I am an avid documentary viewer. I have seen hundreds of documentaries and docu-series on topics – ranging from harvesting honey to the 9/11 conspiracy theories. However, there are few documentaries that have gone beyond just being a viewing pleasure, documentaries that have changed my outlook of the world we live in, that have left me introspecting and questioning. So here is my list of top 10 Netflix documentaries that will blow your mind
1.Only The Dead
The documentary, created by Australian war correspondent Michael Ware who travelled to Baghdad during the invasion, was pieced together from seven years’ worth of camcorder footage that he took during the Iraq war. As he tried to find out about a brutal Al Qaeda leader, he received a tape from Abu Musab al Zarqawi the very man he was running after.
This documentary has been one of the single most moving pieces of cinema I have come across, Absolutely outstanding, piercing about the war this cinematic masterpiece is an uncensored deception of the war in the middle capturing scenes of unimaginable suffering and bone-chilling violence.
Only The Dead brings home the dark reality of war that ware has masterfully documented,
One may question the necessity or even the relevance of a war that took place in 2003, but its works like these that are essential in portraying the true face of war. It rips away the glorified aura attached to it and bares its truth for what it is. Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime
2. Audrey and Daisy
Two teenage girls pass out while intoxicated at high school parties and, while unconscious, both are sexually assaulted by boys they call friends. In the aftermath, the girls each endure online harassment, both attempt suicide, and tragically, and as of 2020, both committed suicide.
This documentary moved me to tears, not because I was emotional but because of my inability to express my fury, at the fact that these two women were bullied into suicide. That our modern world at its core is still a battle for girls and women across the world, where we are not viewed as equals or even as human beings but as items, placed on pedestals that we didn’t create, where the length of my skirt or the colour of our hair or lipstick can define my character.
“The words of our enemies aren’t as awful as the silence of our friends.”
Initially set out to uncover the effects of doping as a performance enhancer through a personal account of his own doping, filmmaker Bryan Fogel’s accidental meeting with Russian scientist Grigory Rodchenkov transforms this standard documentary into a socio-political masterpiece. Changing gears, Fogel goes on to understand the role of the Russian government in the 2014 winter Olympics and undercovers a scandal that made international headlines and won his documentary a well deserved Oscar. An explosive entry in the conspiracy genre that keeps its viewers at the edge of their seat, leaving no stone unturned in exposing the biggest sporting scandal of the century. This Oscar winner is all about the Russians, secret agents, swapping tests, unexplained deaths and the 2014 winter Olympics!. Need I say more.
4. Joshua Teenager vs Superpower
You may have read about the protests in Hong Kong in passing, but how did they start? What happened to suddenly mobilize an entire nation against one of the worlds strongest superpowers? A teenager.
When the Chinese communist party denies granting Hong Kong autonomy despite its previous promises, Joshua, a seemingly geeky and unassuming schoolboy successfully rallies thousands of kids to stand up against the unfair regime. This documentary does a note-worthy job of portraying the larger ideological struggle at play. However, Joshua is the focal point of the documentary, which makes him unique and extraordinary is his mundane appearance, making us believe that heroes reside amongst us.
Hong Kong’s fight for freedom has just begun and it’s time we get with it.
5. The Dawn Wall
The unbelievable story of legendary free climber Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson who attempt to scale the unclimbable 3000 ft Dawn Wall of the El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. Dealing with personal loss and fighting against the elements while climbing the wall, Cladwell and Jorgeson leave us all rooting for them. This awe-inspiring documentary puts you inches away from both the men as they spend 19 days climbing the most forbidding rock face, leaving you teary-eyed as they complete the free climb that created history.
What roots you to the journey of these two men climbing a rock is the sense of achievement we all feel as the two men push the very limit of what is humanly possible and emerge victoriously. They prove that nothing is impossible and the cinematic experience makes us part of their victory, making the audience believe that they too can break the glass ceiling.
