Documentaries are a great way to add another notch to your brain belt, and the range of docs that are currently available is better than ever. If your new year’s resolution was to get a better grasp on the injustices, atrocities, and wonders of the world around us, then use this list as a resource. We’ve picked out some real beauts.
In this intimate documentary, American literary icon Joan Didion shares insights and reflections on her remarkable career and difficult life events. Didion originally achieved fame and acclaim during the 60s and 70s when she wrote about America’s changing socio-political landscape, and she has since received much acclaim, not to mention being made the face of Celine (2015). Joan opens up about the death of her partner, followed by her daughter's death soon after, all of which lay the basis for her beautiful best-selling book, The Year of Magical Thinking. The film also features members of Didion’s inner circles, such as her former editor Bob Silvers, an appearance from Harrison Ford (who actually worked as her carpenter in the early years!) and VOGUE editor, Anna Wintour. It’s a really inspiring story of one woman’s resilience and conviction to her craft.
It’s hard to believe that six years have passed since this dance documentary took the world by storm. First Position follows several top dancers competing at The Youth America Grand Prix, it gives viewers an unprecedented look at the crushing world of competitive ballet; tu-tus, tantrums, tears, twinges and all.
This touching documentary centres around a Buddhist Monk who set up a home for orphaned and neglected children at the top of the Himalayas, with an overriding focus on love and compassion for one another. Tashi is one such abandoned child, but she is troubled and unruly, and the film documents the struggles that arise as she tries to settle in amongst 84 new siblings.
Here lieth the incredible story of Rodriguez, the greatest could’ve-been-but-wasn’t rock superstar. In 1970 Rodriguez recorded an album that was hotly tipped to be a resounding success. Unfortunately, the album bombed, and with it Rodriguez’s dream of a rock-and-roll life. Then, years later, his record made its way to apartheid South Africa and over the next two decades he became a phenomenon there, unbeknownst to him. The film follows two South African fans’ search for their unsung hero, a search that results in some incredible findings.
An amateur cyclist and filmmaker, Bryan Fogel’s intention was to carry out a first-person investigation into the use of performance-enhancing drugs. However, before Fogel could even register what was happening, this small-scale exploration quickly turned into one of the largest sporting exposés in modern history. Accidentally exposing Russia’s extensive state-sanctioned doping program (which recently got the country banned from the 2018 Winter Olympics) means that Fogel’s one-man doc enters into incredible territory, fast. The stuff of any documentarian’s dreams, this is a definite must-watch.
What the Health is the most recent documentary to come from the creators of the mega-popular Cowspiracy. For anyone who was bothered by that first documentary, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Undoubtedly responsible for many a heated dinner party debate over the last year, it’s an interesting (although contested) take on big pharma, the meat and dairy industries, and the U.S. government.
With the rise of female voices finally making their way to the public surface, it’s important to educate oneself on the underlying issues at hand, issues that are inadvertently facilitating the current reality. MissRepresentation explores how the mainstream media's often derogatory portrayal of women contribute to the under-representation of females in positions of leadership and power, and provides the grounds upon which we can challenge this reality.
In 2007 21-year-old Meredith Kercher was murdered in Perugia, Italy. Her housemate, Amanda Knox, and Amanda’s boyfriend were convicted and imprisoned for the gruesome killing. In 2015, however, both were cleared of their convictions. The contents of this investigation shed light on the various convoluted aspects of the case, and emphasize the ultimate unknowability of absolute truth, meaning that viewers might come away as confused as ever upon watching. A balanced portrayal of what happened, with in-depth interviews from credible sources, the film goes on to investigate how sensationalism and greed can derail justice and irrevocably ruin lives.
This Oscar-nominated documentary was made by a Palestinian farmer who wanted to chronicle the nonviolent resistance of his community in retaliation to the Israeli army’s detrimental actions. Nominated for an Oscar, this is a heart-wrenchingly moving account of life in Bil'in, a West Bank village where Israel is building a security fence. The filmmaker records five years in total, beginning with the birth of his son and continuing on to depict life through his eyes as a young boy who observes the world unfolding around him.
Main image Photo Credit: Bess Kargman