New to documentaries? Nicole Newnham, co-director of the new Netflix film Crip Camp, shares some of her favorites to consider.
The Times of Harvey Milk
This is the film that made me want to become a documentary filmmaker. It also made me want to move to San Francisco. It was a real inspiration for me in taking on the making of Crip Camp because it's a film that introduces the audience to a community the way the community wants to be seen. And it is also an incredible social justice story.
I Am Not Your Negro
James Baldwin is one of the most influential writers in the entire American canon. He consistently challenged the status quo for Black people in his efforts to fight for equality and bring Black intellectualism to the forefront of the American imagination. Before he died, Baldwin was unable to finish Remember This House -- a work that chronicled the lives and assassinations of Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. That memoir of Baldwin's personal recollections is the basis for this film. Having familial ties to civil rights advocate and icon Medgar Evers only adds to the personal significance of this film for me.
For someone new to documentary, Cameraperson would be an indispensable film to watch, to try to think about the form, and think about the space of ethics and questioning that documentary filmmakers experience. It's just an incredibly powerful personal film.
Harlan County, U.S.A.
Mary Lampson, who edited Crip Camp, was also an editor on Harlan County and she was a mentor to me at the Sundance Documentary Edit Lab. I became so in awe of the way that that film (edited by Mary and other amazing editors) constructs scenes in an almost feature film-like way, but stays true to like this incredibly powerful kind of authenticity.
To Be and to Have
It's a spectacular film that follows a teacher and his relationships with his students in a one-room schoolhouse in a little part of France. It's one of the most emotionally intimate documentaries that I've ever seen. It's mostly verité and I think it is one of the most intimate portraits showing the evolution of relationships and of kids preparing to grow up and go out in the world. It's just very, very soft observational and really beautiful.