I grew up watching documentaries of a much smaller sort than we have been watching in class. Most of these were behind the scenes of how a movie was made or how an album was recorded or how a band came to rise and possibly fall. To this day, these are some of my favorites and I never thought about why. But I think I know now:
There is no agenda.
Sure, there should be a purpose. But these documentaries are of a different sort. They are (usually) not meant to be persuasive. They are observant. They are FAIR. They literally are documents in the creation of something larger. When I listen to Steven Spielberg and Harrison Ford talk about creating Raiders of the Lost Ark and all that went into it, I simply feel like I am learning and being included in something more. The movie has impacted so many people, and looking in I can see what it took for everyone to come together and make the impact.
One of the best music based documentaries in my eyes is Metallica: Some Kind of Monster. I never wanted this movie to end, and it all happened by accident. The film crew was only supposed to film a promo for the band’s next album for a couple months. They spent the better part of 3 years watching this band unravel to it’s core, build itself back up by remaking themselves as people and record an album. Nothing is left out. The documentarians put in material from the “good days” and “bad days” and you are witness to whatever happens to happen.
When the agenda is just to observe and be inclusive, I feel less inclined to fight the movie for what I should feel. They give me a simple experience that I desire from all films, and the simplicity implicitly leads to so much more.