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 see how I can give more to it than I will ever take, I have found that immersing myself in documentaries and based-a-on-true-story films has been enriching. Netflix in particular has been a great resource with regards to providing a virtual library of films spanning a vast number of topics, subjects and points of view.
Below is a list of some the documentaries I’ve watched (in no particular order). This list is updated monthly, so make sure to check back from time to time.
The Kindness Diaries
Watch my travels around the world on my yellow motorbike, Kindness One, relying only on people’s kindness at each stage of my travel. During this trip, I discovered that everybody has something to share, no matter who they are, or where they came from. This show is about sharing everything that you have, even if you don’t have much. It is about giving, taking and giving-back again. It is about smiling to each other, even when you don’t feel like it.
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez
The Trials of Gabriel Fernandez is a 2020 true crime documentary television series about the 2013 murder and abuse of Gabriel Fernandez, an eight-year-old boy from Palmdale, California.
Hello Privilege. It’s Me, Chelsea
Chelsea Handler explores explores how white privilege impacts American culture and the ways it’s benefited her life and career.
TIME: The Kalief Browder Story
“TIME: The Kalief Browder Story” is a documentary series about a 16 year-old student from the Bronx who spent three years on Rikers Island without ever being convicted of a crime.
When They See Us
Based on a true story that gripped the country, When They See Us chronicles the notorious case of five teenagers of color, labeled the Central Park Five, who were convicted of a rape they did not commit.
The Ivory Game
Elephants are disappearing at the staggering rate of 1 every 15 minutes. Their deaths are fueled by the illegal ivory trade, a dangerous network of violence and corruption that a brave and dedicated few are daring to dismantle. THE IVORY GAME exposes the dark world of ivory trafficking from the planes of Africa to the streets of China. By working with undercover intelligence organizations, activists, frontline rangers and conservationists to infiltrate the corrupt global network of ivory trafficking, the film inspires both outrage and hope. Now Streaming on Netflix.
VIRUNGA is the incredible true story of a group of brave people risking their lives to build a better future in a part of Africa the world’s forgotten and a gripping expose of the realities of life in the Congo. In the forested depths of eastern Congo lies Virunga National Park, one of the most bio-diverse places in the world and home to the last of the mountain gorillas. In this wild, but enchanted environment, a small and embattled team of park rangers – including an ex-child soldier turned ranger, a caretaker of orphan gorillas and a Belgian conservationist – protect this UNESCO world heritage site from armed militia, poachers and the dark forces struggling to control Congo’s rich natural resources. When the newly formed M23 rebel group declares war in May 2012, a new conflict threatens the lives and stability of everyone and everything they’ve worked so hard to protect.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A collection of documentaries that explores the hidden side of human nature through the use of the science of economics.