Documentaries may not be the reason you signed up to Netflix – but after Breaking Bad and Orange is the New Black have been digested, it’s good to change it up and have a more adventurous binge-watching session.
There sure are some weird and wonderful gems on offer too. Pippa Day looks at nine amazing under-the-radar documentaries you can watch through the video streaming service.
The ‘Joe’ in the title is filmmaker and subject Joseph Garnerguy, who spends an entire month living off free stuff offered on the classified ad website Craigslist. Armed only with his mobile phone, laptop and the clothes on his back (and cameraman Kevin Flint), he travels around America using the site for all his transportation, food and shelter. The Hangover actor Zach Galifianakis executive produces.
We Are Legion: The Story of the Hacktivists
Follows hacktivist group ‘Anonymous’, and highlights certain operations in the group’s history including clashes with scientologists, Sarah Palin and Sony. A clever and modern documentary directed by Brian Knappenberger.
Following six dancers competing in the Youth America Grand Prix, from ages 9-19, this ballet doc sees contestants whittled down from 5000 applicants to 300 hopefuls entered in the finals in New York. First Position strives for the feel-good factor of seeing kids fulfill their dreams, but looks away from the harsh realities of those who miss out on opportunities or cannot afford the expensive sport.
Life Below Zero
National Geographic observes residents of the almost inhospitable Alaskan landscape, including the rather fearsome Sue Aikens who has the motto: “If it hurts, don’t think about it.” This look at rural Alaska – both the people and the animals – shows the everyday struggles of the environment.
Jesus Camp shows children attending pastor Becky Fisher’s evangelical summer camp in North Dakota. The film focuses closely on several kids: Levi, a twelve year old preacher; Rachel, nine, who focuses on bringing others to God; and Tory, ten, who is passionate about Christian heavy metal but is careful not to “dance for the flesh”. Cut against radio presenter Mike Papantonio’s skeptical view of the camp and evangelical Christianity in America, the film presents an honest and startling view of the way in which the children featured are being raised by their evangelical parents.
The Elephant in the Living Room
The subculture of raising exotic pets in America is tackled in this worrisome doc, which focuses on both enthusiastic pet owners and the dangers of keeping full grown predators as pets. It follows Ohio public safety officer Tim Harrison on his dangerous job of rounding up escaped exotic pets, and Terry Brumfield, who treats the full grown lions he keeps as an extension of his family.
Reading your teenage diaries aloud to a theatre full of strangers may sound like a nightmarish situation, but this documentary celebrates ‘awkward phase’ teenage writing shared via the ‘Mortified’ stage show. The film includes excerpts from the shows and explains why people would choose to publicly share their most embarrassing diary entries.
This doc takes three New Yorkers and puts them on a vegan diet for six weeks, depriving them of their beloved meat and cheese. A film about dieting may sound dull, but it does outline many benefits of a plant rich life – and the slaughterhouse scene is enough to put you off burgers for (at least) a week. If you head to the film’s website you can even try the ‘Vegucated challenge’ for yourself.
Actor Patrick Moote (How I Met Your Mother) begins this documentary after his failed proposal at a basketball game goes viral on YouTube. The reason for his girlfriend’s rejection? His small penis. Moote’s self-named ‘cockumentary’ follows his journey to discover more about whether size matters, his travels taking him from a footrace in San Francisco to a Korean spa.