Recommended Documentaries to Open Your Mind

One of my favorite past times is plopping myself down on the sofa and watching a good documentary. In the summer it is always difficult to bring myself inside, but come winter time, there are few things that sound better than a warm pot of tea, a cozy blanket, homemade popcorn, and an enlightening documentary. I have included a list of documentaries that I have seen and encourage you to watch as well. Most of them are socio-political documentaries that will likely challenge any preconceived notions or assumptions about your world around you. Many of them are available on Netflix or Youtube, or you can also check with your local library, which is my primary source. I did not write my views on the documentaries, but included links to their respective websites, so that you can decide for yourself what they are all about, as well as a brief description of the flick, mostly taken from Netflix when available. For clarity, I mark my voice with the * symbol. I invite you to open your heart and your mind to growth. Realize that the only way to free yourself is to first free your mind.  Namaste.

Burma VJ: Reporting from A Closed Country (2008) – Going beyond the occasional news clip from Burma, Burma VJ brings us close to Burma’s video journalists who insist on keeping up the flow of news from their closed country despite risking torture and life in jail. Armed with small handycams they make their undercover reportages, smuggle the material out of the country, have it broadcast back into Burma via satellite and offered as free usage for international media. It’s their footage which keeps the revolution alive….

Zeitgeist: Moving Forward (2011) – This compelling documentary examines the current state of the global socioeconomic monetary paradigm and concludes that we need to transition to a new resource-based economy for our continued human and social survival.

Zeitgeist: Addendum (2008) – Continuing the discussion from Zeitgeist: The Movie about the controversial links between religion and the financial markets, this documentary explores the causes of social corruption and puts forth a solution based on human alignment with nature.

Zeitgeist: The Movie (2007) – Peter Joseph explores the controversial links between organized religion, the global financial markets and the international power structure in this thought-provoking documentary that probes several well-known conspiracy theories.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soapbox (2006) – Brilliant chemist, Holocaust survivor and mental hospital escapee, Dr. Emanuel Bronner invented his famous Magic Soap and founded the environmentally concerned company that’s just as popular today as it was among the counterculture in the 1970s. This documentary captures the complexity of Bronner’s relationship with his son Ralph, who spent years in orphanages and foster homes as his eccentric father sought to unite all mankind. *Featuring piano mastermind Keith Waa.

10 Questions for the Dalai Lama (2006) – This fascinating documentary blends an interview with the Dalai Lama with a look back at the history of the spiritual leader and an exploration of the culture of the small city of Dharamsala, India, where His Holiness was exiled 50 years ago. After emailing the Dalai Lama to set up an interview, filmmaker Rick Ray spent the three months until the meeting getting a firsthand view of living conditions in Dharamsala and capturing it all on camera.

I Am (2011) – In this contemplative documentary, filmmaker Tom Shadyac conducts in-depth interviews with prominent philosophers and spiritual leaders — including Archbishop Desmond Tutu — about what ails the world and how to improve it.

The Queen Of Versailles (2012) – Meet the Siegels, glitterati who made a fortune in the time-share business only to see it crumble in the 2008 financial collapse. The site of their rise and almost-fall is their home (America’s largest), a gaudy replica of the Palace of Versailles. *I recommend this for a view of how lavishly wasteful (some of) the super rich live, if you can stomach the nausea.

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch’s War on Journalism (2004) – Filmmaker Robert Greenwald delivers a no-holds-barred documentary on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News cable channel, which has been criticized in certain quarters as running a “race to the bottom” in television news. Featuring interviews with a range of media experts, the film offers an in-depth look at the dangers of burgeoning corporations that take control of the public’s right to know and explores Murdoch’s ever-expanding media empire.

Uncovered: The Whole truth about The Iraq War (2004) – The War on Iraq, filmmaker Robert Greenwald chronicles the Bush Administration’s determined quest to invade Iraq following the events of September 11, 2001. The film deconstructs the administration’s case for war through interviews with U.S intelligence and defense officials, foreign service experts, and U.N. weapons inspectors — including a former CIA director, a former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and even President Bush’s Secretary of the Army. Their analyses and conclusions are sobering, and often disturbing, regardless of one’s political affiliations.

Forks Over Knives (2011) – Focusing on research by two food scientists, this documentary reveals that despite broad advances in medical technology, the popularity of animal-based and modern processed foods have led to epidemic rates of obesity, diabetes and other diseases.

