Great Documentaries

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1.
Streetwise (1984 Documentary)
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Gritty documentary looks at the life and lives of teenagers living on the streets of Seattle. (91 mins.)
Director: Martin Bell
 
2.
Gates of Heaven (1978 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
A documentary about a pet cemetery in California, and the people who have pets buried there. (85 mins.)
Director: Errol Morris
“ A bit bizarre, touching, often funny. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
3.
Please Vote for Me (2007 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Democracy in China exists, that is, in a primary school in Wuhan where a grade 3 class can vote who they want as class monitor. (58 mins.)
Director: Weijun Chen
“ Hilarious and very informative about China today. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
4.
Salesman (1969 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Four relentless door-to-door salesmen deal with constant rejection, homesickness and inevitable burnout as they go across the country selling very expensive bibles to low-income Catholic families. (85 mins.)
 
5.
Fast, Cheap & Out of Control (1997 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
What do an elderly topiary gardener, a retired lion tamer, a man fascinated by mole rats, and a cutting-edge robotics designer have in common... (80 mins.)
Director: Errol Morris
“ I can just watch this over and over again: a playful, transcendent film about people fascinated with what they do for a living. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
6.
Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills (1996 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A horrific triple child murder leads to an indictment and trial of three nonconformist boys based on questionable evidence. (150 mins.)
“ Not for everyone: it's a great film, but also a very dark subject matter.

For those interested in this topic, I very highly recommend listening to this interview with Damien Echols:
http://onpoint.wbur.org/2012/09/25/west-memphis-three-life-after-death-row ” - birthdaynoodle
 
7.
Buena Vista Social Club (1999 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Aging Cuban musicians whose talents had been virtually forgotten following Castro's takeover of Cuba, are brought out of retirement by Ry Cooder, who travelled to Havana in order to bring the musicians together, resulting in triumphant performances of extraordinary music, and resurrecting the musicians' careers. (105 mins.)
Director: Wim Wenders
 
8.
Hoop Dreams (1994 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A film following the lives of two inner-city Chicago boys who struggle to become college basketball players on the road to going professional. (170 mins.)
Director: Steve James
 
9.
Genghis Blues (1999 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
San Francisco bluesman and composer, Paul Peña makes a musical pilgrimage to the land of Tuva. (88 mins.)
Director: Roko Belic
“ While it may perhaps lack a bit in technical virtuosity, it has a lot of heart. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
10.
Crumb (1994 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
An intimate portrait of the controversial cartoonist and his traumatized family. (119 mins.)
Director: Terry Zwigoff
 
11.
En construcción (2001 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
An author spent a year and a half filming what happened as a new apartment building was built in the El Chino neighborhood of Barcelona... (125 mins.)
“ Regular people living and working in a neighborhood in Barcelona, where old buildings are being demolished to make room for new ones. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
12.
The Act of Killing (2012 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers. (117 mins.)
“ Stranger than fiction and very disturbing. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
13.
Yo no sé qué me han hecho tus ojos (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Documentary on the life of Ada Falcón, one of the great legends of Argentine tango history. After seventy years of silence she finally tells her story. (65 mins.)
“ Slow-paced, nostalgic documentary, for lovers of tango, silent films and the 30s. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
14.
Cutie and the Boxer (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
This candid New York love story explores the chaotic 40-year marriage of famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko. Anxious to shed her role as her overbearing husband's assistant, Noriko finds an identity of her own. (82 mins.)
 
15.
Marley (2012 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A documentary on the life, music, and legacy of Bob Marley. (144 mins.)
Director: Kevin Macdonald
 
16.
The Thin Blue Line (1988 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A film that successfully argued that a man was wrongly convicted for murder by a corrupt justice system in Dallas County, Texas. (103 mins.)
Director: Errol Morris
 
17.
Paco de Lucía: A Journey (2014 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Documentary about guitar genius Paco de Lucía and his contributions to flamenco music. (95 mins.)
Director: Curro Sánchez
 
18.
From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China (1979 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Isaac Stern's cultural tour of China is seen, with the master violinist performing and mentoring young Chinese musicians... (84 mins.)
Director: Murray Lerner
 
