Best Documentary Movies of 1983
Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant's PBS documentary tracks the rise and fall of subway graffiti in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Carlin at Carnegie
Recorded at Carnegie Hall, New York City in 1982, released in 1983. Most of the material comes from his A Place for My Stuff, the album released earlier that same year. The final performance of "Seven Dirty Words," his last recorded performance of the routine, features Carlin's updated list.
Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars
Hammersmith Odeon, London, July 3, 1973. British singer David Bowie performs his alter ego Ziggy Stardust for the very last time. A decadent show, a hallucinogenic collage of kitsch, pop irony and flamboyant excess: a musical symbiosis of feminine passion and masculine dominance that defines Bowie's art and the glam rock genre.
Bad News Tour
A documentary crew films heavy metal band Bad News as they have trouble starting their van, pick up a schoolgirl groupie, and meet up with rock journalist Sally at a motorway service station where they argue about the cost of sausage and chips.
A Generation Apart
A one-hour documentary that explores the impact of the Holocaust on the families of survivors.
The Tigris Expedition
In 1977, Thor Heyerdahl built a reed boat, the Tigris (the name for the Tiger in Latin), whose task was to demonstrate that trade and migration contacts could exist between Mesopotamia and Indian civilization as represented by modern Pakistan. The Tigris was built in Iraq and set sail with an international crew of 11 on board across the Persian Gulf to Pakistan, and from there to the Red Sea. After about five months of sailing, the Tigris, which retained its seaworthiness, was burned in Djibouti on April 3, 1978 in protest against the wars that erupted in the Red Sea and the Horn of Africa.
Though best known for his collage films, Lawrence Jordan here makes exquisite study of the different aspects of light lilting through the early morning fog of California winter. Painterly gradations of color and juxtapositions in scale are beautifully arranged to music by Antonio Vivaldi.
The Spanish Civil War
Documentary series which uses film and eyewitness accounts from both sides of the conflict that divided Spain in the years leading up to World War Two, also placing it in its international context.
Eurythmics: Sweet Dreams
London, 1983. The iconic synth-pop band Eurythmics performs at the legendary gay club Heaven.
The tropical rain forests of the world are home to nearly half the animal species on earth - an estimated five million different life forms. More than 100 inches of rainfall each year sustain this lush environment, where some of the most fascinating examples of natural adaptation can be found. Journey to the dense rain forests of Costa Rica and watch as leaf-cutting ants carry sections of leaves many times their weight to underground fungus gardens, a basilisk lizard walks on water, and howler monkeys bask in the sun. Fascinating and thought-provoking, this film is an eloquent warning of the natural wonders we stand to lose on a world scale if human encroachment of the world's rain forests continues.
Bette Davis: A Basically Benevolent Volcano
A documentary about and an interview with Hollywood actress Bette Davis about her life and career from the late 1920s to the 1980s on stage and mostly before the camera.
The true story of German-Czech businessman Oskar Schindler (1908-74) as told by some of the Jews — more than a thousand people — whose lives he saved from extermination during World War II.
Aliens, Dragons, Monsters & Me
Documentary about the life and work of Ray Harryhausen.
Hieronymus Bosch: The Mysteries of Hieronymus Bosch
Nicholas Baum goes on a journey to Den Bosch, Hieronymus Bosch's town, and gives his explanation about what he thinks the painter's works originally meant.
Based on the famous Gustav Holst musical suite, this musical film takes watchers on a magnificent journey of the planets of the Solar System.
Classic Creatures: Return of the Jedi
Go behind the scenes — and into the costumes — as production footage from Return of the Jedi is interspersed with vintage monster movie clips in this in-depth exploration of the painstaking techniques utilized by George Lucas to create the classic creatures and characters seen in the film.
UK/DK: A Film About Punks and Skinheads
Featuring interviews, live concert footage, and a feature on how punk was transformed from a trend to a way of life, UK/DK is a comprehensive look at the skinhead/punk movement. Some of the most notorious bands on the scene are featured, including The Exploited, The Vice Squad, The Adicts and many more.
Visions Cinema: Film in the Philippines - A Report by Tony Rayns
Film critic Tony Rayns interviews Lino Brocka and other prominent Filipino filmmakers.
The Horror of It All
A collection of film clips from horror movies and interviews with the actors and directors who made them.
Children of Darkness
A significant number of American children and teenagers - from all social backgrounds - suffer from mental disorders, schizophrenia, autism and emotional problems, leading them to isolation from society while treating their issues in mental health facilities. But there's no end in sight for those young individuals when they face obstacles and mistreatment in inadequate places under the supervision of careless and inexperienced professionals. The documentary follows some of those public mental institutions and another private center dealing with troubled kids and reveals what's wrong with their procedures, and the irreparable harm they cause in those patients.
