Fancy letting Louis Theroux choose your next TV binge? Step this way…
Louis Theroux certainly knows a thing or two about documentaries. He’s taken us to places we’ll never forget, from state prisons to scientology, even hanging out with Neo-Nazis.
He recently returned to our small screens with his three-part documentary, Altered States. Delving into the three topics – euthanasia, polyamory and adoption – Theroux explored the unusual ways modern America deals with birth, love and death in 2018.
“I have always been interested in how people conduct the most intimate aspects of their lives,” said Theroux. “For this series we looked at the new ways Americans are approaching some of humanity’s oldest dilemmas: pregnant mums who feel unequipped to keep their babies and so pick new parents for them; the world of polyamory aka ‘ethical non-monogamy’; and people with debilitating conditions who opt to hasten their own deaths.”
Hopping from California to Portland, Theroux met some extraordinary individuals dealing with stress and anguish.
And part one of the documentary airs this weekend. In the first part, Theroux gets involved in a Sensual Eating Party in Portland, with a group called Sex Positive Portland as part of his exploration into polyamory in Oregon.
“It was all rather embarrassing, but at the same time a little bit liberating,” Theroux said of the experience. “For a moment the idea of a world in which the currency of sex and love was more free-flowing made a tiny bit of sense.”
He continued: “I felt like I needed to throw myself into it in order to show commitment and be respectful to the others. Everyone else was going way further than I was. There were people kind of spasming in ecstasy.”
Naturally, Theroux already has another documentary on the way: Mothers on the Edge, which will take a closer look at motherhood and mental health, will air on BBC2 this May. In the meantime, though, you can watch some of Theroux’s favourite documentaries (which are obviously very good).
Spanning from 1975 to 2016, Theroux has picked out documentaries that have inspired and influenced his career, exploring issues like alcoholism, polygamy in the UK and childhood delinquency.
“It is an absolute privilege to be able to be part of sharing these wonderful, powerful documentaries,” said Theroux.
“Each of them had an impact on me in a different way. They cover a range of styles - some vérité-driven, others told more through interview - but in all of them you see life at its most raw, its most strange and therefore its most human.”
The seven documentaries which Theroux is championing consists of:
1) Inside Story: Mini
2) Fourteen Days in May
3) Storyville: Philip and His Seven Wives
4) Rain in My Heart
5) Between Life and Death
6) Exposed: Magicians, Psychics & Frauds
7) Life and Death Row
Speaking about Storyville: Philip and His Seven Wives, Theroux said: “I love documentaries that are about weird religious behaviour, but I also like subjects that are about unconventional sexual behaviour, and Philip and His Seven Wives has both of those.
“It’s a very intimate look inside how that works, what’s driving Philip and what’s driving the women those are involved with him, and it’s done very well. It could have been a kind of tawdry and tabloid-ish style doc but it’s done very poetically.
He concluded: “There’s beautiful imagery of Phillip caring for his horses and it’s infused with a great deal of visual poetry.”
On Inside Story: Mini, Theroux said: “This film is about an 11-year-old arsonist whose nicknamed Mini. It’s a very affectionate portrait of a young, presumably troubled boy, who is nevertheless very charismatic, talkative, and ebullient.
“I’m always interested in behaviour that is obviously self-destructive or criminal, especially when the person involved seems to have likeable, positive qualities, intelligence and creativity and quirkiness, all of which Mini, this 11-year-old, has in abundance.
He concluded: “You just really fall in love with this boy as you go on the journey with him.”
Speaking about Life and Death Row, Theroux had this to say: “If you’ve seen any Life and Death Rows, I don’t know of any bad ones – all the episodes I’ve seen have been really compelling and powerful.
“This one I thought stood out, as it’s a particularly strong one and I think it’s partly to do with the age of the perpetrators. It’s a pair of very young men, and also the seeming motivelessness and senselessness of the crime.
“It’s powerful, it’s upsetting, and it really stays with you.”
We certainly know what we’ll be watching this evening.
You can read more about Theroux’s work here.
Images: Getty / BBC