Classic Documentaries

Classic Documentaries

A selection of the most heavy-hitting, and/or iconic docs in OVID's collection.

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Classic Documentaries
  • Heimat is a Space in Time

    Directed by Thomas Heise • Documentary • 2019 • 218 minutes

    In HEIMAT IS A SPACE IN TIME, German filmmaker Thomas Heise shares the stories of three generations of his family, in their own words.

    Heise sets the tone early, reading an anti-war essay written in 1912 by his grandfather Wilhelm, whe...

  • On the Bowery

    Directed by Lionel Rogosin • Documentary • With Ray Salyer, Gorman Hendricks, Frank Matthews • 1956 • 65 minutes

    On the Bowery chronicles three days in the drinking life of Ray Salyer, a part-time railroad worker adrift on New York’s skid row. When the film first opened in 1956, it exploded on t...

  • Last Grave at Dimbaza

    Directed by Chris Curling and Pascoe Macfarlane • Documentary • 1974 • 55 minutes

    In 1969, a small group of South African exiles and British film students formed Morena Films in London to produce films about apartheid. By 1974, they produced one of the first, and certainly the most influential, ...

  • 56 UP

    Directed by Michael Apted • Documentary • With Bruce Balden, Jacqueline Basset, Symon Basterfield, Andrew Brackfield, John Brisby, Suzanne Dewey, Nicholas Hitchon, Neil Hughes, Lynn Johnson, Paul Kligerman, Susan Sullivan, Tony Walker, Charles Furneaux • 2012 • 138 minutes

    ”Give me the child ...

  • Night Mail

    Directed by Harry Watt & Basil Charles Wright • Documentary • 1936 • 23 minutes

    A cornerstone of British documentary, Harry Watt and Basil Wright's NIGHT MAIL, with music by Benjamin Britten and verse by W.H. Auden, stands as a beacon for John Grierson's original purpose for documentary - to mak...

  • From The East

    Directed by Chantal Akerman • Documentary • 2003 • 110 minutes

    FROM THE EAST retraces a journey from the end of summer to deepest winter, from East Germany, across Poland and the Baltics, to Moscow. It is a voyage Chantal Akerman wanted to make shortly after the collapse of the Soviet bloc "befo...

  • Strange Victory

    Directed by Leo Hurwitz • Documentary • With Alfred Drake, Muriel Smith, Gary Merrill • 1948 • 71 minutes

    The year was 1945. The free world rejoices over the defeat of fascism. But the peace soon chilled, and in the Cold War that followed the United States entered a period of national paranoia a...

  • Milestones

    Directed by Robert Kramer and John Douglas • Documentary • 1975 • 195 minutes

    MILESTONES is a lilting, free-associative masterpiece that follows dozens of characters — including hippies, farmers, immigrants, Native Americans, and political activists — as they try to reconcile their ideals with t...

  • The Song of Ceylon

    Directed by Basil Charles Wright • Documentary • With Lionel Wendt, Alberto Cavalcanti, John Grierson, Stuart Legg, Basil Charles Wright • 1934 • 38 minutes

    The Song of Ceylon was originally commissioned as a series of short travelogues, but spawned an ambitious film transforming travelogue (exo...

  • Karayuki-San, The Making of a Prostitute

    Directed by Shohei Imamura • Documentary • 1975 • 75 minutes

    From the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, Japanese girls and women were trafficked out of Japan and sent to foreign countries like China, Singapore, and beyond to serve as indentured prostitutes. These women were called Karayuki-san.

    Shoh...

  • How to Build an Igloo

    Directed by Douglas Wilkinson • Documentary • 1949 • 10 minutes

    A demonstration of igloo-building in Canada's Far North, showing how the site is selected and how blocks of snow are used to make a snug shelter in only an hour and a half. As the camera follows each stage, the commentary explains t...

  • The Tiniest Place

    Directed by Tatiana Huezo • Documentary • 2011 • 104 minutes

    On the surface THE TINIEST PLACE is the story of Cinquera, a village literally wiped off the official map during El Salvador's 12-year civil war. But on a deeper level it is a story about the ability to rise, to rebuild and reinvent on...

