There’s a reason why in spite of the immense worldwide appeal of cinema, documentary as an art-form has been able to hold its own over so many years. As opposed to cinema, the documentary’s only essential job is ‘to document’. It’s an ever changing, ever evolving motion picture process, designed to document some aspect of reality, primarily for educational purposes. Originally called ‘actuality’ films, and ranging around a minute in length, the art of documentary film-making has since come a long, and if I may add, arduous way.
A major watershed moment in this said art form came through the emergence of the ‘docu-fiction’. Through cinematographic combination of documentary and fiction, a docu-fiction attempts to capture reality as it is (cinema verite) and simultaneously merging it with imaginary, fictional situations to further solidify its narrative structure. The advent of the ‘docu-fiction’ genre made the wide scale consumption of documentaries easier due to its enhanced proximity to cinema, and is currently a widely accepted motion picture genre adopted by several experimental filmmakers.
HBO, is the oldest and longest continuously operating pay television service in the United States, having been in operation since November 8, 1972. A giant of the television industry, by all measures, HBO over time has produced some of the finest television in motion picture history, including shows like ‘The Sopranos’, ‘The Wire’, ‘True Detective’ and ‘Game of Thrones’. Over the last two decades, HBO has also taken exceeding interest in the production and distribution processes of documentary films. It launched the streaming service ‘HBO Now’ in April 2015, and has over 2 million subscribers in the United States alone, as of February 2017. Here is the list of 20 documentaries either produced or distributed by HBO that might pique your interest. You can watch several of these documentaries on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.
20. Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind (2018)
Delicate in its approach, and hosting a wealth of never-before-seen archival footage, HBO’s 2018 documentary film ‘Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind’, directed by Marina Zenovich, paints an intimate portrait of the life and times of world famous American comedian Robin Williams. Featuring interviews by show business stalwarts such as Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Crystal and David Letterman, amongst others, the docu-film played to six sell-out screenings at the Sundance Film Festival. It enjoys an approval rating of 95% on ‘Rotten Tomatoes’, and a weighted average score of 78 out of 100, on ‘Metacritic’, suggesting “generally favourable reviews”. ‘Variety’ described the film as being “sharp edged, humane and deeply researched to take you closer to the manic engine of Williams’ brilliance and pain”.
19. The Final Year (2017)