In many ways, the new streaming culture has created a golden age for documentary filmmaking.
Nearly every week, new and fascinating documentary features and series will drop and hold the national attention via Netflix, Hulu or Prime, often igniting renewed discourse around issues and events. Documentaries, at their best, shed light in places where there either was none or the light has dimmed. The Express has curated this list as means of sharing some of the staff’s favorite examples of this mode of filmmaking, including the format with which these films can be easily accessed.
The resulting list comprises a diverse array of films and topics from crime, to the environment to movies to professional athletes. These films will hopefully spur conversation around topics LPC students were previously unaware of, expanding the horizons of those who watch these films for the first time.
Arts and Entertainment/Web Editor
“Los Angeles Plays Itself” (Kanopy)
Part cinephilic love letter, part dissection of the artifice of movies and part sociological study of a major American city. “Los Angeles Plays Itself” functions like a cinematic tour of the city of Los Angeles. Comprised entirely of clips from a wide variety of films made in and around the city, it tells a sprawling story of the history of the city and its movie industry, the various ways which the city has been portrayed in movies (or, more commonly, used to portray other places) and how the movies often do not tell the truth about the city itself.
The “Recycling Sham” episode of this documentary series goes into detail about how much of what households recycle ends up in landfills — particularly plastic. Since the Chinese have refused American plastic, the situation is getting worse. Some third world countries or underworld people are still accepting plastic. There is no market for the recycled plastic, and it ends up getting stored or disposed of illegally, often polluting the groundwater. All to make the homeowners feel better about themselves.
“Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez” (Netflix)
The documentary takes a deep dive into the life of former New England Patriots tight end and convicted murderer Aaron Hernandez. Director Geno McDermott looks at Hernandez and his upbringing and how it affected Hernandez and the people around him. The documentary also reveals videos before and after the murder of Odin Lloyd, whom Hernandez killed in 2013.
“Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes” (Netflix)
Shortly after watching the docuseries “Making A Murderer,” also on Netflix, I thought I’d look into this one. Directed by Joe Berlinger, this documentary contains a mix of accounts from people who survived his attacks, family members and friends, as well as police who were involved in the development of his cases. The things he did were vile, yet it was intriguing to see how he went about his killings and without getting caught for as long as he did. Jaw dropping stuff that leaves chills.
This gritty, heart-wrenching and inspired documentary-narrative fusion tells the story of our future. With powerful characters grappling with the harsh terrain of 2030 Mars to the trials and triumphs of present-day players like Elon Musk and NASA, this interwoven saga by National Geographic captures the sheer beauty of the human spirit.
News/Campus Life Editor
“Don’t F**k With Cats” (Netflix)
This documentary shows how a group of complete strangers came together to catch a man who was uploading videos of himself torturing and mutilating cats on various online streaming services. What started off as a small Facebook group eventually became thousands of people all over the world investigating and locating a man who committed horrific and disgusting crimes.
“Conor McGregor: Notorious” (Netflix)
This documentary displays the come up of the notorious mixed martial arts fighter Connor McGregor as he makes his advance into the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Not only was I inspired by the beauty of the McGregor story but I was motivated to devote more time into my own training. The showmanship of McGregor left me entertained and wanting more. Conor doesn’t just enter the octagon — he enters the minds of opponents making him lethal to all challengers.
“We Are the Dream: The Kids of the Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest” (HBO Now)
This documentary features Oakland’s Martin Luther King Oratorical Festival, an annual festival showcasing the speaking talents of Oakland students. Emmy winning filmmaker Amy Schatz tells a story of hope, hard work, and an ongoing connection to the words and the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. My son’s class was part of the 40th Annual MLK Festival, so my son and I attended the premiere of the film at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Feb. 11. My son’s class was only shown for about two seconds, the feelings of community and inspiration were palpable.