Nicaragua: A Nation's Right to Survive
How can a country survive when its jungle borders hold 4000 hostile troops?
From 'Star Wars' to 'Jedi' : The Making of a Saga
From Star Wars to Jedi: The Making of a Saga is a 1983 television documentary special that originally aired on PBS. It is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the original Star Wars trilogy, with particular emphasis on the final film, Return of the Jedi. Narrated by actor Mark Hamill, the documentary was written by Richard Schickel who had written the previous television documentaries The Making of Star Wars (1977) and SP FX: The Empire Strikes Back (1980).
Breakin' 'n' Enterin'
Documentary about the LA hip hop/electro scene in the early 80s.
Hollywood Out-takes and Rare Footage
Out-takes (mostly from Warner Bros.), promotional shorts, movie premieres, public service pleas, wardrobe tests, documentary material, and archival footage make up this star-studded voyeuristic look at the Golden age of Hollywood during the 30s, 40, and 50.
Leonard Nimoy: Star Trek Memories
A TV special hosted by Leonard Nimoy and featuring the actor discussing the making of "The Original Series" and the first two Star Trek movies, "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan". Also included is a short preview of "Star Trek III: The Search for Spock".
The World of 'The Dark Crystal'
A documentary which explores the making of Jim Henson and Frank Oz's 1982 fantasy film 'The Dark Crystal', which originally aired on PBS in the United States on January 9, 1983. This one-hour documentary details the technological innovations in the field of animatronics, art design, film making, and Henson's own brand of magic. Requiring 5 years of production, including over two years of pre-production, The Dark Crystal was inspired by the imagination of artist Brian Froud and conceived by scores of talented designers, builders, technicians, and performers. The World of the Dark Crystal shows how Jim Henson's Creature Shop in London and the Muppet Workshop in New York brought Brian Froud's art and Jim Henson's vision to life.
In their final year at Muncie's Southside High School, a group of seniors hurtles toward maturity with a combination of joy, despair, and an aggravated sense of urgency. They are also learning a great deal about life, both in and out of school, and not what school officials think they are teaching.
Say Amen, Somebody
Documentary on modern black gospel music, focusing on the pioneering Rev. Thomas Dorsey and Mother Willie Mae Ford Smith
In 1981, the New Zealand government invited the South African rugby team to tour New Zealand. This effectively split the country in half. Patu! is the story of the protest movement, HART (halt all racist tours). This documentary shows footage of protester meetings, rugby games and various beatings meted out to protesters from police.
The Sea in Their Blood
A film made for the Central Office of Information concerning Britain's coastline, with music by Michael Nyman.
Seeing Red: Stories of American Communists
A unique documentary that looks at the political activities of the American Communist Party in the early to mid-twentieth century.
New York, summer 1983. Jeanne Moreau goes to meet Lillian Gish to film a portrait of her. The star of American silent films invites her to her apartment and discusses her career from its beginnings on film in 1912. She remembers the conditions on stage when she was a child, the first Hollywood blockbuster, D. W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation (1915), and her passion for cinema guided by an inexhaustible curiosity.
This is the official FIFA film of the 1982 World Cup Finals in Spain. Runs 98 minutes and includes commentary by Sean Connery with a special score composed by Rick Wakeman. Not your average footie film, this is a stunning record of the 1982 tournament finals which included England and Northern Ireland and culminated in Italy's thrilling victory against West Germany.
THE STORE is a film about the main Neiman-Marcus store and corporate headquarters in Dallas. The sequences in the film include the selection, presentation, marketing, pricing, advertising and selling of a vast array of consumer products including designer clothes and furs, jewelry, perfumes, shoes, electronic products, sportswear, china and porcelain and many other goods. The internal management and organizational aspects of a large corporation are shown, i.e., sales meetings, development of marketing and advertising strategies, training, personnel practices and sales techniques.
Documentary on the "Chicken Ranch," a legal Nevada brothel.
Anarchism in America
A colorful and provocative survey of anarchism in America, the film attempts to dispel popular misconceptions and trace the historical development of the movement. The film explores the movement both as a native American philosophy stemming from 19th century American traditions of individualism, and as a foreign ideology brought to America by immigrants. The film features rare archival footage and interviews with significant personalities in anarchist history including Murray Boochkin and Karl Hess, and also live performance footage of the Dead Kennedys.
