A Gift of Knowledge, Art and Appreciation

melisa christensen
© 2007 Melisa Christensen
My friend Melisa, an extraordinary artist and blogger based in NYC, has decided to forgo the usual Christmas gifts in favour of gifting knowledge. She is sending people copies of her favourite documentary films.

I think this is a brilliant idea, and an important statement. It conveys to the people you are sending gifts to that you care about the world we all live in, that you want them to know what you know, that you appreciate their intelligence and sensitivity to things that matter. It is a gift of art, and an appreciation of art. It is environmentally responsible. It is socially responsible and consistent with the Gift Economy — if you can afford to buy copies, the proceeds will go to great documentary filmmakers to help finance additional work, and if you can’t, well, your handmade copies may spur your recipients to support the artist by buying her/his other work. And it deprives the corporatists of the revenue they might otherwise get from sweatshop labour, fouling the environment, depleting resources and screwing the workers of affluent nations, if you’d bought some Chinese crap instead.

In the spirit of this, I asked Melisa to help me compile a list of great documentaries to consider. Her list is more political than mine, while mine skews more to naturedocumentaries with a message. Here’s our combined list:

The Corporation
Maxed Out
Koyaanisqatsi (Earth Out of Balance)
Jesus Camp
Who Killed the Electric Car?
The Take: Occupy, Resist, Produce
Ralph Nader: An Unreasonable Man
The Power of Nightmares
A Crude Awakening.
Winged Migration
March of the Penguins
Why We Fight
An Inconvenient Truth

That’s 15 to start. What’s missing? If we get enough suggestions we’ll create a permanent list and put it on the sidebar.

(And for those who love documentaries, here’s a blog with links to dozens of free online documentaries)

Category: The Arts
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21 Responses to A Gift of Knowledge, Art and Appreciation

  1. David says:

    A wonderful idea and a great list: thank you Melisa and Dave.My suggested additions would be:The Fog of War (Errol Morris)Touching the Void (Kevin MacDonald).

  2. Malva says:

    Gret list!I don’t know if it should be on the list but I thought I’d recommend “The Power of Communitu: How Cuba survived Peak Oil”. Would be suitable for people who care about where food comes from, vegetable gardeners and a nice “by the way” general introduction to the concept of peak oil.

  3. Malva says:

    I should have re-read myself before clicking “submit”. Sorry for the million spelling mistakes.

  4. Jahroy says:

    Manufacturing Consent…Noam Chomsky’s fundamentals on interpreting media

  5. mattbg says:

    Good choices. “End of Suburbia” should be on there, as should “Escape from Suburbia”, and “Manufactured Landscapes”.”What A Way To Go” is another one, but it’s a bit heavy-handed, in my opinion, and may just turn people off.

  6. Jordan Mechano says:

    I second What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire. It covers a hell of a lot, and I thought it was fantastic.

  7. Jeff Patton says:

    I recommend A State of Mind, a documentary following two North Korean school girls as they prepare for the Mass Games.We are always looking to put people/nations into easy categories (good v. bad) in order to make dealing with them more simple. As for North Korea, I feel it’s unfortunate that this nation exists as a hantingly similar state to that of Orwell’s 1984; However, as easy as it would be to put North Korea on our next-to-nuke list, this documentary reveals the North Koreans as a loving, loyal and surprisingly happy people — not unlike the children of Jesus Camp — and to simply demonize this nation is to miss out on how truly complex it is.

  8. jacktoronto08 says:

    Don’t you think there’s a bit of a contradiction between yesterday’s posting re getting more tuned into the ideological propaganda that underlies many innocuous-seeming movies, and this list? Sicko for instance is more of a splashy piece of performance art than a serious examination of anything, and gets cut a whole lot of slack because Moore’s heart “is in the right place.” The Corporation, if memory serves, pushes its central metaphor way beyond what it can sustain, but never addresses the real issue – the role of shareholders (institutional and retail) in generating the demands and expectations that fuel these excesses. Even An Inconvenient Truth ultimately dwindles off into sappiness. Most of these films (I haven’t seen all of them) play like narrative cinema, with perfectly crafted expositions and, as you say, messages…but I’d suggest that this technique generates reinforcement more than it does enlightenment… Having said all that, March Of The Penguins is very sad and beautiful, no question…

  9. Sven Cahling says:

    Young@Heart, the documentary (http://www.walkergeorgefilms.co.uk) about the amazing choir, whos members are 74-94 years old (http://www.youngatheartchorus.com). A wonderful clip here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2u6k-99qcCE

  10. Kaunda says:

    Mad Hot BallroomWar DanceGod Grew Tired of UsDarwin’s NightmareBorn Again http://www.bornagainthemovie.com/

  11. Dave Pollard says:

    Great! Wonderful additions! Keep going! Thank you.Jack: Agreed. No art is perfect. The purpose is to tap into something inside you that cares, to move you. It need not be flawless to do that.

  12. Meryn Stol says:

    Why not do the same with books? You could even earn some revenue through amazon’s affiliate program.

  13. Jon Husband says:

    MUCH overlooked BBC (three-part) documentary by the creator of The Power of Nightmares (also BBC).It’s called The Trap …. the series consists of three, one-hour programmes which explore the concept and definition of freedom, specifically “how a simplistic model of human beings as self-seeking, almost robotic, creatures led to today’s idea of freedom.”I think it is brilliant … essentially the same message as the blog Wealth Bondage.

  14. beth says:

    Great idea! A particular favorite of mine is “Rivers and Tides”, about the earth-oriented art of Andy Goldsworthy.

  15. RT says:

    I second MANUFACTURED LANDSCAPES by Jennifer Baichwalon Edward Burtynski’s environmental / environmentalist photodocumentary work.Also second MANUFACTURING CONSENT on Noam Chomsky’s political analysis works.[Slightly-Off-Topic: On the quote-unquote Fictional side, which deserves a list somewhere (else?), I have always appreciated Pontecorvo’s BURN about an island sugar plantation colony’s history and political turmoil, with M. Brando.]

  16. stevie says:

    Horns and HalosNo End in SightTriumph of the Will

  17. Kurt Fowler says:

    What a Way to Go: Life at the End of Empire

  18. I loved SHAKESPEARE BEHIND BARS, SUPERSIZE ME and the 7-UP series (49 UP and 28 up, especially). The DVD with extras of the very old docu, SCARED STRAIGHT is excellent–some really beautiful follow-up coverage of the people involved.I also adore SUPERSTAR: THE KAREN CARPENTER STORY, Todd Haynes’ first film. Not strictly docu and softly strange, it’s a really wonderful look into the U.S. during a time of rapid change, as well as an incredibly touching and involving story.

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