The Queen of Versailles (2012) PG

At the beginning of The Queen of Versailles, a fascinating documentary, we meet the impossibly wealthy Seigel family: patriarch David is the founder of Westgate Resorts, a timeshare company; and the family is in the midst of the construction of their own version of Versailles, billed as the largest private home in the U.S. Before too long though, the economic crisis of 2008 leaves the company floundering, construction halted on Versailles, and the family making extreme cuts to their extravagant lifestyle.

David’s wife Jackie is the “Queen of Versailles” and she is the quirky, stoic, and often over-the-top heart of the movie. Jackie married into money and has enjoyed it to the fullest, but in the face of an uncertain future she is resiliently planning how to cope if her life takes yet another dramatic turn.

Born to be Wild (2011)

Don't miss this darling 40 minute film about saving baby orangutans and baby elephants. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, Born to be Wild is expertly edited and has a wonderful soundtrack with classic songs by Hank Williams and Mel Torme.

Catfish

Catfish (2010)
I watched the documentary Catfish over the weekend and it was outstanding. It’s a “reality thriller”—you’ll never think about Facebook the same way again. I was on the edge of my seat from start to finish!

Check out articles from CNET and the Los Angeles Times for more details.

Hard Rock Treasures

Hard Rock Treasures (2005)
Hard Rock Treasures is the history of Hard Rock Cafes and how they obtain memorabilia of rock groups. Entertaining and educational! Showed lots of old rockers! Fun!

Don Bernstine hosts the documentary. Learn more at the Hard Rock blog. Visit Hard Rock's YouTube Channel for glimpses of treasures and so much more.

God in America

God in America (2010)
This six hour documentary looks at the settling of America, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and Emancipation Proclamation, and the issue of religion and politics in America from a strictly religious history point of view.

The Evangelical Protestant religion of many of the early settlers made them resentful of either church leaders or kings telling them what to do. Itinerant Methodist ministers traveling in the wilds west of the Appalachians made Methodism the fastest growing denomination in the US until the battle over slavery broke it into northern and southern denominations. The rights of Catholics and Jews to have their children free from Protestant religious training in public schools led to a greater separation of church and state.

In postwar America, Billy Graham and his crusade against "Godless" communism made him the best known religious figure in America. These are just a few of the interesting takes on American history found in this program which was created by a cooperative effort of The American Experience and Frontline.

For more information, visit the companion website.

Control Room

Control Room (2004)
It’s an eye-opening step into what was happening during the American invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Told from the point of view of Arab television network Al Jazeera, the documentary follows Al Jazeera employees and covers time spent in the US Central Command briefing room in Doha, Qatar. It explores the media’s role in modern war.

The only American featured prominently in the documentary – Marine Corps media liaison officer John Rushing – later becomes a Washington, D.C.-based correspondent for Al Jazeera International (check out his YouTube channel). After I saw the documentary, I read Mission: Al Jazeera (2007) by Josh Rushing; he resigned from the Marines after he was forbidden to speak about the documentary with the press.

Read TIME's interview with Rushing shortly after he accepted the job with Al Jazeera or look at Fast Company's article.

H. H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer

H. H. Holmes: America’s First Serial Killer (2003)
A 64 minute biography of Herman Mudgett, focusing mainly on the murders committed while Mudgett used the name H. H. Holmes, but still describing Mudgett’s early life and later his trial and execution. In the late 19th century, Mudgett built what was then called a “castle,” but in what was more reminiscent of a spider web, he captured and killed visitors thronging to the Columbian Exposition of 1893. This could be thought of as the movie version of the book Depraved by Harold Schechter and could accompany a reading of The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson.