Pictured: An image from Steve James 'The Interrupters'
Doc Talk is a bi-weekly column on all things documentary and non-fiction cinema.
Could anyone have guessed this time last year that 2010 would be the best year for documentary ever? Might we have predicted it based on the selections for the Sundance Film Festival, which we knew then to include new non-fiction works by Alex Gibney, Davis Guggenheim, Michael Winterbottom & Mat Whitecross, Leon Gast, Sam Green, Amir Bar-Lev, Stanley Nelson and Rachel Grady & Heidi Ewing? The thing is, it's very possible none of those works would even crack my top ten list for the year in docs.
But the festival did bring us many of my favorites of 2010 (including my #1, 'Last Train Home,' though this had previously premiered elsewhere, as well as 'Restrepo,' 'Enemies of the People,' 'Gasland' and the under-valued 'Secrets of the Tribe') as well as many of the strongest awards contenders (one of which is the Guggenheim). And let's not forget that two of the most talked about "questionable" titles, 'Catfish' and 'Exit Through the Gift Shop,' premiered without much pre-fest buzz -- the latter wasn't even announced until the day before the event began.
So, looking at the crop of docs heading to Park City next month doesn't automatically suggest 2011 will be an even better year for non-fiction. We can only hope this will be true, eagerly await discoveries, whether they be simply well-crafted gems or dubious hybrids worthy of discussion, and for now at least get excited about new films from proven talents like Steve James ('Hoop Dreams'), Eugene Jarecki ('Why We Fight') and Morgan Spurlock ('Super Size Me'), all of whose latest appear in the brand-new program of Documentary Premieres.