By Erin Donovan
These were the best documentaries I saw this year, new to theaters or new to DVD in '07.
51 Birch Street - Doug Block, so incensed by the betrayal of his father getting remarried just 3 months after the death of his mother, turns an investigative lens on the once romanticized memories of his childhood to discover (via decades of journals, interviews with friends and home-made movies) the starkly different inner life his mother was leading to the woman he'd grown up with. Through the discovery of sad and ordinary dysfunctions 51 Birch Street is as much a touching family portrait as it is a window into the generational contrast between expectations about marriage.
Girl 27 - A surprising documentary that played to quiet appreciation at Sundance this year. Girl 27 starts out as a true crime expose about a vicious assault and the cover up by the svengalis of 1930s Hollywood but becomes a touching (platonic) romance about how intertwined a documentary film-makers can become with their subjects.
King Corn - Two affable food activists grow an acre of corn in Iowa and attempt to trace it into our food system only to learn that between starchy fast foods, artificial sweeteners and preservatives Americans eat so much corn that an acre (producing 10,000 pounds) is a mere drop in the bucket. In the vein of Super Size Me, co-stars/directors Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis create an oral history of a declining farm town as well as illuminate some of the absurdities of food production in America.
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