19.
Dream of Light (1992 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
The artist, Antonio Lopez, tries to paint the quince tree he planted some time back in his garden. Throughout his life... (133 mins.)
Director: Victor Erice
“ A quiet film about a very typically Spanish artist painting a fruit tree in his backyard. From the director of The Spirit of the Beehive. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
20.
The Missing Picture (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Rithy Panh uses clay figures, archival footage, and his narration to recreate the atrocities Cambodia's Khmer Rouge committed between 1975 and 1979. (92 mins.)
Director: Rithy Panh
 
21.
The War Room (1993 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
A documentary of the Bill Clinton 1992 presidential campaign and the organization who ran it. (96 mins.)
“ A look at America's political circus. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
22.
The Substance: Albert Hofmann's LSD (2011 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
In 1943, the year in which the first A-bomb was built, Albert Hofmann discovered LSD, a substance that was to become an A-bomb of the mind... (90 mins.)
Director: Martin Witz
“ This film asks what LSD might have brought to society had it not been approached in such a juvenile manner by the likes of Timothy Leary. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
23.
The Nazis: A Warning from History (1997 Mini-Series)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.7/10 X  
An examination of how a cultured people could have allowed Hitler's rise to power. (292 mins.)
Director: Laurence Rees
“ A very clear and concise documentary series from the BBC, it shows how all the pieces fell into place for the war and all its tragedy to happen. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
24.
Capturing the Friedmans (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Documentary on the Friedmans, a seemingly typical, upper-middle-class Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes. (107 mins.)
Director: Andrew Jarecki
 
25.
The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
When a Mongolian nomadic family's newest camel colt is rejected by its mother, a musician is needed for a ritual to change her mind. (93 mins.)
 
26.
The Fog of War: Eleven Lessons from the Life of Robert S. McNamara (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
The story of America as seen through the eyes of the former Secretary of Defense under President John F. Kennedy and President Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara. (107 mins.)
Director: Errol Morris
 
27.
Deep Blues (1992 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Music critic Robert Palmer narrates the insightful story of Delta blues and North Mississippi hill country blues. (91 mins.)
Director: Robert Mugge
 
28.
When We Were Kings (1996 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
A documentary of the 1974 heavyweight championship bout in Zaire, "The Rumble in the Jungle," between champion George Foreman and underdog challenger Muhammad Ali. (88 mins.)
Director: Leon Gast
 
29.
Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Werner Herzog gains exclusive access to film inside the Chauvet caves of Southern France and captures the oldest known pictorial creations of humanity. (90 mins.)
Director: Werner Herzog
 
30.
Taxi to the Dark Side (2007 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Alex Gibney exposes the haunting details of the USA's torture and interrogation practices during the War in Afghanistan. (106 mins.)
Director: Alex Gibney
 
31.
Manufactured Landscapes (2006 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Photographer Edward Burtynsky travels the world observing changes in landscapes due to industrial work and manufacturing. (86 mins.)
 
32.
Harlan County U.S.A. (1976 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A filmed account of a bitterly violent miner strike. (103 mins.)
Director: Barbara Kopple
 
33.
Guest (2010 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
Filmmaker Jose Luis Guerin documents his experience during a year of traveling as a guest of film festivals to present his previous film... (124 mins.)
 
34.
Grizzly Man (2005 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A devastating and heartrending take on grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, who were killed in October of 2003 while living among grizzlies in Alaska. (103 mins.)
Director: Werner Herzog
 
35.
Into Great Silence (2005 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
An examination of life inside the Grande Chartreuse, the head monastery of the reclusive Carthusian Order in France. (169 mins.)
Director: Philip Gröning
 
36.
The Look of Silence (2014 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  
A family that survives the genocide in Indonesia confronts the men who killed one of their brothers. (103 mins.)
 
37.
Everyone Stares: The Police Inside Out (2006 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
Stewart Copeland, drummer for The Police, compiles his Super 8 footage for an intimate look at what it was like to be a member of one of the world's biggest rock bands. (74 mins.)
“ Mainly if you're a fan of The Police... ” - birthdaynoodle
 
38.
loudQUIETloud: A Film About the Pixies (2006 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
loudQUIETloud is the story of this unforseen plot twist. A deeply compelling portrait of four band members and their difficult, tense, and ultimately triumphant return. (85 mins.)
“ The band later felt the filmmakers were trying too hard to push a narrative of tension among the members – but it's still an interesting behind-the-scenes look at the Pixies' 2004 reunion. It helps if you're a fan, which I am. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
39.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A documentary on 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono, his renowned Tokyo restaurant, and his relationship with his son and eventual heir, Yoshikazu. (81 mins.)
Director: David Gelb
 
40.
Alamar (2009 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  
Before their inevitable farewell, Jorge, a young man of Mayan roots, and Natan, his half-Italian son, spend time together living off the Banco Chinchorro coral reef. (73 mins.)
 
