A Netflix Guide to Activism & Change

We live in a very complex world. It’s as beautiful as it is ugly, as hopeful as it is depressing, and as light as it is dark. We find ourselves trying to make sense of it; and when we do, our next struggled is trying to figure out how we can make a difference and make it better.

In my quest to make sense of the world and figure how I can be someone who contributes to making it better, I try to expose myself to knowledge that expands mind and how it sees and understands the world. This series of documentaries listed below has helped in my awakening and I hope it will do the same for you. I hope you bookmark this page and check back monthly to see what I have added to it.


13TH

The title of Ava DuVernay’s extraordinary and galvanizing documentary 13TH refers to the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, which reads “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States.” The progression from that second qualifying clause to the horrors of mass criminalization and the sprawling American prison industry is laid out by DuVernay with bracing lucidity. With a potent mixture of archival footage and testimony from a dazzling array of activists, politicians, historians, and formerly incarcerated women and men, DuVernay creates a work of grand historical synthesis. Now Streaming on Netflix.

Poverty Inc.

The West has positioned itself as the protagonist of development, giving rise to a vast multi-billion dollar poverty industry — the business of doing good has never been better. Yet the results have been mixed, in some cases even catastrophic, and leaders in the developing world are growing increasingly vocal in calling for change. Drawing from over 200 interviews filmed in 20 countries, Poverty, Inc. unearths an uncomfortable side of charity we can no longer ignore.

Welcome to Leith

This documentary tells the story of the tiny prairie town of Leith, North Dakota, saw its population of 24 grow by one. The newcomer was Craig Cobb, a notorious white supremacist. Quietly snapping up plots of land, he planned to take over the town government and establish Cobbsville, a haven for white separatists. In organizing a rally of supremacists and neo-Nazis and courting them to take up residence, Cobb does not endear himself to Leith.

Divorce Corp

 This explosive documentary reveals the family courts as unregulated, extra-constitutional fiefdoms. Rather than assist victims of domestic crimes, these courts often precipitate them. And rather than help parents and children move on, as they are mandated to do, these courts – and their associates – drag out cases for years, sometimes decades, ultimately resulting in a rash of social ills, including home foreclosure, bankruptcy, suicide, and violence. Solutions to the crisis are sought out in countries where divorce is handled in a more holistic manner.

Inequality for All

A documentary that follows former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich as he looks to raise awareness of the country’s widening economic gap.

Blackfish

Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s critically acclaimed documentary Blackfish centers on a captive orca named Tilikum. He was torn away from his family and ocean home when he was 2 years old, and out of frustration caused by nearly 20 years of intense confinement, isolation, and lack of emotional and intellectual stimulation, he has killed three humans.

Tricked

This character-driven film considers the evolving sex trafficking landscape as seen by the main players: the exploited, the pimps, the johns that fuel the business, and the cops who fight to stop it.

Trophy Kids

From the director of Bigger Stronger Faster comes an intense look at overbearing parents in sports. The film asks the question “Do we want what’s best for our children? Or do we just want them to be the best?” Parts of this film were used in the premiere of Peter Berg’s HBO series State of Play.

The Mask You Live In

The Mask You Live In follows boys and young men as they struggle to stay true to themselves while negotiating America’s narrow definition of masculinity.

Freakanomics

A collection of documentaries that explores the hidden side of human nature through the use of the science of economics.

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