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5 Compelling Documentaries to Watch on a Rainy Day

Updated on April 20, 2016

For anybody out there with free time on their hands, sitting at home and watching the rain fall from the heavens as your neighbours rubbish bin goes hurtling down the road, whilst people walk by on the pavement like they're pushing a heavy lorry as they fight the gale force winds, and for anybody who are fed up with watching commercially driven trash Hollywood orientated films, here is a selection of documentaries that will tear you from your reality and enlighten your brain. What better way to spend your day on a rainy afternoon, unless you need to go out for a pint of milk or a loaf of bread, in which case my condolences,.. If anybody has any other suggestions for compelling documentaries please comment, I will have no problem in expanding and updating the article. Enjoy and always remember that knowledge is power.


Directed By: Werner Herzog

Timothy Treadwell (1957-2003) spent his whole life vowing to protect Bears and preserve their place in nature.He spent the last 13 years of his life camping every summer with the same pack of bears up in Alaska's national reserve, recording over 100 hours of ameteur footage, with him mostly on screen, giving a video diary he would then show on tours of schools and colleges in the autumn and winter. He filmed the same bears every summer, resulting in the Bears becoming comfortable with him and he gave them all nicknames, such as 'Mr Chocolate'. However in September 2003, after a falling out with a pilot to return him and his girlfriend home, he returned to his campsite only to find new bears had moved in, resulting with him being eaten by a vicous bear...tragically his girlfriend was killed also. Herzog directs the documentary with his typical attention to detail and storytelling, and offers a great blend of interviews from people that knew Treadwell, and of the footage of Treadwell himself. The aspects of Treadwells life cover from his battle with depression and alcoholism to his love his nature and his vow to protect his bears with his life. To say the film was unbiast is hard to judge, it depends on the individual viewer, it tries to be unbiast, however you realise how stupid of a man he was to put his girlfriend in danger by being to stubborn to fly home when he had the chance. Even a pilot comments that 'He got what he deserved'. Treadwell was a brave, eccentric, enigmatic man and his love for bears, especially the ones he covered, really transfers onto the screen. They were used to him being around, and Treadwell captured amazing moments up close that are breathtaking, especially the scene where 2 bears fight over who will mate one of the females in the pack


Treadwells mood swings, his joy and ecstasy in filming the bears, his terrible depression being trapped in a tent during torrential weather, his demanding to God to make it rain, so the bears could eat salmon and not starve, which amazingly works, basically everything about the man is compelling. Even though he is critized he is well liked, he did a substansial amount in his field of work. The song at the end will send shivers down your spine, Don Edwards song 'Coyote' is a fitting ending, especially when cut to Treadwell strolling down the river in the distance with two cubs fondly following him, it portrays how in tune he was in his surroundings, and how a sudden change in surroundings so familiar can have a devastating effect.


Directed by: Ari Folman

Waltz With Bashir is a groundbreaking documentary in terms of technique and story telling. It begins with the account of a nightmare told to Folman by a friend of his, of being chased through the back street by a pack of wild dogs. His subconscious telling him of the fear inflicted on the Palistians during the Lebanon war of 1982. Folman decides to film the journey he undertakes of establishing of what his own vision means, which details him wading from the water naked with a group of his friends, whilst a battle rages in the city ahead. He has no accounts of his time during the war, and enlists help in the form of fellow comrades, professionals and journalists in what he did that caused him to forget any of his time served in battle.

Parts of the documentary are shot in realtime however changed to animation. Other parts are purely animated. It causes a unique effect in such a way that it lingers in the memory a long time after seeing it. The interviewees talk with great clarity and intelligence, however even when they are transformed into animation, you can still see how dead their eyes are, how the war has scarred them mentally as well as physically. The war sequences are extremly well done and are documented better than any archive footage found in similar features. This is mostly due to the fact that it is of Folman's own experiences, what he saw during the war, and the animation accuratly details everything from large gunfights right down to subtle moments such as a soldier mopping blood off the back of a truck. Waltz with Bashir is intelligant, funny, poignant and shocking. What is most shocking is the final scene, when Folman comes to terms with the horror in the minute part he undertook in the massacre of palestinians, unknowingly lighting flairs for the soldiers below to murder innocent cilvilians. It's in this final scene when he witnesses the carnage and the horror that the animation ends and the viewer is sucked into the reality of the situation, showing footage of dead women and children. This sudden transition from animation to film is a extremly clever, because you realise that you are unawere of the horrors of the war in it's cartoon element, only realising it completely when Folman understands why he forgot the war.


