Netflix’ Hidden Gems: Documentaries

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By Anna Turner


Lately I have been in a very intellectual mood, and to satiate my need for worldly relevance I have taken to binging documentaries on Netflix. I have found some truly wonderful films, but the problem with watching Netflix documentaries is that they were all released three to five years ago. I get super worked up about an issue and then realize, “oh yeah…they already worked that Egypt thing out, didn’t they?”

Regardless of timeline, these documentaries are what I consider hidden gems on Netflix–the movies that didn’t get the attention they deserved and are now wasting away in the catacombs of video on demand selections. They are all worth viewing, if not multiple viewings, for the sole purpose of getting you to reevaluate how it is you fit in this world.

Half The Sky: Based on the blog of the same name, this two-part documentary explores women and girls living in some of the harshest patriarchal societies on earth. While we in the Western world view women as equal, gendercide, rape, and abuse are all commonplace in the majority of countries.

Cleanflix: Following the quest for movie sanitization, Cleanflix takes a look at Mormons attempting to edit PG-13 and R-rated films, cleansing them of foul language and sex, and then re-releasing them to an audience that has sworn off watching such films. This movie is aggravating in that it is an obvious slaughter of creative integrity, but interesting in that you learn Mormons can be really, really obtuse.

Bronies: Ever heard of My Little Pony? Well, it’s not just for little girls anymore. Bronies reveals a world of adolescent and grown men that worship this children’s program, taking us into the world of My Little Pony conventions, concerts, laser light shows, and intense fandom.

The Square: A Netflix original, The Square details the fight for Tehrir Square in Egypt, ground zero for the revolution that overthrew Dictator Hosni Mubarak. The movie tells the story of the youthful generation wanting a free Egypt, their use of social media to inform the world, and how their success at removing one dictator was shattered when he was replaced by an even harsher ruler.

Burma VJ: VJ stands for Video Journalism, and Burma VJ is Video Journalism at its most extreme. The military-controlled and isolated Burma does not allow reporting or recording of any kind, but one group of journalists defied that by documenting the 2007 uprising against Burma’s oppressive government. This documentary is truly striking because the struggle continues today.

Monica and David: Two adults living with Downs Syndrome find love in one another after meeting at an adult care facility. Documented by a cousin of Monica, the film follows Monica and David’s wedding and subsequent married life under the care and supervision of their families. The couple struggles to find their independence when their condition prevents them from living alone.

Stuck: This film looks at the deeply-flawed international adoption laws. Parents will be matched to a child, promised that child, even meet that child, and then have to wait years for all the red tape to clear. With one seemingly impossible hurdle after another, children have to waste away in derelict orphanages despite having a loving home waiting for them. Disclaimer: You are going to want to adopt about a hundred kids after watching this movie.

The World Before Her: This film dives into two very different worlds. One is that of beauty pageants in India, while the other is that of Hindu extremist training camps for girls–also in India. Both sets of women believe they are advancing their culture, and both see the other group as destroying Mother India. It begs the question of where does a girl stand in modern-day India, a land still fraught with dowry deaths and prenatal sex determination tests.

Anna Turner writes about pop culture for Brilliant or Insane. Learn more about Anna on our Team Page. Follow her on Twitter here.

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Mark Barnes is the Founder of Times 10 Publications, which produces the popular Hack Learning Series -- books and other series that provide right-now solutions for teachers and learners. Mark is the author or publisher of dozens of books, including Bestseller Hacking Education: 10 Quick Fixes for Every School. Barnes presents internationally on assessment, connected education, and Hack Learning. Join more than 150,000 interested educators who follow @markbarnes19 on Twitter.

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