The 6 Most Impactful Documentary Films Of 2017

Alongside a handful of good fiction films, dozens of short films, and a plethora of web-series, there were some unconventional, impactful documentaries that made 2017 a cinematic yet engaging year. Over the years, the popularity of documentaries has improved dramatically, especially with the coming of Netflix and Amazon Prime, which are promoting unique voices and styles of storytelling through their distribution models.

Below are a few of the documentaries that made an impact this year (in no particular order):

1. The Unreserved (Samarth Mahajan) 

This film is a journey across the country, travelling through stories shared by passengers in a general train compartment. In 2016, the director, along with his two crew members (Cinematographer and Assistant Director) embarked on a 17-day journey from Mumbai to Kashmir, Assam and Kanyakumari over the course of 265 hours in 10 passenger trains.

They interacted and engaged with as many passengers as they could, and came out with a feature-length documentary full of riveting tales of despair, hope, social stories and life.

It was released by the production company ‘Camera and Shorts’.

2. An Insignificant Man (Khusboo Ranka & Vinay Shukla) 

Probably the most talked about documentary of the year, this feature-length documentary produced by Memesys Culture Lab follows the life of Arvind Kejriwal and AAP in its formative years. It offers a never seen before access into the life of a political party and its environment.

The film is both an assessment and tutorial in politics and documentary filmmaking, and how common people can make a difference to both. The film travelled to 50 International Film Festivals before VICE distributed it in theatres this year. It is also available to watch online on YouTube.

3. Sachin (James Erskine)

This feature-length documentary, produced by Sachin Tendulkar, gives enormous insight into his personal life, along with his game. This public on-screen appearance came four years after his retirement and was anticipated as a celebration for his fans.

It was a brilliant documentation of archives, interviews and compilation of moments from the life of India’s biggest superstar sportsman. However, it couldn’t touch on all the aspects of his life and went on to be a traditional documentary glorifying and celebrating his life.

4. City Of Ghosts (Matthew Heineman)

This documentary produced by Amazon studios is an uncomfortable watch, but it’s real and taking place as we watch the film. Based on the terror spread by ISIS, it looks at the lives of people suffering and how the citizen journalists group ‘Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently’ (RBSS) fights back.

The film speaks from the epicentre and elaborately looks at the struggle amidst the crisis. This is a must watch documentary because of the monumental work RBSS is doing at the moment. It’s a surreal journalistic work and documentation of the situation in Raqqa.

5. Jim And Andy (Christopher Nicolas Smith)

This documentary by Chris Smith documents Jim Carrey’s transformation into performance artist and comedian Andy Kaufman. Using 100 hours of behind the scenes footage from the set of “Man On The Moon”, this film juxtaposes it with a contemporary interview of Jim Carrey as he reflects back and ponders on his immersive performance and personality transformation.

The film features the performance of an actor at the top of his craft and looks at how acting takes a toll on his personality. It’s an interesting watch as it gives insight into the mind of an artist.

6. Hum Le Ke Rahenge (Mini-series) (Samarth Mahajan)

“Hum Le Ke Rahenge”, produced by Kahaani Waale, is an inside look into the pathos of protests, by documenting the culture of protest in India through protests such as the one at Jantar Mantar. It is shot in an observational way using handheld DSLRs, delving into the ideas of protest and how there are more voices than what we hear in news.

The project released on YouTube in episodic form, covering the struggle of Tamil Nadu farmers, Gorkha land protest, the march for Gauri Lankesh, Not In My Name protests, and even BJP’s protests. It is an ongoing project which will be released as a full-fledged film in the future.


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