Thank you, Netflix! I have now seen all of the nominated full-length documentaries for 2013. Here are my reviews and predictions:
The Act of Killing: Wow. This was definitely a fucked up movie. The director went to Indonesia and asked the people responsible for mass killings in the 1970's to tell their stories under the pretense of making a movie about those killings. Old members of the military, para-military groups, or just right-wing thugs/gangsters were asked to graphically describe how they killed people, and they do it! It's a chilling tale about how people could be so cruel and how they think that time heals old wounds.
Cutie and the Boxer: The story of a Japanese artist couple. I didn't find their art particularly interesting or very good. What struck a cord in me was their love story and how they have stayed together for so long while enduring so many hardships.
Dirty Wars: A powerful documentary about how the U.S. "War on Terrorism" has grown from a hunt for a few dozen terrorists to an all-out war against individuals around the globe. It certainly raises a lot of questions about the legality of launching drone strikes/assassinations all over the globe without any formal declarations of war.
The Square: The on-the-ground history of the struggle for the future of Egypt. It's amazing how much history has happened in Egypt since the ouster of Hose-me Mubarek. I thought this movie would deal with the struggle that occurred during the initial occupation of Tahrir Square. Oh no. The story BEGINS there and goes to the present-day struggle. Scary stuff!
20 Feet From Stardom: The history of prominent back-up singers in American pop music. A slick, well-produced movie about the people who sang in the background of America's favorite pop hits. It's a very interesting story about the great voices of American pop music history who, for the most part, remained in obscurity.
In terms of production value, "20 Feet From Stardom" would be the hands-down winner. In terms of story, I'd have to say that "Dirty Wars" had the most political impact. So now let's see who the winner will be!