One of my favourite things about Netflix is being able to access a good documentary whenever I want. Some afternoons, when Baby Girl will only sleep on me and I’m feeling the afternoon energy slump, I love nothing more than to curl up on the sofa with my snoozing bub and watch a documentary on Netflix.
I find documentaries are a great thing to watch in between TV series, because they act like a “reset” button. For me, watching a TV series is a bit like getting involved in a really good book, I find it hard to watch anything else for a while because I get so involved in the plot and the characters. We also find documentaries are the one thing that we can watch easily as a couple – the (self-proclaimed) Northern Love Machine and I have such different taste in films it always takes us ages to choose something to watch together. Picking a documentary that we both think looks interesting is far easier.
Here are some of my favourite documentaries that I’ve recently watched on Netflix…
If you only watch one documentary this year make it Virunga. This documentary left such a lasting impression on me that I watched it again within a couple of days – and then didn’t stop talking about it to anyone who would listen. It’s a cross between stunning nature documentary, political documentary and war film. It’s all about a small group of people fighting to protect Virunga National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo, amid a complex political and economic setting. The characters the film follows are brave and likeable and you become really invested in the story as the film moves on. Since it aired on Netflix it was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
2. Black Fish
This was one of those documentaries that I absent-mindedly clicked on and started half-watching, but was absolutely gripped within five minutes of viewing. It’s about the problems in the sea-park industry and focuses on a particular killer whale called Tilikum that’s taken the lives of several trainers. Any film, documentary or TV show that moves you to experience real emotions is an instant hit in my book, and this one made me cry and then feel genuinely angry. Definitely worth watching.
I watched this one Friday night with the NLM and by the end we both just looked at each and said “NO WAY.” This documentary’s about the lies that some people tell online and the ramifications that come in “real life” when a scenario online gets totally out of hand. Staying safe online is something I’m quite aware of, especially being a mum who regularly writes about her kids on the internet, which is probably why I was so gobsmacked at the ending of this documentary. Watch it to see what I’m on about.
4. The Dark Matter of Love
This is one of those documentaries I watched in between TV series. I was after something light after The Killing, but this proved to be far from light. I don’t know if it’s because I was (am) hormonal but this documentary made me properly bawl my eyes out. It’s about an American family who adopt three children from Russia. Makes fascinating, touching and – at times – heartbreaking viewing.
5. Stop at Nothing: The Lance Armstrong Story
I’ve never been into cycling, but the whole Lance Armstrong story fascinates me. This is a behind-the-scenes documentary that really lifts the lid on the whole cycling sport and what happened within the Lance Armstrong machine. It includes in-depth interviews with his former team-mates and people who testified against him, as well as plenty of home movie style footage. You probably won’t like Lance Armstrong much after watching it.
6. Supermensch The Legend of Shep Gordon
After I watched this documentary I couldn’t believe that I’d never heard of Shep Gordon before. Produced and directed by Mike Myers this film charts the story of one of the most prolific talent managers in Hollywood. Shep Gordon has managed Alice Cooper since the beginning of his career and, over his career, his clients include Blondie, Pink Floyd and Luther Vandross. With such a big client list it’s not surprising Shep has so many juicy stories. Definitely worth watching if you’re interested in the world of celebrity and A-list stars.
Dan Harmon is a TV writer and producer who also co-hosts a weekly live comedy podcast that has amassed a real cult following. He’s hilarious, without even trying. Harmontown is a documentary about what happened when “Harmontown” the podcast went on tour in America. I found it funny and interesting in equal measure. It might be because of my background in radio, but I reckon anyone who’s interested in cult media and comedy would find it a good watch.
8. Jesus Camp
This is one of those documentaries that I’d heard about ages ago and wanted to watch, but never got around to. Now, after watching it, I’m wondering what took me so long. It’s all about a summer camp for evangelical Christian kids and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature. As someone who isn’t religious I found it fascinating, weirdly sad in many places and was touched by the enthusiastic innocence of the kids it followed. I’m not surprised the film was met with such controversy when it first aired.
Disclosure: I’m a member of the Netflix Stream Team. All opinions remain my own, as always.