Documentaries and James Marsh

My repertoire of movies is very green and as my passion for film started growing a few years back, I’ve been trying to expand my knowledge of what I’d like to call the “A list” of movies. I had to ask my friends to make lists of suggestions that they believe to be notable films, since the only background I really specialize in is low grade romantic comedies, which I’d like to say, hold some merit in the industry. But moving away from cheesy one liners, actors chosen for their body instead of their talent, and predictable plots, and working to recognize and appreciate film as an art form is what I’m ultimately trying to accomplish within the next year.

To kick start my list, I decided to delve into documentaries. Despite my loathing of biographies and memoirs, I found that with documentaries I get what I can’t out of books: a palpable (ironic, I know) sense of the idea. With film, you can see people’s reactions, hear their voice, watch their struggle and that alone makes the experience that much more personal. When reading, a lot is left for the imagination and sometimes the impact meant to be made is less powerful. Only so much can be said with words.

The documentary I felt enticed to try first was Man on Wire. What a beautiful first choice! The story alone was so inspiring, no, the man, Philippe Petit was mesmerizing. His passion for his art, the extent to which he would go to fulfill his dreams, however outrageous they seemed, made me realize how dull my plights are. The courage of his friends along with the sacrifice and the support despite questionable and incredible circumstances helped me realize how he could afford to be so ambitious. And I was touched by these aspects of the film, not through dialogue or narration, but by what I was shown. Words could not describe Philippe’s passion, but the look on his face, the eagerness in his voice, and the confidence in his movements gave a life to his story. And the never ending fervor for the resolution of his lifelong dream is what drove the documentary, is what kept me watching.

After researching the film and finding the praise and awards it received, I decided to see what else director, James Marsh, had created. I found Project Nim on Facebook actually, and “liked” the page to see what it was about. This is a documentary on the Herbert S. Terrace study conducted on the subject of animal language acquisition. The subject of the study was a chimpanzee named Nim Chimpsky. I watched background snippets of the cast talking about film and a sort of trailer for the piece, but I’ve yet to find the actual documentary. I saved it on Netflix, so when they get a copy, I get to watch it.


I did find Wisconsin Death Trip, however, which is the cult film Marsh is known for directing. It’s next on my very long list of movies to watch. Will it be on the A list, I’m not sure, but Man on Wire certainly is.


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