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5 Documentaries Where the Makers Meet Their End

From suicide to accidental death (and even a vague place between the two) these haunting documentaries show the filmmaker's last moments of life.

By Kasey RaePublished 3 months ago 4 min read


Content Warning! This article contains suicide, violence, and spoilers.

Like all great documentaries, the films on this list provide unique and captivating insights into the lives and stories of their subjects. Serving as a cautionary tale, a relentless pursuit of the truth leads these filmmakers down a treacherous path. This list features some of the most dedicated filmmakers and artists. While their efforts resulted in tragedy, the footage they leave behind is a testament to the power of storytelling.

Human life and documentaries alike have a final frame. In this exploration of five compelling documentaries, the creators themselves became integral parts of their narratives. A fine line is revealed between making a documentary that devours the world, to a documentary that devours its creator.

5. Boy, Interrupted

Evan Perry shortly before his death in Boy interrupted.

A filmmaker turns the camera on her son in 2009’s Boy, Interrupted. Evan was four years old when he first told his mother he wanted to kill himself. To make therapists believe what they say about their son, his parents decided to document his life. Eventually, Evan takes over as cinematographer. This documentary is a compilation of that footage, which ranges from warm and comedic to darkly somber. Modeled after the film “Girl, Interrupted”, shots of an otherwise joyful boyhood show the morbid reality of children with mental illness. 11 years after his initial suicidal ideation, Evan jumps to his death. A glimpse at the bipolar point of view this intimate is rare. To watch this film is to perceive mental illness from the inside and out.

4. Grizzly Man

Timothy Treadwell with his "friend" in Grizzly Man.

This award-winning documentary shares the story of a tragic death that lies somewhere between suicidal and accidental. Ultimate bear enthusiast Timothy Treadwell nestles himself deep in the Alaskan wild every summer. His passion leads to his demise when he and his girlfriend set up camp in the winter. For, as Timothy knows, this is when the bears are most desperate for food. Along with his own footage are interviews with friends and wildlife experts, all of whom share polarizing opinions on the overzealous Treadwell. In his own mind, Timothy is a protector of the bears. But this documentary begs the question, is he merrily putting their life in more danger, as well as his own?

3. The Last Days of Left Eye

Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes on a nature retreat that ended in her death in The Last Days of Left Eye.

The scenes in The Last Days of Left Eye offer the most personal look into the life of a beloved artist. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez made up 1/3rd of the iconic R&B pop group TLC. As a break from show business, Lisa goes on a spiritual wilderness retreat along with a camera to document her journey. The film features extremely intimate moments with Lisa, who felt perfectly at home in her wild surroundings. No one, even Lisa, knew that the camera would capture her final days. Filled with her own video diaries and reflections on life and spirituality, it’s a mesmerizing tribute to an artist gone too soon.

2. Dave Not Coming Back

David Shaw before his last dive in Dave Not Coming Back.

A chilling expedition of deep-sea diving that went horribly wrong, not once, but twice. While exploring South Africa’s Bushman Hole, diver David Shaw discovers the corpse of a fellow diver. A team assembles for a rescue mission, filming a documentary in the process. During the mission crew members discover that the worst has happened. Dave is not coming back. The film takes viewers on a journey into the depths of one of the world's most dangerous underwater caves, offering a stark reminder of the perils of pushing the limits of human exploration. Watching a diver suit up for the last time is a difficult watch, but a hopeful message of human camaraderie shines through.

1. A Gray State

The Crowley home, now a crime scene, in A Gray State.

"A Gray State," blurs the lines between fact and fiction. The film uncovers the disturbing story of David Crowley, a conspiracy theorist who planned to create a dystopian film called "Gray State." In the midst of production, Crowley and his family are found dead in their home under mysterious circumstances. The documentary investigates the chilling case while also examining the darker aspects of online subcultures. The film progresses to show a filmmaker drowning in a dangerous cocktail of stress and paranoia. Crowley’s home footage of seemingly normal family life becomes progressively darker as production for his horrific film moves forward. Eventually, his real-life seems as dark as the fictional one he is creating. Unfortunately, it also becomes just as violent and deadly.

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About the Creator

Kasey Rae

Kasey Rae is a New York City filmmaker, writer, and multi-media artist. She focuses on film, mythology, literature, and more.

Art: @femme_galaxy.ink on instagram

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