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Documentaries

Documentaries can be as expressive, surreal and experimental as any work of fiction. This collection explores a world made up of people and places.

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I Am SamuelI Am Samuel

Documentary202068 minsDirector: Pete Murimi

Kenyan couple Samuel and Alex remain committed to each other despite the danger and hardship facing them in Peter Murimi’s moving documentary portrait.

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Being Frank: The Chris Sievey StoryBeing Frank: The Chris Sievey Story

Documentary2018101 minsDirector: Steve Sullivan

Frank Sidebottom was a pillar of alternative comedy of the late 80s/early 90s, and this charming documentary remembers the man behind the papier-mâché head.

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Varda by AgnèsVarda by Agnès

Biopic2018115 minsDirector: Agnès Varda

In her final film, Agnès Varda offers a personal insight into her oeuvre, using excerpts from her work to illustrate her unique artistic visions and ideas.

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Dressed as a GirlDressed as a Girl

Documentary2015101 minsDirector: Colin Rothbart

An in-depth, behind-the-scenes look at London’s finest drag performers. Warning: extreme use of make-up and glitter.

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Room 237Room 237

Documentary2012103 minsDirector: Rodney Ascher

Rodney Ascher's enigmatic essay film weaves together the contrasting theories of five different narrators who believe Stanley Kubrick deliberately buried hidden messages in his 1980 adaptation of Stephen King’s novel.

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My Nazi LegacyMy Nazi Legacy

Documentary201596 minsDirector: David Evans

What if your father was a Nazi? This is the harrowing question raised in David Evans’ thought-provoking documentary.

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A Personal Journey... Part 1A Personal Journey... Part 1

Documentary199572 minsDirector: Martin Scorsese

The first part of Martin Scorsese's 'personal journey' through American Cinema.

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A Personal Journey… Part 2A Personal Journey… Part 2

Documentary199579 minsDirector: Martin Scorsese

The second part of Martin Scorsese's 'personal journey' through American Cinema.

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A Personal Journey… Part 3A Personal Journey… Part 3

Documentary199574 minsDirector: Martin Scorsese

The third part of Martin Scorsese's 'personal journey' through American Cinema

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London London

Animation & Artists Moving Image199485 minsDirector: Patrick Keiller

The first in Patrick Keiller’s highly imaginative trilogy of films is a photographic trip through London, recounted by our unseen narrator.

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New Town UtopiaNew Town Utopia

Documentary201781 minsDirector: Christopher Ian Smith

From Utopian dreams to concrete realities; charting the challenging, funny, and sometimes tragic story of the British new town of Basildon, Essex.

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The Pearl ButtonThe Pearl Button

Documentary201582 minsDirector: Patricio Guzmán

Patricio Guzmán’s lyrical, illuminating follow-up to Nostalgia for the Light explores the fateful role played by water in Chile’s tragic history.

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Lawrence of BelgraviaLawrence of Belgravia

Documentary201185 minsDirector: Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly's stirring and acclaimed character study of enigmatic musician Lawrence (Felt, Denim and Go-Kart Mozart).

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Divorce Iranian StyleDivorce Iranian Style

Documentary199876 minsDirector: Kim Longinotto

Kim Longinotto’s observational documentary delves into Iran’s difficult and one-sided divorce process.

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The Hard StopThe Hard Stop

Documentary201586 minsDirector: George Amponsah

The story of Mark Duggan, who was shot and killed in Tottenham in 2011, is brought to the screen in this humane, thought-provoking and topical documentary.

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As Above, So BelowAs Above, So Below

Documentary202070 minsDirector: Sarah Francis

A poetic reflection on sovereignty, perspective, space and futurisms.

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The Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver SteinerThe Great Ecstasy of Woodcarver Steiner

Documentary197546 minsDirector: Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog’s moving portrait of a record-breaking ski jumper.

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Land of Silence and DarknessLand of Silence and Darkness

Documentary197185 minsDirector: Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog’s profound and deeply moving documentary about the experiences of a community of deaf-blind people.

