Here’s a look at some fantastic documentaries that are now available to rent from digital providers or have recently hit streaming services.
Video on Demand
“Tower”: Keith Maitland’s powerful examination of the 1966 shootings that occurred at the University of Texas at Austin recently won four awards from the Austin Film Critics Association, including best documentary. The film was also given a special citation for “revisiting a tragic event in Austin history in a sensitive and unique matter.” In order to tell this story as completely as possible, Maitland uses rotoscoped animation in reenactments of the stories of survivors and eyewitnesses to the event. The movie does show actual news footage from that day and archival footage, but the newly created animation is used to incredible effect. Also shortlisted for the best documentary Academy Award, this acclaimed feature respectfully tells the stories of the heroes and survivors from this heinous attack, honoring them instead of focusing on the sniper himself. (iTunes exclusive)
Also on streaming services
“Gleason”: In 2011, after eight seasons playing in the NFL, former New Orleans Saints defensive back Steve Gleason received the devastating diagnosis of ALS, known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, at the age of 34. A few months after learning this news, he and his wife found out that they were going to have a son. Knowing that ALS would eventually strip his body of the ability to speak and move freely, Steve began to film video diaries to their unborn child. This raw footage is incorporated into the film, which details the devastating effects this disease can have on a person. It’s inspiring to see how positive he remains in the face of losing the only way of life that he’s ever known, but the filmmakers’ intimate access to the family includes some genuinely brutal moments. (Amazon Prime)
“Growing Up Coy”: Controversy over the rights of transgender Americans to use the bathroom has become a hot-button political issue. From the disputed North Carolina law to our own state government, this is something that a lot of people have been talking about. Director Eric Juhola started following the family of a 6-year-old transgender child in a conservative Colorado town who was told over three years ago that she couldn’t use the girls’ bathroom anymore. That child was Coy Mathis, born as a boy in a set of triplets. Her parents, Jeremy and Kathryn, fought for their child despite all of the odds against them. Ultimately, they chose their child’s happiness over perceived social norms. This film follows their fight all the way to a watershed ruling on civil rights in Colorado. (Netflix)