keeps Pace with its Moving Story

‘Pumping Iron’ Showcases Schwarzenegger before He Became the Governator

Before he was the Governator and before he was the Terminator, Arnold Schwarzenegger was an award-winning professional body builder showcased in the 1977 documentary Pumping Iron. Directed by George Butler and Robert Fiore, Pumping Iron showcases Schwarzenegger and others competing in the Mr. Olympia and Mr. Universe titles in South Africa. Not surprisingly, the documentary… Read More ‘Pumping Iron’ Showcases Schwarzenegger before He Became the Governator