Documentaries are having a moment (again). Here are three that are definitely worth your time.
The Last Race
Amateur stock-car racing’s heyday is in the rearview mirror. But at Riverhead Raceway, Long Island’s sole remaining track, diehard fans and blue-collar drivers still gather week after week for some gasoline-fueled revelry. In this exhilarating and empathetic film, director Michael Dweck follows track owners Barbara and Jim Cromarty as they fight to stave off developers and help keep an American tradition alive. (11/16)
The era of megafires is here. In 2017, some 10 million acres went up in flames, owing, in no small part, to irregular season conditions and rising temperatures. This documentary, part of PBS’s Independent Lens series, captures the trials one firefighting team must endure in this new reality. We first meet the crew during training in Oregon. Among them: two Bible-school dropouts, a former meth addict, and a middle-aged father with a checkered past. The challenges they face are personal as well as environmental, as they struggle with their fears and interpersonal turmoil when confronted by the flames. (10/30)
They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead
In 1941, Orson Welles produced, directed, and starred in arguably the greatest film ever made, Citizen Kane. But by 1970, the once-renowned auteur needed a comeback. This doc by Morgan Neville (Won’t You Be My Neighbor?) recounts Welles’ failed attempt to complete The Other Side of the Wind, a quasi-autobiographical drama about an aging director trying to revive his career. The result is an intimate look into Welles’ troubled life and creative genius, at last priming him for a long-overdue return. (11/2) —J.R. Sullivan
This story appears in the November 2018 print issue, with the headline, “The Reel Deal.” In it, the documentary Wildland is referred to as Young Men and Fire. The film was renamed after the issue went to press.