BY: JESSICA BEUKER
Filmed over five years in 25 different countries, this incredible documentary was shot on 70mm film and is completely non-verbal. Samsara, which means “the ever turning wheel of life” in Sanskrit, takes viewers to sacred grounds, disaster zones, industrial sites and natural wonders. The lack of dialogue and language encourages viewers to come up with their own interpretations of the images, meaning the film will have a vastly different effect on every person who watches it.
2. Taxi to the Dark Side
A 2007 war documentary that exposes America’s torture and interrogation practices used during the war in Afghanistan. The film’s main focus is on Dilawar, an Afghan taxi driver, who was beaten to death in 2002 by American soldiers while being interrogated and held in extrajudicial detention. The film includes arguments against the use of torture by political and military opponents, but also the defense of these methods. It won the 2007 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
3. The Century of Self
Believe it or not there was a time when marketing did not exist. Today, we are exposed to hundreds of thousands of advertisements every single day – they shape how we feel about things and define our choices. The Century of Self traces consumerism to its roots, with the rise of psychoanalysis and use of persuasion. Using Freud’s theories of the subconscious, his family created the first ever PR firm, which would go on to manipulate the minds of millions and create the capitalist society we live in today. The Century of Self is not only extremely interesting, but it will also open your eyes to the world we live in and the choices we make.
4. God Grew Tired of Us
The story of three Sudanese refugees who, prior to living in America, lived in mud huts in a refugee camp in Kenya and had never used electricity or toilets. The film traces the journey of the “lost boys” as they make their way from the refugee camp, to start a new life in America. The film is an incredible look at the perseverance and strength of these three boys, who have survived government attacks, disease and starvation. But most of all, it puts things into perspective by shining a spotlight on American culture and the overall excess of the country. You will walk away from this film with a new appreciation for everything you have.
A documentary list isn’t complete without at least a few films on hot-button topics like animal agriculture or global warming. While those are two very important topics, the abundance of docs that cater specifically to those issues has made us fairly desensitized to the information they contain. It’s a sad truth, but most of us just don’t care anymore, never mind are affected enough to actually do something. But Earthlings is different. The 2005 documentary highlights our dependence on animals for economic purposes and is presented in five chapters; pets, food, clothing, entertainment and scientific research. The power of this film comes from its graphic and disturbing images. Even the strongest of stomachs have had to turn away. And while it will make you want to throw up, it will definitely be one of the films that has the strongest impact on you over time.
6. Man with a Movie Camera
Made in 1929, this silent film is part documentary, part art piece. It’s a day in the life of the Soviet Union from morning until night, with no titles or narration. The film is meant to capture ordinary life in Russia, and includes many scenes of the editing of the film and the cameraman himself. The film introduced the world to all kinds of new and different camera techniques. But perhaps the best part about it, is that there is no definable motive- no actors, no plot – it feels like anything could happen at any moment.
7. Miss Representation
The 2011 documentary explores how mainstream media contributes to and shapes the way that women are viewed and represented in positions of power or influence – particularly by offering one-sided, limited and critical portrayals of them. The film weaves personal stories from young high school girls, with anecdotes from politicians, celebrities, authors and activists. It also visually shows the ways that women are harmfully represented with the use of images and video clips that will get your blood boiling.
Bonus: Tough Guise: Violence, Media and the Crisis in Masculinity
This documentary, about men’s representation in the media, analyzes the flip side of the coin. The film visualizes an alarming number of statistics that show the high number of violence-related crimes that men are committed for, and furthermore digs into why these numbers are so high. For those who still don’t realize that gender inequality and media representation negatively impact both sides, this film will open your eyes to the many ways that men are equally affected.