I highly recommend OT: Our Town, a 2003 documentary about a high school in Compton, CA that puts on its first play in 20 years: Our Town. Compton is a beleagured community near LA that's also produced many professional atheletes--so guess how much attention the arts have gotten. It's a very moving story, just when you thought you'd seen one Our Town too many (the video doesn't really focus on the play, rest assured, but on the people and their stories). I'm not sure why this hasn't gotten more attention.
If you have Netflix, OT: Our Town is available on demand.
But Ray, whether one likes rap or not, that really is the art form that not only put Compton on the map, but Compton is also THE most important birthplace of rap. I would think that a documentary of a high school putting on 'Our Town' would want to play down the notoriety which is what Compton is certainly most famous for (the rap music scene 'straightoutacompton', with such figures as Suge Knight, Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dog, the Bloods gang is identified with Compton as are the Crips with Long Beach), and even in the Compton Station of the Blue Line, you see efforts that reflect what I imagine the documentary is trying to show: This 'beleaguered community', as you accurately call it, that knows it's beleaguered, and wants to protect what is not violence-oriented within it. There were these high school student-type sculptures and murals on the platform--I've been there a few times, but won't wander very far, the place is not safe--that were trying to show a troubled community working to get beyond the gang-identified place it has long been.
So I can imagine it's worthwhile to see it, although 'Our Town' in Compton does sound a little Twilight Zone, however admirable.
Michael Apted's "Up" series which traces a group of British schoolchildren from the time they were 7, with a follow-up every 7 years, has really become a fascinating series too.
These are indeed very good, and I've seen all of them unless there's a very recent one to come up. I remember that in one of the last ones, the very wealthy one refused to continue appearing. I've never seen this form anywhere else, but it's very effective, and is a little like Reality TV when you watch all of them. That's why some of them didn't want to continue, I'm sure, it's really their personal lives that are being documented.
I've got tons of favourite documentaries, one was on PBS about a tragic African tribeswoman, I even have the script and will try to find it. Another great PBS documentary was about San Diego twin girls whose parents did not really see that they were not spending enough time with other kids or even conversing with their parents, and developed a language of their own, or dialect or linguistic something of other. I was very moved by this, and even still have a recording of the sound on an old cassette tape. Can't remember that title either.These litle girls were truly the most charming pretty creatures, and many years will have passed; I hope they made it.
I also liked 'Riding Giants' about surfing the biggest waves in the Pacific, and Thom Anderson's 'Los Angeles Plays Itself', which shows buildings and locales in Los Angeles that were often used in films, like the Bradbury Building downtown, and the various filming done at Bunker Hill before it was destroyed from what it was; these includ 'Double Indemenity', Stanwyck's house. Those are just two from 2004.