I’m a big fan of non fiction and documentary, in both visual and written media forms. I like true crime, factual accounts of people’s lives, adding knowledge and new experiences to my mind which can change the way I think about things. Fiction is great and all, I get very invested in the lives of people who don’t exist, but there’s something special about learning about the real people and feeling the real emotions, knowing more about the world around me. I’ve found Netflix to be great for providing new documentaries for opening my horizons – from stuff on what we’re eating, to different religious cults, to treatment of women in different parts of the world. It all informs who I am as a person, and who I am raising my child to be. This month has definitely been one with thought provoking watching, not easy watching, but documentaries with important messages that everyone should see.Â
So, what have I been watching?
The Hunting Ground
This was a tough watch, but I felt an important one – my blood pressure rose by several levels throughout. The documentary looks at the treatment of sexual assault in American universities, the attitude of the governing bodies to both the victims and the perpetrators. I’m not surprised in the content of the documentary, which makes me quite sad. It painted the picture of exactly what I thought I knew, from seeing news reports and “Ripped from the headlines” episodes of Law and Order SVU on the same topic over the last few years. It did however let the victims share their stories. Of being told it was their fault, questioned on what their behaviour was to prompt him to do it, of being shown that their college, where they studied and paid fees, cared more about the reputation of the abuser than the welfare of the victim. Sexual assault is so underreported as a crime, because it is the only crime that the victim has to prove they didn’t want – and the conviction late is so, so low. The Brock Turner case, the man who sexually assaulted a fellow student and was released from prison after serving only three months of his exceedingly short six month sentence, was a reminder in recent months of the attitude towards victims in modern America. This should be mandatory viewing for all secondary school students, and anyone who jumps on the #NotAllMen wagon. Definitely do keep in mind a trigger warning for anyone who may be affected by themes of sexual assault or abuse.
Russell Brand: The War on Drugs
I am a recent convert to liking Russell Brand, for many years I thought he was a bit of an arse, if I’m honest. His videos around the UK political system over the last few years had drawn me in a bit. He seemed to add a bit of everyman humour to the situation while questioning the policies being brought in by the main party, and spoke a lot of sense (which surprised me at first). Netflix has recently added two documentaries of his about drugs – one about his own story, and one where he looks at the UK judicial approach to the drug problem in the country. His look at The War on Drugs shows it from the point of view of politicians, addicts, activists, legal experts and police, as well as his former addict view. He’s very pro-abstinence programmes over the methadone route, and having watched the documentary not knowing much about either, it’s prompted me to properly think about these issues and how our own country treats addicts. It’s not a polarising documentary, there are many pros and cons shown to each approach, but it’s interesting to see the different ways different countries and areas treat the issue.
In Ireland, the debate around the 8th Amendment is never out of the news at the moment (nor should it be). It’s interesting to see something so topical appearing on my recommended-for-you list on Netflix, but I was happy to check out Vessel over the weekend. It tells the story of Women on Waves, a women’s rights group who have found ways to get around restrictive international laws around abortions and female reproductive rights. I had known very little about Women on Waves before watching this – I was aware of their minute amount of influence in Ireland, and I knew that they were a source of misoprostyl pills for women who were in need of an early term abortion and unable to travel, but I wasn’t aware of the work they do elsewhere or the people behind the publicity. It was interesting to look at our Irish laws from the point of view of people who aren’t from here and haven’t grown up with them as the norm. Encouragingly, the documentary shows a relaxing of laws in other places after the involvement of Women on Waves in influencing policy – places like Spain and Portugal which would previously have been considered extremely conservative. It gives me hope that some day soon in the future our little country too will evolve into one where women can freely choose what to do with their bodies, without having to travel or face legal consequences. Regardless of what side of the debate you’re on, this is an interesting documentary which will certainly educate you on why the people who run this group feel the way they do.
Yes, technically not a documentary, rather a dramatisation of a true story that we are all painfully aware of. AÂ cinematic reconstruction of the moments leading up to that night in September 2008 when our government made the decision to bail out the banks from their seemingly inevitable destruction, to save the economy. The last eight years have seen a tidal wave of economic change and a definite move in Ireland’s political scene, however it is evident watching this back and comparing it to current goings on that nothing really has changed. This film was premiered on Irish television last year to mixed reviews (many commenting on the rather Brechtian double casting of one actor in particular which caused some confusion). Knowing what we know now, it makes interesting viewing.
Those have been the things keeping my mind busy to start off September – what have you been watching? Got any documentaries that you recommend? I’d love some more – leave them in the comments below!
Disclosure:I am a member of the Netflix Stream Team and received a Netflix subscription and an iPad Mini in return for posting Netflix updates and reviews, however, all opinions are my own, and I already had a personal subscription before joining the Stream Team.
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