41.
Gerhard Richter - Painting (2011 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A documentary on the German artist that includes glimpses at his studio, which has not been seen in decades. (97 mins.)
Director: Corinna Belz
“ Gerhard Richter's paintings leave me cold, but I suppose that's part of the intention. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
42.
Arakimentari (2004 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
(85 mins.)
Director: Travis Klose
“ Meet kinky, controversial Japanese photographer Nobuyoshi Araki. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
43.
Man on Wire (2008 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime of the century". (94 mins.)
Director: James Marsh
 
44.
Standard Operating Procedure (2008 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  
Errol Morris examines the incidents of abuse and torture of suspected terrorists at the hands of U.S. forces at the Abu Ghraib prison. (116 mins.)
Director: Errol Morris
 
45.
Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker's Apocalypse (1991 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Documentary that chronicles how Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now was plagued by extraordinary script, shooting, budget, and casting problems--nearly destroying the life and career of the celebrated director. (96 mins.)
 
46.
Baraka (1992 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.6/10 X  
A collection of expertly photographed scenes of human life and religion. (96 mins.)
Director: Ron Fricke
“ An interesting, if also somewhat detached and glossy collection of striking images of different societies from around the world. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
47.
Grey Gardens (1975 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
An old mother and her middle-aged daughter, the aunt and cousin of Jacqueline Kennedy, live their eccentric lives in a filthy, decaying mansion in East Hampton. (94 mins.)
 
48.
Restoring the Light (2011 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.4/10 X  
A rural eye doctor helps under-served villagers in rural China regain their sight and restore their lives. (55 mins.)
Director: Carol Liu
“ An important look at rural China, where medical facilities are exceptionally rare, and a family who do everything in their power to offer assistance. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
49.
The House I Live In (2012 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
From the dealer to the narcotics officer, the inmate to the federal judge, a penetrating look inside America's criminal justice system, revealing the profound human rights implications of U.S. drug policy. (108 mins.)
Director: Eugene Jarecki
 
50.
Wordplay (2006 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
An in-depth look at The New York Times' long-time crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz and his loyal fan base. (94 mins.)
Director: Patrick Creadon
 
51.
My Best Fiend (1999 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
In the 1950s, an adolescent Werner Herzog was transfixed by a film performance of the young Klaus Kinski... (95 mins.)
Director: Werner Herzog
 
52.
Bowling for Columbine (2002 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Filmmaker Michael Moore explores the roots of America's predilection for gun violence. (120 mins.)
Director: Michael Moore
 
53.
Los ojos de Ariana (2007 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  
(92 mins.)
 
54.
The Queen of Versailles (2012 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
A documentary that follows a billionaire couple as they begin construction on a mansion inspired by Versailles. During the next two years, their empire, fueled by the real estate bubble and cheap money, falters due to the economic crisis. (100 mins.)
 
55.
To Play and to Fight (2006 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
To Play and To Fight presents the captivating story of the Venezuelan Youth Orchestra System - an incredible... (70 mins.)
“ El Sistema is an excellent project that has trained for decades young, mostly underpriviledged musicians, including now world-reknown conductor Gustavo Dudamel. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
56.
Anvil: The Story of Anvil (2008 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Since 1978, Anvil has become one of heavy metal's most influential yet commercially unsuccessful acts. In 2006, after a fledging European tour Anvil sets out to record their thirteenth album and continue to follow their dreams. (80 mins.)
Director: Sacha Gervasi
 
57.
George Harrison: Living in the Material World (2011 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
Filmmaker Martin Scorsese examines the life of musician George Harrison, weaving together interviews, concert footage, home movies and photographs. (208 mins.)
Director: Martin Scorsese
 
58.
My Architect (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Director Nathaniel Kahn searches to understand his father, noted architect Louis Kahn, who died bankrupt and alone in 1974. (116 mins.)
Director: Nathaniel Kahn
 
59.
Microcosmos (1996 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
A documentary on insect life in meadows and ponds. (80 mins.)
 
