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Year in Review: The 10 Best Documentaries of 2020

From a year in the life of a pig to a portrait of investigative reporting in action — the highlights of a very strong year for docs

Neon Films, Amazon Studios, Apple +TV; IFC Films

Reality in 2020 — what a concept! It was possible to look at some of the best documentaries of the past year as an left-of-center form of escapism: Bask in the luxury of a dive bar at closing time! Marvel at the site of so many Texan teens, huddled together sans masks! Watch a politician showing empathy, and another taking accountability, and yet another simply doing his job well? Others were stark reminders of how we got to this singular moment in time, and that you do not need a pandemic to make you realize that some fundamentally broken things need to be fixed.

But like all great documentaries, the 10 titles featured here reflected the world back at us in a variety of ways. Some were playful, formally and otherwise. Others were profound, digging into social issues and case studies with muckraking rigor. All of them were unpredictable, and a reminder than “nonfiction” can be a surprisingly malleable term when it comes to documentaries.

From Rolling Stone US



On October 30th, 2015, in a rock club in Bucharest named Colectiv, a fire killed 27 people and injured another 180. There was enough public outrage to cause protests and a shift in Romania’s government. And then a journalist at a sports newspaper began to hear about some of the club patrons dying while convalescing in the hospital. He and his team of investigative reporters decide to dig a little deeper — and a national scandal soon gets bigger, and more far-reaching, and and more devastating with every new revelation. For moviegoers who’ve been following the Romanian New Wave since it started cresting in the mid-aughts, Alexander Alexander Nanau’s documentary will play like a perfect nonfiction companion piece to the country’s bounty of fictional dramas and black, bleak comedies. For everyone else, this muckraking procedural will feel like a docu-version of films like All the President’s Men and Spotlight, where tense conversations around conference tables, writers huddled over computers, and editors issuing orders from behind desks make for compelling drama. And by the film’s end, the title starts to take on an entirely different meaning.