You are drawn in from the very first scene. Folmans gritty portrayal as a middle aged man searching for answers keep you glued to the screen. The animation is entertaining and savvy cut to a collection of music that is both rocky and epic. You are not only compelled by the stories given by the interviewees but also by the sequences of Folmans early life, you empathise with him, especially when he arrives home and describes the environment of his hometown. The scene where he finds his ex girlfriend dancing to P.I.L.'s song 'This is not a Love Song' in a nightclub is hypnotising, and his mentally in how he wanted to die when he returned to the war, so she could feel sorry for him, is poignant and humanistic.

Être et Avoir (2002)

Directed by: Nicholas Philibert

Être et Avoir is a very simple and beautiful documentary, and will provide a lot of nostalgia for people out there who attended small rural primary schools. It focuses on a school in a rural part of the countryside in Saint Ettiene, Where George Lopez, a softly spoken, caring, traditionalist teacher, runs a tiny school of just 13 students ranging from ages 4 - 12. The director spend a whole year in a tiny schoolroom, filiming Lopez and his students to the point that they become oblivious to the camera, creating scenes of magical wit and adolense honesty, not capable if they were aware of the camera throughout the shoot. It strikes up memories of the warm cosy classroom with the funny smell from the radiators, as a wind howls outside in the wintertime, and the first friends you make, and the coversations you have with them when you think the teacher isn't listening. Lopez is natural and clever, and teaches the kids the rudimentary basics of everything they need to know before joining middle school, and they repay him, not just through respect but with uncoditional love. The editing is simple and effective, everything about this documentary is, simple and effective, but it's the cinematography that breathes life and soul into the piece, making the environment a character as much as the children. The scene of the empty classroom with terrapins crawling across the carpet reveal a quaint sense of forgotten innocence in any viewer watching, and the scene of Lopez looking for a girl in the hayfields when on their school picnic transforms into a short art film of its own right. A truly great documentary.


The Kids are what make this film extremly compelling, you become hypnotised by the occurances that happen in their world, everything from a rubber getting stolen to a fight breaking out between two the older boys is as relevant at the time as any event in any lifetime. The Awkward social growing pains of Julien struggling with his maths homework, embarrassed by his parents behaviour causes you to cringe for the kid, and the final scene where they all stand up and say goodbye to their teacher for the final time in the school year, leaving him alone in the empty classroom, is emotional and brilliant.

THE PIPE (2010)

Directed by: Richard O' Donnell

The pipe is encapsulating, a study of a small community, tough and strongminded, battling the Irish Government, Police Force, Private Security and Navy over a gaspipe being laid through the community of Rossport to an oil refinary in Bellanaboy, when a gas field was discovered off the west coast of Ireland. The community of Rossport still protest the laying of the pipe, claiming that it is unsafe and breaks enviromental protection laws. The interviewees are furious and passionate, including the likes of farmer Willie Corduff and fisherman Pat 'The Chief' O' Donnell, who has to fight against the Irish Navy everyday, because they refuse to let him raise his fishing pots, saying that he is trespassing on Shell Company's property. Richard O' Donnell's Direction is poignant, hard and no holds barred, mix this in with his breathtaking cinematography and you forget you're watching a documentary, you think you're actually there in the moment. This documentary is not just about the laying of a gaspipe, it underlines the Irish governements greed coming out of the economic boom and into it's current crisis. The people portrayed in the documentary could represent any Irish citizen struggling to make a living. It takes a lot of bravery for a director to highlight the stupidy and greed of people from his own country, the capitilist pig mentality that is amongst citizens who are the most well off and his bravery pays off, he highlights what a lot of Irish are sick of, which is a government and its accompanying forces, siding with large corperations over their own people. It is a striking, honest documentary, the story flows seamlessy, the emotions run high all the way through and the editing is second to none, especially the opening scene where you a see a sweeping landscape shot mixed in with Gardaí brutality, the tension in the scene is highlighted when you realise there is no sound. Some critics say that the story is one sided, however the Shell Company refused to take part, and when you see the horrible violant scenes of Gardaí officers, beating unarmed protestors until they are bloodied and broken, and throwing them into ten foot deep ditches head first, you kind of get the feeling you will support the common man regardless of Shell's involvement, it is only human nature after all.


