Top Documentaries at The Phoenix Film Festival

This year's Phoenix Film Festival screened several feature length and short documentaries about pot smugglers, wild horses (and the crazy people that train them), the science of happiness, translating American television into Russian, and In-n-Out Burgers. But there were a few that truly stood apart.

Here are our top pics from the documentary category:

1. Exporting Raymond

Phil Rosenthal, creator and writer of the hit series Everybody Loves Raymond, documents his adventures and misadventures in Russia as he tries to adapt the show for Russian audiences. This film opens on April 29 and will play at Harkins Camelview.

2. Happy by Roko Belic.

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The filmmakers travel the globe looking for happiness, or at least a definition of happiness. They consult academics and average Joes from around the world to get to the science (and not-so-science) behind the universal feeling. (Showcase Feature)

3. Thespians by Warren Skeels. 

Thespians // Trailer from TigerLily Media on Vimeo.

Skeels follows groups of Florida theater geeks as they prepare for the largest high school theater festival in the world. (Winner of the Best Documentary Award.)

4. Wild Horse, Wild Ride by Alex Dawson and Greg Gricus.

Beautifully shot, this documentary follows nine competitors in the Extreme Mustang Makeover Challenge held in Texas each year where 100 horse trainers and paired with 100 wild horses to train and prepare for adoption, and features cowgirl Wylene Wilson. (This film took home an Audience Choice Award and the Jury Prize for Cinematography).

5. Square Grouper: The Godfathers of Ganga by Billy Corben.

This clever film examines three major pot smuggling operations run out of southern Florida in the 1970's.  Click here for more on the film. (Showcase Feature).

Top 3 Short Doc Picks

1. Old People Driving by Shaleece Haas.

Old People Driving trailer (1:30) from Shaleece Haas on Vimeo.

The filmmaker chronicles two elderly men, one of them her grandfather, as they decide whether or not to continue driving. (This film won Best Documentary Short.)

2.  Eloy Take Two by Roberto S. Oregel. 

Oregel chronicles the art, music, and creative process of Chicano artist Eloy Torrez. Includes interviews with Cheech Marin and 311 frontman Doug S.A. Martinez.

3. A Holy Burger by D.J. Carter.

A love letter to In-N-Out Burger, Carter shares with the audience that he is unable to make the documentary he wanted because In-N-Out denied him access. This does not deter him, though, instead he interviews other fans of the burger, explains the secret menu, and looks up the Bible Verses that are a part of the burger chain's popularity.

Catch more films on the Phoenix Film Festival website.

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