Must See Documentaries

Siena Ferrick, Sports Editor

Happy Valley:

The opening scene of mobbing football fans and tailgating families contrasts the real focus of this documentary: Jerry Sandusky’s sexual assaults and his impact on the town. The film does its job of explaining how Sandusky’s acts affected the people of Happy Valley as well as the rest of the college football world. Interviewees include Jerry Sandusky’s children, his victims and locals who feel both betrayed and bewildered.  It examines his crimes and how they were able to continue for so many years without anyone turning him into the authorities. Although the Penn State program has bounced back, recently winning the Big Ten title, at the time of production the team’s success and credibility had been devastated by the horrific actions of the former Penn State assistant football coach and the revelation of his new character  as a prolific rapist and pedophile.

Who Took Johnny:

This hour and half long crime documentary delves into the horrific kidnapping of a 12-year-old boy (although initially reported incorrectly as being 14) named John Gosch from West Des Moines in 1982 during his paper route. There was no evidence or trail of Gosch, and his mother fought to find him for 30 years to no avail. The film talks about other kidnap victims around Iowa and Gosch’s mother talks to the parents of other victims. She gives them advice as to how she moved through the years following the disappearance of her son. The movie also closely examines Noreen (Gosch’s mother) and her life after the disappearance of Johnny. Her story is terrifying, and she talks of her first husband’s death, and the aftermath of a tornado that left her family covered in their own house’s debris. The film is both shocking and dark as the crime’s impact and it’s inability to be solved continues on for the duration of the film. His case has become a basis for many conspiracy theories, and Noreen has claimed to have seen her long-lost son a few times in her life since his disappearance.

(Dis)honesty: The Truth About Lies:

An interesting and eye-opening exposé on lying and its effect on the American people and the American economy, the film presents interviewees who have all lied in their own right (from a mother who lied so her children could attend a different school to a doping bike racer) and each talks of their experience with lies and the impacts of the lies on their lives to this day. Head researcher, Dan Ariely, gives lectures on the science and human nature behind lying. He performs multiple experiences that test a person’s honesty and his results are both worrisome and familiar. The documentary follows all these cases and uncovers the reason most people lie and the underlying causes of telling falsehoods, from gender to number of participants to age.

The Propaganda Game:

The eery reality of North Korea is exposed and explored by American journalist, Alvaro Longoria, who travels to North Korea to get a peek into the ways of the regime. He meets a spaniard, who is an honorary North Korean and fully buys into their way of life. The film reminds the viewer not so subtly, that this is an actual country, that is actually exists and poses a legitimate threat to the American people. The North Korean people, with the exception of one human rights activist, seem content and unified under their supreme leader. There is a haunting sense of calm that blankets the downtown, marble lined walk by the capitol buildings. The synchronized outfit and hair combination is also very noticeable, and as an American looking in, a sense of identity seems to have been lost on the people of North Korea. The documentary explores the effects that a unified Korea would have on the global economy and the impact it would have in a military sense. THe outcome doesn’t look particularly positive for any country, including the US, but the activists insist the unification of Korea is a Human Rights campaign, not a military one. Viewers are left feeling both uncomfortable and intrigued as the film ties up with the justification for public execution of “traitors”.

Survive and Advance (ESPN):

If you want to laugh, cry and have your heart violently tugged at, all while being inspired, this ESPN 30 for 30 about Jimmy V’s 1983 NC State Wolfpack’s journey to the National Championship fits the bill. Jimmy V, a legendary coach who is perhaps most well known for his inspirational ESPY award acceptance speech during his battle with cancer, connects immediately with the viewers because of his friendly disposition and gregarious nature. During his tenure at NC State he was known for being loud, boisterous and vivacious. He breathed a certain life into the, at the time, dull world of college basketball. Coaches and players tried to drag the young and brash coach down, but Jimmy V never let them push him around. The team reminisces on their improbable rise to the 1983 title and memories are shared around the table, giving those watching a very homey feel. The documentary also closely follows each overtime or one point victory the team managed to pull out during the season (there were nine of them) and each player shares how the late Jimmy V helped them win the championship in ‘83.