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?
Hands on a Hard Body: The Documentary
Hands on a Hard Body: The Documentary is a 1997 film documenting an endurance competition that took place in Longview, Texas. The yearly competition pits twenty-four contestants against each other to see who can keep their hand on a pickup truck for the longest amount of time. Whoever endures the longest without leaning on the truck or squatting wins the truck.
Fast, Cheap & Out of Control
Errol Morris’s Fast, Cheap & Out of Control interweaves the stories of four men, each driven to create eccentric worlds from their unique obsessions, all of which involve animals. There’s a lion tamer who shares his theories on the mental processes of wild animals; a topiary gardener who has devoted a lifetime to shaping bears and giraffes out of hedges and trees; a man fascinated with hairless mole rats; and an MIT scientist who has designed complex, autonomous robots that can crawl like bugs.
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.
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.
The Big One
The Big One is an investigative documentary from director Michael Moore who goes around the country asking why big American corporations produce their product abroad where labor is cheaper while so many Americans are unemployed, losing their jobs, and would happily be hired by such companies as Nike.
Paul McCartney: In the World Tonight
Documenting the recording process for Paul's 1997 album Flaming Pie, In The World Tonight is a fascinating insight into how a studio album is constructed, following Paul around his home studio and Abbey Road as he creates what would go on to be his first studio album in four years. In many ways there are two Paul McCartneys, the legend and the man. In The World Tonight reveals the man behind the public face, intimately capturing him at work, at ease and as candid as ever.
Green Chimneys follows three young boys living at Green Chimneys, a residential treatment center for children with emotional, behavioral, social and learning challenges.
A hilarious look at the universe's most fervent fans.
Public Housing is Wisemanâ€™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.