Best Documentary Movies of 1997


Little Dieter Needs to Fly


In 1966, Dieter Dengler was shot down over Laos, captured, and, down to 85 pounds, escaped. Barefoot, surviving monsoons, leeches, and machete-wielding villagers, he was rescued. Now, near 60, living on Mt. Tamalpais, Dengler tells his story: a German lad surviving Allied bombings in World War II, postwar poverty, apprenticed to a smith, beaten regularly. At 18, he emigrates and peels potatoes in the U.S. Air Force. He leaves for California and college, then enlistment in the Navy to learn to fly. A quiet man of sorrows tells his story: war, capture, harrowing conditions, escape, and miraculous rescue. Where did he find the strength; how does he now live with his memories?

Starring: Dieter Dengler, Werner Herzog, Eugene Deatrick
Directed by: Werner Herzog
Release date: 1997-12-01

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control

Fast, Cheap & Out of Control
Hilarious, sad, absurd, eerie and beautiful, "FAST, CHEAP & OUT OF CONTROL" is a film like no other. Starting as a darkly funny contemplation of the Sisyphus-like nature of human striving, it ultimately becomes a profoundly moving meditation on the very nature of existence.
Starring: Dave Hoover, George Mendonça, Raymond A. Mendez, Rodney Brooks
Directed by: Errol Morris
Release date: 1997-10-03

Grateful Dead: Anthem to Beauty

Grateful Dead: Anthem to Beauty
This installment of the Classic Albums series follows the making of two Grateful Dead albums, the fiercely experimental Anthem of the Sun and the understated masterwork American Beauty, which spawned melodic gems like "Sugar Magnolia" and "Ripple." Between the archival scenes and contemporary interviews with band members, the DVD shows a band making seismic inroads in pop music--and five young guys coming to terms with artistry, mortality, and, yes, the pursuit of happiness. There is priceless footage of Neal Cassady driving Ken Kesey's bus and of the Dead, surrounded by martini-sipping hipsters, on Playboy After Dark. The best scenes involve band members talking about specific songs (you will never hear Phil Lesh's "Box of Rain" again without thinking of it as a gift to his dying father) or deconstructing a tune by playing each track separately. Intimate and surprisingly cohesive, Anthem to Beauty is a rare glimpse into how the Dead's magic was made.
Starring: Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Phil Lesh
Release date: 1997-02-22

Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist

Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist
The story of Robert Flanagan, a man who was born with cystic fibrosis and told he wouldn't live past 20, who through a unique odyssey of masochism, art and love found a way to live decades past his expiration date.
Starring: Bob Flanagan, Sheree Rose, Kirby Dick, Kathe Burkhart, Rita Valencia
Directed by: Kirby Dick
Release date: 1997-01-01

Paul McCartney: In the World Tonight

Paul McCartney: In the World Tonight
A look at Paul's work as he finishes his latest record, entitled Flaming Pie. Includes snippets from the tracks on the album, plus Paul gives a tour of his home recording studio. The best scene is where he joins George Martin at Abbey Road Studios to record the orchestra for 'Beautiful Night'.
Starring: Paul McCartney, Linda McCartney, George Martin, Ringo Starr, Jeff Lynne
Directed by: Geoff Wonfor
Release date: 1997-05-02



A hilarious look at the universe's most fervent fans.

Starring: Denise Crosby, Barbara Adams, Majel Barrett, James Doohan, DeForest Kelley
Directed by: Roger Nygard
Release date: 1997-10-18

Public Housing

Public Housing
Public Housing is Wiseman’s unflinching portrayal of life at the Ida B. Wells housing project in Chicago, a raw exposition of the daily conflicts between residents and the bureaucratic machinery to which they are continually subjected. With intimate detail and an abiding dedication to his subject, Wiseman unearths the hidden facets of institutions to find humanity and sites of unexpected beauty.
Directed by: Frederick Wiseman
Release date: 1997-06-02

The Volcano Man

Documentary about Swedish author Sture Dahlström.
Starring: Sture Dahlström, Viktor Friberg, Josefine Lund, Björn Runge, Irene Stenberg
Directed by: Björn Runge
Release date: 1997-04-18

Neil Young & Crazy Horse: Year of the Horse


Indie director Jim Jarmusch lenses a low-tech tribute to protean rocker Neil Young and his long-standing band, Crazy Horse. Stitched together from archival material shot in 1976 and 1986 along with candid scenes of Young and the band kicking back between shows, this rockumentary is as ragged as it is direct. Concert performances include renditions of hits such as "Sedan Delivery" and "Like a Hurricane."

Starring: Neil Young, Frank Sampedo, Billy Talbot, Ralph Molina
Directed by: Jim Jarmusch
Release date: 1997-10-08

U2: Popmart - Live from Mexico City

U2: Popmart - Live from Mexico City
U2 performs live in Mexico City in support of their 1997 album, "Pop," featuring lavish special effects, cutting edge sound and spectacular multimedia enhancement.
Starring: Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, Larry Mullen Jr., U2
Directed by: David Mallet
Release date: 1997-12-03

The Making of 'Psycho'


A retrospective on the entire movie, from start to finish. There are interviews with many of the principle cast and crew (including Janet Leigh and Joseph Stefano), who all talk openly and lovingly about entire process of making the film. The sessions with Janet Leigh are particularly involving, and she talks a great deal about shooting the now infamous shower scene.

