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5 “Must See” Movies for Artists and Art Lovers!

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by Jeremy Rowland

Sometimes artistic vision can be illusive. It’s not that your creative well has run dry or that the world’s stockpiles of inspiration have been depleted. It’s just that sometimes you have to travel a bit further than your front door to find it.

Fortunately, for those who don’t have an endless supply of money and time, these five documentary films do a fantastic job of taking you on an artistically inspiring journey around the world and through time.

Whether you find your muse in the beauties of nature, or your motivation comes from the stories of other artists, these five films are sure to pique your interest in the world and expand your creative horizons.


Jiro Dreams of Sushi
(2011)
Rated PG

You don’t have to like sushi to appreciate this heartfelt biopic. Jiro Dreams of Sushi tells the story of 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono, whose small, basement restaurant has become one of the most sought-after destinations by sushi connoisseurs from around the world. His lifelong love affair with the art form, passion for beauty, and all encompassing quest for perfection are inspiration to the artist and art lover alike.

The lowdown:

Perhaps you’re thinking, “Come on, it’s sushi—how beautiful can it be?” I have to admit, I asked the same question when I first heard about this film; but I quickly realized that we aren’t talking about sushi rolls from your neighborhood grocery store. Jiro’s creations are true art in every sense of the word. His discipline, focus, and passion for creating beauty are inspiring and become a great model for artists striving to improve their process.

(available on Netflix in the United States)

Click to watch the trailer


Samsara
(2011)
Rated PG-13

This visual masterpiece was shot on five continents over nearly five years. Samsara showcases the beauty and interconnectivity of nature as well as cultures from around the globe. A blend of breathtaking cinematography and powerful visual storytelling grants the viewers access into a world they might otherwise never experience.

The lowdown:

Let’s face it, although our world seems to have shrunk thanks to advances in technology, it’s not uncommon to spend most of your life in the town where you live and work. Samsara grants the artist a chance to “travel” the world, taking in the sights, sounds, and excitement of places and people far different from those around you. Since so much of what you create comes from experiences, this film is a great opportunity to broaden your repertoire and encourage fresh creativity.

(available on Netflix in the United States)

Click to watch the trailer


Cave of Forgotten Dreams
(2010)
Rated G

An unlikely museum in the south of France contains the earliest known human artworks. Unlike the lavish galleries of Paris, this display is located deep within a cave discovered by three locals in 1994. Inside, scientists found paintings and etchings preserved so well, and of such cultural significance, that the French government immediately restricted access to the cave. Cave of Forgotten Dreams is the first “public” view of the Chauvet cave and the artwork preserved so long within.

The lowdown:

I knew that art was nothing new, but to realize just how deeply ingrained it is into humanity was kind of a jolt. Many thousands of years ago, someone who was probably a bit hairier and clothed a bit differently than myself—but with the same desire to create art—painted scenes from day-to-day life onto the walls of this prehistoric cave. Watching this film, I couldn’t help but wonder who the artists were. Are we talking a band of rogue graffiti artists? Or was it just a couple of creative do-it-yourselfers sprucing up their first home? I’ll never know, but I sure appreciated this inside look at art from ages past.

(available on Netflix in the United States)

Click to watch the trailer

Born into Brothels
(2004)
Rated R

This provocative documentary begs the question, Can art change the world? In the impoverished backstreets of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), India, many women are forced to turn to prostitution for survival—both for themselves and their children. Born into brothels is the story of their kids; unfortunate victims of circumstance who seem destined to inherit the misfortunes of their parents.

However, when documentary filmmakers Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman present a group of kids from the red light district with cameras, film, a crash course in photography, and the mission to photograph life from their point of view, the power of the art they create offers them a glimpse of something more.

The lowdown:

Born into Brothels is a beautiful and humbling look at the healing power of art. No matter your artistic medium of choice or your reason for creating, this film is proof that the art you create and the encouragement you give to others does leave a lasting impression.

Click to watch the trailer


The Rape of Europa
(2006)
Unrated

As the Nazis swept across Europe during the Second World War, they took more than just human lives. A significant part of their reign of terror included the theft of thousands of rare and precious works of art by history's masters. Both during and after the war, heroic individuals and groups sacrificed their safety and often their lives in order to hide and protect these priceless artworks. The Rape of Europa is their story.

The lowdown:

Often we don’t appreciate what we have until it’s gone, but the men and women who sought to protect works threatened by the Nazis realized their value and did all within their power to protect them for the enjoyment of future generations. The Rape of Europa is full of mystery, intrigue, and incredible stories of sacrifice. The film brings to light the important role that art has played in human history and the influence it will undoubtedly have on our future. Well worth the watch!

(available on Netflix in the United States)

Click to watch the trailer

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