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MDOCS Picks: What docs are students checking out?

December 20, 2016

Whether or not they’ve taken an MDOCS class, Skidmore students embrace documentary storytelling on a regular basis through film, audio, photo—they don’t discriminate. “I’ll put podcasts on when I’m walking to class, or when I’m cooking. Part of why I love podcasts is because I can learn something on the go. They don’t require my full attention, and I love how flexible they are to my daily routine,” shares Margot Friedman '18“Documentary” encapsulates topics ranging from the polar ice caps to fantasy football to the spelling bee.

Find out what students have to say about their favorite documentaries, what they think people should be watching/listening to and how everyone can enjoy a good documentary experience both in and out of the classroom. 

"13th"13th (film)

Suggested by Jamerly De La Cruz '17; major: anthropology

Synopsis: (from the website) 13TH refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads, “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis. 

See the film: Available for streaming on Netflix.


"Exit Through the Gift Shop"Exit Through the Gift Shop (film)

Suggested by Connor Batsimm '18; major: English

“I know it's the favorite documentary of every pretentious artist there is, but I think the way the entire story flips halfway through is brilliant and something I've never seen a documentary do before. —Connor Batsimm

Synopsis: This is the inside story of street art, a brutal and revealing account of what happens when fame, money and vandalism collide. Exit Through the Gift Shop follows an eccentric shopkeeper turned amateur filmmaker as he attempts to capture many of the world's most infamous vandals on camera, only to have a British stencil artist named Banksy turn the camcorder back on its owner with wildly unexpected results. By turns shocking, hilarious and absurd, this is an enthralling modern-day fairytale ... with bolt cutters.


See the film: Available for streaming on iTunes.


Girl RisingGirl Rising (film)

Suggested by Amanda Peckler '20

Synopsis: (from the website) From Academy Award-nominated director Richard E. Robbins, Girl Rising journeys around the globe to witness the strength of the human spirit and the power of education to change the world. Viewers get to know nine unforgettable girls living in the developing world: ordinary girls who confront tremendous challenges and overcome nearly impossible odds to pursue their dreams. Prize-winning authors put the girls’ remarkable stories into words, and renowned actors give them voice. 


See the film: Available for streaming on Amazon Prime and iTunes.


"The House I Live In"The House I Live In (film)

Suggested by Jamerly De La Cruz '17; major: anthropology

Synopsis: (from the website) As America remains embroiled in conflict overseas, a less visible war is taking place at home, costing countless lives, destroying families and inflicting untold damage on future generations of Americans. Over 40 years, the War on Drugs has accounted for more than 45 million arrests, made America the world’s largest jailer, and damaged poor communities at home and abroad. From the dealer to the grieving mother, the narcotics officer to the senator, the inmate to the federal judge, the film offers a penetrating look inside America’s longest war, offering a definitive portrait and revealing its profound human rights implications.


See the film: Available for streaming on Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, YouTube and more


"The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne"The Life and Crimes of Doris Payne (film)

Suggested by Jamerly De La Cruz '17; major: anthropology

Synopsis: (from the website) Find out how a poor, single, African-American mother from segregated 1930s America winds up as one of the world’s most notorious and successful jewel thieves. A glamorous 83-year-old, Doris Payne is as unapologetic today about the $2 million in jewels she’s stolen over a 60-year career as she was the day she stole her first carat. This sensational portrait exposes a rebel who defies society’s prejudices and pinches her own version of the American Dream.


See the film: Available for streaming on iTunes.


"Sampler"Sampler (podcast)

Suggested by Margot Friedman '18; major: biochemistry

Synopsis: (from the website) Sampler is devoted to bringing you the best moments from the world of podcasting. We listen to everything out there and hand-pick the stuff you just have to hear. Hosted by Brittany Luse.



"Snap Judgement"Snap Judgement (podcast)

Suggested by Margot Friedman '18; major: biochemistry

Synopsis: (from the website) Snap Judgment is a themed, weekly NPR storytelling show. We focus on presenting compelling personal stories—mixing killer beats with real drama to produce cinematic, dramatic and kick-ass radio. Hosted by Glynn Washington.



"The Stars and Moon"The Stars and Moon (photo exhibit)

Suggested by Raina Doughty '18; major: education

About the photographer: Barbara Bosworth is a photographer whose large-format images explore both overt and subtle relationships between humans and the rest of the natural world. Whether chronicling the efforts of hunters or bird banders or evoking the seasonal changes that transform mountains and meadows, Bosworth’s caring attention to the world around her results in images that similarly inspire viewers to look closely.


Collected by Sam Grant, '18