Four of Top 10 Film Docs Focus on Northeast Texas


Filmmaker Paul Steckler’s choices for the “10 greatest Texas documentaries,” published in Texas Monthly, includes three set in the Upper East Side of Texas.

“Beauty Knows No Pain” (1972) tells the story of Magnum photographer Elliott Erwitt’s journey from New York to Kilgore to document tryouts for the famed Kilgore Rangerettes, the original majorette drill team.

“Marshall, Texas” (1983) chronicles Bill Moyers’ trip back to his hometown, a place his father claimed has “more Baptists than people.” (Moyers is an ordained Baptist preacher.) Interview subjects tell stories of moonshiners and civil war veterans; of the time when old and young could see eye to eye; and how the railroad tracks out of town pointed to the promise of a different, better life. Moyers also visits with the teachers who instilled a love of poetry in him. The film, which also looked at less savory parts of life, won an Emmy and was the very first program in the award winning PBS series “A Walk Through the 20th Century With Bill Moyers.”

“Hands on a Hardbody” (1997) tells the tale of people in Longview trying to win a truck by keeping their hand on it longest, people who needed to pay off bills, to replace the truck they had to sell, to quit their waitress job, to fulfill a higher calling, or just to test themselves. 

The list, in chronological order, begins with “The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins,” a 1968 selection. It also includes 1976’s “Chulas Fronteras” about Tejano legends Lydia Mendoza,Flaco and Santiago Jimenez, and others.
Others in the top 10 are “The Thin Blue Line” (1988), about the murder of a Dallas policeman; “LBJ” (1991), about Lyndon B. Johnson and his presidency; “The Education of Shelby Knox” (2005), aLubbock-set story about a high school student’s clash with community standards; “Be Here to Love Me” (2005), about Texas songwriting legend Townes Van Zandt; “Oswald’s Ghost” (2007), exploring theories about the unlikely assassin; and “Pony Excess” (2010), about the SMU football scandal in the 1970s.


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