From apartheid to Tammy Faye, Sundance documentaries packed punch
By Paul Clinton
Reporting for CNN Interactive
(CNN) -- The documentary category at this year's Sundance Film Festival was especially rich. Entries dealt with social and legal injustice, shed light on their subjects' painful pasts and helped start dialogues that could culminate in a healing process. Here's a look at three of the best:
"Long Night's Journey Into Day" -- The Grand Jury Prize in the documentary category went to this film, co-directed by Frances Reid and Deborah Hoffmann. It documents the painful story of South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission by focusing on four personal stories.
The first features the story of Amy Biehl, an American Fulbright scholar who was killed in 1993. The next story looks at Eric Taylor, a former security guard who took part in the murder of the Cradock Four, a successful group of anti-apartheid activists.
We then meet Robert McBride, a leading African National Congress activist who was responsible for a car bomb that killed three women in a Durban bar. Finally, the focus shifts to the story of Thapelo Mbelo, a black police officer involved in the murders of seven young black men living in one of South Africa's many segregated townships.
"Paragraph 175" -- Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman won the Sundance documentary directing award for this work, which tells the little-known and horrifying stories of the more than 100,000 gay men who were arrested, forced to wear pink triangles on their clothing and sent to prisons and concentration camps by the Nazis in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s.
Only 10 of these men, eight of whom are featured in this film, are still known to be alive to retell the horrors they endured during World War II. Klaus Muller, the determined European project director for the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, found the men, convinced them to share their stories and convinced the museum to include gays as victims of the Holocaust. Mixing personal testimony with historical footage and photos, the film reveals the travails of these old men.
"The Eyes of Tammy Faye" -- The third documentary causing a stir at Sundance didn't win any awards, but the film's subject, Tammy Faye Messner, was by far the most popular presence at the festival. This film recalls the rise and fall of husband-and-wife televangelists Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker and their controversial North Carolina-based television ministry, the Praise The Lord (PTL) Network.
In this extremely personal film, the action follows Tammy Faye from her childhood as the oldest of eight children, to her marriage to Bakker at age 17 in 1960, to their financial, legal and marital collapse in the '80s, her battle with cancer in the '90s, her seclusion from the public and her recent struggle to return to the spotlight. This tabloidish film -- which offers makeup tips from Tammy Faye -- is narrated by RuPaul and directed and produced by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato.
Other award-winning documentaries from Sundance include "Dark Days," about a subterranean New York shantytown, and "The Ballad of Ramblin' Jack," an insider's look at the life of Ramblin' Jack Elliot, an American folk music hero who learned to play guitar from the legendary Woody Guthrie.
MORE SUNDANCE REPORTS:
Brenda Blethyn makes a splash at Sundance
February 1, 2000
Review: Brenda Blethyn shines at Sundance in 'Saving Grace'
January 28, 2000
Slamdance's 'Double Parked' finds audience
January 28, 2000
Tomei, D'Onofrio create their own 'Happy Accidents'
January 26, 2000
To be young and starring at Sundance
January 24, 2000
Tammy Faye at Sundance: 'I'm having fun!'
January 23, 2000
Back in black: Sundance 2000 basks in 'commercial' independence
January 20, 2000
Sundance films in competition
January 21, 2000
A brief history of Sundance
2000 Sundance Film Festival
'The Eyes of Tammy Faye'
'Long Night's Journey Into Day'
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