Documentaries to Watch @Home - May 2019

Documentaries to Watch @Home - May 2019

Documentaries to watch at home - here are our latest recommendations

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Knock Down the House


Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez or AOC is a modern-day hero for some, villain to others. The New York-born Latina taken Congress by storm and has refused to back down from the likes of President Trump, condemning for his stance on immigration, to raising money for transgender youth through Twitch live streaming.

But how did she get to Congress? Netflix charted the rise of her campaign and eventual win, in Knock Down the House. The documentary follows AOC, along with candidates Cori Bush,Paula Jean Swearengin and Amy Vilela as they all run for various government offices in a push to create more women working-class leaders.

The film presents each of the various women’s platforms, particularly Cori Bush’s desire to change the perception of her Missouri community in the wake of the Ferguson riots and Amy Vilela’s hope to make health care more accessible after losing her daughter. AOC’s story is better known but the movie shows us the impact of her win. As AOC says “for one of us to make it through, a hundred of us have to try.” referring to the 529 women candidates for Congress in 2018. 

Knock Down the House is not only a relevant portrait of grassroots political power but, through AOC’s win, Latino power. It’s also a highly emotional story about the strength of women, particularly women of color. Change is coming and these women are leading the way.

Special thanks to Jess for bringing this film to our attention.

Game of Thrones: The Last Watch


OK - the story is over and whether you liked the final season or not, it has been part of life for 10 years. So now, 1 week after the final show, HBO is releasing a documentary on the series. The film delves deep into the mud and blood to reveal the tears and triumphs involved in the challenge of bringing the fantasy world of Westeros to life in the very real studios, fields and car-parks of Northern Ireland, British filmmaker Jeanie Finlay directs "Game of Thrones: The Last Watch," and show runners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss are executive producing.If you watched Game of Thrones - You have to watch this film!

What's My Name: Muhammad Ali


What’s My Name explores Ali’s early days in Kentucky and his ultimate transformation into one of the 20th century’s most celebrated athletes. Despite covering the usual territory about Ali’s life, What’s My Name is fundamentally about the boxer’s quest for respect - both inside and outside the ring - along with his global influence and philanthropist legacy. In 1964, a 22-year-old Cassius Clay officially changed his name to Muhammad Ali after joining the Nation of Islam organization. What’s My Name covers the totality of Ali’s boxing career - here’s how it differs from the typical documentary about the famous American athlete.Most Muhammad Ali documentaries begin with his Gold Medal at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Italy. That’s an ideal place to start, as Ali was only 18 years old at the time and made his professional debut months later in his native Louisville, Kentucky. But What’s My Name offers some important biographical context about Ali’s formative years in the ring, long before his professional fights set television broadcast records.

Nailed It - How Vietnamese Americans Took Over The Nails Business


If you've had a manicure lately, chances are you probably had it done at a nail salon run by people of Vietnamese heritage.The salons are everywhere — in nearly every city, state and strip mall across the United States. So how did Vietnamese entrepreneurs come to dominate the multibillion-dollar nail economy?

Filmmaker Adele Free Pham set out to answer that question in a documentary called Nailed It. Growing up in Portland, Ore., she says, she observed that all the nail salons around her were Vietnamese run.

"So I knew that something was missing in mass media about this thing, this nail thing," Pham said in an interview. "And I also just always wondered why so many Vietnamese people were in the nail industry, to the point where my father, who is a Vietnamese refugee who came in 1975 — he wanted me to get into the nail industry as I was graduating high school as a side hustle, but also probably to retain my Vietnamese-ness.

"But it was just something that I was diametrically opposed to because of my own internal classism, you know? And that's something that I've been reanalyzing since I was 18. I just knew there was a whole other side to this industry, being Vietnamese, that the greater general public did not understand."

Nailed It premiered on PBS last week and is available as a free stream online until July 6 through the World Channel.

Ask Dr. Ruth

On HULU from June 1

You've got to of a certain age to remember the impact of Dr Ruth and Ryan White's wonderful documentary "Ask Dr. Ruth" shows us how a "Holocaust orphan" (as she calls herself) became a radio and TV star, still trucking at 90 years of age. If you didn't experience Dr. Ruth's omnipresence in the '80s, the documentary may seem like it emerges from an alternate universe. Westheimer had a radio show and TV show, and she was a beloved guest of late-night talk show hosts (watching her mortify David Letterman by saying "penis" or "vagina" on air was one of her many charms).

