Three Identical Strangers, opens a new window: This is a documentary about identical triplets, adopted at birth to separate families. They know nothing about each other, but by chance, they find each other as adults, and eventually discover a terrible secret. As the film opens, one of the brothers says "When I tell my story, people don't believe me. I wouldn't believe it if the story was told to me!"
Searching For Sugar Man, opens a new window: The unbelievable but true story of an unknown singer/poet/songwriter with two albums, who never quite made it and disappeared into obscurity. But what he didn't know was that his album had become a huge hit in South Africa and an inspiration to the anti-apartheid movement, where he was regarded as a mysterious hero, thought to be dead by suicide. When some South African fans decide to track him down, they discover a humble construction worker in Detroit, and a whole new journey begins. An incredible and hopeful, heartwarming true story. His music can be heard on the soundtrack, opens a new window.
Herb and Dorothy, opens a new window: This is the amazing true story of how a lowly postal worker and librarian built one of the most important and priceless art collections in history. They spent all of Herb's salary on art and had two rules for purchasing: it had to be affordable and small enough to fit into their one-bedroom apartment. Most of the unknown artists they supported went on to become world-famous, and their collection worth millions, if not billions. Eventually they transferred the collection to the National Gallery of Art because it doesn't charge admission, never sells a donated work, and they wanted the art to belong to the public.
Other favorite stranger-than-fiction documentaries are:
The Imposter, opens a new window, The Wolfpack, opens a new window, and The Jinx, opens a new window.
This week I’m featuring:
When a mysterious bird is sighted in the town featured in Ghost Bird, opens a new window which is believed to be an extinct woodpecker, the town takes advantage of their new status as a birding hot spot by opening gift shops and featuring other woodpecker related things. Upon closer scientific examination, there’s very little evidence the bird spotted is the extinct bird in question. What follows is a debate on the town’s right to continue selling merchandise for a bird that may not even exist.
I also enjoyed Almost There, opens a new window a documentary about an outsider artist named Peter Anton, who lives in Indiana and is desperate to share his art and his life story. The filmmakers not only want to help him with that, but also find him safer housing and elderly care. It's touching to watch the filmmakers care about their subject, and intriguing to watch Peter's life and wonder how he came to be living such a disordered and precarious life.
Both films are available from Kanopy, opens a new window.
Real life is always confounding my expectations in the strangest of ways.
For instance, it seems like a chess player barely out of his teens becoming a world chess champion is highly unlikely but it is the way the current World Chess Champion, Magnus Carlsen ascended the ranks as seen in the excellent, Magnus, opens a new window on Kanopy, opens a new window.
An instrument that people play without using their hands or touching it all, has always seemed impossible to me, but it turns out I've been listening to such an instrument, the theremin, opens a new window, for years. One of my favorite film scores of all time, The Day the Earth Stood Still, opens a new window by Bernard Herrmann, opens a new window, from the year 1951, features the theremin in all its mysterious glory. There is also a robust collection of theremin albums, opens a new window to explore on Freegal, opens a new window.
On Kanopy, opens a new window, the documentary, I Dream of Wires, opens a new window, charts the history of the instrument from its invention all the way to its current use in electronica music.
I love I Love You Phillip Morris, opens a new window, a stranger than fiction love story. Watch on Kanopy, opens a new window or reserve the DVD, opens a new window in our catalog.
Documentary filmmakers are usually a rather low-profile bunch that focus their camera on their subjects and away from themselves. There are some exceptions.
Back in the 1970’s aspiring filmmaker Errol Morris, opens a new window got to know established German film director Werner Herzog, opens a new window. Herzog made iconoclastic documentaries and feature films and Morris spoke with him about a film he was working on, his first film, Gates of Heaven. Every time they would see each other at film festivals over months and then years, Morris was still working on the film. Herzog then bet that if Morris finished the film he would eat his shoe.
Errol Morris finished the film and that’s when bay area documentarian Les Blank filmed Chez Panisse doyen Alice Waters slowly braising Herzog’s shoe followed by Herzog actually chomping down on his footwear.
You can check out the resulting short film Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, opens a new window which is included as an extra on the Errol Morris double feature DVD Gates of Heaven & Vernon Florida, opens a new window. Th film is also available on Kanopy, opens a new window.
Many of Errol Morris’s subsequent and acclaimed documentaries are available from your library, as are the must see movies of Werner Herzog. I also highly recommend the films of Les Blank, opens a new window, on Kanopy or available to hold at the library on the 5 disc set Always for Pleasure, opens a new window, which is a great starting point, and don’t miss his documentary about the making of Werner Herzog’s Fitzcarraldo, opens a new window titled Burden of Dreams, opens a new window.
