I'd like to mention a documentary series that ranks high in top documentaries of all times: the 7-up series. The idea is simple: follow a group of children from the age of 7 and revisit them every 7 years. Take children from various social backgrounds and from different parts of the country and ask them about their dreams, their fears, their passions, struggles and daily lives.
What you get is a extremely personal and confronting portrait of a people and a nation. With every 7 years added to the series, the project becomes more interesting because all the (unfulfilled) dreams and (unexpected) developments have a history we know of. Once we meet people as children, you understand and sympathize with them as grownups.
The original 7-up series started in the 60's and followed children in England. These children are now in their fifties (the last one I've seen is 49-up), some of them don't want to be followed anymore.
Over the last week there has been a Russian version on TV: 7 up in the USSR. These children are born in a country that doesn exist anymore. I've seen the 14-up and the 21-up as well. (The 'children' are now 26 so they'll start shooting 28-up next year.) And again, the quality of this series is outstanding. Michael Apted -who produced the original British series- is an advisor on these series. He and the Russians who made this have done a great job.
The Russian children are beautiful: strong, vulnerable, smart and full of fighting spirit. Without exception, they've had tough lives. And most are still struggling, even though they moved to Israel or the USA. This is real life drama and would nowadays be classified as 'reality television'. But where that term leaves a bad taste in my mouth, this reality series is made with vision, style and respect. A must see for all documentary makers. (and try to watch the original 7up! if you can)