Reality in 2020 — what a concept! It was possible to look at some of the best documentaries of the past year as an left-of-center form of escapism: Bask in the luxury of a dive bar at closing time! Marvel at the site of so many Texan teens, huddled together sans masks! Watch a politician showing empathy, and another taking accountability, and yet another simply doing his job well? Others were stark reminders of how we got to this singular moment in time, and that you do not need a pandemic to make you realize that some fundamentally broken things need to be fixed.
But like all great documentaries, the 10 titles featured here reflected the world back at us in a variety of ways. Some were playful, formally and otherwise. Others were profound, digging into social issues and case studies with muckraking rigor. All of them were unpredictable, and a reminder than “nonfiction” can be a surprisingly malleable term when it comes to documentaries.