SnagFilms: Democratizing Documentaries
By Maria Popova
In an ideal world, we’d all be able to tour the world’s independent film festival circuit, pursuing our complete cultural enlightenment in documentaries on anything from the secret life of John Lennon to the history of horse racing. The world, of course, is far from ideal and most of us are geographically, financially, and otherwise strapped. Enter SnagFilms — an ambitious repository of full-length, high-quality documentaries that you can watch however, wherever you like, for free.
By making the films streamable on-demand, 24/7, anywhere in the world, the project rallies for — and, we dare say, greatly succeeds in — expanding the audience for documentary film. A Snag feature lets you take the films with you across your web presence — blogs, Facebook, or any other online dwelling where you can practically open your very own virtual theater.
With a rapidly growing library of 925 films, SnagFilms covers an incredibly wide range of subjects, styles and genres from filmmakers big and small.
Art from the Arctic trails the journey of British artist and filmmaker David Buckland, who organizes three sailing expeditions to the High Arctic as part of a series of collaborations between artists, educators and scientists, designed to create public awareness of global climate change.
Dig! is a raw, unfiltered journey into the underbelly of rock ‘n’ roll, illuminating the little-understood truth of its success and eventual self-destruction. The story is told through 7 years of production and 2000 hours of footage, trailing the conflicted friendship-rivalry relationship between 60’s revivalists Anton A. Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre and Courtney Taylor of The Dandy Warhols, all the while offering a profound, subtle commentary on the balance between art and commerce.
In The End of America, the controversial and brilliant Naomi Wolf, author of The Beauty Myth, reveals chilling evidence that the Bush years may have put American democracy under serious threat. Aided by citizen journalism from the web, home videos and blogs, she unearths a number of deeply unsettling similarities between American policies and dictator-driven regimes, from secret prisons to paramilitary groups to the calculated loopholes of law.
The Photographers, originally released in 1995, goes behind the camera with veteran National Geographic photographers as they go on assignments ranging from armed conflicts to deep-sea dives. The film probes into the quintessential question of what it entails to make a memorable photograph, to brilliantly capture a moment, to create monumental meaning in a single image.
Explore SnagFilms for yourself. And be sure to try the MovieMatcher tool — a glorified smart tag-cloud, really — which makes movie suggestions based on your mood and topics of interest.
Published October 13, 2009