The structure of the documentary is so well laid out that dramatic scenes jump out at you as they unfold, they include Pat O' Donnells tiny fishing vessel being overshadowed by the gigantic pipe laying ship, 'The Solitaire', making the scene resemeble an epic moment in a Spielberg blockbuster. There is also the Garda superintendant, with a megaphone in his hand, shouting to peaceful protestors blocking the road before him,roaring that 'The Gardaí will not be bullied', before beating the living souls out of all of them.


Directed by: Larry Charles

For a bite of satirical wit, Religulous is one of the most entertaining of its kind. It is a sharp look at all manners of religion, and how religion has sprawled into one giant melting pot of radical ideas, radical thinkers, cults, orders and beliefs. Bill Maher basically puts forward the notion of how ridiculous religion really is, ridiculing some followers of made up cults and expanded orders and asking members of organised religions to prove him wrong. The documentary covers every topic and theme on the planet, and moves along at lighting pace. At no point does it come over as propagandic, even though its style is similar to that of Michael Moore films. Larry Charles, the director of Borat, directs this, and the combination of him and Bill Maher, a top stand up comedian and debater, make this documentary extremly funny. Regardless of your views on religion the message is simple, is it all true? Did Jonah live in the belly of the fish, does Koran prophesise death to all infideles? does god really exist? There is mixed critical reaction, naturally because it takes a dig at so many religions, but a lot of the interviewees are ridiculous, he not only punches holes into theories of religion, but their followers who are over the top in their views and beliefs. The best interviewees who respond to Maher's lighting observations and on the spot questions are Catholics, including an old Roman Catholic Priest who laughs off elements of the bible, and another priest who believes in evolution. The interviews are extremly entertaining, he interviews a man who converts homosexuals, gay radical muslims, a man who plays Jesus at a religious theme park, the founder of a church of cannibas where he asks the guy the same questions, and a rabbi who attended a holocust denial conference, amongst many many others. He travels the world and does his research, just searching for a meaning to it all, ending to how religion has caused so much violence, hatred, divide and murder for centuries. It's tongue in cheek and very clever.


The documentary never lulls and keeps up a lightning quick pace, Maher's interviewing technique is quite off the wall and in some ways similar to Sacha Baron Cohen's, the only difference is Cohen portrays characters when asking ridiculous questions to get humourous answers, Maher is quite real and in your face. The laugh out loud moments are frequent, and it does leave you wondering at the whole point of it all in the end. I's it all about like?


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    • profile image

      Denis Mannion 5 years ago

      This is the second article written by you which I have enjoyed, guess that makes me a groupie well done

    • Anne Lavelle profile image

      Anne Lavelle 5 years ago from Achill, Mayo, Ireland

      Good stuff Adrian. Keep it up.

    • Dee42 profile image

      Dee42 5 years ago from Beautiful Arkansas

      A groupie here also, Adrian. I actually research and really look for movies that 'fly under the radar' sorta. Ya know? Loved this hub, very interesting to me since I love unusual movies and DOC's.

    • Adrian Lavelle profile image

      Adrian Lavelle 5 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      Thank you very much, nice to meet you Dee, I guess out of all the documetaries I've ever seen those are the ones that remain stuck in my memory, so I knew I had to write a hub aout them, thanks for reading, I'm glad you enjoyed it!

    • shiningirisheyes profile image

      Shining Irish Eyes 4 years ago from Upstate, New York

      Grizzly Man was an amazing documentory and I was glad to so it included. I am a huge lover of documentariees and will be looking into the rest, as I have yet to see them.

    • Adrian Lavelle profile image

      Adrian Lavelle 4 years ago from Galway, Ireland

      I think out of the documentaries I listed, 'Etre et avoir' is my personal favourite, just on the pure reason I attended a primary school similar to the one in the documentary many moons ago on a little island off the west coast, I could nearly smell the dampness in the room and the radiators in some of the scenes.

    • WiccanSage profile image

      Mackenzie Sage Wright 4 years ago

      I love documentaries. I've seen a couple of these but I have to check out some of the others here.

    • profile image

      melissakaspshak 2 years ago

      Great article! Documentaries don't get much attention in mainstream media, but I've seen a few that are scarier than some of the slasher movies that gross millions of dollars. I've also seen some that are more touching than a Nora Ephron flick. It's an amazing discovery.

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