6. The Central Park Five (2013)
The infamous case of the five teenagers from Harlem who were wrongfully convicted of assaulting a white female jogger in New York City’s Central Park in 1989. The documentary is emotionally heartbreaking and bitterly realistic in its depiction of the struggles of a community that is still fighting for their basic human rights. From the arrest to their absolution you are shown the perspective of five young men who lost their youth due to miscarriage of justice. The teens who were called the “wolf-pack” were subjected to public scrutiny from not only the tabloids but from society as a whole.
A story relevant today more than ever will leave you heartbroken at not only the injustice of the law but rather the cruelty of a society that is the true wolf pack. It is gut-wrenching yet horrifyingly true, however, the question remains, have we evolved? Have we learned?
7.The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann
The documentary revolves around Madeleine McCann, a three-year-old who disappeared from an Algarve holiday apartment at the Praia da Luz in Portugal without seemingly any trace, while her parents dined just 100 yards away from her at the resort’s restaurant.
The documentary, based on the most heavily reported missing-persons case in history, explores the role of the media, the inept investigation and the suspicions of the McCann family. An unsolved mystery to date, the case of Madeleine’s disappearance has been in the limelight recently due to new revelations which make watching this gripping documentary all the more essential as it conveys a larger message to the community as a whole.
The whirlwind that the McCann find themselves in leaves you feeling the plight of the family and keeps you awake at night, as you question, who took Madeleine and could she be alive?
8.The Accountant of Auschwitz
Focusing on a German former Schutzstaffel agent, Oskar Gröning’s 2015 trial. Gröning was one of the last surviving SS to be tried for his crimes. The documentary shows how Gröning transitioned from working in Auschwitz Birkenau, one of the worst concentration camps in Nazi-occupied Poland, to a quite a peaceful life escaping justice post-war. Controversy ensued when Oskar was arrested in his nineties and put on trial by prosecution lawyer Thomas Wlather. The film partly touches upon the morality of prosecuting a 90-year old frail withering man for crimes he committed 60 years ago.
Given the increasing re-emergence of radical right-wing ideology, this documentary is more relevant than ever. While it may be easier to forget what happened, what is important is to not forget, to never stand by and ignore what you see, this thought-provoking documentary beautifully depicts the importance of seeking justice, not just when it is convenient.
9. Jeffrey Epstein: Filthy Rich
The shocking documentary is a compilation of stories from survivors and legal information that narrate how convicted sex offender Jeffery Epstein used his wealth and influence to use and abuse hundreds of under-aged girls over a period of decades.
The four-hour-long docu-series of the recently deceased billionaire sex offender has a darker undertone, created by the circumstances surrounding the death of Epstein, who allegedly committed suicide in a high-security prison cell without anyone noticing.
The death of Epstein denied the survivors their day in court and but also freed those involved in this human trafficking ring. This might be one of the most high profile cases in history, with ex-presidents, royal princes’, high ranking politicians being named and shamed.
You will find yourself infuriated as you find out that those, and many others, were previously convicted but were offered a plea deal, granting him, and a slew of high profile co-conspirators, immunity from any actual charges, instead, allowing him to spend just 11 months in a Palm Beach jail, where he enjoyed “work release” six days a week. As Geroge Orwell put it, “All animals are equal but some are more equal than others”.
10. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet
David Attenborough, a living legend, the man that has explored the wildest places of the planet and lived to tell the tale, is narrating once more. In this moving documentary, Attenborough explains how he has also seen first-hand the cruel impact that humanity has had on mother earth. The world-famous naturalist explains how our planet’s natural treasures have diminished and vanished over the span of his life.
Attenborough more devastatingly charts what humanity has in-stores for its future generations, a future filled with natural disasters and global crisis. The documentary expertly plays the role of moderator, while depicting where we stand today, it gives us hope for a better future and that, if we choose wisely, our ruination can turn into a story of regrowth.