If you want to know what’s going on in the world, there’s no more efficient use of your time than to spend the next 10 days doc-spotting, for SBIFF’s slate of documentary films is as strong as ever. Here are 10 must-sees to put on your list, but be forewarned that these are just a fraction of the dozens worthy of your time this year.
1) A Murder of Crows: Just how smart are these omnipresent black birds? Frighteningly so, reveals this enlightening, research-based look at the genus Corvus.
2) In the Land of the Free …: An exhaustive, archive-spanning investigation of three wrongfully convicted black prisoners in Louisiana’s Angola prison and their fight for freedom.
3) The Desert of Forbidden Art: The story of how one man stashed censored Soviet Union paintings into a hidden corner of Uzbekistan is a portrait of defiant vision blended with tremendous contemporary art.
4) The Elephant in the Living Room: Exotic animals are all the rage, but this film uncovers the sad story of what happens to big cats, scary snakes, and manic monkeys when their owners can’t handle them.
5) 8: A Mormon Proposition: An emotionally and informationally charged investigation of how the Mormon Church secretly funded California’s Proposition 8, which banned gay marriage.
6) Last Train Home: A methodical, ponderous, and deeply personal look at a Chinese family from the country who are pulled into the city for work.
7) How to Live Forever: A quirky and caring examination of old age, how to fight against it, and—perhaps most of all—how to accept it with grace. Directed by and starring Mark Wexler.
8) Charlie Haden: Rambling Boy: Jazz bass will never be the same thanks to Charlie Haden, who backed up such luminaries as Ornette Coleman and John Coltrane. Haden will attend the February 6 screening.
9) Two Spirits: The Navajo have always held a special place for gay people, but that respect is dwindling in today’s homophobic world. That shift is examined here via the murder of a teenage boy-girl.
10) When the Dragon Swallowed the Sun: A thoroughly updated explanation of the Tibet versus China situation. Beautifully shot and sonically enhanced by the songs of Damien Rice, who will perform at the February 7 screening.