Documentaries to watch at home - here are our latest recommendations
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On NETFLIX - In 2016, the popular gossip site Gawker was shut down. It was taken down after years of being unable to maintain the financial costs of a lawsuit brought on by wrestler Hulk Hogan. The film follows the entire saga of this lawsuit, from the original sex tape publication by Gawker to the financial backing of Peter Thiel, all the way through the closure of Gawker Media after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Much of the film narrative follows Thiel’s attempt to take down Gawker after they published an article nine years prior outing him as a gay man.
The film then switches narratives, focusing on Sheldon Adelson’s purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal while keeping his identity under wraps, eventually being revealed by his own journalists who called their own contacts.
The film is very timely as we look at the now common attacks on 'fake news'. To be fair, the film jumps around a little between the two narratives, but it's well-worth a watch.
On AMAZON PRIME - The troubles in Northern Island goes back 300 years even though it peaked in the 1970's and 80's. The fear of a return to the troubles is back in the news with Brexit threatening to re-erect a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. This powerful documentary tells the story of those who were killed, and secretly buried by the IRA during the recent "troubles". The film also uncovers shocking evidence which suggests that significant figures of the era may have had knowledge of one of the killings.
On NETFLIX - A documentary that looks into the United States prison system and its long history of racial inequality. The film focuses on the 13th amendment which abolished slavery, but doesn't seem as though it's being upheld with the large amount of African Americans who are incarcerated. It touches on everything from Jim Crow to the Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movements. The film is a call to action to our government and society as a whole to make major changes to ensure there is fairness and equality in everything. This piercing, Oscar-nominated film won Best Documentary at the Emmys, the BAFTAs and the NAACP Image Awards.
On AMAZON PRIME - This is a different in that it is a 10 part mini-series. It is certainly something you could not watch as the cinema. But have you ever wondered about the events that led up to the first world war and what impact it has had on the world. The First World War shaped the twentieth century. It sparked the Russian Revolution, and it launched America as a world power. The fault lines from its failed peace settlement led to a second terrible world war barely twenty years later. We live with its unresolved consequences; in the Middle East, the Balkans and Ireland. It began as a clash in the Balkans, which grew to engulf Europe and the world. Britain joined in, more to protect her great empire than for the defense of small nations. The merciless pattern of the war was set early on with Austro-Hungarian atrocities against Serbian civilians.
Based on the book by Hew Strachan, Professor of the History of War at Oxford, The First World War demolishes myths and offers new and provocative answers to core questions about the war, its causes, conduct and legacy. Filmed in 28 countries, it uncovers fresh and extraordinary material. Hundreds of contemporary eyewitness accounts from front-line soldiers, generals, statesmen, children and women from all sides in the conflict have been gathered. A supreme treasure trove of archive film and stills, much not seen for 90 years, from newly available archives in Central and Eastern Europe and around the world, have been painstakingly authenticated wherever possible.
Coming Soon to Netflix - With tariffs encouraging foreign firms to make more products in the US, what can go wrong? In 2008 General Motors closed its assembly plant in Dayton, Ohio. More than 2,500 workers lost their jobs. Six years later, Fuyao, a Chinese company manufacturing automobile glass,purchased the plant with a new factory that would employ Chinese and American workers.
Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert document the opening of the factory and the years that follow as people from profoundly different cultures work alongside each other. From the outset, within these differences there are opportunities for meaningful exchange and instances of misunderstanding and disagreement. Amazing cinematography documents the experiences of workers on the factory floor,supervisors, senior management, and even the Fuyao chairman, Chinese billionaire entrepreneur Cao Dewang, revealing the cultural collision and its consequences. As time goes on, the enthusiasm around the possibility of solid work gives way to discontent, and low wages and dangerous working conditions lead American workers to consider unionizing, a prospect leadership is squarely against.
American Factory deftly traverses conflicting perspectives and dramatically unfolding events to illuminate the tensions of globalized industrialization. By weaving multiple personal narratives, the film highlights ways that people can come together and the structures that can keepthem apart, making space to consider the gravity of workers’ relationships to their livelihoods, and to one another. Note:' The video is an interview with the team at Sundance.
