Best Documentary Movies of 1971
North of Superior
The second IMAX film made, commissioned by the Ontario Government, and produced by MultiScreen Corporation, later to become IMAX corporation. North of Superior is a Northern Ontario travelogue, and was the first short feature to be shown at the newly created Ontario government theme park, Ontario Place, in it's state of the art cinema, Cinesphere, the first permanent IMAX installation.
On Any Sunday
Documentary on motorcycle racing featuring stars of the sport, including film star Steve McQueen, a racer in his own right.
Directed by John Ford
A documentary about the life and films of director John Ford.
Joe Cocker - Mad Dogs & Englishmen
"Joe Cocker - the Rotating Rocker - and his 42 member communal touring company Mad Dogs & Englishmen with the Master of Space and Time Leon Russell - see them perform in the pleasure palaces of America - it's a moving picture" says the classic film poster. See this spectacular rock 'n' roll tour documentary and get a dramatic visual record that captures the spirit of the hippie era with mind-blowing performances, crazy backstage footage, and spaced-out interviews. Supporting cast includes Claudia Lennear, Rita Coolidge, Sherman Jones reciting "Face on the Barroom Floor," and Canina the dog.
Bruce Lee: The Lost Interview
A priceless gem from the fine folks at The Internet Archive: Bruce Lee’s only existing television interview, from 1971. Martial arts expert Bruce Lee became world-renowned for his performances in such Kung-fu classics as ENTER THE DRAGON. Now his only interview in English is available. Just after the release of his first film THE BIG BOSS, he spoke in Hong Kong with Canada's premier journalist Pierre Berton. This is the closest one can get to this extraordinary master.
Frank Sinatra: In Concert at Royal Festival Hall
Frank Sinatra: In Concert at the Royal Festival Hall was an CBS musical television special starring Frank Sinatra broadcast on February 4, 1971, of a concert given by Sinatra at London's Royal Festival Hall on November 16, 1970. The special was directed by Bill Miller, and produced by Harold Davison. Sinatra was introduced on stage by Grace Kelly. Kelly had starred alongside Sinatra in the 1956 film High Society, the last film she made before her marriage to Rainier III, Prince of Monaco. Sinatra had been follicularly challenged for many years, hence all the hats in publicity stills, album covers etc. TV directors were forbidden to photograph him from the back because of this. However, at this concert, Sinatra had completed a very successful hair transplant and deliberately turned his back on the main audience a couple of times to acknowledge the audience sitting backstage, along with running his hand over the back of his head to draw attention to his new coiffure.
A Blank on the Map
In his now well-known role of narrator of wildlife expeditions, Attenborough accompanies a government-sponsored trek into the central New Guinea highlands to make contact with a group of natives never before seen by Europeans.
Don Marshall follows three pals who fuel up their motorcycles in Denver and hit the great highway for the adventure of a lifetime.A road trip that takes them all the way to Panama. They don't have much cash, but these nomadic spirits still manage to get their thrills while skiing, scuba diving and watching bullfights as they make their way from the States to Central America.
Meeting the Man: James Baldwin in Paris
An extremely rare film document photographed by Jack Hazan in several symbolic locations, including the Place de la Bastille. As Hazan recounts: “Things don’t go to plan for him and the film crew when a couple of young black Vietnam draft dodgers impose themselves on the American. Baldwin wrestles with being a role model to the black youths, denouncing Western colonialism and crimes against African Americans while at the same time demonstrating his mastery and understanding of the culture he supposedly despises”.
The Murder of Fred Hampton
Fred Hampton was the leader of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party. This film depicts his brutal murder by the Chicago police and its subsequent investigation, but also documents his activities in organizing the Chapter, his public speeches, and the programs he founded for children during the last eighteen months of his life.
Fulton made the film during his brief time at Harvard, where he had been invited to teach by Robert Gardner, his friend and collaborator (Fulton would later serve as a cinematographer on Gardner’s 1981 documentary Deep Hearts, among others). Reality’s Invisible could be described as a portrait of the Carpenter Center, yet it is a portrait of an extremely idiosyncratic and distinctive sort. Fulton moves us through the concrete space of the Center’s Le Corbusier-designed building—the only structure by the architect in North America—but, more centrally, presents us footage of students making and discussing their work alongside figures like Gardner, theorist Rudolf Arnheim, artist Stan Vanderbeek, filmmaker Stan Brakhage, and graphic designer Toshi Katayama.
"Touring makes you crazy," Frank Zappa says, explaining that the idea for this film came to him while the Mothers of Invention were touring. The story, interspersed with performances by the Mothers and the Royal Symphony Orchestra, is a tale of life on the road. The band members' main concerns are the search for groupies and the desire to get paid.
The Hellstrom Chronicle
A scientist explains how the savagery and efficiency of the insect world could result in their taking over the world.
Spend It All
Another short documentary of "Real Food, Roots Music, and People Full of Passion for what they do," Spend It All is Les Blank's spirited look at the French-speaking Cajun community of southwest Louisiana.
