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11 brilliant original Netflix documentaries you may have missed

by Jennifer McShane
28th Nov 2020

All binge-worthy watches…


In Netflix’s new documentary series Connected, science reporter and host Latif Nasser hopscotches around the planet to tease out the subtle and surprising ways that we are all inextricably linked to one another and our world.  He discovers how everything from the air we breathe, the selfies we post, and even the poop we poop can be traced back to catastrophic shipwrecks, fraudulent elections, and even distant galaxies.  From the microscopic to the telescopic to the kaleidoscopic, this show will make you see the world around you in a whole new way.

How to Fix a Drug Scandal

This four-part true crime series tells the tale of Sonja Farak – who in 2013 was revealed to have been using the drugs that she was supposed to be testing. Addicted to drugs including liquid meth, Farak would falsify the results of the drugs she was supposed to be testing It later emerged that Annie Dookhan, another chemist at a nearby drug lab, had also been faking the results of tests she’d been employed to make. The story of two drug lab chemists’ shocking crimes cripple a state’s judicial system and blur the lines of justice for lawyers, officials and thousands of inmates – and it makes for a gripping watch

Immigration Nation 

In the ground-breaking six-part documentary series Immigration Nation, acclaimed filmmaking team Shaul Schwarz and Christina Clusiau offer an unprecedented look at the processes, pitfalls and pain of immigration in America. Shot over the course of three years, Schwarz and Clusiau capture the daily workings of Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents, activists, lawmakers, attorneys and a wide swath of undocumented immigrants, from desperate recent arrivals to long-time residents to deported U.S. military combat veterans.

The Innocence Files

The Innocence Files shines a light on the untold personal stories behind eight cases of wrongful conviction that the nonprofit organization the Innocence Project and organizations within the Innocence Network have uncovered and worked tirelessly to overturn. The nine-episode series is composed of three compelling parts – The Evidence, The Witness and The Prosecution. These stories expose difficult truths about the state of America’s deeply flawed criminal justice system while showing when the innocent are convicted, it is not just one life that is irreparably damaged forever: families, victims of crime and trust in the system are also broken in the process.

Anelka: Misunderstood  

Known as the bad boy of French football; arrogant, precocious, misunderstood, scorer, unclassifiable, genius, unmanageable. Despite having a career of almost 20 years at the highest level, Nicolas Anelka is still hard to define. From sporting feats to controversies, he remains a mysterious persona for many observers. It’s an image that Anelka himself has cultivated.  For seven years, Franck Nataf has followed Nicolas Anelka in his day-to-day life. His experiences in China, India, his life far away from France, his children’s birthdays, his moments of relaxation with friends Paul Pogba, Thierry Henry or Patrice Evra. A documentary which lifts the veil on a controversial sporting personality.

A Secret Love

A Secret Love tells an incredible love story between Terry Donahue and Pat Henschel, whose relationship spans nearly seven decades. Terry played in the women’s professional baseball league, inspiring the hit movie A League of Their Own. But the film did not tell the real-life story of the women who remained closeted for most of their lives. This documentary follows Terry and Pat back to when they met for the first time, through their professional lives in Chicago, coming out to their conservative families and grappling with whether or not to get married.


(Un)Well is a six-part docuseries that investigates controversial wellness fads. Each episode dives deep into trends and treatments that catch on like wildfire but that inspire both passionate support and deep scepticism. Topics include apitherapy, essential oils, breast milk, extreme fasting, ayahuasca, and tantric sex. The series will explore all sides of the topic –from what hurts to what works.

Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story 

Made famous initially by the help a certain Kim Kardashian West gave to her legal case, the extraordinary true story of Cyntoia Brown is a must-watch. Brown was aged just 16 when she was convicted of the murder and robbery of Johnny Michael Allen, despite her insistence that she killed Allen after fearing for her life in a sexual encounter. She was then sentenced to life imprisonment. However, her story takes another turn after interest was renewed in her case in 2017, thanks in part to Kardashian West’s social media platform.

High Score

Nineties kids, you’re going to love this. High Score is a documentary series about the golden age of video games, when legends – from Pac-Man to Doom – were brought to life. Through ingenuity and sheer force of will, computer pioneers and visionary artists from around the globe spawned the iconic worlds of Space Invaders, Final Fantasy, Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, Sonic the Hedgehog, John Madden Football, and beyond. This is the story of the brains behind the pixels and how their unmatched innovation built a multi-billion dollar industry – almost by accident.

Circle of Books

The documentary is set in the gay porn shop which for 35 years, has served as an epicentre for LGBT life and culture in Los Angeles. Unbeknownst to many in the community, the store is cultivated and cared for by its owners, Karen and Barry Mason — a straight couple with three children. Their story unfolds through the lens of their daughter, filmmaker and artist Rachel and spotlights the contradictions of growing up in the home of Karen and Barry Mason where sex was never discussed, yet their business became a mini adult empire

Rising Phoenix  

Rising Phoenix tells the extraordinary story of the Paralympic Games. From the rubble of World War II to the third biggest sporting event on the planet, the Paralympics sparked a global movement which continues to change the way the world thinks about disability, diversity and human potential.  Athletes featured in the film include Bebe Vio (Italy), Ellie Cole (Australia), Jean-Baptiste Alaize (France), Matt Stutzman (USA), Jonnie Peacock (UK), Cui Zhe (China), Ryley Batt (Australia), Ntando Mahlangu (South Africa) and Tatyana McFadden (US).  This one is a mesmerising watch.

Read moreNetflix’s ‘Athlete A’ is the powerful documentary you need to see

Read more: ‘Stereotypes run deep in people’: Netflix’s extraordinary CRIP CAMP is a must-see

Read more: Loved Netflix’s Unbelievable? This is the podcast you need to listen to next

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