High-quality digital video technology and looser channels of distribution have produced a gusher of documentaries in recent years. Often provocative (“Jesus Camp”), sometimes outrageous (“Fahrenheit 9/11,” “Religulous”), the new wave of documentaries also can be quite … dry. Like “I.O.U.S.A.,” opening today, a film that takes on America’s national debt and ever-worsening fiscal situation. It’s a highly important topic, of course, but we can see where this is headed.
1. I.R. Mess — A penetrating look inside the massively inefficient and intrusive Internal Revenue Service. In a movie rife with poorly dressed accountants, no bureaucratic stone is left unturned.
2. The Temple — Inspired by journalist William Greider’s book “The Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country,” this doc brings a stunning narrative to life with images of… bankers meetings at large conference tables and crunching numbers on computers.
3. Interstate Hate Song — Everyone hates traffic congestion. Finally, a documentary explores its causes and possible remedies. Critics will exult at how readily the film makes viewers feel like they’re actually stuck in gridlock, despite smog-free theaters.
4. Budget Buddies — Ever wonder how presidents and lawmakers often arrive at different budget and deficit projections? This film illuminates the subtle interplay and rivalry that turns on the fiscal forecasting of the Congressional Budget Office and the executive branch’s Office of Management and Budget.
5. Jersey Boys — We pass them by so often that we hardly notice them anymore: Jersey barriers, those ungainly concrete structures, necessitated by a post-Sept. 11 security environment, that restrict our access to public arteries and monuments. “Jersey Boys” tracks the secret work of city planners and security consultants and includes riveting footage of barrier-mover machines.