St. Anthony Messenger

Documentary Film Showcase

Legendary filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock said: “In feature films, the director is God. In documentary films, God is the director.” And while cinema is fertile ground for good storytelling, as media consumers, we are at the mercy of the writers and directors. With documentary films, the story tells itself. Consider these five films available on Netflix.


White Hot: The Rise & Fall of Abercrombie & Fitch

This one stings. As a Gen-Xer who spent a good chunk of his adolescence in ’90s malls, I am all too familiar with the culture that built the Abercrombie & Fitch brand and what ultimately tore it down. With a wink, Alison Klayman directs this absorbing—at times humorously salacious—exposé of a brazen retailer that rooted itself in exclusory hiring practices and other controversies. It’s cringey, but you can’t look away. TV-14

Jimmy Savile: A British Horror Story

Cheeky, philanthropic, pervasive, ridiculous: Any of these words could have described Jimmy Savile, a television and radio host who ruled the British airwaves until his death in 2011. But as Rowan Deacon’s film alleges, Savile was also an inexhaustible sex offender who abused untold numbers of minors for decades. Haunting in its presentation and meticulously researched, this horror story shines a light onto a life in the shadows. TV-MA

What Happened, Miss Simone?

In her varied career, Nina Simone fused gospel, blues, jazz, and folk. Her music was impossible to categorize—as is the artist. In What Happened, Miss Simone?, director Liz Garbus does her level best to define a genius who was, at once, brilliant, hot-tempered, and filled with enough righteous anger to make her and the film inherently watchable. A powerful voice in the civil rights movement, Simone’s legacy is as unique as the notes she played. TV-14


Two documentaries on Netflix

Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey

For his crimes of sexual assault against children, Warren Jeffs was sentenced in 2011 to life in prison, plus an additional 20 years. As the head of the Fundamentalist Latter-Day Saints, Jeffs leveraged his position as the church “prophet” to unlawfully marry and abuse minors. And while Keep Sweet doesn’t break new ground in its reporting, it really doesn’t have to: Warren Jeffs’ crimes are so horrific and shocking that he is peerless among disgraced religious leaders. This is important viewing. TV-MA

Devil at the Crossroads

Blues guitarist Robert Johnson’s legacy is twofold. First, he is a titan among musicians of the early 20th century—in fact, some historians have christened the musician the godfather of rock and roll. The other is the legend behind the talent. Rumors have persevered for generations that Johnson, who died in 1938, met the devil at a crossroads deep in the Mississippi Delta and traded his soul for virtuoso talent. And that is where director Brian Oakes places the central narrative in Devil at the Crossroads: in between truth and legend, reality and invention. But he wisely sidesteps any answers in service to a great mystery. NOT RATED


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