5 Documentary Gems to Watch on Netflix
Period. End of Sentence.
An Oscar winning short film documenting the installation of a machine that creates low-cost biodegradable sanitary pads in a rural Indian village. A group of local women are employed to produce and sell pads offering them newfound independence and with the additional hope of de-stigmatising menstruation in Indian culture.
It’s nothing short of crazy how many men in India think of menstruation as an illness or simply have no idea what it even is, but this film turns out to be a great feel-good watch and an excellent example of activism through optimism.
“A period should end a sentence, not a girl’s education.”
This is the story of Jane Goodall who revolutionised our understanding of the natural world through her extensive and inspiring chimpanzee research. The 16mm footage that makes up the majority of this documentary was lost for 4 decades, but it looks so well preserved at first I thought I was watching a recently shot modern re-enactment. The cinematography combines beautifully with a stunning Phillip Glass score ultimately delivering an exquisite piece of documentary cinema. A must-watch for the nature lover.
“I wanted to do things which men did and women didn’t.”
In 1992, Sandi Tan shot a film in Singapore which was destined for the indie hall of fame but the footage disappeared. This is a profound mystery like you’ve never seen before and, if anything, the best cinematic equivalent of turning lemons into lemonade you’ll see. A love letter to anyone who has a strong affinity to cinema.
“he was gone, and so was shirkers”
Paris is Burning
This is a documentary which explores the ball scene in drag queen culture in 1980’s New York City. Directed by Jennie Livingston, who performs some sort of miracle by managing to capture so many personalities while truly connecting you to every person featured. It usually takes most shows 3 seasons to build up this kind of connection and she does it in 71 minutes. A perfectly structured film which is equally heartbreaking and inspiring.
The legacy left from this still reaches modern pop culture, from RuPaul’s Drag Race to Cardi B. You probably hear slang from Paris is Burning on a daily basis without even knowing it.
“Everybody wants to make an impression, some mark upon the world. Then you think, you’ve made a mark on the world if you just get through it, and a few people remember your name. Then you’ve left a mark.”
A few months ago we lost one of cinemas most treasured icons – Agnes Varda. If you’re not well acquainted, then Faces Places is the perfect gateway film into discovering her wonderful legacy.
The film is simply focuses on Agnes and photographer/muralist JR journeying through rural France while creating art. The 89 minute duration flies by as you’re absorbed into their conversations, and the words that they share stay with you long after the film has finished.
There’s comfort in knowing that even at the age of 89, you can be just as curious and as full of life as Agnes Varda was whilst making this documentary.
“I don’t see very well, but I see you.”