I thought I'd start my annual Oscars watchalong with a couple of documentaries as these are things I probably wouldn't normally spend time watching.
I started with Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, which I think is only available on HBO.
I don't want to say too much about the subject of this movie as I came to it knowing absolutely nothing about the case (I'm assuming that most Americans will know quite a bit about it, but I don't think news of it really got reported in the UK). As a piece of art (nominated for an Oscar for best documentary feature) I'm very glad that everything was new to me because it made all the revelations more surprising and I watched the whole thing with no real idea where it was going, what would be the outcome and without any preconceptions.
I suspect that most people watching it won't have this 'luck'.
However, this why I don't want to say too much about what happens because if you come to it fresh as I did, it does make very interesting viewing.
Without a doubt the perspective of the film makers is very biased and as you watch the documentary you'll come to understand why and what a legacy the first 2 Paradise Lost documentaries in 1996 and 2000 have. It is an incredible piece of work, massively powerful and engaging. At the start of the film there's a warning that footage from the original crime scene is shown but even with this I was absolutely shocked at what I was seeing very early on. Definitely do not watch this documentary with children around.
As I haven't watched any others of this year's Documentary Feature nominees (Hell and Back Again, If a Tree Falls: A Story Of The Earth Liberation Front, Pina and Undefeated) I suppose I have to compare Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory with the Oscar nominees I watched last year - Restrepo and Exit Through The Gift Shop.
All 3 were totally compelling to watch, you can't really look away and they certainly know how to tell stories in an excellent manner. Thinking back to my days filming and editing news I can't imagine the incredibly hard time the film makers Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky had choosing what to use and how from nearly 2 decades worth of story and filming. I had difficulty trying to edit 3 minute trainee journalist pieces.
Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory doesn't have the danger collecting the story that Restrepo had that made it so breathtaking, but the film makers have gotten deep into the events and use lots of first person interviews without it being monotonous or repetitive. The story and it's twists and length without any apparent end in sight is truly amazing but the way it is handled is also a serious feat to be admired.
But anyway, I shall say no more as I don't want to spoil your viewing (if you get to see it, with it only being on HBO....I suspect it may find its way to the UK's Channel 4) if you like me didn't know anything about the cases previously. By it's very nature it's already a very controversial nomination but isn't the mark of a great documentary to make an impact?
Although I haven't watched the other documentary features yet, this has set the bar very high and I think might even beat my favourite from last year Restrepo in a head-to-head. For it's legacy alone (with the first 2 Paradise Lost films) I think it's on with a strong chance of an award, although I have read a couple of reviews by people who've seen all three films who think the first installment is the best.
Would I recommend it to others to watch? Yes
Would I watch it again? Probably
What score woul I give it out of 10? 8.5*
*I don't want to set the bar too high it being the first documentary I've seen this year.
If you watch Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory, let me know what you think about it!