Starring: Alfred Hitchcock, Janet Leigh, Joseph Stefano, Clive Barker, Paul Hirsch
Directed by: Laurent Bouzereau
Release date: 1997-01-01

Chile, Obstinate Memory

Chile, Obstinate Memory
After decades of fascist rule in Chile, Patricio Guzman returns to his country to screen his documentary, Battle of Chile
Starring: José Balmes, Hortensia Allende, Vincent Davy, Patricio Guzmán
Directed by: Patricio Guzmán
Release date: 1997-02-25

Pretty as a Picture: The Art of David Lynch


An in-depth look at artist/filmmaker David Lynch's movies, paintings, drawings, photographs, and various other works of art. Features interview footage and commentary by family members, friends, fans, and people he's worked with, as well as behind-the-scenes antics of some of his most critically praised efforts.

Starring: David Lynch, Angelo Badalamenti, Jack Nance, Patricia Arquette, Balthazar Getty
Directed by: Toby Keeler
Release date: 1997-10-14

Georges Bataille - À perte de vue

Georges Bataille - À perte de vue
The film contains the interviews with Pierre Klossowski and Jacques Pimpanneau.
Starring: Jean-Claude Dauphin, Bernard Rapp, Pierre Klossowski
Directed by: André S. Labarthe
Release date: 1997-04-30

Obsessed with Vertigo - New Life for Hitchcock's Masterpiece

Obsessed with Vertigo - New Life for Hitchcock's Masterpiece
A documentary about the making and restoration of Alfred Hitchcock's masterpiece "Vertigo". Narrated by Roddy McDowall, with behind-the-scenes talk from Barbara Bel Geddes, Henry Bumstead, Robert A. Harris, Patricia Hitchcock, James C. Katz, Kim Novak, Peggy Robertson and Martin Scorsese. Brings fresh perspective, not just to the film and the director, but to the Fifties Hollywood as well. [Included as extra with DVD release].
Starring: Roddy McDowall, Patricia Hitchcock, Robert A. Harris, James C. Katz, Henry Bumstead
Directed by: Harrison Engle
Release date: 1997-06-01

Mission to Mir

Mission to Mir
This film shows how far we have come since the cold-war days of the 50s and 60s. Back then the Russians were our "enemies". And to them the Americans were their "enemies" who couldn't be trusted. Somewhere in all this a young girl in Oklahoma named Shannon set her sights on becoming one of those space explorers, even though she was told "girls can't do that." But she did.
Starring: August Schellenberg
Directed by: Ivan Galin
Release date: 1997-10-17

The Haunted History of Halloween

The Haunted History of Halloween
The origins of Halloween are explored in this engrossing program on the subject. A ghoulish array of costumes, make up, and decoration descend on communities every year on October 31st, but few people are aware of how the celebration came to exist. Harry Smith attempts to get to the bottom of the mystery in THE HAUNTED HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN, which delves into the 3,000 years of hoopla that traditionally unfolds when October comes around. As the history is explained, so are various failed attempts to co-opt the festival by various religious groups; but the most compelling revelation is how little the festival has changed over the centuries. A marvelous way to gain a historical perspective on this entertaining holiday, Smith's program is almost as fun as carving a pumpkin, donning a spooky costume, and undertaking a little trick or treating!
Starring: Jamie Lee Curtis, Garrison Keillor, Art Linkletter, Liza Minnelli, Harry Smith
Release date: 1997-10-26

Classic Albums: Paul Simon - Graceland

Classic Albums: Paul Simon - Graceland
Singer-songwriter Paul Simon had been on the cutting-edge of pop music throughout most of the 1960s and the '70s, first as half of the seminal folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel, and then as a well-received solo artist. But the rise of 1980s rock and new wave saw a decline in Simon's commercial success, and the singer responded by experimenting with different musical styles--most notably, world beat--that culminated in his adventurous 1986 masterpiece GRACELAND. The album's fusion of American folk-rock songwriting and buoyant South African rhythms not only broke new ground in pop music, but became Simon's biggest-selling solo record. This episode of the CLASSIC ALBUMS series examines the making of Simon's groundbreaking work through interviews, behind-the-scenes footage, music videos, and live performances of album tracks such as "Boy in the Bubble," "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," "You Can Call Me Al," and "Under African Skies."
Starring: Paul Simon
Directed by: Jeremy Marre
Release date: 1997-01-01



Two young writers try to pitch their script to the big and famous.

Starring: Kenny Hotz, Spencer Rice, Samuel Z. Arkoff, Gérard Depardieu, Roger Ebert
Directed by: Spencer Rice, Kenny Hotz
Release date: 1997-09-04

Sobbin' Women: The Making of 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers'

Sobbin' Women: The Making of 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers'
This behind-the-scenes documentary includes interviews with people who were directly involved in the MGM classic musical 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers'. Those interviewed include actors and actresses who appeared in the film - as well as the film's choreographer, director, and musical arranger
Starring: Howard Keel, Stanley Donen, Saul Chaplin, Michael Kidd, Russ Tamblyn
Directed by: Scott Benson
Release date: 1997-01-01

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