60.
Restrepo (2010 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
A year with one platoon in the deadliest valley in Afghanistan. (93 mins.)
 
61.
Searching for Sugar Man (2012 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Two South Africans set out to discover what happened to their unlikely musical hero, the mysterious 1970s rock n roller, Rodriguez. (86 mins.)
 
62.
American Movie (1999 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  
Documentary about an aspiring filmmaker's attempts to finance his dream project by finally completing the low-budget horror film he abandoned years before. (107 mins.)
Director: Chris Smith
 
63.
Crazy Love (2007 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  
The bizarre true story of Linda Riss and Burt Pugach. (92 mins.)
“ A campy take on the extremely twisted and unlikely, yet true story of a monstrous man and the woman with whom he is obsessed. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
64.
The Devil and Daniel Johnston (2005 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.0/10 X  
Daniel Johnston, manic-depressive genius singer/songwriter/artist is revealed in this portrait of madness, creativity and love. (110 mins.)
Director: Jeff Feuerzeig
 
65.
Hands on a Hard Body: The Documentary (1997 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
Twenty-four contestants compete in an endurance/sleep deprivation contest in order to win a brand new Nissan Hardbody truck... (98 mins.)
Director: S.R. Bindler
 
66.
Lost in La Mancha (2002 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Terry Gilliam's doomed attempt to get his film, The Man Who Killed Don Quixote, off the ground. (93 mins.)
 
67.
High on Crack Street: Lost Lives in Lowell (1995 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
Documents 18 months in the lives of three crack addicts in Lowell, Massachusetts. (60 mins.)
 
68.
Helvetica (2007 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
A documentary about typography, graphic design, and global visual culture. (80 mins.)
Director: Gary Hustwit
“ Whether you regard the font Helvetica as a friend or a foe, if you have strong feelings about it, this documentary is for you. ” - birthdaynoodle
 
69.
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  
A documentary about the Enron corporation, its faulty and corrupt business practices, and how they led to its fall. (110 mins.)
Director: Alex Gibney
 
70.
Nostalgia for the Light (2010 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
In Chile's Atacama Desert, astronomers peer deep into the cosmos in search for answers concerning the origins of life... (90 mins.)
 
71.
Vernon, Florida (1981 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  
Early Errol Morris documentary intersplices random chatter he captured on film of the genuinely eccentric residents of Vernon... (55 mins.)
Director: Errol Morris
 
72.
Game Over: Kasparov and the Machine (2003 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  
Garry Kasparov is arguably the greatest chess player who has ever lived. In 1997 he played a chess match against IBM's computer Deep Blue... (90 mins.)
Director: Vikram Jayanti
 
73.
Spellbound (2002 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Spellbound follows eight teenagers on their quest to win the 1999 National Spelling Bee. (97 mins.)
Director: Jeffrey Blitz
 
74.
Blackfish (2013 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  
A documentary following the controversial captivity of killer whales, and its dangers for both humans and whales. (83 mins.)
 
75.
Encounters at the End of the World (2007 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  
Film-maker Werner Herzog travels to the McMurdo Station in Antarctica, looking to capture the continent's beauty and investigate the characters living there. (99 mins.)
Director: Werner Herzog
 
76.
Painters Painting (1973 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  
The definitive documentary on the New York School Painters. Featuring footage of all the major figures of the New York Art Scene between 1940-1970, showing many of the artists before they became famous. (116 mins.)
 
77.
Ikebana (1957 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.0/10 X  
The history and art of ikebana, a centuries old Japanese art of flower arrangement and a look inside the Sogetsu School of Ikebana, where the director's father Sofu Teshigahara worked as the grand master of the school. (32 mins.)
 
78.
The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  
Die-hard gamers compete to break world records on classic arcade games. (79 mins.)
Director: Seth Gordon
 
79.
Between the Folds (2008 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  
Depicts a cast of fine artists and eccentric scientists (from MIT and NASA) who have devoted their lives to the unlikely medium of modern origami... (56 mins.)
Director: Vanessa Gould
 
80.
The Cove (2009 Documentary)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  
Using state-of-the-art equipment, a group of activists, led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health. (92 mins.)
Director: Louie Psihoyos