I have an insatiable appetite for the strange, hidden, and wondrous stories of our world. I became a journalist because I wanted to follow my curiosity wherever it took me. It’s no surprise then that my favorite films to view are documentaries, factual films that according to pioneering filmmaker Dziga Vertov present “life as it is.” Of course, documentary films are often the antithesis of Hollywood blockbusters. That’s why if they make it to theaters at all, it’s often art houses where runs are very limited. So historically, documentaries have been relegated to the small screen via public television networks or niche cable channels. These days though, the Web is an ideal portal for documentary film fans seeking “life as it is,” or at least glimpses of it through the eyes of an endless number of filmmakers. Of course, there’s YouTube. But there are several choice cinematheques to find everything from cinéma-vérité to political propaganda to powerful shockumentaries:
Founded in 1983 by Rick Prelinger, the Prelinger Archive is a collection of more than 60,000 vintage films that run the gamut from old newsreels to educational science clips to amateur travelogues. Several thousand films from the Prelinger Archive are viewable at the incredible Internet Archive.
The old master is doing well moving into new media. Along with tons of content supporting their TV programming, the PBS site is where you’ll find dozens of full episodes of shows that you’ve really been meaning to watch. FRONTLINE, NOVA, and American Masters will keep you infotained for days.
Vice Media creates some of the most hardcore, provocative, and unsettling “new journalism” online (and in print) today. Their Vice News visits to places like the Congo, Libya, and North Korean Labor Camps are revealing, informing, and sometimes disturbing tours of places most of us will never go (thankfully, in some cases).
As co-editor of Boing Boing, David Pescovitz is a collector of online anomalies, esoterica, and curiosities. He is also a research director at Institute for the Future.