10 Disturbing Documentaries
Movies often depict the darker aspects of out world, but we can enjoy them for the fictional works they are. What of the real evils and unsavory aspects of humanity, though? If they were filmed, would you risk glimpsing the madness caught on camera? The 10 documentaries in this installment can fulfill every dark curiosity you may have, but be warned - they are not for the faint of heart.
Released September 24th, 2005, Earthlings is a documentary film that question's humanity's right to use other animals for pets, food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research. Through the use of hidden cameras, the documentary chronicles the day-to-day practices of some of the largest industries that rely on animals, drawing parallels between racism, sexism, and speciesism. Earthlings takes our number one spot of disturbing documentaries due to the nonchalant depictions of animal abuse and treatment, the gruesome scenes of slaughter, and inhumane acts perpetrated by humans against these creatures. Through these shocking and heart-wrenching scenes, the documentary makes a compelling argument as it depicts the true nature of the human impact on the Earth. The documentary ends with the emphasis that animals - like humans - can feel pain, and the consequences of our actions have adversely affected our health. Earthlings challenges our current way of thinking, shedding light on the despicable practices humans have committed against nature.
The Dying Rooms
The Dying Rooms is a 1995 television documentary where three people go undercover into Chinese state orphanages after rumors of child neglect and abandonment escalated from China's one-child law. Traveling from orphanage to orphanage, the documentary discusses the impact of China's one-child law while showing scenes of several children tied to bamboo seats with their legs splayed over makeshift potties, or babies in cribs lined up next to each other smelling heavily of sour milk, urine, and unwashed bodies. Most children that are abandoned or neglected are girls and handicap children, but their conditions and well-being could easily improve with increased funding and staff from the Chinese government. In the last orphanage visited, the undercover individuals find a room off to the side where May Ming, meaning No-Name, was abandoned twice within her short life, starved and neglected, until she passed away four days after being filmed. China has recently changed its one-child policy and denies that these dying rooms exist, and insist that these reports are fabrications.
The Act of Killing
When the government of Indonesia was overthrown by its military in 1965, Anwar and his friends were promoted from small-time gangsters to death squad leaders, where they helped kill more than one million alleged communists. They emulated Hollywood films, which they adored, when performing their killings. In The Act of Killing, Anwar and his friends agree to tell the story of the deaths caused by their hands, not as testimony but to star in the films they loved to imitate. Anwar and his friends develop the fictional scenes about their experiences of the killings and adapt them to their favorite film genres, where they play themselves, and play their victims. The fiction film-making process provides the film's dramatic arc, and the film set becomes a safe space to challenge these men about what they did. Most dramatically, the documentary warrants an unexpected emotional journey for Anwar, from arrogance to regret as he confronts the full implications of what he's done.
The Man Who Ate His Lover
Body Shock is a documentary series about the lives of extraordinary people, debuting The Man Who Ate His Lover on March 1st, 2004. The documentary focuses on Armin Meiwes, a German computer repair technician who gained international notoriety for killing and eating voluntary victim, Bernd Jurgen Armando Brandes, an engineer from Berlin. Meiwes posted an advertisement on the internet for, "a well-built 18 to 30 year old to be slaughtered and then consumed," to act upon his sexual fantasy, to which several people responded but backed out. Brandes, who had the desire for someone to "bite his penis off" and to be killed, eventually responded to the advertisement. The two would meet in March 2001, where they videotaped the sequence of disturbing events where Meiwes cut off Brandes's penis, both partaking in trying to consume it just to ultimately fail, to the eventual cutting of Brandes's throat three hours later. Although the title states "lover", little evidence of this is apparent, and appears more to be two men acting on their fantasies.
The Hammer Maniacs
In 2010, the Chilean television channel MEGA aired a documentary titled The Hammer Maniacs that ran for one hour and twenty-five minutes as part of an investigative series. Better known by most as Three Men One Hammer, journalist Michele Canale flew to Dnepropetrovsk, Ukraine, interviewing a range of people involved in the case which included the parents of the killers, detectives associated with the case, and Lidia Mikrenischeva, an elderly lady that survived the attack perpetrated on her, thanks to her dogs scaring off the attackers. Lidia would later identify the killers dubbed, "The Hammer Maniacs", Viktor Sayenko, Igor Suprunyuk, and conspirator Alexander Hanzha. The documentary gained notoriety for showing a wide assortment of previously unseen photographs and video material, of which one showed the callous and the nonchalant nature of the killers as they murdered Sergei Yatzenko. Viktor and Igor were charged with 21 murders, while Alexander was convicted of 2 armed robberies that took place before the murder spree.
Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan
This documentary runs for approximately thirty-five minutes and depicts a practice in Kyrgyzstan where women are abducted to become brides. Bride-kidnapping is considered the traditional way of getting married with nearly half of all marriages in rural areas occurring in this way. The custom involves a man gathering his friends to kidnap the woman, then bringing the girl back to his place where his mom and aunts try to convince the girl that marrying their son is the right course of action even if the man is a total stranger. The custom ends when the bride has said yes, and the family of the abductor visits and satisfies the bride's family with gifts and food to apologize. While being illegal to kidnap your wife, Kyrgyzstan police either don't realize this or believe it is an old tradition. Most women are humiliated when kidnapped, often with family or friends involved in the abduction, which has caused a rise in prostitution and suicides within the region. The women shown abducted in the documentary seem genuinely distraught and resistant, making it hard not to elicit a reaction.
Interview with a Cannibal
This documentary interviews Issei Sagawa, a Japanese man who murdered and cannibalized Renée Hartevelt, a Dutch classmate, in Paris, France. Issei casually depicts details of events leading up to murder of Renée and subsequently his eventual arrest by the French, and release from the Japanese. Before the murder of Renée, when Issei was 23, he broke into a foreign blonde woman's apartment with the intent to cannibalize her, but was caught by police and charged with attempted rape, where he choose not to confess his true intentions. Issei would go on to explain how he murdered Renée Hartevelt, ate parts of her body that looked appetizing, then dismembered and stuffed her into two suitcases for disposal in the lake in Bois de Boulogne. Issei was arrested and determined criminally insane by the French, and later deported to Japan due to public outrage at the expenses needed to keep Issei in custody. Japan declared Issei sane and was released from the hospital without care, where he makes a living off of the public's interest in his disturbing crime.
Seattle director Robinson Devor released this documentary in 2007 at the Sundance Film Festival, which would later be called "the horse sex documentary". Originally titled "In the Forest There is Every Kind of Bird", the documentary was instead released under the title "Zoo", which was derived from zoophile, or a person with sexual interests in animals. The film depicts the true story of Boeing engineer Kenneth Pinyan, who died in 2005 of peritonitis due to perforation of the colon after engaging in sexual acts with a horse in Washington State. A police investigation led to a farm, where videotapes and DVDs showed several men engaging in sexual acts with the resident Arabian stallions, which in turn, led the state senate to criminalize bestiality. Zoo combined audio testimony with speculative re-enactments, trying to liberate Pinyan from the public ridicule, and instead focused on the serious nature of Pinyan's death.
Released August 24th, 2012, The Imposter is a documentary film depicting events where Frédéric Bourdin impersonated Nicholas Barclay, a thirteen year old Texan boy who disappeared in 1994. The film contains interviews with Bourdin and members of the Barclay family as well as reenacted dramatic sequences and snippets of television news footage. Despite speaking with a French accent and not having the features of Barclay, such as blonde hair and blue eyes, Bourdin is able to deceive the Barclay family. In the documentary, Bourdin elaborates on the various stages in his impersonation and wouldn't go on to make a full confession until private detective, Charles Parker, and FBI agent, Nancy Fisher pressed inconsistencies in the case. Bourdin would later be identified through Interpol records as a French twenty-three year old who had a history of false identities and passing himself off as a juvenile.
In 2006, Eric Steel released a somber documentary film that spanned 365 days and captured over 10,000 hours of footage of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge in 2004. The film recorded 23 of the known 24 suicides off the bridge in 2004, and featured interviews with the family and friends of those that were identified. At one point in the documentary, a woman is seen traversing the upper railing to the lower railing, only to be pulled back to safety by a photographer. The Bridge also features an interview with Kevin Hines, a man who survived his suicide attempt off the bridge in 2000; and the testimony of a man who traversed the railing but was talked out of jumping by police. Throughout the film, people are seen leaping from the bridge, with the film crew only succeeding in preventing six jumps. However, in most cases there was either no warning or no time to prevent people from jumping.