THAT One: A List of Good Documentaries

Here are a couple of documentaries I’ve watched recently and would highly recommend if you’re looking for something good. You can watch them for free with your library card through the Kanopy app or website (

5 broken cameras (2011)

Directed by: Emad Burnat; ‎Guy Davidi

The entire film is shot by a farmer, Emad Burnat, who is witnessing and partaking in protests in his village Bil’in, Gaza. All the footage was taken from the five cameras Emad used and were damaged throughout the process. From what I understand, the town is fighting back against gentrification from the Israelis but I don’t think they use that word. They call it something else but I recognized it as gentrification. Anyway, what struck me about the film was how normal the fighting became. Gunshots were normal and the children played near it without worry. How determined the community was and didn’t give up in spite of the cruelty they faced. I’ve never seen community like that and admired the way they pulled together. It’s a bit slow moving but I was captivated by all the beauty that Emad was able to find in his family, even in the midst of violence.The other thing that struck me was the way the movie was kind of a joint venture between the Israelis and the Muslims. Which I always thought that relationship was very tense. But it looks like the making of the film (or at least the post-production of it) was a reconciliation. Perhaps. I mean, I don’t know but the credits included a lot of Israeli people and organizations but the filmmaker is Muslim. I’d love to pick their brain about how that process was and what happened to make them join forces together.

Anyway, this is kind of a disjointed review but it was unique, especially the process in which it was created.

95 and 6 more to go (2016)

Director: Kimi Takesue

The summary sorta described the film as sort of a grandfather helping his granddaughter write her romantic screenplay and offering advice along the way. Or at least that was the impression I got when I began it. Which is true. There were parts where he’d read her script and give these suggestions on how to make it better and he gave some solid life advice. Gave them something to talk about. But to me, it was more of a portrait of Kimi’s grandfather, Tom. It was like a love letter but between grand-daughter and grand-father. Or maybe to her whole family in general.

Tom was in his nineties when this was filmed and his wife had recently died. The film was tranquil in many ways and showed these still shots of her grandfather’s house, cluttered with memories. When Kimi would ask him questions about how he and his wife met, he played it off as very unromantic but I don’t believe him. Because when he was trying to help Kimi write her screenplay, he would come up with all these grand gestures of love and soundtrack her movie with love songs he knew. In other footage, it would show Kimi’s grandmother and she would tell the story of how they met and he sounded so lovesick in her story. I have a theory but won’t bring it up here. Anyway, I loved how it portrayed marriage and what growing old looks like. It was charming and heartwarming in the softest of ways.

cartel land (2015)

Director: Matthew Heineman

It’s basically about vigilantes on the American side and Mexican side who are standing up against drug cartels in Mexico. It looks into why the communities are fighting back and how they rallied against them. I don’t want to give too much away because the storytelling and the way aspects of people’s characters are revealed is so brilliant. I watched it thinking this was good vs. evil but it’s really not. It’s very messy.

It was hard to watch and took me awhile to fall asleep after because of the violence. Which was never really a problem for me. I mean, I’ve watched a lot of The Walking Dead and didn’t have a problem but I did after this show. And I think it’s because this was real. The violence in it was real. The reason I decided to watch it all the way to the end is because it’s so easy to shut a program off when human suffering is too painful to watch. To close our hearts off to suffering because our hearts are already hurting. But I feel like when we do that, sometimes, we close ourselves off to empathy. Suffering either makes us very selfish and protective or it makes us more empathetic and giving. I don’t know which I am: selfish or empathetic. Probably both. But hearing this story made my world a little bigger and changed the way I prayed. It was a wake up call to something bigger than myself which is sometimes what you need when you’re having a pity party around Christmas.

red light green light (2013)

Directors: Jared and Michelle Brock

I never really had an opinion on the legalization of prostitution. University made me see the world very liberally and I guess I kind of adopted some of those ideals that a woman should be able to do what she wants with her body. If she wants to sell it, then she has the right to do it. This film made me question that… a lot.

From what I understand, the filmmakers are Christian. The film wasn’t preachy the way that most Christian films are. They never wanted to get into the debate about legalizing prostitution but they couldn’t look at sex trafficking without acknowledging it in some way. I admired the way they looked at the debate from both sides and how they genuinely had respect for everyone they met, regardless of their opinion. In spite of that, they were very focused on righteous justice. Bringing light into dark places. If I ever make a movie, I would like to do what they did. Something respectful, enlightening, justice-oriented but above all, hopeful. There was so much hope, even in the midst of heartbreaking situations.

meet the patels (2014)

Director: Geeta V. Patel, Ravi V. Patel

This doc was told by a sister-brother duo. Ravi is about to turn 30 and thinking about settling down. He turns to his Indian parents to help him find a wife in their culture’s traditional way. Geeta, Ravi’s sister, documents the whole thing.

I watched this this morning, right after I watched 95 and 6 More To Go. Where 95 softened my hardened heart, Meet the Patels filled it up again and made me want to write this list. I don’t want to give too much away because it was brilliantly told but it’s like a Bollywood-meets-Hollywood- rom-com in documentary form. So unique and so very, very funny. It shows the frustrations of dating, the beauty of marriage, family and a charming glimpse into Indian culture. I can’t recommend it enough. All the films I listed today impacted me and after each one, I was like, THAT was the best movie I’ve ever seen. Then, I’d watch another one and be like, no THAT was the best one I’ve ever seen. And since Meet the Patels was the most recent one I watched, I truly feel like THAT was the best documentary I’ve ever seen.

I mean, until the next one…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s