History execs grapple daily with the question: How to present history in a unique way? We felt History got it right with 102 Minutes That Changed America. So did viewers, whose outcry was so great for the 9/11 doc that History repeated it, commercial-free, the evening after its premiere. The piece seamlessly combined 9/11 video taken by more than 100 people, from amateurs to professionals. But the larger touch of originality is that the film guards its authenticity in its audio choices. Only the sounds of the day are heard. There is no narrator. We hear audio of the footage, plus news reports and most chillingly, 911 calls made from the Towers. Did those callers live? How many of those firefighters we see, about to enter the Towers, made it? Without a narrator we don’t know. That’s part of what makes this documentary unforgettable; it forces you to be alone with your thoughts.

Honorable Mentions:

Marijuana Inc: Inside America’s Pot Industry, CNBC: The network’s top-rated doc focuses on the business aspects of pot, including California’s $11 million in sales tax revenue on medical marijuana in ’06. A highlight is a visit to Northern California’s Emerald Triangle, where some 60% of residents are involved in the legal marijuana trade.

KKK: Inside American Terror, M2 Pictures: After a period of relative calm, KKK activity is spiking upward, augmenting its hatred of blacks with activities against gays, immigrants and Jews. The doc features tremendous access to KKK Imperial Wizard Ron Edwards.

Let Freedom Sing: How Music Inspired the Civil Rights Movement, Brainstorm Media: Documentaries about music nearly always suffer from too much talking and not enough music. Not this insightful piece, which makes its case with lengthy blues, jazz and soul performances.

Marathon Love, LMNO Productions: Lynne and Jamie were headed to the altar when a near-fatal car accident left Lynne in a coma for seven years. Jamie waited and married Lynne. Wheelchair bound, Lynne’s a mother and marathoner, pushed in her wheelchair by avid runner Jamie.

Fast Fact

  • Most of the doc’s 100 videographers were amateurs, History says.


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