Critics' Picks: 10 Documentaries to Cure Summer Tentpole Burnout

6:15 AM 7/9/2019

by Stephen Farber , Leslie Felperin, Daniel Fienberg, Sheri Linden , Todd McCarthy, and David Rooney

Up-close portraits of David  Crosby and Mike  Wallace, a shocking history of China's one-child policy and a bizarre murder mystery are among the season's must-sees.

From left: 'David Crosby: Remember My Name,' 'Mike Wallace Is Here,' 'Honeyland'
From left: 'David Crosby: Remember My Name,' 'Mike Wallace Is Here,' 'Honeyland'
Courtesy of Edd Lukas and Ian Coad/Sony Pictures Classics; Magnolia Pictures; Samir Ljuma
  • 'Aquarela'

    Aug. 16

    Courtesy of Venice International Film Festival

    Victor Kossakovsky pays tribute to water in all its forms in his ravishing and immersive doc — perfect for a hot summer day — filmed in such diverse locations as Greenland, Venezuela and Siberia's Lake Baikal. — Leslie Felperin

  • 'Cold Case Hammarskjöld'

    Aug. 16

    Courtesy of Sundance Institute

    Danish provocateur Mads Brügger's funny, gripping doc takes him to Africa as he investigates the strange death of Dag Hammarskjöld, Swedish economist turned secretary-general of the U.N. in 1953. — Daniel Fienberg

  • 'David Crosby: Remember My Name'

    July 19

    Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

    A.J. Eaton's documentary, produced by Cameron Crowe, is a touching and nostalgia-infused but refreshingly nonhagiographic portrait of the horny, ornery and consistently charismatic titular musician. — L.F.

  • 'For Sama'

    July 26

    Courtesy of Cannes Film Festival

    With the help of co-director Edward Watts, Syrian activist Waad al-Kateab offers a vivid, harrowing diary of her native country's conflict — a rare firsthand account of war from a female perspective. — Jordan Mintzer 

  • 'The Great Hack'

    July 24

    Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

    Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim's gripping doc uses the Cambridge Analytica scandal as the starting point for an interesting character study, an instigation for provocative ideas about data crime and what is ultimately a conflicted look at when it's terrifying having corporations learning things about our online habits and when it's cool. — D.F.

  • 'Honeyland'

    July 26

    Courtesy of Sundance Institute

    Set in a corner of the Balkan Peninsula, this excellent doc from Macedonian directors Ljubomir Stefanov and Tamara Kotevska is an unforgettably intimate look at an endangered tradition: wild beekeeping. — Sheri Linden

  • 'Jawline'

    Aug. 23

    Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival
    Liza Mandelup's eye-opening look at the realities of teenage social media stardom revolves around Austyn Tester, a 16-year-old live-broadcast sensation from rural Tennessee. There are some tough questions the film dances around, but it's an engaging, amusing and occasionally jaw-dropping portrait of a world that could hardly be more foreign to most documentary fans. — D.F.
     
  • 'Love, Antosha'

    Aug. 2

    Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

    Actor Anton Yelchin, who died in a freak accident in 2016, is remembered by many of his colleagues — including Chris Pine, Kristen Stewart, Jennifer Lawrence and director J.J. Abrams — in this comprehensive, emotionally stirring and altogether very effective look at his life. — Stephen Farber

  • 'Mike Wallace Is Here'

    July 26

    Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

    A giant of American news broadcasting gets an extended close-up in Avi Belkin's compulsively engrossing account of a career notable for its gutsy attitude toward power brokers in business and politics. — Todd McCarthy

  • 'One Child Nation'

    Aug. 9

    Courtesy of Sundance Film Festival

    Documakers Nanfu Wang and Jialing Zhang peel back the propaganda legitimizing China's now-dissolved population-control policy in this shattering account of collective trauma. — David Rooney

    A version of this story appears in the July 10 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.