Top 8: Documentary Sequels

We’re proud of the variety and depth of the Media Services collection. In the interest of bringing you some highlights and deep cuts from our shelves, we’ll be posting unusual and interesting Top 10 lists of some of our favorite DVDs.

You may often hear self-identified film snobs talk about their love for documentaries as an antidote to Hollywood sequels. That’s a pretty silly idea, in part because documentaries have sequels too. While most documentary films are standalone affairs, sometimes their subjects change enough to warrant a follow-up.

This happens infrequently, so we weren’t able to round up a full list of ten documentary sequels. But the ones we found are quite good. We present the Top 8 Documentary Sequels.

  • Best Man (HU DVD 2772) – sequel to Best Boy (HU DVD 2772)

Best Boy follows a handicapped 52-year-old man, Philly Wohl, who prepares for independence as his elderly parental caretakers reach the end of their lives. The film ends before we see how Philly manages on his own; a sequel, Best Man, picks up Philly’s story twenty years later.

The Dole Food Company came under fire in Bananas!* for allegedly using pesticides that sterilized their workers. Dole considered this an act of defamation and retaliated by suing the filmmakers, distributors, and sponsors. Big Boys Gone Bananas!* follows this lawsuit and examines the legal consequences of free speech.

The filmmakers of King Corn put their venture into farming front-and-center while discussing the broader impact of commercialized agriculture. They bring their personal, gonzo touch to follow-up, Big River, which examines the ecological fallout from their farm experiment.

Gasland caused a huge stir with its infamous shot of a Colorado resident able to ignite their tap water as a result of natural gas fracking. The sequel broadens the scope of the original and takes aim at fracking practices around the globe.

  • Paradise Lost series (HU DVD 4771 – 4773)

In 1993, three teenagers in West Memphis, Arkansas were arrested for the murders of three children. Though all three were incarcerated, many independent parties asserted their innocence. The three Paradise Lost films follow the lives of the accused from their initial trial to their eventual release.

Cochlear implants still capture the public’s enthusiasm, if YouTube clips of people hearing for the first time are any indication. But the transition from deaf to hearing can be difficult and disrupt deaf communities. The Sound and Fury series looks at how cochlear implants changed their recipients lives in the short- and long-term.

  • Up Series (DVD 5271 – 5276, HU DVD 716)

By far the reigning champion of serialized documentary filmmaking, the Up series follows a group of children as the grow from 7 years old to, in the latest installment, 56. The intention of the series was to create a grand defining statement about destiny and growing up, but it works even better as a character study.

  • Return of the War Room (DVD 1013)  – sequel to The War Room (DVD 1013)

The War Room stands tall as one of the best political documentaries, with its ground-level view of a presidential campaign painting a vivid and realistic portrait of political work. In 2008, the directors filmed a follow-up reunion with key figures from the film to reflect on the campaign.

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