Four Documentaries Not To Miss | Real Reels

These wide-ranging films include a loving tribute to a writer, spouse, and mother and a kaleidoscopic homage to David Bowie.   

The Book Keepers. 89 min. First Run Features. 2020. DVD UPC 2022991823. $19.99.

The writer Carol Wall wrote essays for Southern Living and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and in the midst of having her first nonfiction book published (Mister Owita’s Guide to Gardening), she died from cancer in 2014. This film is a loving tribute by husband Dick and son Phil (director) to get Carol’s book to the public by going on tours promoting it. Watching it is a balm of kindness and graciousness, as the soft-spoken widower tells the story of his 42-year marriage to Carol and her book to strangers in stores and libraries across the country. VERDICT Both sad and uplifting at the same time, this documentary shows how the written word is a powerful healer and symbol of love for a family. 

Flood in the Desert. 60 min. PBS. 2022. DVD UPC 4188704629. $24.99.

In 1928, the collapse of Southern California’s St. Francis Dam led to the deaths of over 400 people, sweeping bodies into the Pacific Ocean 54 miles away. Los Angeles was a growing city, and the desire to give their citizens as much water as needed had created the massive public works project, led by one powerful man: William Mulholland. A divisive figure, he had unchecked reign over the St. Francis Dam and his engineering decisions ultimately ended in catastrophe. Featuring great photos and grainy film footage of the era, this PBS American Experience episode shows the building of aqueducts and dams before the collapse and the devastation after. VERDICT A detailed history of one of the worst manmade disasters in the 20th century. It is a story of greed, ego, and arrogance in full display.

Let There Be Drums! 94 min. Greenwich Entertainment. 2020. DVD UPC 3832926085. $19.99.

Without rhythm, there is no rock and roll as we know it. Various famous rock drummers (Ringo Starr, Stewart Copeland, Taylor Hawkins, and Chad Smith, among others) talk about their philosophy, aesthetics, and style while telling their individual stories about accepting the call to be a drummer. To these people, it is a calling that they had to do. Focused mainly on rock music across genres and lacking the female perspective (there isn’t a single woman participant, a real shortcoming in director Justin Kreutzmann’s film), the documentary shows drummers talking in detail about “feel” and being in “the pocket” and offering stories of inspiration and dysfunction about their chosen career path. VERDICT Primarily for percussion and music lovers.

Moonage Daydream. 134 min. Neon. 2022. DVD UPC 4320103973. $23.99.

Brett Morgen’s documentary is a nonstop kaleidoscope of image and sound in praise of cultural shapeshifter David Bowie. Homing in on archival interviews, electrifying live performances, and off-kilter video shoots, the film crosses all the spectrums of Bowie’s wildly influential and eccentric career. As famous for his looks and style as for his music, Bowie embraced transformation and moved from androgynous space alien beginnings to suited and conservative as he grew older. A bit of structure may have been a nice anchor, but the visual overload dream state of the film will put viewers into a trance, seduced by vivid colors, unforgettable music, and Bowie’s ramblings about the nature of art and creativity. VERDICT An absolute fever dream that will have David Bowie fans in ecstatic rapture.

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