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Summer 2018 Must Watch Documentary Film Guide

Summer 2018 Must Watch Documentary Film Guide

Picture from documentary film That Summer

The world of film is looking at another blockbuster summer with franchise mania earning the big bucks at the box office with the likes of Solo: A Star Wars Story, Ocean’s 8, Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom just a handful of the big-budget cinematic delights on offer in the coming months.

However, it’s the wonderful world of the documentary film we’re focusing on today, as we delve curiously into the lives of the good, the bad and the ugly, all captured with mesmerising attention to detail. Here’s our guide to some of the most interesting looking documentary films doing the rounds in the coming months.


This fascinating documentary takes a look at the life of Leon Vitali a once-promising actor who landed the role of a lifetime as Lord Bullingdon in Stanley Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon, before essentially curbing his own ambitions to help facilitate Kubrick’s own heady vision.

Taking on the role of right-hand man to the celebrated auteur, devotion and loyalty are the overriding themes as Vitali moved from in front of the camera to a behind the scenes go-to guy who helped the notoriously demanding filmmaker achieve international recognition.

Seen through the eyes of Vitali, and piecing together unseen footage, letters, notes and much more from his own extensive private collection, it’s a heartwarming and in-depth exploration.

Dark Money

With Donald Trump belligerently surviving blow-after-blow with a most obstinate and unwavering attitude, this docu by Kimberley Reed is a timely reflection on the influence and impact of corporate money on the US political system. It focuses predominantly on the state of Montana where a dogged and determined investigative journalist has spent years fighting the cause for fair elections.

Transparency is the watchword in Western politics and this film takes an in depth look at the anonymous donors who fund political campaigns on the promise of passing legislation that mirrors their own private interests. Everything has a price, even election campaigns, there’s lies and there’s damned lies and that’s politics people!

John McEnroe: In The Realm of Perfection

Regardless of where you stand on the merits of the once boisterous, brattish, sulking nature of former tennis superstar John McEnroe there can be little doubt as to his incredible talent and determination on the court. And in his second incarnation as pundit and commentator his self-deprecating and dry manner is really quite agreeable.

This film reflects on McEnroe’s 1984 French Open final against Ivan Lendl, but rather than the standard sporting bio-doc, this is more of a visual feast for the senses as the magnetism of McEnroe’s on court behaviour, the intensity of his efforts and the sheer physical and emotional turmoil he put himself through is displayed in all its glory in this immersive and highly engaging 16mm flashback.

That Summer

Set in the years before Grey Gardens, that now landmark film widely regarded as one of the most significant documentaries of all time, we see the iconic mother/daughter combo of Edith and Eddie Beale and relatives of Jackie Onassis in their crumbling dilapidated estate in Long Island.

Having unearthed a wealth of previously unseen footage Director Goran Olsson goes behind the veil once more, to highlight the larger than life characters in their bohemian squalor. Having originally began filming in 1972, the project instigated by Jackie O’s sister Lee Radziwill, cousin of the eccentric Beales, was scrapped after Radziwill became frustrated at the focus and attention the scene-stealing Beales were afforded.

However, that very same footage lost for over forty years has now been wonderfully assembled in this meticulous and engaging portrait.


This compelling new documentary premiered at the Tribeca festival last month to red-hot critical response. The film charts the life and career of legendary British groundbreaking fashion designer Alexander McQueen.

Through footage of his celebrated catwalk shows and interviews from close friends and family, we see his rise through the industry, becoming one of the most influential figures in the business and also ultimately his demise after taking his own life in 2010 aged just 40.

It’s an intimate look at a man many see as a genius in his field, who was behind the scenes fighting his own darkness and demons.

The Staircase

The final installment of the groundbreaking, ahead of its time, true crime docu-series The Staircase finally looks set to make a well overdue appearance on none other than Netflix this summer. We’ve banged on about it enough times here at The MALESTROM, but if you haven’t yet seen the 2004 series, you really should do so immediately.

We’ll avoid ruining it with spoilers as it would be cruel to deny the opportunity of watching this fascinating tale unravel. The original premise revolves around Michael Peterson who phones the police after finding his beloved wife Kathleen dead at the bottom of the staircase in their sprawling mansion in an affluent area of Durham, North Carolina.

Expertly directed by Xavier de Lestrade and utilising hundreds of hours of footage from the ensuing trial, with full access to Peterson and his family, there are more twists here than a toboggan run, and it appears that’s still the case with this story. Should be well worth the wait. Here’s a look at the opening scene from the original series.

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