  • No Home Movie

    Directed by Chantal Akerman • Documentary • 2015 • 115 minutes

     The final film from groundbreaking auteur Chantal Akerman, NO HOME MOVIE is a portrait of her relationship with her mother, Natalia, a Holocaust survivor and familiar presence in many of her daughter's films.

    "At the center of Chan...

  • Forever

    Directed by Heddy Honigmann • Documentary • 2006 • 95 minutes

    Through a leisurely tour of the world-famous Père-Lachaise cemetery in Paris, the final resting place for legendary writers, composers, painters and other artists from around the world, FOREVER provides an unusually poignant, emotiona...

  • A Look at Madness / Captive Feast

    Movie + 2 extras

    Directed by Mario Ruspoli • Documentary • With Dr. François Tosquelles • 1962 • 53 minutes

    Ruspoli had a standing interest in isolated and marginal communities, very much on display in films he shot in Lozère, in France’s rugged, unforgiving south. In A LOOK AT MADNESS and CAPTIVE FEAST, it’s pa...

  • The Whalers

    Directed by Mario Ruspoli • Documentary • 1958 • 25 minutes

    A vanguard short that displays the range of Mario Ruspoli’s insatiable curiosity and the depth of his talents: The Whalers, an influential portrait of the last whale fishermen, living in the Azores, to work with harpoons.

  • Dark Circle

    Directed by Judy Irving, Christopher Beaver & Ruth Landy • Documentary • 1982 • 82 minutes

    It’s been 75 years since the start of the Atomic Age, with the U.S. nuclear bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing hundreds of thousands of civilians, but its trail of destruction has never ended.

    Dark...

  • Travels in the Congo (Voyage au Congo)

    Directed by Marc Allégret • Documentary • 1927 • 117 minutes

    In 1925, Marc Allégret accompanied André Gide on a journey to French Equatorial Africa, the Congo, as his secretary, and novice filmmaker. Filming throughout their 11-month travels, and only three years after Nanook of the North, Allég...

  • La Commune (Paris, 1871)

    4 items

    Inside a giant warehouse in a working-class Parisian suburb, Peter Watkins (The War Game, Edvard Munch) assembles a cast of over 200 non-professional actors (though their amateur status is undetectable). Basing their work upon thorough historical research, they will attempt to re-create the event...

  • Seventeen

    Directed by Joel DeMott and Jeff Kreines • Documentary • 1982 • 120 minutes

    Part of the acclaimed Middletown series.

    In their final year at Muncie's Southside High School, a group of seniors hurtles toward maturity with a combination of joy, despair, and an aggravated sense of urgency. They are...

  • Sherman's March

    Directed by Ross McElwee • Documentary • 1986 • 155 minutes

    When First Run released Ross McElwee's Sundance Award winning Sherman's March in 1986, it went on to become one of the largest grossing documentaries ever. Audiences and critics alike fell in love with McElwee's "quirky, funny and fasci...

  • Riddles of the Sphinx

    Directed by Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen • Drama • With Dinah Stabb, Merdelle Jordine, Rhiannon Tise • 1977 • 92 minutes

    Laura Mulvey, author of the seminal essay Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema, helped to establish feminist film theory as a legitimate field of study. With Peter Wollen, sh...

  • Waiting for Fidel

    Directed by Michael Rubbo • Documentary • 1974 • 57 minutes

    Inside Fidel Castro's Cuba with a movie-making threesome whose hope is that Fidel himself will star in their film. The filmmakers are Joseph Smallwood, former Newfoundland premier, Geoff Stirling, radio and televison owner, and Michael ...

  • A Grin Without a Cat

    Directed by Chris Marker • Documentary • 1977 • 178 minutes

    Newly restored! A GRIN WITHOUT A CAT is Chris Marker's epic film-essay on the worldwide political wars of the 60's and 70's: Vietnam, Bolivia, May '68, Prague, Chile, and the fate of the New Left.

    Released in France in 1978, restored a...