Document This: Doctors, Photography, and Coal Mining

While I've been doing more reading (of essays, mostly) lately, I have watched a few good documentaries in the past few weeks:

Doctor Diaries
104 minutes
I, of course, loved this film- it followed several doctors from their time in medical school at Harvard in the eighties to their residencies and then through their professional careers. Becoming a doctor isn't as glamorous as Grey's Anatomy makes it seem (believe me, no one was as hot as McSteamy on this film); the doctors are exhausted, take poor care of themselves, and many experience failed marriages. In the end all except one are still practicing and have some very insightful things to say about their profession.

Should You Watch It? If you like medical dramas or have a soft spot for the field, definitely. It's not sugar coated, or gory (except during a few dissection scenes).

Bill Cunningham New York
84 minutes
This documentary focuses on Bill Cunningham, the famous 80-year-old fashion photographer for The New York Times. His focus on fashion, rather that celebrity or even physical beauty, is refreshing as his unadulterated love for his job. He rides a bike (wearing reflector vest) around the city and stops to photograph outfits that inspire him. The film also discusses how he, and many other elderly artists, were forced out of their studios in Carnegie Hall- Cunningham ended up with a pretty sweet pad overlooking Central Park, but it was still a bit insensitive of the management. 

Should You Watch It? At times it was a little slow, so if you're looking for something fast or provocative probably not. I did definitely appreciate the spirit of the movie.

The Last Mountain
95 minutes
I seriously debated on whether or not to write an entire post on this documentary, but then I decided that perhaps not everyone is as interested in how coal mining is destroying the Appalachian Mountains as it turns out I am... I felt a bit naive going into the movie; yes, I know coal mining is bad and that coal power is extremely dirty. I quickly learned that the common technique used, including on the mountain featured in this movie, Coal River Mountain, is to basically chop off the mountain top, take out the coal, chop of some more, take the coal- you get the picture. Then, when they're finished raping the mountain they pile the dirt back up and pretend that somehow grass and forests will grow back over completely contaminated topsoil. The environmental effects carry over, though, polluting the air and the water. People in turn end up sick as a result from breathing in the heavy metals (interesting studies were cited in regards to the IQ levels of children, autism rates, and cancer). And, of course this ecological nightmare is allowed to continue because coal mining is a multi-billion dollar industry with lobbyists that basically bribe politicians through campaign donations (for example, George W. Bush). Bobby Kennedy works with the environmentalists and has made some headway with the Obama administration, but not enough. It's a really serious situation: coal mining and coal power are presumed to be the number one source of greenhouse gas emissions, which in turn is leading to global warning. Apparently I feel very passionately about coal mining and the Appalachian Mountains (were are pretty effing beautiful, by the way). 

Should You Watch It? Yes! It's our duty to be aware. I think the biggest thing we can do is to lobby for clean air initiatives and for green power- like wind turbines!


  1. Docror Diaries sounds really interesting! I love all things doctor-related (ER!), and I like things that give you a glimpse into the long term. One of my friends from high school is in the process of becoming a doctor. It's crazy to think of all the schooling involved. I majorly admire people willing to work that hard.*

  2. I was considering watching Bill Cunningham New York and now I will!

    And I guess I will watch The Last Mountain because I like to be well-informed; however, I never would have thought to watch it. Thanks for the heads up!

  3. Doctor's Diaries sounds cooool! I'll have to see if it's available somewhere in SA :D