Here are the top 10 documentaries from recent years that you need to watch on Netflix:
- Get Me Roger Stone (2017)
The shock election of demagogue Donald Trump to the White House will be analysed by historians and political analysts for decades from now, but if you are looking for answers, this documentary focuses on Roger Stone, a Republican political strategist, in order to make sense of the unlikely outcome of the election. The documentary is a dark and realist take on the subject, and you are not likely to like it much, but you will definitely appreciate the sturdy storytelling here.
- How to Survive a Plague (2012)
David Franc brings a certain narrative to the AIDS epidemic here with a gritty storytelling of the AIDS disaster that spread through the world, bringing to an end the utopia promised by the sex revolution. The grisly details and the heartbreak of the epidemic is obviously a feature of the documentary but what really stands out are the tales of hope and victory that came as organizations dedicated to advocating for better care and treatment of infected people such as ACT UP and TAG fought back against the disease. Much of the footage used in the documentary is shot by people who ultimately succumbed to the disease which ensures the heavy undertones of the documentary, but the overall message is surprisingly positive.
- I Called Him Morgan (2017)
This music documentary focusses on the life of jazz trumpet player Lee Morgan and his murder committed by his wife Helen Morgan. The movie bases itself on audio recordings of Helen made twenty years after the murder where she described her life with the musician and the circumstances that led her to shoot him during a performance in a full club. There are friend and contemporary jazz artists to appear in the documentary as fillers, and footage of snow falling in NYC is fittingly juxtaposed against Lee’s own soulful music. The absurdity of Lee’s killer and wife recounting with extraordinary cool the life of the celebrated musician is good fodder for jazz fans.
- Indie Game: The Movie (2012)
This Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky creation is extraordinary as it turns a highly niche world into a series of relatable characters who go through the motions while trying to make their mark in the world of independent game development and design. The documentary is funded by Kickstarter but it is an independent take on the indie gaming scene and informative for a broad audience.
- Into the Abyss (2011)
Amongst the many documentaries made on inmates on death row that take sides, this Werner Herzog production stands out as it take a detached view on the topic. Through a series of interviews, we learn motives behind crimes that a selected pool of death row inmates in Texas committed. While Herzog is admittedly against capital punishment, this does not cloud the narrative which is what makes it so compelling. However, as we realise the environment that made the killers who they are, the documentary does challenge traditional views on both sides of the debate.
- Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work (2010)
Women in comedy are rare, and this Ricky Stern and Anne Sundberg creation goes back to the first of them as they follow around Joan Rivers, one of the first women in comedy, on the road when she was well into her 70s. The documentary covers all aspects of her shows on the road, from the makeup room to the stage. The movie also focuses on the late rivalry she had with other women in comedy, many of whom were directly inspired by her, such as Kathy Griffin who publicly acknowledged so. There is also enough bits of her standup thrown in just to demonstrate the brilliance of one of the most hardworking comedy artists in the country.
- Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011)
This may be described as a food documentary but it is layered in more than one ways. The story revolves around 85 year old Jiro Ono who has been often touted as one of the world’s greatest sushi chefs. At his 10 seat, $240 per meal Tokyo restaurant, Ono conjures one of the most mouth watering dishes that Japanese cuisine has to offer to the world. The story also has much to say about Ono’s son, who struggles to keep up with his father’s legacy. The many shots of the mouth watering dish can be classified as food porn, and will make you want to grab the tasty dish in the end.
- Joshua: Teenager vs. Superpower (2017)
Joshua Wong is a little known hero who chose to stand against the education policies of the Chinese communist government. The protests swelled from a group of 20 to 100,000 people and the documentary aims to bring to light the extraordinary courage and circumstances of the protest in the authoritarian country in an inspiring narrative.
- Karl Marx City (2017)
Petra Epperlein heads to her hometown to find out if her father was a Stasi informant, and along with her regular collaborator Tucker, she uncovers many truths about Chemnitz, called the Karl Marx City (as evinced by the title) along the way of self-reconciliation.The movie has been made in black and white, and has included surveillance clips dug out from State archives that add to the story instead of creating distractions.
- The Look of Silence (2014)
The film focusses on the genocide that unfolded in Indonesia in the 1960s through a series of interviews conducted by optometrist as he attempts to confront people who killed his brother. The film starts off innocently enough, but gradually builds into a commentary on the absurdity of killers feted as heroes in a country that has forgotten all about the genocide. This is the better of the two documentaries by Joshua Oppenheimer on the subject(the other is The Act Of Killing).