TIME dubbed the summer of 2018 as a “mini documentary boom,” but it seems the documentary peak has transformed into an impressive plateau. And now Netflix has upped its game by releasing a crop of comprehensive films to help watchers understand recent headlines and identify with those affected.
1. American Factory (2019)
American Factory simultaneously tackles two topics that have been discussed in stump speeches from politicians, news podcasts, and daily briefings over the past three years: the American middle class and relations between the U.S. and China. The film centers around the closing of a General Motors plant that left many jobless, an event that has become all too familiar.
When a Chinese business owner reopens the plant and hires back many of the former employees, both Chinese and American workers must reckon with their opposing manufacturing styles and practices. American Factory presents globalization in a localized context, putting real faces to those affected by large-scale issues.
2. Bleeding Edge (2018)
Bleeding Edge explains that when commercial and consumer culture infiltrate the medical field, unproven and untested devices harm the lives of countless people.
Much like the opioid epidemic, profitable sectors of the healthcare industry push products to be prescribed or implanted in patients in order to make money, rather than to actually help them heal.
Bleeding Edge will fill in the gaps on the topic that is malpractice in the American healthcare system.
3. Reversing Roe (2018)}
Reversing Roe, which references Former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement but was released weeks before the fated Kavanaugh Hearings, examines how abortion has become a highly politicized and emotionally charged issue in the years since Roe v. Wade in 1973.
The film’s creators, Ricki Stern and Annie Sundberg, interviewed both abortion rights and anti-abortion activists to provide a two-sided approach to a hot-button issue that is inevitably intermingled with appeals to our nation’s sense of religion, morality, agency, and autonomy.
4. 13th (2016)
The documentary, titled to reference the 13th Amendment — the amendment that abolished slavery — not only elevates the voices of those who have fallen victim to the broken justice system, it exposes those who made such a system possible, such as proponents of Jim Crow-era statutes and the multiple former presidents and political leaders that contributed to the Republican Party’s war on drugs (which enlisted Bill Clinton as well).
13th extensively enlightens viewers on how a majority of black Americans unfairly serve time in the prison industrial complex. It won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Documentary.
5. Paris Is Burning (1990)
Little did some of us know that FX’s POSE is a huge nod to Paris Is Burning. Although the film was groundbreaking at the time of its release, Paris Is Burning earned a spot on this list due to its continued legacy and relevancy. Not only is POSE a primetime hit, ball culture is still alive and well.
The history of this facet of the LGBTQ community is important, and Paris Is Burning tells its story.
6. Blackfish (2013)
The documentary, directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, is further fodder for many who oppose the practices and profitability of SeaWorld. It posits that orcas only become killer whales after psychosis garnered from their time in captivity.
Blackfish tells the story of Tilikum, an orca who lived in captivity at the Canadian aquarium Sealand of the Pacific and killed a whale trainer.
After the accident, which involved two other whales, all of the orcas at Sealand of the Pacific were purchased by SeaWorld.
The film is a tour de force exposé revealing the pseudo-natural attractions that drive up ticket sales and exploit both animal and human lives.