On NETFLIX - Beyoncé’s history-making Coachella performance was enough to temporarily rename the music festival Beychella last year, and now fans who couldn’t afford to see Queen Bee perform live get a backstage pass to the show with this doc. Are there killer performances, musical mash-ups, and dance routines? Sure. But what really makes this music doc stand-out besides the talent of its star is the intimate look fans are given into Beyoncé’s personal life, from her surprise pregnancy to her struggle to get in shape before the event and all the in-between madness and heartbreak. According to the Washington Post, "If you have a Netflix password and two more hours to spare, you're in for one of the greatest concert films ever made.
Now Available on Netflix.
For those of you who, like me, loved last year’s Blue Planet II, Netflix is at the ready to deliver another stunning nature documentary series. From Alastair Fothergill, the creator of the Planet Earth and Blue Planet series, Our Planet is the culmination of a 4-year project documenting wildlife in over 50 countries, and comprising of over 600 crew members. It is narrated — as every nature documentary should be, with the docite tones of living legend Sir David Attenborough.
The series will also feature local narrators in ten languages, including Penélope Cruz for Spain and Salma Hayek for Latin America. In the first episode, “viewers travel from the Brazilian rainforest to Norway’s Svalbard archipelago, discovering how each fragile habitat is connected and why they are all essential for life to thrive on this planet. Thanks to an extensive team that includes some of the world’s best wildlife cinematographers, researchers and scientists — and the latest in 4K camera technology — each episode features several stunning sequences that have never been filmed before.”
The BBC’s own natural-history series that preceded this documentary have been a gift, enchanting tens of millions of viewers with nature’s wonders. But the BBC shows have also been criticized for whitewashing the decline of the creatures they feature. Disappearing species, shrinking habitats, spreading diseases, accumulating pollutants, changing climates—Planet Earth obliquely hinted at these problems in its final line. “We can now destroy or we can cherish: The choice is ours.”
On NETFLIX - Bryan Fogel’s Academy Award-winning documentary Icarus wasn’t supposed to involve Russians and doping scandal and cover-ups. But few filmmakers have stumbled upon documentary gold in quite as fortuitous a fashion as Fogel. Primarily a playwright (he wrote an off-Broadway comedy called Jewtopia), Fogel is also a keen amateur cyclist and, in the wake of the Lance Armstrong scandal, set out to prove just how easy it was to evade cycling’s creaking testing system by competing chemically enhanced in the same prestigious amateur race that he had struggled in the year before. The plan was to boost his best time, pass with flying colors through the urine tests required of all competitors and broadcast the results in muckraking documentary form. To help him perform this grand experiment, Fogel recruited a team of experts, one of whom pointed him in the direction of Grigory Rodchenkov, the eccentric director of Moscow’s Anti-Doping Center. And that’s when things got really interesting....
Now available until May 5th on HBO Do we need to explain this film? “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” presents the history of Fred Rogers, Presbyterian minister, children’s advocate and the most beloved Republican since Abe Lincoln. Like Honest Abe, Mr. Rogers was known for wearing a specific article of clothing and his ability to sweet talk a Congressman or two. From 1968 to 2001, Mr. Rogers kept millions of little ones out of their parents’ hair by offering a half hour program designed to counter the cartoon violence and frenetic pacing of practically every other kids’ show on the air. On PBS, he sang, offered advice and worked a cat puppet whose feline vocal tic drove my mother absolutely insane. 15 years after his death, the heroic endeavors of Fred Rogers are finally being celebrated on the big screen.
“It’s like a security blanket for our troubled times.” — ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY
We thank Chris from Boston for the suggestion of "Rodents of Unusual Size" . The film played at the Newburyport Film Festival in September but possibly didn't attract the audience it deserved. But its hard to promote a film about rodents.
Hard headed Louisiana fisherman Thomas Gonzales doesn't know what will hit him next. After decades of hurricanes and oil spills he faces a new threat - hordes of monstrous 20 pound swamp rats. Known as "nutria", these invasive South American rodents breed faster than the roving squads of hunters can control them. And with their orange teeth and voracious appetite they are eating up the coastal wetlands that protects Thomas and his town of Delacroix Island from hurricanes. But the people who have lived here for generations are not the type of folks who will give up without a fight. Thomas and a pack of lively bounty hunters are hellbent on saving Louisiana before it dissolves beneath their feet. It is man vs. rodent. May the best mammal win.The film has earned 98% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes and Wendell Pierce's narrative (HBO's Treme) in fast-paced with amusing animation and a buoyant Cajun score by The Lost Bayou Ramblers.
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