A psychedelic montage of home movie footage gives way to a silent western story in this film by Bay Area avant-garde filmmaker Bruce Baillie.
Shot during the summer of 1970 at Fort Knox, Kentucky, Frederick Wiseman’s film Basic Training focuses on a group of men going through infantry training, showing how they are turned from civilians into soldiers. As well as being a unique portrait of the US army at work, the film is also a fascinating snapshot of a time and place at a defining moment in American history.
A Well Spent Life
A tribute to the Texas songster, Mance Lipscomb, considered by many to be the greatest guitarist of all time.
Blue Water, White Death
Peter Gimbel and a team of photographers set out on an expedition to find and Film, for the very first time, Carcharodon carcharias....The Great White Shark. The Expedition took over nine months and traveled from Durban, South Africa, across the Indian Ocean and finally to South Australia.
Interviews with My Lai Veterans
Interviews with five former American soldiers who were present at the March 16, 1968 attack on the village of My Lai during the Vietnam War; they discuss the orders that were issued leading up to the attack, their expectations of what they would find there, and the subsequent massacre of the inhabitants and destruction of the village, as well as possible motivations for the killings and rapes which took place.
Never Go with Strangers
Never Go With Strangers was intended for children aged between seven and ten and its purpose was ‘to warn them of the dangers of accepting lifts or presents from strangers’. Due to potential distress government officials instructed that the film only be shown under ‘responsible adult supervision’, thus denying it a TV airing for many years.
Emile de Antonio's film decimates Richard Nixon and exposes him as a paranoid, power mad lunatic... de Antonio compiles (via video and film) what amounts to the "best of" one of the worst political figures of the 20th century. Nixon was a shameless self-promoter while trying desperately to convince everyone that he wasn't. Through Alger Hiss and the "Checkers" speech to the character assassination of Helen Gahagan Douglas (among others), there are few stones left unturned.
La Région Centrale
A 1971 experimental Canadian film directed by Michael Snow. Shot in the Canadian mountains over a period of 24 hours using a robotic arm.
Sentinels of Silence
Sentinels of Silence is a 1971 short documentary film on ancient Mexican civilizations. The film was directed and written by Mexican filmmaker Robert Amram, and is notable for being the first and only short film to win two Academy Awards.
Morning of the Earth
Morning of the Earth is a classic surfer film from 1971, created by Alby Falzon and David Elfick. The film has a soundtrack created by Australian musicians including Brian Cadd, and is set in Bali, Hawaii and Australia's north-east.
Christmas at Moose Factory
A study of life at Christmas time in Moose Factory, an old settlement mainly composed of Cree families on the shore of James Bay, composed entirely of children's crayon drawings and narrated by children.
July '71 in San Francisco, Living at Beach Street, Working at Canyon Cinema, Swimming in the Valley of the Moon
July ’71 is as much a record of the daily experiences of light and shadow as it is a catalogue of domestic life. More involved with “straight photography” than Brakhage, but far more engaged with tactility and the plastics of the image than Jonas Mekas, this early work embraces the mundane—making bread in the kitchen, riding bikes by the San Francisco Bay, hanging out in a cheap-looking flat with friends, plucking a game fowl for supper—while also paying attention to the wind, water, and trees that surround these fleeting moments.
Short film on the ceremony of â€˜Sing Singâ€™ practised by Papua New Guineaâ€™s tribes.
"…elegant yet rustic in its simplicity of execution; tugged gently toward different sides of the set by hints of color and motion interactions, positive and negative spaces, etc., and the unyielding delivery on one of the great apotheoses of poetic cinema at fade-out time." – Tony Conrad
The Song of Moscow
Images of Moscow filmed in 1971 as part of Mekas's "Travel Songs" series.
Growing Up Female
Focuses on the socialization of American females. It tells the story of six women and girls. The first film to emerge from the modern women's movement in the early 1970s.
Freedom of expression and sexual liberation might have defined the 1960s but by 1971 the British education system was far from ready for Dr Cole's explicit series A New Approach to Sex Education. Made as a teaching aid for use in schools an universities, the Growing Up was unprecedented in its depictions of erect penises, un-simulated masturbation and intercourse to describe the development of the human body and sexuality to students.
Bald: The Making of 'THX 1138'
The film features a conversation between Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola, producer of THX 1138. They discuss Lucas' vision for the film, including his ideas about science fiction in general and in particular his concept of the "used future" which would famously feature in his film Star Wars. Intercut with this discussion is footage shot prior to the start of production of THX 1138 showing several of its actors having their heads shaved, a requirement for appearing in the film. In several cases the actors are shown being shaved in a public location. For example, Maggie McOmie is shaved outside the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, while Robert Duvall watches a sporting event as his hair is cut off. Another actor, Marshall Efron, who would later play an insane man in the film, cut off his own hair and was filmed doing so in a bathtub.
