- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005

“The Protocols of Zion,” a nonfiction movie about a spike in anti-Semitism in post-September 11 America that opens today, is a documentary that hopes to make a difference. The following are five docs that already have — for better and worse.

Triumph of the Will For world-historical significance, it’s hard to top Leni Riefenstahl’s 1934 propaganda documentary of a 1934 Nazi Party rally. Like D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation,” it is simultaneously revered and reviled by today’s filmmakers.

—If Japan Can Why Can’t We?… Good question. NBC asked it in 1980 in this news documentary about the first Asian tiger’s capture of the electronics and automotive markets. If your American car didn’t break down on the way to work today, you have, in part, this broadcast to thank.

—Koyaanisqatsi: Life Out of Balance — If the envronmental movement’s founding text was Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring,” then this was its ur-movie. Godfrey Reggio’s 1983 nature doc made the case, sans dialogue, that human beings are civilizing themselves to death. A certain former vice president turned cable-TV entrepreneur adapted its subtitle for his 1992 screed “Earth in the Balance.”

Thin Blue Line— Errol Morris’ 1988 true-crime documentary may not have been a hit at the box office, but it certainly made a difference in the life of Randall Adams, a death-row inmate in Texas whose innocence the movie helped prove.

Harvest of Shame — Edward R. Murrow is au courant now thanks to George Clooney’s hagiographic re-enactment of the CBS newsman’s confrontation with Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy in “Good Night, and Good Luck.” A pity Mr. Clooney didn’t revisit Mr. Murrow’s ground- and heartbreaking look at the plight of migrant workers in this 1960 television documentary.

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