The Spectre of Marxism
The impact of Marx on the 20th century has been all-pervasive and world-wide. This program looks at the man, at the roots of his philosophy, at the causes and explanations of his philosophical development, and at its most direct outcome: the failed Soviet Union.
All About Mankiewicz
Joseph L. Mankiewicz discusses his career in a feature-length interview recorded at his New England home and the 1983 Berlin Film Festival.
Hells Angels Forever
What starts off as a squadron of American daredevil bombers in World War II, branded by society as renegades, turns into a revealing ride into the world of honor, violence, and undying passion for motorcycles on the road.
When Women Kill
When Women Kill is a poignant documentary exploring the shocking violence that seven women fell victim to at the hands of men. The program profiles the battered women who speak frankly about the cruel abuse, threats, and fears, and the overassertive men who led them down a one-way path to death and destruction. The film features in-prison footage, including a segment depicting a confession by a follower of the notorious Charles Manson, Leslie Van Houten, who was convicted of two killing sprees and committed to life in prison.
Flamenco at 5:15
In this Oscar Winning documentary short film, students in their final year at the National Ballet School of Canada are seen learning the flamenco from Susana and Antonio Robledo, who come to the school every winter to conduct classes which are held after the day's regular schedule has ended.
After the Big One: Nuclear War on the Prairies
This film deals straightforwardly with the consequences of a nuclear attack for the Canadian Prairies. The Prairies are singled out because of their proximity to huge stockpiles of intercontinental ballistic missiles located in North Dakota. Scenes include a visit to a missile base and to an emergency government bunker in Manitoba. A doctor, a farmer and a civil defence coordinator provide different perspectives on nuclear war. Although the film focuses on one region, it provides a model for people everywhere who would like to know more about their own situation but don't know what questions to ask.
Sprout Wings and Fly
Set in the North Carolina Appalachians, Sprout Wings and Fly honors the fiddle playing of 82-year-old Tommy Jarrell of Toast, NC. Tommy was quirky, gregarious and generous, and this film shows him at his best, in fine fiddling form.
Derek Jarman's film portrait of American writer William S. Burroughs was shot in September 1982 during his first visit to England to attend the legendary Final Academy events at the South London Ritzy Cinema. These were Burroughs-themed art and performance nights curated by Psychic TV. Jarman’s film shows Burroughs on Tottenham Court Road signing autographs with fans and inside a shop buying alcohol. The industrial soundtrack by Psychic TV features a sample of Burroughs repeating "boys, school showers and swimming pools full of 'em'". Additional footage shot by Jarman during Burroughs' visit is reported to have been confiscated by Scotland Yard in 1991 and remains lost. Jarman and Psychic TV would continue to collaborate (“magic bound us together” Jarman wrote), with Jarman directing the music video for Catalan and staring as the spokesperson in the Psychic TV video A Spokesman for the Temple of Psychick Youth.
A series of shots depicting "America" are laid over a classic Gregorian Chant recreated through the distortion of a woman's screams.
Electric Blue 11
Framing the erotic vignettes in this entry is "Taking Off With Kitten Natividad," which is set aboard Electric Airways flight #11, a new airline hoping to cut out the competition with unique in-flight entertainment of a sexual nature. Stewardesses Kim (Michelle Bauer) and Sandy (Lois Ayres) help Kitten give the passengers a flight to remember. First issued in the UK as Electric Blue 11, this was titled Electric Blue 5 for the later U.S. release.
The Indomitable Teddy Roosevelt
Theodore Roosevelt was America's 26th president and a larger-than-life legend whose incredible story must be seen to be believed. Narrated by George C. Scott, this documentary weaves extremely rare archival footage with meticulous recreations alongside the music of John Philip Sousa in a dynamic panorama of the great events of Teddy Roosevelt in the early years of the 20th century.
Reassemblage: From the Firelight to the Screen
A complex visual study of the women of rural Senegal. Through a complicity of interaction between film and spectator, Reassemblage reflects on documentary filmmaking and the ethnographic representation of cultures.
A documentary incorporating footage of Montgomery Clift’s most memorable films; interviews with family and friends, and rare archival material stretching back to his childhood. What develops is the story of an intense young boy who yearned for stardom, achieved notable success in such classic films as From Here to Eternity and I Confess, only to be ruined by alcohol addiction and his inability to face his own fears and homosexual desires. Montgomery Clift, as this film portrays him, may not have been a happy man but he never compromised his acting talents for Hollywood.
Frida Kahlo & Tina Modotti
An unconventional portrait of painter Frida Kahlo and photographer Tina Modotti. Simple in style but complex in its analysis, it explores the divergent themes and styles of two contemporary and radical women artists working in the upheaval of the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution.