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Monday, October 28, 2013

Recent Documentaries That Will Change You. You're Welcome.

I spend all day working on documentaries for work, so I often don’t want to spend my nights watching them recreationally.  But I’ve seen a slew of fantastic (and in some cases life-changing) feature-length documentaries lately.  Here they are, for those of you who are documentarily-inclined:

1. Happy – this doc is all about the science of happiness.  It really has changed how I view the world.  Among other things, a scientist in this film tells us that only 20% of our daily propensity for happiness is due to current circumstances like health, wealth, where we live, etc.  Fully 40% of our happiness quotient comes from “intentional acts” like being nice to other people and exercising and being grateful.  Amazing.  You can stream the doc here:

2. The House I Live In – this is a mind-blowing exploration of the problems that have arisen as a result of this country’s “drug war.” Academics, judges, and prison management personnel talk about the ways in which that “war” is destroying our prison system and our inner cities.  None of the interviewees disputes that drugs are harmful and should be policed.  But they all feel that a sentence of “life without parole” for a violation as small as possession of 5 grams of drugs (and this actually occurs!) is tragic and wrong.  Stream here:

3. Queen of Versailles – fascinating (and hilarious) perspective on one uber-wealthy family’s fall from riches during the years of the market collapse:

4. The Other Dream Team – 1992 Lithuanian basketball team struggles to assert its identity after the fall of the Wall, and ends up playing Russia in the Olympics.  Beautiful, gripping story of personal and historical triumph:

5. Searching For Sugar Man – if you haven’t seen this one yet, just do it.  I know you think it sounds boring, and I did too, but we were both wrong.  It is incredible.  I don’t think it’s streamable on Netflix, but it’s worth a rental.

I watched Gasland too, and although it was in many ways illuminating, I didn’t make it to the end because I found it highly repetitive and irritatingly cooler-than-thou.  Haven’t managed to see Blackfish yet, and I’m not interested in 20 Feet From Stardom, because it’ll just remind me of all the reasons that the music industry makes me want to fist-punch a window.

I’d love to know your thoughts on these films.  Please let me know if there are others from the past couple years that you recommend!

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