Docs to Knock Your Socks Off

Hannah Simpson-Orlebar takes a look at some of the documentaries that we should be watching instead of trashy TV.  Indulge in a form of procrastination that will make you smarter.

Fresher’s week has come to a close, and awkwardness around halls, the queues for the medical centre and the ever-devastating Fresher’s Flu are on the rise. Never has watching Netflix in bed seemed so appealing.  However, when all the movies seem too cliché and starting a new series requires effort that you no longer possess, a documentary is the perfect option. Here are five of the best documentaries that Netflix has to offer.

Mortified Nation (2013) Mike Mayer

I do not think there will be anyone that does not relate to at least one moment in this documentary. This film presents a series of shows where adults read out excerpts from their childhood and teenage diaries, letters, plays and poetry. It is utterly hilarious and makes you want to find your old works of art detailing your own naïve escapades. If you like this, I also suggest you listen to ‘Grownups Read Things They Wrote as Kids’ which is a weekly podcast with very similar material.

Born into Brothels (2005) Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman

Whilst there are many documentaries detailing the sex trade, this is on another level. In the Red District of Calcutta, Zana Briski meets eight children born into brothels. Where many documentaries focus on the lives of the prostitutes, this showcases their children. Briski teaches them to use cameras, therefore allowing the audience to view the underworld of Calcutta, through their perspective. It is interesting to see the purpose of the documentary change, as the focus goes from the mothers to the children, and the hope of bettering their futures.

Chef’s Table France (2016) Andrew Fried, Abigail Fuller, David Gelb, Clay Jeter, Brian McGinna

Watching this made me, well, firstly very hungry, but also wish that my fridge did not just contain hummus, ham and cheese. If you are a lover of food or art or want to impress someone by watching a whole documentary in French, this one is for you. Each episode, features a new chef and a new part of France. It is an unbiased biopic of each Chef’s life, noting the highs and lows on their voyage to perfection.

The Keepers (2017) Ryan White

This series explores the unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik and delves into the corrupt nature of the Catholic church.  It starts in a very similar style to ‘Making a Murder’ in being a single case, but swiftly grows in magnitude, to show the scope of sexual abuse and exploitation in the church. It is effortlessly gripping and demands further research of the watcher, which is always the best response to any truly good documentary.

Jack Whitehall: Travels with my Father (2017) Jack Whitehall

Jack and his father, Michael Whitehall, embark on the typical ‘Gap Yah’ route across South East Asia. It’s a healthy balance of history, culture, dysfunctional relationships with fathers and comedy. If you have watched anything with Jack Whitehall in it, you will know what to expect, but Michael is really the star of the show in his blunt and honest commentary.

They differ in style and genre, but like any documentary, you will be talking about them long after you’ve logged off Netflix or until you get your friends to finally agree to watch it.

Hannah Simpson-Orlebar

Image: Davina Diaries