Editor’s note: “Truth” is, indeed, stranger than fiction—and purveyors of the documentary form are finding increasingly exciting ways to turn true stories, be they personal histories, actual investigations or longform observations, into our most fascinating films. There is no handbook for the making of documentary films, a category that was once as easy to file as it was to dismiss: “documentary” filmmakers are folding in as much if not more innovative craft into their pieces as their siblings on the fiction side. October is offering Fandor a chance to celebrate the documentary genre through a concentration on a few of Fandor’s FIX filmmakers working in the arena, Featured films of a nonfiction stripe and through a series of Keyframe articles on documentary film. With this video, Keyframe’s chief video essayist, Kevin B. Lee, engages with the topic via a moving mashup of the films that reached the top of Sight & Sound’s first-ever documentary poll.
Watch ‘The Greatest Documentaries of All Time’
The poll, launched last August, came with its own set of video essays, including one by Lee made in tribute to the great documentarian Robert Gardner, who passed away earlier this year. Lee also took the occasion to muse upon the documentary form and wonder whether the term “documentary” is even useful anymore, given the extent to which it has mutated into various forms. But however we want to label these films, Kevin B. Lee seems to argue, their exceptional qualities will stand the test of time.
Kevin B. Lee is a filmmaker, critic, video essayist and founding editor of Keyframe. He tweets at @alsolikelife.