Food, Inc. (2009) – Documentary filmmaker Robert Kenner uses reports by Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser and The Omnivore’s Dilemma author Michael Pollan as a springboard to exploring where the food we purchase at the grocery store really comes from, and what it means for the health of future generations. By exposing the comfortable relationships between business and government, Kenner gradually shines light on the dark underbelly of the American food industry. The USDA and FDA are supposed to protect the public, so why is it that both government regulatory agencies have been complicit in allowing corporations to put profit ahead of consumer health, the American farmer, worker safety, and even the environment? As chicken breasts get bigger and tomatoes are genetically engineered not to go bad, 73,000 Americans fall ill from powerful new strains of E. coli every year, obesity levels are skyrocketing, and adult diabetes has reached epidemic proportions. Perhaps if the general public knew how corporations use exploited laws and subsidies to create powerful monopolies, the outrage would be enough to make us think more carefully about the food we put into our bodies. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

King Corn (2007) – King Corn is a feature documentary about two friends, one acre of corn, and the subsidized crop that drives our fast-food nation. In King Corn, Ian Cheney and Curt Ellis, best friends from college on the east coast, move to the heartland to learn where their food comes from. With the help of friendly neighbors, genetically modified seeds, and powerful herbicides, they plant and grow a bumper crop of America’s most-productive, most-subsidized grain on one acre of Iowa soil. But when they try to follow their pile of corn into the food system, what they find raises troubling questions about how we eat-and how we farm.

Inside Job (2010) – ‘Inside Job’ provides a comprehensive analysis of the global financial crisis of 2008, which at a cost over $20 trillion, caused millions of people to lose their jobs and homes in the worst recession since the Great Depression, and nearly resulted in a global financial collapse. Through exhaustive research and extensive interviews with key financial insiders, politicians, journalists, and academics, the film traces the rise of a rogue industry which has corrupted politics, regulation, and academia. It was made on location in the United States, Iceland, England, France, Singapore, and China.

Capitalism: A Love Story (2009) – Most Americans believe that capitalism is a system of the production and distribution of preferred goods and services in return for what consumers are willing to pay for them, and that this system is the bedrock on which the United States is built and upon which the country should function. This system may have functioned well in the United States in the post World War II era when there was little global competition and which truly established the middle class. However capitalism as seen in the United States today, which truly took hold in the Reagan era, is more about the want of the wealthy to get wealthier at the expense of all others. The country at that time started to be run more like a business than like a traditional government. Since, there has been a manipulation by the power brokers on Wall Street of government for their benefit, often at the expense of the the dwindling middle class and working class, and often without that production of a good or service demanded by society. The system continues to operate as most Americans strive to be among the wealthy and see capitalism as a system where becoming wealthy is at least possible. Capitalism is often associated with the ideals of Christianity and the concurrent American ideal of democracy, the latter which is increasingly not the case, where economic power is held in the hands of the few. Corporate America’s biggest fear is democracy where in a one person/one vote system, a wealthy person has as much power as a poor person. With the poor increasingly outnumbering the wealthy, the poor banding together may show capitalism for what it is, at least in today’s global system. review written by Hugo.

An Inconvenient Truth (2006) – Former Vice President Al Gore wages a passionate campaign — not for the White House, but for the environment — in this Oscar-winning documentary. Laying out the facts of global warming, Gore urges audiences to act before it’s too late.

Chemerical: Redefining Clean for A New Generation (2009) – Blending humor and education, this engaging documentary follows the Goodes, a typical American family, as they attempt to rid their home of all toxins. The film provides simple remedies to help viewers reduce the toxic substances in their lives.

The End of Suburbia: Oil Depletion and The Collapse of The American Dream (2004) – Since World War II North Americans have invested much of their newfound wealth in suburbia. It has promised a sense of space, affordability, family life and upward mobility. As the population of suburban sprawl has exploded in the past 50 years, so too the suburban way of life has become embedded in the American consciousness. Suburbia, and all it promises, has become the American Dream. But as we enter the 21st century, serious questions are beginning to emerge about the sustainability of this way of life. With brutal honesty and a touch of irony, The End of Suburbia explores the American Way of Life and its prospects as the planet approaches a critical era, as global demand for fossil fuels begins to outstrip supply. World Oil Peak and the inevitable decline of fossil fuels are upon us now, some scientists and policy makers argue in this documentary. The consequences of inaction in the face of this global crisis are enormous. What does Oil Peak mean for North America? As energy prices skyrocket in the coming years, how will the populations of suburbia react to the collapse of their dream? Are today’s suburbs destined to become the slums of tomorrow? And what can be done NOW, individually and collectively, to avoid The End of Suburbia?  review written by sciphex.

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