Tag Archives: Raw

Docs You Can Watch Right Now!

One of my guest speakers pointed out the other day that we average 23 minutes a day searching for something to watch. That adds up to seven years of our lives. Gulp. To make it easier on you, assuming you’re reading this cause you love documentaries, here are some films well worth your time:

Real Stories

I recently interviewed Adam Gee about his original commissioning for the Real Stories channel on Youtube. Here are some of my favourite films that the channel has acquired:

One Killer Punch

I found this programme riveting – not surprising perhaps as it comes from the always outstanding Raw TV.

You can also see the below BMX storyline, which was left out of the original programme, but has gone on to gain many viewers, both through Headway and the Guardian:

Battleship Antarctica

This is an outstanding and overlooked little gem by the very talented Morgan Matthews, and a great example of how observational documentary can lead you to unexpected places.

Mum and Me

As evidenced by her multiple appearances in this blog, I’m a big Sue Bourne fan. Here’s a very personal film she made about her mum:

Meet the Mormons

I found this fascinating – great access, great story, ’nuff said.

Other Real Stories films I recommend are The Drug TrialMy Sister the Geisha (which, admittedly, I worked on back in my development days at Stampede), My Fake Baby, and Fighting the Taliban.

BBC IPlayer

There are a couple Docs on Screens-featured films currently on I-Player: Sean McAllister’s A Syrian Love Story, is available for another twelve days and, for another three weeks Mark Craig’s The Last Man on the Moon.

And I highly recommend Jamie Roberts’ Manchester: The Night of the Bomb (exec produced by Dan Reed), as a gripping, moving and insightful account of the tragedy.

In the last few years I’ve guest lectured for the Grierson Trust’s DocLab, where participants as part of the mentoring programme develop doc ideas. One of the best ideas last year was from Ryan Gregory, who went on to win a new Sheffield Doc/Fest pitch. The film is now up on BBC Three. Below is a short version, with the full film available on the IPlayer:


Lots of good docs on All 4 and Netflix as well, but those will have to wait for another post.

If you live in London and want to dip more into great docs, please sign up for the course I will be teaching at the Crouch End Picturehouse. We’ll be talking about British docs for six Wednesday evenings from mid June.


Serial and the Imposter – True Crime’s New Wave



I couldn’t possibly have been more primed to become a Serial podcast fan. Hailing from a family of lawyers, in my early twenties I was obsessed with true crime writing – my favorite book was Fatal Vision, not least for the very messy relationship between author Joe McGinnis and convicted murderer Dr. Jeffrey MacDonald. With the launch of Court TV in the early 90s I turned to TV for my true crime fix, enjoying even the most mundane of trials for their revelations about real lives. Having been raised in Cleveland, Ohio, in a truly barren television era, the only factual offerings being the news, 60 Minutes and Candid Camera, I was desperate for real life stories. No wonder then, since moving to London in 1996 I have become obsessed with documentaries and all of the messy truths they unearth, and made them the focus of my working life.

A latecomer to This American Life, I’ve spent the last 18 months listening to all of its 500+ archive, while walking the parks of North London. When This American Life announced recently they were launching a second podcast, Serial, its episodic unfolding of a long-ago Baltimore murder seemed tailor made for me.

What I didn’t expect was that five million people would feel the same way. Having devoured its first episode within hours of launching, I didn’t have long to be a smug early adopter before it became the most successful podcast in history. This week, before the end  of its first season, it has won an DocLab award at IDFA, for Digital Storytelling.

As a Serial fan, I find myself a mid-level obsessive – not at the level of pouring through the sprawling Reddit site, where amateur sleuths strut their stuff. But I have begun listening to Slate’s Serial Spoiler podcast, and read a score of articles dissecting its success. For me, and many of its fans, what’s mesmerizing about the storytelling is the way that producer Sarah Koenig takes listeners through a journey that is meant to mimic her own, and all the twists and turns she has undergone trying to figure out whether Adnan Syed murdered his ex-girlfriend in 1999.

More than anything, this masterful manipulation of the journey of discovery reminds me of the equally brilliant The Imposter documentary. In telling how a 20-something Frenchman impersonated a missing Texan teenager – and was accepted into the family home – the talented British production crew steers the audience through the same journey they undertook, when exploring the long ago story. The Imposter is worth buying the DVD, as it contains a thoroughly engrossing making of extra.

Both stories investigate old crimes in astonishingly innovative storytelling. As Serial approaches its first season finale, I’m looking forward to its phenomenal success kicking off a new wave of true crime investigative journalism.