Sundance: Shock Docs Seize the Power of the Image

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A shot (within a shot) from Burma VJ. Photo: Courtesy of Magic Hour Films

We love watching Al Gore stand at a lectern as much as the next filmgoer, but the range of experiential documentaries at this year’s Sundance is getting us pretty excited. We don’t yet know whether there will be any breakout docs, as in years past (An Inconvenient Truth, Man on Wire), but we do know one thing: This year’s documentarians are bringing us images from places we’re not meant to see. Reporter follows New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof as he travels war-torn Congo. Burma VJ gives us first-person footage of the Burmese government’s brutal crackdown on protesters last year. The Cove infiltrates a top-secret dolphin-slaughtering facility (yes, dolphin-slaughtering facility). The September Issue goes behind the lines at Anna Wintour’s Vogue — a far cry from evidence of mass killings of intelligent mammals, but perhaps not that far. And we haven’t even mentioned the Josh Harris documentary yet. It’s enough to make the talking-head industry start thinking government bailout.