Are you (and your kids) ready to accept the challenge and find the facts from the fiction? Have a listen to Wow in the World, opens a new window's new daily game show, Two Whats?! and a Wow!, opens a new window These short podcasts pose a fun science or technology question and offer three "facts," only one of which is entirely true. Figure it out and you win (an invisible prize)!
The Wow in the World podcast theme song was written and composed by the award-winning children's band, The Pop Ups, opens a new window. Want more bouncy, fact-filled music? Place a hold on one of their albums, from our Children's Music collection: Radio Jungle, opens a new window, Appetite for Construction, opens a new window, and Giants of Science, opens a new window.
And, for a blast from the past in the strange but true category, there's always They Might Be Giants, opens a new window and their quirky, educational kid's albums: No!,, opens a new window Here Come the ABCs,, opens a new window Here Come the 123s,, opens a new window Here Comes Science,, opens a new window and Why?, opens a new window You can also download or stream lots more of They Might Be Giants, opens a new window from Freegal, opens a new window!
Because, well, Twisted Sister.
This documentary is the strange, tragic, and true biography of the Billie Holiday classic "Strange Fruit." Here we are in 2020 and this song is more relevant than ever.
Check out "Strange Fruit" and other Billie Holiday classics on Freegal.
TED TALK - DEB ROY: THE BIRTH OF A WORD, opens a new window
This is one of the most fascinating Ted Talks of all time! You simply will not believe the camera setup which led this speaker to some unbelievable discoveries. His mind-boggling research is truly stranger than fiction!
FACES PLACES, opens a new window on Kanopy, opens a new window
This Oscar-nominated documentary took my breath away, and is one of my all-time favorite films! Watching the unusual collaboration and journey of this artistic pair is just so very human, and creative beyond words. I highly recommend this film! I even like the way both the original French title and the English translated title rhyme: VISAGES VILLAGES & FACES PLACES.
Documentaries can be incredibly beautiful and informative. You can learn about lost civilizations and witnessing important events from around the globe. These films can also give us a glimpse into the strange and bewildering lives of people. Here for you now are three documentaries that I think shows us that yes truth is stranger than fiction.
Screwball, opens a new window
Nothing strange here, a documentary about the doping scandal in Major League Baseball, except…the director Billy Corben decided use children in the reenactments, a brilliant visual gag that never gets old, with youngsters lip-synching to the commentary of their real-life adult counterparts.
Tickled, opens a new window
After stumbling upon a bizarre 'competitive endurance tickling' video online, wherein young men are paid to be tied up and tickled, reporter David Farrier reaches out to request a story from the company. But the reply he receives is shocking. The sender mocks Farrier's sexual orientation and threatens extreme legal action should he dig any deeper. So, like any good journalist confronted by a bully, he does just the opposite: he travels to the hidden tickling facilities in Los Angeles.
Grey Gardens, opens a new window
Portrait of the relationship between Edith Bouvier Beale and her grown daughter, Little Edie, once and aspiring actress in New York who left her career to care for her aging mother in their East Hampton home, and never left again. The aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis feed their cats and raccoons and rehash their pasts behind the walls of their decaying mansion, Grey Gardens.
Little Edie’s Flag Dance, opens a new window
Here is a clip from Grey Gardens, a moment from the film that has stayed with me since I first watch Grey Gardens, parts sadness and pain, but a bit of joy as well.
Brian Wilson, opens a new window has led a fascinating existence, to say the least. The 2015 biopic Love & Mercy, opens a new window is a revealing portrait of the tortured genius behind the haunting harmonies and layered arrangements of the inimitable Beach Boys, opens a new window sound. Listen to Music From Love & Mercy: The Life, Love and Genius of Brian Wilson, opens a new window, which includes some classic tracks of the Pet Sounds, opens a new window era as well as some selections from Atticus Ross's psychedelic original film score.
Interestingly enough, Brian Wilson has a well-documented obsession with the song “Be My Baby” and has always aspired to produce music as good as the 1963 Ronettes, opens a new window masterpiece, yet has never succeeded in his eyes. “It’s the greatest record ever produced. No one will ever top that one.”
Lead singer of the Ronettes and iconic voiceRonnie Spector, opens a new window, whose professional and personal life were at one point so intertwined with the eccentric and controversial Phil Spector, also has quite the riveting life story to tell. Stream or download “Be My Baby”, opens a new window and other classic tunes from the legendary girl group on Freegal, opens a new window.
Movies & Music - Question of the Week
Echo & the Bunnymen recorded a cover version of “People Are Strange” by the Doors for the soundtrack of this 1987 film.
Adventures in Babysitting0
The Lost Boys0
Full Metal Jacket0
Last week's trivia answer was: André Aciman