These Are the 10 Best Documentaries of 2016

By Julia Fellsenthal

This past summer, I spoke to the documentarian Joe Berlinger about his Netflix film "Tony Robbins: I Am Not Your Guru, "which dropped in on the self-help star during his annual "Date With Destiny" lecture series. Berlinger's film didn't quite rise to best-of-year status, but its director had some interesting thoughts to share regarding the value of nonfiction filmmaking. In an age of media consolidation, Berlinger asserted, a time when the line between entertainment and news is fuzzy and getting fuzzier, documentaries become all the more important.

"A lot of investigative reporting in traditional media has gone away," he said. "Into that void, for the last 10 years, has stepped the independent documentary, which is doing much of the social-ills reporting of the day." It's fair to assume in the coming years that documentaries — particularly those that take a hard-nosed, clear-eyed approach to reporting on the problems of our times — will feel all the more urgently necessary.

But in 2016, even as real life started to feel pretty damn real, many of the most interesting documentaries (with a couple very notable exceptions) were historical, formally experimental, or even downright escapist. So take a look at the slideshow for my 10 favorites of the year (with the caveat that there are several reportedly excellent films — among them, "The Eagle Huntress"; "Life, Animated"; and "Those Who Jump" — that I didn't see and therefore didn't consider).

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