I wanted to follow up last week’s list with another engaging list, so I recalled the New Yorker‘s 20 Under 40 list of writers that was released to much fanfare over the summer. And now there’s the newly announced Time Magazine‘s 40 under 40 most promising civic leaders. Well, why not a similar list of directors who capture the “inventiveness” and the “vitality” [and social conscience] of contemporary documentary filmmaking? I’ll tell you why: there aren’t enough! I don’t mean to disparage all of the young and upcoming doc maestros out there, but give it a think. Can you come up with such a list of 20 under 40-years-olds? It comes down to this: it’s easy to write some old novel. Or a string of short stories. Or to save the government. But it takes time and resources and help from the gods to complete a documentary. And it costs a lot — financially and personally. And so I began to put together a more realistic list: 20 in their 40s. That list is feasible, right? But, you know what, I still couldn’t put one together. Maybe you can. So, alas, I present you my 15 Best Documentary Filmmakers who are Fortyish. These are people who, in my opinion, have made more than one really great documentary — and who have promise to one day make more.

1. Joe Berlinger
Crude (2009)
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster (2004)
Paradise Lost, Parts 1 & 2 (1996. 2000)
Brother’s Keeper (1992)

2. Kevin Macdonald
My Enemy’s Enemy (2007)
Touching the Void (2003)
One Day in September (1999)

3. Brett Morgen
Chicago 10 (2007)
The Kid Stays in the Picture (2002)
On the Ropes (1999)

4. Jessica Yu
Protagonist (2007)
In the Realms of the Unreal (2004)
Breathing Lessons: The Life and Work of Mark O’Brien (1996)

5. Amir Bar-Lev
The Tilman Story (2010)
My Kid Could Paint That (2007)
Fighter (2000)

6. Eugene Jarecki
Freakonomics (2010)
Why We Fight (2005)
The Trials of Henry Kissinger (2002)

7. Annie Sundberg and Rikki Stern
Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010)
The Devil Came on Horseback (2007)
The Trials of Darryl Hunt (2006)

8. Davis Guggenheim
Waiting for ‘Superman’ (2010)
It Might Get Loud (2008)
An Inconvenient Truth (2006)
The First Year (2001)

9. Jeffrey Blitz
Lucky (2010)
Spellbound (2002)

10. Chris Smith
Collapse (2009)
The Yes Men (2003)
American Movie (1999)

11. Liz Garbus
Shouting Fire: Stories from the Edge of Free Speech (2009)
The Execution of Wanda Jean (2002)
The Farm: Angola, USA (1998)

12. Doug Pray
Art & Copy (2009)
Surfwise (2007)
Scratch (2001)
Hype! (1996)

13. Margaret Brown
The Order of Myths (2008)
Be Here to Love Me: A Film about Townes Van Zant (2004)

14. Morgan Spurlock
Freakonomics (2010)
Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden? (2008)
Supersize Me (2004)

15. Nanette Burstein
American Teen (2008)
On the Ropes (2002)

I recognize that this list is woefully lacking in diversity, but I think that speaks more to how hard it is to make it as a doc filmmaker than any prejudice on my part. If you can think of someone who belongs on this list, let me hear you roar. (Spike Lee is too old!)

(And although no one here has hit 50, yes, I am counting a couple people who are in their late, late 30’s as “fortyish.” Face it — you’re getting up there!)

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Tom Roston
Tom Roston is a guest columnist for POV's documentary blog. He is a former Premiere magazine senior editor, who graduated from Brown University and started his career in journalism at The Nation and then Vanity Fair. Tom's freelance work has appeared in The New York Times, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter and other publications. He has written several Kindle Singles, including the bestselling Kindle Singles Interview: Ken Burns. Tom's current list of favorite documentaries are: 1. Koyanisqaatsi by Godfrey Reggio; 2. Hoop Dreams by Steve James; 3.Stories We Tell by Sarah Polley; 4.Crumb by Terry Zwigoff; 5. Montage of Heck by Brett Morgen