José‘s Doc Picks of 2018

If anyone tells you that 2018 was not a good year for documentaries, then clearly that person didn’t search hard enough.

2018 was an outstanding year for documentaries - as well as for non-fiction storytellers that are finding creative ways to craft narratives that open up new worlds and bring us closer into uncharted arenas.

Every December, I usually consolidate a “Best Documentaries of the Year” list with both TFI-supported documentaries and non TFI-supported titles - but the roster of TFI-supported docs that reached audiences this year has been truly remarkable, and I honestly cannot bring myself to pick favorites this year out of our amazing crop of TFI-backed films.

As a result, here are five documentaries of 2018 that I’m a BIG fan of:

Shirkers (dir. Sandi Tan)
Sandi Tan’s kaleidoscopic and rich personal documentary embodies what it means to be driven by a passion to create and tell stories. Tan delivers a colorful and nuanced narrative about a film that never came to be, and probes deep into the mystery surrounding her former creative collaborator, who was instrumental in her fiction film’s downfall. Tan achieves a thoughtful & hypnotic tone in her narrative through the use of stunning visuals and textures, that cement her documentary as one of the best of the year. 

A Woman Captured
(dir. Bernadett Tuza-Ritter) As tense and unsetting as any thriller you’ll have seen this year. Tuza-Ritter’s observational, immersive documentary brings us into the harrowing life of a middle-aged servant in Budapest, as we witness the ordeals she has to go through to try to pursue a better life for herself. The access that the filmmaker secures is nothing short of mind-blowing, revealing the dark underpinnings of modern slavery in Hungary.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (dir. Morgan Neville)
I am slightly older than most people who grew up watching Mr. Rogers - but the power that this film (and Mr. Roger’s message) delivers is inherently palpable. Neville’s use of archival footage to deepen our engagement with Fred Rogers’ views on empathy and understanding couldn’t make this documentary more relevant and timely for today’s times.

Matangi / Maya / M.I.A. (dir. Steve Loveridge)
Loveridge expertly takes us behind the life & aspirations of talented artist M.I.A. - and reveals the harsh upbringing & struggles that she has fought to overcome in using her artform to generate dialogue. The film is a thoughtful exploration on the role that outspoken art can play in our social discourse - and how society can ultimately categorize that outspoken art.

The Silence of Others
(dirs. Almudena Carracedo & Robert Bahar)
With a rigorous narrative scope, Carracedo’s & Bahar’s documentary chronicles the process by which survivors of Spain’s dictatorship over 40 years ago fight to bring the perpetrators to justice, and seek some type of closure as they remember & honor those loved ones they’ve lost. The power and triumph of the human spirit is exemplified in the lives & actions of these resilient individuals.


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