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Slice of Life – 5 Real Life Documentary Characters You Won’t Forget

Cat Dancers

Ron Holiday narrates the tale of his eccentric life.  He tells of meeting his wife Joy, pursuing dance, and then living the dream as an exotic animal entertainer.  Predating Siegfried and Roy, Ron and Joy and sometimes Chuck perform and cuddle with dangerous animals and each other.  Sometimes funny, sometimes dark, I don’t quite know what to make of Ron and his story, but I definitely won’t forget him.  I might be out on a limb suggesting this for a widespread audience, but Cat Dancers will have its fans.


cowboyBuck Brannaman is a man I want to know.  This doc will appeal to the widest audience of all on this list.  After a friend raved over it to me, I saw it, and then passed it on to my father, who loved it & passed it on as well.  Buck is the character the Horse Whisperer was loosely based on.  Admitting ignorance, I actually haven’t seen that film or read that book and have no idea how it compares to this portrait of a man?  Buck’s way of being shares a simple but valuable lesson.  Treat animals as you would want to be treated.  Simple, beautiful, and real, it’s not just for horse enthusiasts.  I hope you want to share it forward too.

Pressure Cooker

chefsWilma Stephenson, urban Philadelphia public school teacher is a force to be reckoned with.  Describing a favorite teacher, one student sums her up as having “good intentions…but sometimes bad people skills.”  She definitely turns up the heat as she rigorously trains her prodigies each year in a culinary arts class.  At stake are much needed scholarships in an end of the year high pressure culinary competition.  Loveable or explosive, Ms. Stephenson makes quite an impact on the youth around her.

King of Kong: A Fist Full of Quarters

Young man playing arcade gameSteve Wiebe is a likeable guy down on his luck.   When I saw this a few years ago at a festival, the same day I witnessed HIV positive children living in barren orphanages in Africa, the terror of having your homeland occupied by a foreign army, and an up close look at fisherman harvesting fresh sushi from the ocean.  Still, I was no less than outraged while watching this film!  Keep fighting buddy; you’ll earn that Donkey Kong championship!  Oooh, that Billy Mitchell really got under my skin.  See if you feel as passionately about video games from the 80s and this important cut-throat competition.

The Wild and Wonderful Whites of West Virginia

Back tattooJesco White is a renegade with a talent for mountain dancing.  This is so messed up.  This is so messed up.  I kept saying that to myself, yet I was strangely mesmerized by the spectacle of this hard-livin’ hillbilly clan.  Jesco, Mamie, Sue Bob, and the rest are all unforgettable.   However, I wouldn’t want to see them up too close.  I decided immediately never to set foot in Boone County, West Virginia for fear of a tragic end.   Sung about by Hank III, this wild family will entertain you or affirm your belief in the demise of our society.

- Amanda, Circulation

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