What’s Real?: A Roundup of Documentary-esque Sundance Films

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Tanya De Angelis

The title of a panel from the 1985 U.S. Film Festival is just as relevant when discussing documentary film today. The What’s Real panelists, including renowned filmmakers Rob Epstein, Barbara Kopple, D.A. Pennebaker, and Frederick Wiseman, questioned whether observation altered the event observed and discussed the cinematic representation of reality versus actual circumstances.

Over the last 25 years, there have been many new perspectives that have reshaped our interpretations and expectations of documentary films, filmmakers, and subjects. With the 2010 Festival film Catfish sparking so much dialogue, we thought we’d list a few other Festival documentaries and documentary-esque films that have raised a few eyebrows over the years.

Frat House (1998)
Blair Witch Project (1999)
Tarnation (2004)
My Kid Could Paint That (2007)
No Impact Man (2009)
Paper Heart (2009)
Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)

This in no way is a comprehensive list, so please share your favorites!

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Alexis Chikaeze as Kai in 'Miss Juneteenth,' coming to digital platforms June 19

Channing Godfrey Peoples on a Bittersweet ‘Miss Juneteenth’ Release and the Urgency of Portraying Black Humanity on Screen

After premiering at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, Channing Godfrey Peoples’s debut feature is hitting digital platforms this Juneteenth—the day for which the film is named and which is very close to the director’s heart. “I feel like I’ve been living Miss Juneteenth my whole life,” she says.
The June 19 holiday—which commemorates the day slavery was finally abolished in Texas (more than two years after the 1863 Emancipation Proclamation was issued)—is celebrated in her hometown of Fort Worth with a deep sense of reverence and community, with barbecues, a parade, and a scholarship pageant for young Black women.

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