The world of documentaries
A whole new world of television
Over the years, documentaries have gone from acting as formal ways to gain information to a whole new form of entertainment. Documentaries are special in their ability to take real-life stories and plaster them on the big screen with all the flaws, quirks, and complexities of human nature. Documentaries provide a source of raw and often unfiltered content. They allow us to see our world through the lens of others and understand the different perspectives that exist across the globe.
Furthermore, they are extremely diverse and multifaceted in the various genres viewers can choose from. There are documentaries ranging from pop culture commentary to nature, politics, social dilemmas, science, and more. The rise of streaming services has created a world where documentaries are watched by millions of people all over the world. Netflix rose to the hype early on, creating its own documentaries. As a result, the streaming platform provides hundreds if not thousands of documentaries ranging a wide array of issues.
One of the earliest documentaries I remember watching from Netflix was Fyre Festival. This was a documentary that went into a music festival turned into a disaster. It showed how easily we are all influenced, and the power of greed. Ultimately, this documentary portrays the love of money and how it is the root of all evil.
During the early stages of the pandemic, many of us were quarantining at home. This was the perfect time to catch up on old shows, binge new shows, and watch some documentaries along the way.
Enter Tiger King, a brilliant documentary about an eccentric group of people in the big cat world. We were introduced to people such as Joe Exotic and Carol Baskin. Joe operated his own zoo full of what he called ‘ligers,’ a mixed breed made up of a lion and a tiger. Carol was introduced as an activist who was fighting for animal rights. This was one of the most watched documentaries in 2020. It changed the world of documentary-making, and most importantly, it was a big moment for pop culture. You could not go anywhere without hearing people talking about Tiger King and Joe Exotic or scroll past memes about the documentary.
Fast forward a few years later and we were blessed with the one and only, The Tinder Swindler. This was a very interesting moment because the dialogue shifted into relationships, red flags, and how to avoid them. Unfortunately, the women in the documentary were blind to the red flags. Watching this documentary was almost philosophical for me. Many of us are frantic about red flags, but sometimes we are blind to them because perhaps red is our favourite colour. It’s something to reflect on. To this day, the phrase “my enemies are after me” is something everyone who watched will chuckle about.
We cannot talk about documentaries without exploring the complex world of true crime. Making a Murderer is one of the earliest documentaries on Netflix. Upon its release, more than 20 million people watched it. This documentary followed Steven Avery, a man who was convicted of murder in 2007. Steven claimed he was innocent right from the beginning. What I loved about Making a Murderer is its ability to provide the harsh reality of the justice system. It showed the good, the bad, and the ugly. Furthermore, the focus on wrongful convictions was pivotal to the narrative of the documentary. This is a cult classic because it highlights the flaws within the American justice system.
The Staircase is another cult favourite documentary. It introduces the story of Michael Peterson who was accused of murdering his wife. Despite this, Peterson maintains innocence. This is an unsolved case. Unfortunately, we will never know what truly happened and how the events went down. All we are left to do is speculate, and speculations can only go so far when you do not have all of the facts. As a result, this case remains unsolved to this day. The Staircase is a beautiful documentary because it shines a spotlight on just how complex the American justice system is.
One documentary that left me sleepless for many weeks was The Nightstalker. This documentary featured the case of Richard Ramirez, his victims, and the detectives who would eventually hunt him down. The brutality of Ramirez’s crimes was incredibly disturbing. The documentary is extremely graphic and it focuses on many traumatizing and triggering subjects, so I would advise anyone who wants to watch it to be careful.
If you are looking for a break from the daunting true crime genre, nature documentaries are perfect for that. I enjoy watching them because I love learning about all the different creatures that live on our planet. Additionally, I love being able to see diverse and secluded parts of our world we wouldn’t normally be able to see. Nature documentaries allow you to bask in the greatness of our planet. It makes you realize how small we are in the grand scheme of things.
I particularly enjoy David Attenborough’s documentaries and his style of narration. Our Planet is one of the most powerful nature documentaries I have ever seen. There are many scenes in it that will make you bawl your eyes out, such as the realities of climate change and how harsh they can be on animals. It is sombre and insightful, but above all, it is breathtaking. Seaspiracy is another documentary that highlights important issues such as overfishing, plastic pollution, and climate change, among other things.
Moreover, there are many documentaries on Netflix about famous legal cases. Some honourable mentions are Don’t F**k With Cats, newly released MH370 The Plane That Disappeared, Murdaugh Murders: A Southern Scandal, and Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey.
All in all, the world of documentaries is deep and diverse. Its many genres and styles offer something for all viewers, depending on their interests.