I have a few minor preferences when it comes to documentaries. Even if I'm critical, I tend to love a great majority of them. But if there is one thing I highly favor with non-fiction cinema, it's the absence of narration -- unless it is of a more poetic nature like Werner Herzog's voice-overs or the eerie sci-fi-like Into Eternity. I love docs that just observe their subject without exposition, and maybe minus interviews as well. One of the best films of this year, Last Train Home, fits this criteria. So does the upcoming Boxing Gym, as is the norm for Frederick Wiseman's works. Now I add to my recent favorites Sweetgrass, which hit DVD this week.
For a companion piece, I went all the way back to the 1925 silent documentary Grass: A Nation's Battle for Life, to which Sweetgrass co-director and producer Ilisa Barbash says her film is a tribute. Though it's easy to see the influence, the two films couldn't be more aesthetically different, which is interesting because its the newer film that feels less talky and in some ways more of an antique.