Errol Morris Celebrates The Madness of Sports with Six New Mini-Docs: Watch Them Free Online

In hon­or of Errol Mor­ris’ 67th birth­day, which just passed on Feb­ru­ary 9, is cel­e­brat­ing with a full week of new doc­u­men­taries shot for ESPN by the film­mak­er. Fre­quent­ly named one of the most impor­tant doc­u­men­tary film­mak­ers of our times, he rose to fame with 1978’s pet ceme­tery doc Gates of Heav­en, then cement­ed it with The Thin Blue Line, which helped save a man from the elec­tric chair. (It also start­ed his long col­lab­o­ra­tion with com­pos­er Philip Glass.) Mor­ris has been a pri­vate inves­ti­ga­tor, a jour­nal­ist, and a mak­er of com­mer­cials, all of which pro­vide the men­tal fuel (and fund­ing) for his film­mak­ing. He invent­ed the “Inter­ro­tron” a vari­a­tion on the teleprompter, which allowed his sub­jects to talk straight into the cam­era while he inter­viewed them. It added an unset­tling jolt to his two con­ver­sa­tions with the men vot­ed most like­ly to be war crim­i­nals, Robert McNa­ma­ra and Don­ald Rums­feld. But as Mor­ris says in a Grant­land inter­view, he is not here to accuse or pros­e­cute.

When I was inter­view­ing killers years ago, I enjoyed talk­ing to them. I enjoyed being with them. I wasn’t there to mor­al­ize with them or tem­po­rize with them, I was there to talk to them. And I think that’s still true. Rums­feld pushed it, I have to say.

It’s been two years since his last film, the Rums­feld inter­view The Unknown Known, and, while we wait for his next fea­ture and pos­si­bly a third book, Mor­ris has giv­en us six short docs that range between 10 and 20 min­utes. The Sub­ter­ranean Sta­di­um (at the top of this post) delves into the sub-cul­ture of table­top elec­tron­ic foot­ball games that have been around since the 1940s, and the grown-ups who still play them.

The Heist exam­ines, with dia­grams and sus­pense­ful music, the four col­lege stu­dents who stole Michael Jordan’s jer­sey from the vault­ed heights of a sta­di­um.

The Streak­er
pro­files Mark Roberts, the affa­ble Liv­er­pudlian who has streaked at “every major sport­ing event in the world.”

There are three more videos wait­ing to be doled out. (Find them here.) One is on A.J. Mass, a writer for ESPN; anoth­er about sports col­lectibles; and the oth­er about horse rac­ing. The con­stant theme is the par­tic­u­lar mad­ness of sports fans, obses­sion being a major theme of Mor­ris’ work.

The oth­er link in all these films is the sound of Mor­ris, who choos­es not to edit out his off­screen voice. It’s the sound of a man clear­ly hav­ing a good time. How­ev­er:

“I’m sick of inter­view­ing,” he says. “I am real­ly sick of it. I’m not gonna say I do it bet­ter than any­body else, but I do it dif­fer­ent­ly than any­body else. I am good at it, for what­ev­er rea­son. There are a lot of dif­fer­ent rea­sons, but if that’s all I’m going to do for the rest of my life is stick a cam­era in front of peo­ple and say to them, “I don’t have a first ques­tion, what’s your first answer?” I think I would be very sad.”

So let’s cel­e­brate Mor­ris before he changes his mind.

This new series of short films will be added to our meta col­lec­tion, 285 Free Doc­u­men­taries Online. Find more films in our col­lec­tion of 700 Free Movies Online.

Relat­ed con­tent:

30 Errol Mor­ris Movies That Can Be Streamed Online

Wern­er Her­zog Los­es a Bet to Errol Mor­ris, and Eats His Shoe

“They Were There” — Errol Mor­ris Final­ly Directs a Film for IBM

Ted Mills is a free­lance writer on the arts who cur­rent­ly hosts the FunkZone Pod­cast. You can also fol­low him on Twit­ter at @tedmills and/or watch his films here.

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