10 Documentaries That Changed My Life

I'm a weird person. It's okay, I know I am. In addition to many odd things I do, I consistently choose documentaries over reality TV, nonfiction over fiction. My beach read right now is This Changes Everything, a 576-page tome on the connection between capitalism and climate change. Some people find my weirdness interesting (or at least amusing). I mostly don't worry too much what other people think because my mind is already at capacity computing my own incessant thoughts. I think waaaay to much about everything. It drives people close to me crazy and although I try to control this tendency, it is very much my default. One activity that feeds my thoughts is documentaries. I especially love social justice documentaries, of which there are many.

There are so many now that, if you're like me, can fill your Netflix queue to the point where you probably don't have enough time left in your life to watch them all. That's probably an exaggeration, but I've watched plenty and can't wait to nerd out on more. I want to share my favorites from the past couple of years with you. Information really can be life-altering, so be cautious about the rate at which you view them lest you fall into a pit of despair from which no amount of The Bachelor can revive you. These are the documentaries that have changed my actions, my diet, my life.



COWSPIRACY: The Sustainability Secret is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following an intrepid filmmaker as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today, and investigates why the world's leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.

This is the one that convinced me I need to be a vegan. Buy or watch here.


Food CHains

There is so much interest in food these days yet there is almost no interest in the hands that pick that food.

This is an eye-opening investigation of the farm and food worker industries. People doing back-breaking work all day so that we can have sustenance to keep us alive and healthy — they should be some of the highest-paid people, in my opinion. Watch on Netflix.



Happy Movie

What makes you happy? HAPPY is a global journey across countries and continents in a search for humanity's most elusive emotion. The film seeks to share the wisdom of traditional cultures and the cutting edge science that is now, for the first time, exploring human happiness. Through powerful interviews, they explore what makes people happy across the world.

This is a sweet and wonderful film that remains one of my favorites. It got me thinking about what happiness really is. Watch on Netflix.




This is a film based on the book "Death of the Liberal Class" by journalist and Pulitzer prize winner, Chris Hedges. It charts the rise of the Corporate State, and examines the future of obedience in a world of unfettered capitalism, globalisation, staggering inequality and environmental change. The film predominantly focuses on US corporate capitalism, but viewers may recognise the relevance of what is being expressed with regards to domestic political and corporate activity. It was made entirely of clips found on the web. 

Watch the full length film online. Warning: this film contains scenes that some viewers may find disturbing.

Occupy Love

Join acclaimed director Velcrow Ripper on a journey deep inside the global revolution of the heart that is erupting around the planet. Watch on Netflix.

It's hard to create community if the underlying knowledge is we don't need each other...Joint consumption doesn't create intimacy. Only joint creativity and gifts create intimacy and connection. — Charles Eisenstein 

I loved the message behind this film which is: can this be a movement of love? 



Plastic Paradise

Thousands of miles away from civilization, Midway Atoll is in one of the most remote places on earth. And yet its become ground zero for The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, syphoning plastics from three distant continents. In this independent documentary film, journalist/filmmaker Angela Sun travels on a personal journey of discovery to uncover this mysterious phenomenon. Along the way she meets scientists, researchers, influencers, and volunteers who shed light on the effects of our rabid plastic consumption and learns the problem is more insidious than we could have ever imagined.

This film made me double-down on my avoidance of plastic, but also made me despair about the size of the problem. At least that Dutch guy is on it. 



Surviving Progress

Directed by Mathieu Roy, Surviving Progress documentary film is based on the best selling book A Short History of Progress. From Executive Producer Martin Scorsese, this provocative documentary explores the concept of progress in our modern world, guiding us through a sweeping but detailed survey of the major "progress traps" facing our civilization in the arenas of technology, economics, consumption, and the environment. Watch on Netflix. 

I just watched this and think I need to view it again. Main message: our progress has turned into overconsumption and we need a timeout to think about what we've done. 



True Cost

This is a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them and the impact it’s having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking new documentary film that pulls back the curtain on an unseen part of our world and asks us each to consider, who pays the price for our clothing?

I've been aware of the costs of the fashion industry for quite some time, but I still learned from this film. The in-depth access and personal stories made it especially touching. 




Part sociological experiment and part adventure comedy, Vegucated is a guerrilla-style documentary that follows three meat- and cheese-loving New Yorkers from different backgrounds who, for six weeks, adopt a vegan diet and a whole new way of thinking about food.

This is the film that got me started as a vegetarian. Watch on Netflix.



The World Before Her

The Miss India pageant is the ultimate glamour event in a country that has gone mad for beauty contests. Winning the coveted title means instant stardom, a lucrative career path and, for some girls, freedom from the constraints of a patriarchal society. THE WORLD BEFORE HER sweeps back the curtain to reveal the intimate stories of twenty young women determined to win the crown. As the beauty contestants move through beauty boot camp, Director Nicha Pahuja travels to another corner of India to visit a different camp for young girls, the women’s wing of the militant fundamentalist movement. Through lectures and physical combat training, these girls learn what it means to be good Hindu women and how to fight against Islam, Christianity, and the onslaught of Western culture. Moving between the transformative action in both camps and the characters’ private lives, THE WORLD BEFORE HER delivers a provocative portrait of India and its current cultural conflicts during a key transitional era in the country's modern history.

Really interesting take on the position of women in India. We can always use more advocacy for women's rights. Watch on Netflix.



What else should I watch? What are your favorite documentaries?


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