Best Documentary Movies of 1976
Harlan County U.S.A.
This film documents the coal miners' strike against the Brookside Mine of the Eastover Mining Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in June, 1973. Eastovers refusal to sign a contract (when the miners joined with the United Mine Workers of America) led to the strike, which lasted more than a year and included violent battles between gun-toting company thugs/scabs and the picketing miners and their supportive women-folk. Director Barbara Kopple puts the strike into perspective by giving us some background on the historical plight of the miners and some history of the UMWA.
The Song Remains the Same
The best of Led Zeppelin's legendary 1973 appearances at Madison Square Garden. Interspersed throughout the concert footage are behind-the-scenes moments with the band. The Song Remains the Same is Led Zeppelin at Madison Square Garden in NYC concert footage colorfully enhanced by sequences which are supposed to reflect each band member's individual fantasies and hallucinations. Includes blistering live renditions of "Black Dog," "Dazed and Confused," "Stairway to Heaven," "Whole Lotta Love," "The Song Remains the Same," and "Rain Song" among others.
That's Entertainment, Part II
Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire present more golden moments from the MGM film library, this time including comedy and drama as well as classic musical numbers.
The Memory of Justice
This exceptional, disturbing and thought-provoking documentary compares the atrocities committed by the Nazis as revealed during the Nuremberg trials to those committed by the French in Algeria and those done by the Americans in Vietnam. The four hour epic questions the right of any country to pass self-righteous moral judgements upon the actions of another country.
In this performance documentary highlighting several Country and Western music artists, the director James Szalapski has decided to let the music speak for itself, eschewing narration and interviews. A little comic relief is provided by a rambling, humorous introduction to a song sung by Gamble Rogers, and there are some down-home shots of the folks in Wigwam Tavern in Nashville. Many of the singers are entertaining in their own right, and there are interesting segments, such as one sequence in the Tennessee State Prison during a performance by David Allan Coe. Although filmed in 1976, the documentary was not released until 1981.
Number Our Days
Based on the book by anthropologist Barbara Myerhoff, this Academy Award-winning short documentary offers a tender portrait of a community of elderly yet resilient Jews living, loving, and at times struggling, in Venice, California. From everyday trials to traditional celebrations, this compassionate portrayal of Eastern European survivors cuts straight to the heart of every viewer and reminds us of the joys and realities of long life.
Lost, Lost, Lost
Jonas Mekas adjusts to a life in exile in New York in his autobiographical film, shot between 1949 and 1963.
Big Banana Feet
Billy Connolly was, in the 1970s, a sort of Scottish Lenny Bruce, who, with devastating humour, sliced through the hypocrisies he perceived. This 1976 documentary follows the singer-comic during his 1975 Irish tour. Made in a cinema verité fashion, the performer appears to be completely unaware of the presence of the camera in his off-stage and backstage moments.
Humane recruitment film made for the prison services, following three new recruits on a tour of a facility.
A complex, insightful look at the Chicano experience as mirrored in the lives and music of the most acclaimed Norteño musicians of the Texas-Mexican border, including Flaco Jimenez and Lydia Mendoza. Video includes bonus feature, Del Mero Corazon.