Did you know that the son of a top Hamas leader was working as a spy for the Israeli government? Or that the Church of Scientology broke up the marriage of Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman? Or that Snoop Dogg was the USC Football team’s hype man?
I didn’t either, until I decided to ditch the Parks and Rec reruns and flip on a documentary (people, you should watch more of these, it makes learning fun). The world is happening around us; from pop culture and politics to sports and technology, there’s so much fodder for filmmakers to tell stories. So much so that Vice decided to create its own 24 hour cable television station to show documentary content from all over the world (trailer below)
But while you’re waiting for that deluge of knowledge, you have to check these documentaries out. They’re not only entertaining, but they’re topical as hell; information that tunes you into the broader issues going on in the world.
Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Disbelief
The only things I knew about Scientology are that Tom Cruise and John Travolta were members, and it was a weird cult. And wow was I right. But there’s so much more to it. The film presents a condensed history of Scientology, it’s founder L. Ron Hubbard and the crazy stories of abuse and exploitation of women, children, celebrities, and the freakin’ IRS. See it on HBO.
1. Green Prince
Get ready for this sh*t. What happens when the son of a founding leader in the Palestinian organization, Hamas, becomes a spy for the Israelis? They make a documentary about it, and it’s incredible. See it on Netflix.
2. The Diplomat
You know who deals with crazy foreign political leaders hell-bent on ethnic cleansing? Diplomats and ambassadors. These are a different breed of people. This documentary tells the remarkable story of the life and legacy of Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, whose career spans fifty years of American foreign policy from Vietnam to Afghanistan. Told through the perspective of his eldest son David, the documentary takes you behind the scenes of high stakes diplomacy where peace is waged and wars are ended. See it on HBO.
3. Winter on Fire
This documentary is about the Ukranian’s brave social and political revolution protesting their leader’s abuse and misuse of power. See it on Netflix.
4. World War 2 from Space
World War II was fought across the world…obviously. But it’s hard to comprehend the war as linear when militaries are occupying different spaces at different moments within the same war. This documentary provides an extremely easy narrative to understand the complexities of the conflict. See it on Netflix
5. Getting Schooled
It’s no secret that NCAA players are exploited by the system. But to what extent? This documentary lays out the history and the abuse of that system. See it on Netflix
6. Beasts of No Nation
Alright, this isn’t a documentary, but it reads like one and might as well be. See it on Netflix
7. ESPN 30-For-30: Trojan War
ESPN’s 30 for 30 series takes a look at the rise and fall of the
unstoppable dynasty led by Pete Carroll, Reggie Bush, and Matt Leinart. It was a scene; you just couldn’t escape the hype and celebrity of USC football in the mid 2000’s, especially when Snoop Dogg was their hype-man. See it on Netflix
8. Hot Girls Wanted
The porn industry is vast and exploitative, and it could ruin your life. This documentary takes a look into the online amateur porn industry and the shelf life of a porn actress. See it on Netflix
9. The Perverts Guide to Ideology
Cultural critic and philosopher Slavoj Zizek examines the hidden themes and existential questions underlying some of Hollywood’s most renowned movies like Jaws, Taxi Driver, Full Metal Jacket and A Clockwork Orange. If you went to a liberal arts school and loved your theory classes, you’ll love this movie. See it on Netflix
10. What Our Fathers Did: A Nazis Legacy
When you’re the son of a Senior Nazi Official, that’s a history no one will let you forget. Coming soon!
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