Thursday, 21 January 2016

Must Watch Documentaries on Netflix #StreamTeam

My Netflix viewing has been completely dominated by watching the powerful, gripping documentary series Making a Murderer. The tale of wrongful conviction, police corruption, a flawed judicial system, evidence tampering and false confessions is the stuff of a work of great crime fiction - so the fact that it is all true makes this one of the most compelling programmes I have watched in a long time.

The case of Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey has gripped Netfix audiences, garnering them lots of support across the world. Watching it sets you on a journey of emotions from anger to disbelief to frustration as you question everything. Filmed over a decade, it includes footage from the interrogation rooms, the courtroom, recorded calls from jail and press coverage from the time, making it utterly authentic.

Making a Murderer stays with you long after you finish the series. I have researched the case online, reading transcripts, developments and theories that viewers have come up with. There is a Reddit thread dedicated to the case and many a meme has been created in honour of the show. I have my own ideas about the case, which I discuss at length with my daughter who is studying Criminology at university. It has highlighted so much that is wrong with the system and gives you an insight into how the pressure and desire to make a conviction can distort a criminal investigation and prevent the truth from ever being discovered.

If you haven't seen it - you simply must watch it!

Blackfish is a documentary focusing on the controversial captivity of Orcas in parks such as Seaworld, and the potential dangers it poses not only on the whales but also on the humans who come into contact with them.

Viewers are shown archive footage of the capture, training and captivity of these intelligent, sentient creatures who suffer from great distress often resulting in extreme aggression and violence. The documentary features a male killer whale called Tilikum, who is responsible for the deaths of three individuals including a renowned whale trainer, Dawn Brancheau.

Much of the footage is shocking and you question who the real monsters are - can you really blame the Orcas for these acts of extreme violence or should we look closely at the organisations that oppress and exploit these creatures for money-making entertainment purposes?  Blackfish is an impassioned documentary that makes you change the way you look at performing killer whales in captivity.

Food Inc is a graphic look at the food industry in America, focusing on the damage done by corporate farming carried out on a vast scale for enormous profits, with little regard for consumer health, animal welfare, employees' rights or the environment. As they gain greater control of the global food market corporations are mass producing food cheaply with little regard for the negative consequences and catastrophic impact they are having on the world or humanity itself.

With the majority of food production carried out by a handful of these secretive corporations, the standard of production relies on cheap processes that rely on cruelty and exploitation to maximise profit rather than on quality. Exploitation extends to the underpaid workers, to the indebted farmers, to the inhumanely treated animals and to the consumers who are fed substandard products.

Watching Food Inc reminds us all of the value of quality food: slow grown, organic, locally sourced produce rather than chemically altered food such as burger meat that contains bleach to remove dangerous toxins to make it fit for human consumption.

I always have my belief in my family's vegetarian lifestyle reaffirmed when watching documentaries like this. Even though this is an exposé of the America food industry, it isn't difficult to see similarities in the UK markets. With the rise of obesity and diet related diseases, we should all take stock of what we eat and how that food is produced.

Montage of Heck is a documentary about the life and career of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain. Packed with home movies, recordings, artwork, animations, readings from journals and photos, it gives you an incredible window in to Kurt's childhood, formative years and his rise to fame.

His happy early years soon gave way to feelings of rejection and Kurt became a very troubled teen, but his desperation to be loved and accepted and his creativity shone through. It's very sad to witness his early downfall and the failure of his family to provide the support he needed. You can't help but wonder whether he could have been saved - but without his tortured soul we may have never seen the genius of Nirvana.

The insight into Kurt's character and his relationships is amazing. Viewing his journals allows us a rare glimpse into his wildly active mind, filled with lists, lyrics, rants, cartoons and ideas. His mental problems, ill health and addictions saw him spiral into darkness, but his creativity and talent were a beacon of light that escalated him into becoming a legend and reluctant spokesperson for a generation of disaffected youth.

Cobain's story is such a tragedy, and this documentary reveals a vulnerability and a desire to be loved that speaks of his humanity, fleshing out the grunge rock legend into a human being with desires, hopes, flaws and insecurities. His relationship with Courtney seemed to be the catalyst for his demise, although it offered the thing he always craved - family. Some people are just not meant for this world, but Kurt's legacy lives on.

Kurt Cobain

Visually this is a stunning documentary featuring interviews, real life footage and incredible animations to accompany audio footage. It's a must see for fans offering a rounded view of the man and avoiding any conclusions or answers to the question of his rise and fall. in fact the factors surrounding his death are not explored at all. Instead it provides a chance to witness the pivotal moments and to see the man himself in a raw and real documentary with an amazing soundtrack.

This documentary is authorised by Kurt's widow Courtney Love and his family and finishes a month before his untimely and tragic death, so any conspiracy theorists who believe his death was murder and not suicide, may be left wanting by the final cut.


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