Vimeo is a great place to start watching some documentaries. Not, commercially released ones, per se, but a creative outlet for some really professional stuff. The place to start is their Documentary Film Channel. They are constantly adding compelling content to this section. Also check out their “Staff Picks” Channel for unique selections of video that the Vimeo staff “really, really love”.
Here are a couple of examples that I like. This first one gets at a concept I like to emphasize when doing video. It is moving photography. When you get the photographic elements right, you can create a beautiful video. OK, beautiful settings and a unique story doesn’t hurt. “The Last Ice Merchant” tells of a dying line of work. “Mining” ice from Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo. Electricity has changed the economics of selling it at the market.
The second one “Fifty People, One Question, Brooklyn” is a neat example where the documentarian sets up his camera and asks passersby one question. Not only does he get interesting answers, but little stories and small peeks into some stranger’s lives.
This next video is a good example of a “video essay”. This is a video that critically analyzes a film, in this case, the movie Dog Day Afternoon by Sidney Lumet.
This next video is a good example of a “mash-up” documentary, which uses numerous clips to tell the story about comedians, who are themselves “remix” artists who take bits of culture and make new meaning of everyday life. This an example of using material that might normally be under restricted use because of copyright, but under “fair use” can be employed because the work is transformative and is also a critique.