White follows Westheimer around for a year (her pace would exhaust someone 50 years younger), accompanying her to personal appearances, family gatherings, a trip to Israel and back. She's an endearing narrator, and a good guide to the extraordinary arc of her life.

The film does a great job of contextualizing the phenom of Dr.Ruth. It's filled with clips (including one of a guy rushing onstage during a talk she gave at Oklahoma State University, an attempt at citizen's arrest for obscenity). During the early years of the AIDS epidemic, she was a formidable and vocal figure, determined to counteract the often-homophobic misinformation out there about the disease.

Early in "Ask Dr. Ruth," Dr. Ruth appears as a question a New York radio show. A woman calls in to say, "I listened to your show in the '80's and I can honestly say you saved my life." She's not the only one.

Get Me Roger Stone

On Netflix

Who is Roger Stone? You may have heard of his recent indictment on obstruction of an official proceeding, five counts of false statements, and one count of witness tampering but where does he fit into the bigger political story of our time.

The filmmakers of “Get Me Roger Stone” began filming in late 2011, inspired by a New Yorker article by writer Jeffrey Toobin. This started a five-year journey to make a documentary about Stone in order to tell the story of his transformative effect on modern politics – which reached its climax in 2016 with the election of Donald Trump to the Presidency of the United States of America.


Let me leave it to review snippets to intrigue you enough to give this one a viewing.

Rotten Tomatoes- "As informative as it is entertaining, Get Me Roger Stone offers a close-up look at the right-wing gadfly who helped shape the 2016 presidential election." 

The Los Angeles Times - "endlessly fascinating” 

Variety - "lively, fun, sickening and essential." - "as for examining the pathologies on the right side of the spectrum,it's hard to imagine any film this year will surpass the astonishing Netflix production Get Me Roger Stone."

Entertainment Weekly - "staggering,shock-to-the-system political documentary.".

The Atlantic -"an incisive portrait of how Stone's brand of dirty tricks -- in which the only motivating factor in politics is to win -- came to dominate the current state of disarray."

Out of Thin Air

On Netflix

In 1974, two unrelated men disappeared ten months apart from each other in Iceland. One, an 18-year-old man named Guðmundur Einarsson, first disappeared in January, last seen by a motorist. The second, Geirfinnur Einarsson, disappeared in November of the same year after receiving a phone call and driving to a cafe, where he parked his car and wasn’t seen again. Their bodies were never found, but with the police force in Iceland under intense public pressure to solve the case, a group of six young men confessed to the crimes of murder. Despite having no memory of the crimes, the men were arrested, kept in isolation, tortured, denied food and water, and kept from their lawyers. Out of Thin Air follows what happens when the police are desperate enough to find the culprits for crimes that they use techniques to make those crimes come true. It’s shocking, terrifying, and will leave you breathless.. Most Icelanders came to believe the case had been a bad miscarriage of justice, and the BBC described it as "one of the most shocking miscarriages of justice Europe has ever witnessed

City of Ghosts

On Amazon Prime

With all the attention Aleppo has gotten in the past few years, it can be easy to forget there are other parts of Syria that have been devastated just as badly. In the documentary City of Ghosts, streaming now on Amazon Prime, director Matthew Heineman seeks to remind us of exactly that.

The city referred to in the title is Raqqa, which has been in the news recently following the removal of ISIS (or ISIL) by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Although this battle may have ended in victory over the Islamic State, Raqqa has already been irrevocably damaged. Early reports indicate that as much as 50 percent of the city lies in ruin. But even before that, Raqqa had been fundamentally altered by ISIS’ occupation, which forced its residents to live under constant fear of terror and violence. This is the Raqqa City of Ghosts depicts.

The film tracks the trajectory of RBSS, or “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently,” from its inception in Syria to the myriad threats and atrocities that eventually forced key members to flee to Turkey and Germany. It mostly focuses on spokesperson Aziz, reporter Mohamad, and cameraman Hamoud, but many other members of RBSS appear throughout the film as well. While the leadership of this organization has since left, there are incredible Skype interviews with members on the ground in Syria at the time of filming. In case there was any question as to why that’s so remarkable, ISIS declared RBSS an enemy of the caliphate almost immediately after its videos exposing the terrorist group’s actions came out.

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