Documentaries can be hit or miss for me but Netflix documentaries are drawing me into the genre more and more.
My biggest overall issue with documentaries is my own: my attention span. Unless it’s fast-paced or highly edited to make it visually compelling, I might feel like I’m sitting in a lecture and my mind tends to wander.
I’ve been experimenting more, though, thanks to Netflix documentaries. For example, as a family, we’ve turned on short-form documentaries that might appeal to us all. We watched one about competitive eating and another the origins of Sriracha sauce. Does this tell you anything about my family?
But honestly, I think we turned both of these on one evening simply as a result of both curiosity and boredom.
My motivations to watch Netflix documentaries are a little more mature these days. I’m actually looking to learn and experience.
Making Urgent End-Of-Life Decisions
Take, for example, the 24 minute documentary, Extremis. The premise is a slice of life (and death) in a typical hospital where doctors, patients, and their families made difficult medical and ethical decisions about end-of-life care. It’s not a topic I would normally seek out but at a very palatable length, I watched it not once but twice – the second time with my husband.
It was just enough to stir our emotions and make us start the difficult conversation we’ve never really had. The conversation about making medical decisions for the other person. In fact, it’s a great conversation starter for anyone that might someday face a decision like this.
A Bright Spot in the Syrian Conflict
Another conversation starter is the newly released 40 minute documentary, The White Helmets. Normally, I wouldn’t sit down for entertainment purposes and turn on something about the Syrian conflict. This documentary, however, doesn’t focus on the violence and the conflict. It focuses on the Syrian Civil Defense, better known as the White Helmets.
The White Helmets are a volunteer organization of Syrian men who are essentially “angels on the front line.” They are the first responders to nearly every bombing in Syria, with men operating out of 114 centers throughout the country. Seeing the selflessness of this humanitarian group brought more of the humanity at stake in the Syrian conflict to life.
While it’s entirely subtitled and rated TV-14, this is definitely one you can watch with your kids that are old enough to understand and have a discussion with.
Sexuality in the Age of Social Media
Coming to Netflix on September 23rd from the 2016 Sundance Film Festival is the story of Audie & Daisy, two girls of sexual crimes that played out on social media. This documentary is set to be a powerful point of discussion for responsibility for males and females in today’s era where nothing is ever a secret.
I suspect this will be a difficult documentary to watch but an important one to watch, especially with your teens.
More Netflix Documentaries to Watch For
AMANDA KNOX (Netflix Launch: September 30)
Was she a cold-blooded psychopath who brutally murdered her roommate or a naive student abroad trapped in an endless nightmare? In the Netflix Original Documentary Amanda Knox, directors Rod Blackhurst (Tribeca Audience Award–winner Here Alone) and Brian McGinn (IDA Award–winner Chef’s Table) and producer Mette Heide (Peabody Award–winner India’s Daughter) explore the notorious case that made headlines around the world.
INTO THE INFERNO (Netflix Launch: October 28)
Werner Herzog and volcanologist Clive Oppenheimer embark upon a global journey exploring some of the world’s most mythical volcanoes in Indonesia, Ethiopia, Iceland and North Korea. Speaking with scientists and indigenous peoples alike, they seek to understand the complex and deeply rooted relationship between mankind and one of nature’s greatest wonders. Produced by Werner Herzog Film and Spring Films, Into the Inferno artfully blends reportage, history and philosophy into a riveting cinematic experience.
THE IVORY GAME (Netflix Launch: November 4)
The Ivory Game is an epic documentary feature that goes undercover into the dark and sinister underbelly of ivory trafficking. Award-winning director Richard Ladkani and Academy Award®–nominated director Kief Davidson filmed undercover for 16 months with a crack team of intelligence operatives, undercover activists, passionate frontline rangers and tough-as-nails conservationists, to infiltrate the corrupt global network of ivory trafficking. A production from Terra Mater Film Studios and Vulcan Productions, the film follows poachers in pursuit of the ‘white gold’ of ivory. Time is running out for the African elephants, dangerously nearing closer and closer to extinction.
Discovering More Netflix Documentaries
If you haven’t found anything that catches your eye, you probably haven’t browsed through the Netflix interface online in a while. It’s a great way to discover documentaries you may not know about or wouldn’t have necessarily thought about.
Netflix gives you the ability to browse by “Documentaries” and even by Subgenre of documentaries. And the default sort setting is “Suggestion for You” based on your previous viewing habits.
If you find a remarkable documentary on Netflix, please come back and share and so that we can all join in the education and experience.
This post was written as part of my role on the Netflix Stream Team. All topics and opinions are my own.