An abstract experimental short film from Jordan Belson.
The American Dreamer
A documentary about actor/director Dennis Hopper, showing him at his home and studio putting together his film "The Last Movie."
Adventures in Perception
An introduction to the work of graphic artist M.C. Escher.
Say Goodbye is a 1971 American documentary film about the relationship between humans and nature, directed by David H. Vowell. The film depicts the plight of various animal species at the hands of man and his influence. Some segments include the clubbing of seals on the Pribilof Islands, the effect of DDT on brown pelican populations in Texas, and the plight of severely endangered animals. It was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
1 P.M. (One Parallel Movie)
Lighter and livelier than the films Jean-Luc Godard had made in France, his U.S. collaboration with Direct Cinema documentarian D. A. Pennebaker was meant to be One A.M., as in “one American movie”; but Godard quit the project and the U.S., where to his dismay he discovered that revolution wasn’t imminent, and Pennebaker edited Godard’s material, to which he and Richard Leacock even added a bit more, releasing the result as One P.M., as in “one parallel movie.” It’s a stunning mixture of cinéma-vérité, political theater, and interviews of key sixties figures.
Teen-age Fantasies: An Adult Documentary
An explicit series of erotic vignettes centering on the sexual fantasies of adolescents: A nervous young woman makes love with a sensitive nice guy; an old man has sex with a teenage girl; a young lady gets so aroused watching her best gal pal make love to her boyfriend that she partakes in a lesbian make-out session with said gal pal before eventually engaging in a threesome; a cute girl aggressively seduces her timid boyfriend; and a gal engages in vigorous anal sex with her boyfriend. Meanwhile, Rene Bond demonstrates her remarkable prowess with fellatio in the wrap-around segments.
Sexual Liberty Now
A look at porn in the USA following the publication of the Government's 1967 Presidential Commission on Obscenity and Pornography.
Documentary of a 1970 rock concert held in Rotterdam, The Netherlands.
Men of Crisis: The Harvey Wallinger Story
Dr. Harvey Wallinger is one of Nixon's aides who rises through the ranks to become the "real" power behind the president.
Breathing Together: Revolution of the Electric Family
The title of this Canadian documentary may have some relation to Canadian Marshall McLuhan's theories. It combines interview with famous U.S. militants of the '60s, such as Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman, with reenactments of their Chicago trials (i.e., the "Chicago Eight," etc.). Other figures of cultural interest from the time, including Alan Ginsberg and Buckminster Fuller, are interviewed or featured. The filmmaker indicates his belief that powerful forces in the U.S. government worked together to suppress American radicals. This view, widely disbelieved at the time, has since been confirmed.
Aspects of the precision and drama of locomotive manufacture, composed to form a lively pattern in picture and sound.
This film provides a unique view of Cuba's leader, containing fascinating archive footage of the Bay of Pigs invasion and scenes of Che Guevara - alongside interviews with political prisoners.
Pier Paolo Pasolini: A Film Maker's Life
Documentary about Italian movie director Pier Paolo Pasolini, with interviews with some of his actors and friends.
Photographed by an all-female crew and directed by the author of Sexual Politics, these are autobiographical interiews with three very different women who talk frankly about their lives, conflicts, and contrasting life styles.
Aphrodisiac!: The Sexual Secret of Marijuana
A documentary examining the use of marijuana by young people in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Included are interviews with people who regularly use marijuana and testify to its beneficial effects as an aphrodisiac and scenes of nude encounter groups, instructions for making marijuana brownies, soldiers in Vietnam smoking marijuana, etc.
Documentary film making at its best as it narrates very exotic and esoteric rituals of the primitive peoples of Africa.
Celebration at Big Sur
Star-studded show recorded at the Big Sur Folk Festival, Big Sur, California, September 13th and 14th, 1969. Joan Baez, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, Joni Mitchell, John Sebastian, and others. This film captures a remarkable moment in folk, rock, and pop history - the famous folk festival that brought traditional acts like Dorothy Morrison & The Combs Sisters and Carol Ann Cisneros together with the psychedelic rockers of the day who were most deeply rooted in the folk revival. Older songs like ‘Oh Happy Day,’ ‘Rise And Shine,’ ‘All God’s Children,’ and ‘Swing Down, Sweet Chariot’ meet Joni Mitchell’s ‘Woodstock,’ Joan Baez’s ‘Sweet Sir Galahad,’ ‘Bob Dylan’s ‘I Shall Be Released,’ CSNY’s ‘Down By The River,’ and many more of the now-classic songs of what was then called the ‘new rock.’ The scene is notably intimate and - aside from one fan’s dustup with Stephen Stills - mellow, with many rare, close-up moments with the stars.
Red, White and Blue
A documentary about the hearings of President Nixon's Commission on Obscenity, featuring adult-film producer David F. Friedman (one of the producers of this film) testifying before Congress, and involved in the production of one of his films, "Trader Hornee."