Documentary Best: Nanook of the North is No 7

The British Film Institute magazine realized that it had never done a list for nonfiction films before, so they polled 200 critics and curators and 100 filmmakers (including Michael Apted, James Marsh and Clio Barnard) to come up with a list of the 50 greatest documentaries of all time. Here are the top ten:

1. “The Man with a Movie Camera” (1929), Dziga Vertov
2. “Shoah” (1985), Claude Lanzmann
3. “Sans soleil” (1983), Chris Marker
4. “Night and Fog” (1955), Alain Resnais
5. “The Thin Blue Line” (1988), Errol Morris
6. “Chronicle of a Summer” (1961), Edgar Morin/Jean Rouch
7. “Nanook of the North” (1922), Robert J. Flaherty
8. “The Gleaners and I” (2000), Agnes Varda
9= “Dont Look Back” (1967), D.A. Pennebaker
9= “Grey Gardens” (1975), Ellen Hovde/Albert Maysles/David Maysles/Muffie Meyer

Other films on the list include Marcel Ophuls’s “The Sorrow and the Pity,” Werner Herzog’s “Grizzly Man,” Steve James’s “Hoop Dreams,”¬†Orson Welles’s great magic trick of a movie “F for Fake,” and Michael Apted’s “Up” series. The oldest film on the list is the Lumiere Brothers’ “Workers Leaving the Lumiere Factory” from 1895, while the two newest films, “The Act of Killing” and “Leviathan,” made their festival debuts in 2012. It’s a bit surprising to see “The Act of Killing” so high so soon (it’s tied at #19), but it’s also heartening to see that the list includes films from every decade since the 1920s.