Knowledgeable people have been talking a lot about documentaries lately, about how new, smaller digital technology is allowing people to get closer to their subjects -- not to mention producing films much more cheaply. It's a renaissance for documentaries, they say. Eight documentaries released in 2006 cracked the list of the top 100 highest-grossing documentaries of all time, and another 15 currently reside on the second hundred.
But here's a simple question: how many of these would anyone want to watch a second time? How many have a shelf life? For example, here's my personal documentary "shelf life" top five: Crumb (1995, Terry Zwigoff), Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (1997, Errol Morris), Lessons of Darkness (1992, Werner Herzog), To Be and to Have (2002, Nicolas Philibert) and My Voyage to Italy (1999, Martin Scorsese).