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Originally published February 24, 2011 at 2:41 PM | Page modified February 24, 2011 at 2:43 PM

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If you liked 'I Am,' Scarecrow Video suggests these issue-documentaries

It may stand to reason that if you've made untold millions directing movies like "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" or the Kevin Costner afterlife drama "Dragonfly" that eventually you may find yourself on a personal, spiritual soul-searching quest to discover just what's wrong with our world.

It may stand to reason that if you've made untold millions directing movies like "Ace Ventura: Pet Detective" or the Kevin Costner afterlife drama "Dragonfly" that eventually you may find yourself on a personal, spiritual soul-searching quest to discover just what's wrong with our world.

That's what director Tom Shadyac did, and the result is his self-financed documentary "I Am," wherein he interviews spiritual and intellectual figures from all sorts of disciplines like Noam Chomsky, Desmond Tutu and Howard Zinn to find out what went wrong and how to fix it.

But you gotta remember, we're just movie nerds. That kind of personal growth is just plain outside our purview. When someone asks us about documentaries that address the problems of the world today, we're honestly more likely to point you in the direction of a more concretely issue-oriented documentary like the recently released State of Our Schools examination "Waiting for Superman."

If you're interested in a broader, more philosophical approach along the lines of "I Am," you should definitely come in and check out our "Minds" section in the documentary room, where you'll find tons of similar films concerning a wide range of ideas and featuring many of the same interview subjects.

But if you're more like us, there are a couple of more recent examples of issue-oriented docs we think are worth your time. First up, there's Josh Fox's recently Oscar-nominated "GasLand," which investigates the potentially cataclysmic effects of something called Natural Gas Hydrofracturing. That's a process in which pressurized, chemically treated water is crammed into the earth, releasing natural gas, a valuable energy source. "GasLand" starts out as a seemingly too-impartial condemnation of this practice, a bit stridently knee-jerk anti-corporate, but that's only until Fox starts going to people's houses near land where Hydrofracturing has taken place and goes about lighting their faucet water on fire. I'll say that again: He lights their tap water on fire. Pretty hard to stay objective after something like that. This one is definitely one of those issue-documentaries that seems calculated to infuriate you, and it sure works.

Or perhaps you're in the mood for something a little bit more logical and measured. Perhaps give "Freakonomics" a try. It's actually an anthology of four short documentaries from four different filmmakers. Morgan Spurlock ("Super Size Me") explores whether or not people's names contribute anything to their personalities and the opportunities they might have in life.

Alex Gibney ("No End In Sight") examines corruption in the sport of Sumo Wrestling. Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady ("Jesus Camp") focus on a school experiment in paying students for good grades, and Eugene Jarecki ("Why We Fight") which goes so far as to suggest a link between legalized access to safe abortions and a nationwide drop in crime rates. It's an overall pretty fascinating work that uses as a common thread the search for causality; examining trends and statistics looking for patterns of behavior and subtle correlations. Definitely worth checking out.

We'll be back next week!

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