If you follow the film industry you know that 2018 is shaping up to be “The Year of the Documentary”. With all due deference to Tony Stark, Doctor Strange and Han Solo, this summer we are reminded of what a true superhero looks like in the person of Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in the documentary RBG, which has grossed over $8 million at the boxoffice. The film continues to add theatres, rather than lose them, in its sixth week of release, a truly unusual feat especially for a documentary in the middle of summer tentpole movie season. Another unlikely summer superhero, Pope Francis, is the focus of the film, A Man of His Word, which has grossed nearly $2 million in its initial four weeks.
Following Justice Ginsburg into theatres this year is an array of documentaries poised to make 2018 one of the true banner years for the genre. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is a nostalgic yet poignant look at children’s television host Mr. Rogers from director Morgan Neville, the man behind Best of Enemies: Buckley Vs. Vidal and 20 Feet from Stardom. The film, which has been generating significant buzz since its initial screening at the Sundance Film Festival this past winter, opens on June 8. Joining it on that date is a look at British fashion designer Vivienne Westwood with filmmaker Lorna Tucker’s Westwood: Punk, Icon, Activist. There are also upcoming biodoc treatments of such wide ranging notables as Whitney Houston (July 6), designer Alexander McQueen (July 20) and the sporting triumvirate of Wayne Gretzky, Jerry Rice and Pele in director Gabe Polsky’s In Search of Greatness (November 2).
In addition to these noteworthy biographical documentaries, the second half of 2018 will also see a flood of new socially-conscious features make their way to theatres as well. The first stop is June 15 with the Natalie Portman narrated, Eating Animals. The film takes a hard look at what has happened to our country in the past 40 years as we have moved away from traditional farming communities to massive industrial farming complexes that produce a seemingly endless supply of so-called “cheap” meat, eggs, and dairy. The film is based on Jonathan Safran Foer’s book.
Several plant-based and animal welfare documentaries are currently slated for the fall and early winter as well, the chief among those being The Game Changers from Louie Psihoyos, the director of The Cove, and Executive Producer James Cameron. The documentary will introduce the world to elite athletes, special ops soldiers, visionary scientists, cultural icons and everyday heroes. The film primarily focuses on former UFC fighter James Wilks’ inspiring plant-based quest to return to form after suffering a debilitating injury. Included in the film are interviews with Arnold Schwarzenegger, U.S. Olympian Kendrick Farris, Patrick Baboumian, the man generally regarded as the Strongest Man in the World, and Nate Diaz, who famously defeated UFC champion Conor McGregor in 2016 and credited his vegan diet as playing a significant role in his success.
Also this fall there’s The YoYo Effect, which focuses on the effects of a plant-based diet on weight loss, Eating Our Way to Extinction from filmmakers Ludo and Otto Brockway, which has the support of actor Leonardo DiCaprio, and Taking Notes, which turns its lens on vegans in the music industry.
The star power is out in full force for the Australian animal abuse feature, Dominion, which uses drones and hidden cameras to expose the dark underbelly of modern animal agriculture. Narrators include Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara, Kat Von D, Sadie Sink from TV’s Stranger Things and musician Sia.
In addition, vegan films are finally getting their own film festival with the inaugural Ottawa International Vegan Film Festival in the Canadian capital, which takes place on October 14.
For early 2019 we can also look forward to Healing America, the sequel to Nelson Campbell’s 2015 documentary PlantPure Nation, which is currently in pre-production and the first all-vegan horror film, Factory Farm, from British filmmakers Tim Pickett and David Powell.
Why the sudden popularity of a genre that many thought was on the decline, at least theatrically? One of our theories is that the rise of subscription moviegoing services is enabling moviegoers to take a shot at films in theatres they would normally have waited to come on Netflix or Amazon. It could also be something as simple as the selection of subjects for documentary treatment in 2018 are particularly interesting to moviegoers.
Or, as we believe, perhaps it’s because in these turbulent political and social times, moviegoers want to see the humanity and greater good in all of us and be inspired, in our own small way, to change the world.
The especially inspiring and exciting part of this newfound love of documentary cinema is the vast array of vegan, plant-based, animal welfare and environmental films coming to your local multiplex in 2018. Well written, produced and directed documentaries are not only good entertainment, they are the perfect medium to use as a springboard for positive change. With films you have an engaged audience who can be inspired to publicize the film’s altruistic ideology while creating mass global awareness. Take 2013’s Blackfish for example. That one film brought massive awareness of the atrocities being committed at Sea World in the name of entertainment. The result was that shortly after that film Sea World’s stock plummeted and the company announced they would no longer breed whales in captivity.
Shaping the world starts with a ticket to a matinee and box of Red Vines.