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Real BoyReal Boy

Documentary201672 minsDirector: Shaleece Haas

A 19-year-old trans man navigates family, friendships, and the challenges of young adulthood.

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Recorder: The Marion Stokes ProjectRecorder: The Marion Stokes Project

Documentary201888 minsDirector: Matt Wolf

The taped crusader: VHS nerds, media scholars and archive enthusiasts will appreciate this documentary about the African-American activist who recorded 30 years of TV news.

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100 Years of Japanese Cinema100 Years of Japanese Cinema

Documentary199652 minsDirector: Nagisa Oshima

Archive propels argument in this fascinating exploration of the social and cultural importance of Japan's film heritage.

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Mifune : The Last SamuraiMifune : The Last Samurai

Documentary201680 minsDirector: Steven Okazaki

The on and off-screen character of Toshiro Mifune, Japan’s first international movie star, is explored in this illuminating documentary exploring the life and legacy of this mercurial icon.

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My Voyage to Italy (part one)My Voyage to Italy (part one)

Documentary2001120 minsDirector: Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese’s two-part love letter to Italian cinema is epic and sprawling in scope but also a deeply personal and moving testament to his passion for film.

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My Voyage to Italy (part two)My Voyage to Italy (part two)

Documentary2001126 minsDirector: Martin Scorsese

Martin Scorsese’s two-part love letter to Italian cinema is epic and sprawling in scope but also a deeply personal and moving testament to his passion for film.

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I Am DivineI Am Divine

Documentary201390 minsDirector: Jeffrey Schwarz

A unique documentary about a unique person – follow Divine’s life from humble Baltimore beginnings to superstar status as the Queen of Cult.

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Letters from BaghdadLetters from Baghdad

Documentary201691 minsDirector: Sabine Krayenbühl

Tilda Swinton narrates the extraordinary journey of Gertrude Bell, a singular woman who played a significant – often unrecognised – role in British imperial policy making in Iraq.

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Why We FightWhy We Fight

Documentary200499 minsDirector: Eugene Jarecki

An unflinching and award-winning look at the anatomy of American war-making.

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A Syrian Love StoryA Syrian Love Story

Documentary201576 minsDirector: Sean McAllister

The inspiring journey towards freedom of Raghda and Amer, a couple brought together by the turmoil of the Syrian Civil War.

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Shoah (Second Era)Shoah (Second Era)

Documentary1985293 minsDirector: Claude Lanzmann

Claude Lanzmann's monumental chronicle of the Holocaust has been acclaimed by many as the greatest documentary ever made.

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Shoah (First Era)Shoah (First Era)

Documentary1985274 minsDirector: Claude Lanzmann

Claude Lanzmann's monumental chronicle of the Holocaust has been acclaimed by many as the greatest documentary ever made.

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The Stuart Hall ProjectThe Stuart Hall Project

Documentary201399 minsDirector: John Akomfrah

Composed of film, music and photographs from the archives, a fascinating portrait of the life and times of the founder of cultural studies and the New Left Experience.

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A Deal With The UniverseA Deal With The Universe

Documentary201892 minsDirector: Jason Barker

This extraordinarily intimate documentary from Jason Barker tells the inspiring tale of a very different kind of pregnancy.

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MotherMother

Documentary201982 minsDirector: Kristof Bilsen

An intimate and moving exploration of motherhood and the frustrations of being unable to care for the ones we love.

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Talking about TreesTalking about Trees

Documentary201994 minsDirector: Suhaib Gasmelbari

Beautifully shot documentary about four members of the 'Sudanese Film Club' who decide to revive an old cinema.

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70/3070/30

Documentary202198 minsDirector: Phie Ambo

After COP25 in 2019, thousands of young Danish people took to the streets to demand instant action on climate change. In the subsequent general election the new Danish government pledged bold climate policies, but will they be able to enact them?

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I'm British But...I'm British But...

Documentary198929 minsDirector: Gurinder Chadha

Britain beats to the sound of Bhangra and Bangla in Gurinder Chadha's debut film.

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Shinjuku BoysShinjuku Boys

Documentary199554 minsDirector: Kim Longinotto

Tender fly-on-the-wall documentary depicting the daily lives of three Japanese 'onnabe' who work as host in a Tokyo nightclub

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Looking for LoveLooking for Love

Documentary2015115 minsDirector: Menelik Shabazz

Leading filmmaker Menelik Shabazz (Burning an Illusion) explores intimacy and relationships within Britain’s black community.

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The Story of Lover's RockThe Story of Lover's Rock

Documentary2011100 minsDirector: Menelik Shabazz

Menelik Shabazz (Burning an Illusion) shines a light on the music genre often dubbed ‘romantic reggae’; a uniquely black British sound that developed in the late 70s and 80s against a backdrop of riots, racial tension and sound systems.

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Orion: The Man Who Would Be KingOrion: The Man Who Would Be King

Documentary201586 minsDirector: Jeanie Finlay

The rollercoaster rise and tragic fall of the mystery masked man with the voice of a legend.

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ChemsexChemsex

Documentary201580 minsDirector: William Fairman

A hard-hitting and often graphic documentary about the 'chemsex' sub-scene in London’s gay community.

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Nighthawks 2: Strip Jack NakedNighthawks 2: Strip Jack Naked

Documentary199191 minsDirector: Ron Peck

Ron Peck’s experimental follow up to the groundbreaking Nighthawks is both a making-of documentary and a deeply personal film memoir.

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The Epic of EverestThe Epic of Everest

Non-Fiction192487 minsDirector: J.B.L. Noel

Premiere. A breathtaking and poignant account of the valiant 1924 British assault on the awe-inspiring peak, beautifully restored by the BFI.

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The Great White SilenceThe Great White Silence

Documentary1924107 minsSilentDirector: Herbert G. Ponting

The BFI Archive's restoration of Herbert Ponting's official film record of Captain Scott's tragic expedition to the South Pole, with a new score by Simon Fisher Turner.

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Thank You for the RainThank You for the Rain

Documentary201787 minsDirector: Julia Dahr

After a violent storm, Kisilu, a Kenyan farmer, transforms from a father and community leader to an acitivist on the global stage, as he visits COP21 in Paris to bring his message to the world.

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The Emperor's Naked Army Marches OnThe Emperor's Naked Army Marches On

Documentary1987121 minsDirector: Kazuo Hara

Kazuo Hara’s infamous and audacious documentary follows Kenzo Okuzaki, an ageing Japanese WWII veteran on a mission to uncover the truth about atrocities committed during the war in the Pacific.

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A Bagful of FleasA Bagful of Fleas

Documentary196243 minsDirector: Věra Chytilová

Věra Chytilová's 'fictionalised documentary' uses non-actors to portray girls' lives in the cotton mills of Náchod.

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Further BeyondFurther Beyond

Documentary201688 minsDirector: Christine Molloy

Desperate Optimists' deliriously deconstructed biopic of the extraordinary Ambrosio O'Higgins, who left Ireland to become the captain general of Chile in the Spanish Empire.

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The Great Hip Hop HoaxThe Great Hip Hop Hoax

Documentary201388 minsDirector: Jeanie Finlay

The documentary that takes you inside the masterplan that convinced the whole music industry that two students from Dundee were the next big thing in Hip-Hop.

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Sound It OutSound It Out

Documentary201175 minsDirector: Jeanie Finlay

Jeanie Finlay's elegaic account of the very last record shop in Teesside, UK.

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FinisterreFinisterre

Documentary200359 minsDirector: Kieran Evans

A journey from London’s suburbs to its heart, charting the influence of the city on indie pop band Saint Etienne.

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The StreetThe Street

Documentary201995 minsDirector: Zed Nelson

The working-class community of Hoxton Street face the upheavals of gentrification, austerity and the eruption of Brexit, in this portrait of a rapidly changing London.

More Documentaries in our Subscription collection The Camera is Ours: Britain's Women Documentary Makers.