A few months back, I shared a bunch of documentaries that I found to be impactful. Time has since passed, so here are a few more. And while I’m definitely no one to say what is or isn’t “worth your time,” the following five films definitely provide a refreshing alternative to the daily humdrums of an instagram feed:
1. Inequality For All
Robert Reich is a very prominent political economist and bestselling author who served as The Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton. In other words, he’s a pretty smart dude.
Through the lens of an income inequality class at UC Berkley, Reich pieces together how America has created an economy — and in turn, political engine — that continues to marginalize the crumbling middle class, and increasingly seeks to serve only a very small (but mind-bogglingly wealthy) portion of America.
Although Reich’s views most certainly skew liberal, I personally felt that this documentary didn’t lend lip service to one party or another. Rather, it focused primarily on the facts — and then uses the (oftentimes alarming) facts the demonstrate how we’ve arrived to where we are today. As compelling as it is powerful, and definitely an important watch no matter your politics. Reich could also be a stand-up comedian in another life, as his setup-punch structure is incredibly on point.
2. Jiro Dreams Of Sushi
A few years back, I attempted to watch Jiro. It kept popping up on my Netflix feed, and seemed to possess this air of critical acclaim that was impossible to ignore.
Alas, I couldn’t get through 20 minutes.
Recently, I gave it another chance. And two hours later, I hated myself for initially lacking the capacity to truly appreciate what is definitely a pretty remarkable movie. What I liked most about Jiro is that as much as it’s about sushi, it’s really just about how to succeed at a craft. Jiro’s primary lesson is that If you want to be really good at something, you need to live, breathe, and bathe in that thing. And although this is a pretty established notion, Jiro is a remarkable study of this philosophy in action. This is epitome of letting your game do the talking.
3. The U
ESPN’s ongoing “30 for 30” series has produced some pretty great documentaries. One of the best is most definitely The U, Billy Corben’s look into the rise of the University of Miami football program (legendarily known “The U'”) in the early 80s.
Miami, which won four National Championships between 1983 – 1991, brought with them a completely new brand of football; one predicated on a sort of showboating ostentatiousness that took the state of Florida — and in turn, the college football world — by storm. The U is a must-watch for any college football fan, but the narratives here really transcend sports. It’s really just about a group of people doing something no one had ever done before, and everything that came with that.
4. The “Seven Up” Series
One of the more fascinating social experiments of the modern era, Michael Apted’s “Up” series is a longitudinal study that has tracked the lives of 14 different British children since 1964, when they were 7 years old. Every seven years the participants are interviewed, at which time a subsequent film is released. For example, “56 Up” was released in 2012.
Since its inception, the documentary series has intended to focus on the mobility (or lack thereof) within the British class system — the participants selected were from differing socio-economic backgrounds, which was done in order to test the assertion that social class is the primary driver in one’s future. And although class is definitely a major driver and theme here, the amount you can learn from these interviews is overwhelming. From the collective mindset of an “age group,” to the trials and tribulations of love (you get the full spectrum, from married with children, to divorced, to engaged for 14 years), to the meta approach that the film has taken on (their participation in this series has had a huge affect on their daily lives), there is really nothing else like the “Up” series.
I sadly haven’t watched all of these (I watched a number of them for a psychology class in college, and like a critically-acclaimed HBO show, have been meaning to get around to the last 2 seasons), but I’d highly recommend watching at least two. The progressions are amazing. If you don’t want to listen to me (fair enough), Roger Ebert called the project one of his ten favorite films of all-time.
5. Craigslist Joe
You may remember this being pretty popular on social media feeds a few years ago. I did, and decided to check it out when it was released.
The premise is pretty simple here. For a month, Eric Garner traveled the country supporting himself ONLY through using Craigslist. As a result Eric meets some pretty fascinating individuals and develops a narrative that attempts to explore the notion of community in Modern America, particularly as it pertains to our addiction with social media and interaction-fueled isolation. Definitely more of an experiment than anything else, but a pretty cool one nonetheless.