I’m a documentary film junkie. Sometimes, the shortest route to getting someone to understand where you are coming from is not to try to convince them yourself, but rather to let a book or movie speak for you.
Here are 7 documentaries you need to watch:
1: The Ballad of Esequiel Hernández
Narrated by Tommy Lee Jones, this movie features remarkably candid accounts from Marines on a mission near the US-Mexico border that led to the death of an American teenager. Also included are interviews with Esequiel’s family, friends and teachers; Marine Corps investigators; FBI investigators and defense attorneys.
"A Texas grand jury declined to indict the team’s commanding officer for murder, in part due to military pressure not to subject soldiers to state laws." ~ Mother Jones
2: Let the Fire Burn
This 2013 documentary covers the events leading up to and surrounding a 1985 stand-off between the black liberation group MOVE and the Philadelphia Police Department, where the PD dropped a bomb on the MOVE house, causing a fire. The police made the controversial decision to "let the fire burn", resulting in the destruction of more than 60 homes and the death of five children and six adults. The investigation that followed found that city leaders and law enforcement had acted negligently, but no criminal charges were filed.
"This historic footage — from newsreels, TV stations once-live coverage, from several investigating commissions — has been edited, brilliantly into a coherent, important political film." ~ Arts Fuse
You will feel like you are watching a thriller in this Oscar-winning film about Edward Snowden, the heroic whistleblower who provided proof to the world that the U.S. government routinely and secretly spies on us all.
"The message of the movie is as clear as Siberian ice: Whether you’re a Tea Partier, an Occupier or just an ordinary Joe, you might be the next citizen who’s stranded in limbo." ~ St. Louis Post-Dispatch
4: Waco: Rules of Engagement
Think you know what happened at Waco? Think again. Said one film critic: "If you believe the US government is only looking out for your interests, I defy you to watch this film and not find your viewpoint altered."
“Whatever happened at Waco, these facts remain: It is not against the law to hold irregular religious beliefs. It is not illegal to hold and trade firearms. It is legal to defend your own home against armed assault, if that assault is illegal. It is impossible to see this film without reflecting that the federal government, from the top down, treated the Branch Davidians as if those rights did not apply.” ~ Roger Ebert
5: The House I Live In
From the filmmaker who brought us the brilliant "Why We Fight" which is also worth watching, this movie examines the War of Drugs, the problems prohibition causes, and the tragedies that happen when drug users are treated like criminals. More than 45 million drug users have been arrested over the past 4 decades–and for each one jailed, another family is destroyed.
"Whatever your politics, you will find things to astonish and flabbergast and enrage you in what is perhaps the most cool-headed examination of America’s relationship to illegal drugs ever." ~ Flick Filosopher
6: The Internet’s Own Boy
Harvard research fellow and co-founder of Reddit, Aaron Swartz—an internet wunderkind and “open access” advocate—is threatened with 35 years in federal prison for the crime of downloading copyrighted materials from MIT’s library. What follows is a two year legal nightmare caused by overzealous federal prosecutors hellbent on making an example of Aaron.
"A touching, morally outraged portrait that, in memory of Swartz, may inspire people to ask hard questions about how the new world is being shaped away from view, behind closed doors." ~ Globe and Mail
7: Making a Murderer
Filmed over ten years, this 10-part Netflix Original series made quite a splash last year. This true crime docuseries is riveting, addictive, and offers a fascinating look at the US criminal justice system. I recommend you queue this one to binge watch on a snowy weekend this winter.
"If there is any succor to be found, it’s in knowing that in its exceptional depiction of unprecedented events, Making a Murderer may end up changing our justice system for the better." ~ PopMatters