Published on March 14th, 2014 | by Jeny McCray


The documentary gets its day (a whole week, actually)

The traditional Hollywood way of filmmaking is getting boring. Sure, there are more explosions and special effects, but the stories are all the same, told in the same way. We’ve been trained to equate adrenaline with emotion, but we’ve become desensitized to the action. We need bigger and better fights, destruction sequences, and bad guys, but the payoffs lessen with each viewing.

But something is shifting. We’re shifting. I find myself now wanting something different, something interesting and truly emotionally stimulating. I want to watch things that makes me feel more human, not less.

Enter the documentary.

 Yes, documentaries are about specific aspects of reality that some may mistake as humdrum, but in truth, they are works of art that show us how interesting the people, places, and events that surround us really are.

These cinematic gems are coming into their own and becoming popular with audiences around the world.  Although they are the oldest form of filmmaking, until recently they were largely ignored due to their non-Hollywood format of storytelling and too-close-to-the-truth portrayal of the problems and failures of humanity. But documentaries show an organic beauty that doesn’t always translate through fictional narratives.

 The people featured in documentaries aren’t characters cobbled together by frustrated writers over late night cups of coffee: They’re real people, fighting real battles, with real hopes and dreams and faults and emotions. They’re us, up on the big screen, sharing a portion of their lives so we may find humor in the mundane, comfort in a kindred spirit, or passion for the world around us. Their stories are full of crises and obstacles, from the personal struggles of everyday life to the inevitable fight against death.  As we watch their journeys, we sympathize with their losses and celebrate their victories. Even though these people are only in our lives through a one-way communication on screen, they connect to us with their personal stories.

 And documentaries aren’t just about people, they share stories about our world to give us a better understanding of life on a larger scale, and explore historic and current events to evince how we as human beings treat each other. Social documentaries debate our policies and procedures, commenting on issues from fast food to climate change.

 Whether we’re inspired by the heroic efforts of everyday people, saddened by the reminders of the pain of living, angered by seemingly helpless worldwide problems, motivated to learn and think critically about things that are new to us, or impassioned to make a change in our lives and the lives of others, we take away something special from watching well-made documentaries. We leave having gone through a truly emotional experience, one created by the director’s lens.

 To celebrate the documentary, The Grand Cinema is hosting its first ever Documentary Week from March 21-27. Seven documentaries on a variety of subjects will be screened daily at 2:00, 4:15, 6:30, and 8:45. Visit for specific details and spend a couple hours of your time connecting with the world around you.

 Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy?

 This documentary is an animated interview with the “father of modern linguistics,” philosopher and activist Noam Chomsky. Michel Gondry (director of Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Be Kind Rewind) acts as interviewer and animator, weaving beautiful artwork with the engaging life stories of Chomsky.

The Ghosts in Our Machine

Are animals property or should they be considered sentient beings? This is the question director Liz Marshall tries to answer in this film about animal rights. Through the eyes and lens of photographer Jo-Anne McArthur, The Ghosts in Our Machine asks us to reevaluate our relationship with animals.



 Laura Dekker wants what every 14-year-old girl wants: to sail around the world by herself. Born and raised on boats, this inspiring sailor teaches us about perseverance as she learns a few lessons about herself.


Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me

 Broadway legend and renowned funnywoman Elaine Stritch (you might know her as Jack Donaghy’s mother on 30 Rock) shares her stories and struggles with aging in this poignant look at a life-long entertainer.


Charlie Victor Romeo

 Based on the 1999 play of the same name, Charlie Victor Romeo recreates the cockpit voice recorder (“black box”) transcripts of six actual airline accidents. Harrowing and raw, this film shows us the best of humanity in times of crisis.


I Am Divine

 After finding fame as cult film star and disco drag queen Divine, Harris Glenn Milstead struggled to redefine his professional persona. Through interviews with friends, including long-time collaborator John Waters, I Am Divine illustrates Milstead’s fight for legitimacy in the world of entertainment.


Fire in the Blood

Academy-award winning actor William Hurt narrates this exposition of how Western pharmaceutical companies have used monopolies and governmental influence to block access to low-cost HIV/AIDS antiretroviral drugs in Africa, Asia, and Southern countries.

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About the Author

Jeny McCray works for UW Tacoma supporting students in video production and web design courses. She enjoys writing, filmmaking, and sleeping as much as humanly possible. Although originally from Kansas City, after living in Tacoma for seven years she now considers Tacoma her hometown.

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