Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Netflix Picks - Stranger Than Fiction

Harold Evans in Attacking the Devil
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This instalment of Netflix Picks is all about documentaries... Before you start yawning, if you're not a fan of docs, I strongly feel that you simply haven't found the right one yet. Whatever your interests, there are documentaries about pretty much everything and while some can be downright boring, others are fascinating, enlightening, educational and some will leave you thinking about a particular subject or question for weeks afterwards. 

The following documentaries are not light fare... In fact, they're not at all for the faint of heart, but I found them fascinating and perfect for anyone who wants to be well-informed. As the old saying goes, "ignorance is bliss" however they also say that "knowledge is power" and I choose the latter. Each of the five films below sheds light on some rather uncomfortable topics. I find some of them to be quite timely choices too, given what's been in the news lately. Without further ado... 

1. The Hunting Ground
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With the Stanford University rape case in the news lately, this brave documentary is a must-see. The Hunting Ground explores the sometimes ignored rape culture on American college campuses and the difficulties of sexual assault victims when they try to report the crimes against them and seek justice. Though not terribly surprising, the subject matter of this film is shocking and I firmly believe that everyone who plans to send their daughter to college should watch it. In fact, it wouldn't be a bad idea to show it to young ladies before they enter university so they know more of what to watch out for and how to better protect themselves from situations that might be dangerous. Whomever decides to watch The Hunting Ground, this is a real issue that's dangerous and awareness is the first step in making educational institutions safer for students. Click here for more information on The Hunting Ground and the efforts of the filmmakers to stop campus sexual assaults. 

2. Attacking the Devil
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Chronicling the career of celebrated journalist Harold Evans and his fight to get Thalidomide off the market in the UK, Attacking the Devil is one of the most interesting documentaries I've seen in years. It's a true David & Goliath story about a single man who, with his team, used the power of investigative journalism to right wrongs, fight huge corporations and make change. I had heard a lot about Thalidomide in the past, but this film dives deep into the creation of the drug, its original intention and how it became the norm for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. Sadly those women then gave birth to babies with severe physical deformities, some of which were fatal and yet still had to join in the fight to get this drug taken off the market. If ever there's a documentary film to inspire and keep you on the edge of your seat, it's this one... It's well worth watching!

3. Deliver Us From Evil
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Spotlight was the most recent Oscar winner for Best Picture and if you liked that movie, then you'll probably be interested in Deliver Us From Evil.  Similar to what the Spotlight team published in their Boston newspaper, this documentary tells a story that no one wants to hear, but it's set in California. Oliver O'Grady was a priest in California who abused 25 children in the 70's and he is the subject of this movie, along with the efforts involved in keeping his crimes quiet. Tough, emotional and nearly impossible to watch, Deliver Us From Evil is a gripping film shedding light on a story that deserves to be told and recognized. Including interviews with victims and their families as well as O'Grady himself, this is a documentary that will require you to have a box of tissues at hand. 

4. Tricked
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I often hear people talk about human trafficking and sex trafficking as though it only happens in troubled, third world countries, but that's simply not the truth. It's easier to turn a blind eye to something if you think it won't happen to you. The truth is that some people are trafficked within the borders of their own countries and there are more and more stories emerging of both men and women who were brought to the UK or the US against their will and made to work as sex slaves before escaping. It is in fact a problem that lives on almost everyone's doorstep and it's horrifying to think about, but ignoring it won't make it go away. Tricked is a film that addresses just this very issue - unsuspecting women who are lured in by men and just when they start to trust them, are taken and forced into a life of prostitution. They didn't choose it, they didn't ask for it and some of them don't even survive it while the ones who do are severely wounded either physically, emotionally or in most cases, both. Interviews with a survivor make this film very realistic and she even takes the film crew on a tour of where she lived, where she worked, etc. Interviews with real-life pimps make it terrifying, hearing how they have so little regard for women's lives and bodies. Get ready to get mad... I was shouting at the television throughout this whole movie, but I'm so glad I watched it. It opened my eyes in a major way to something I knew was happening, but that is probably more common than I ever imagined.

5. Requiem for the American Dream
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While I'd heard of Noam Chomsky, I never really knew who he was, but after watching this film, I am fascinated by this man. Chomsky is a renowned scholar and professor at MIT and in Requiem for the American Dream he addresses the current state of America. Talking through the history of the founding right up until the time of the film, he addresses how history has shaped current events like recessions, housing crises, politics, division of wealth and even student loans and how they effect the workforce. From the production lines in Henry Ford's day to the later financialization of the economy, Chomsky breaks it all down in a way that had lightbulbs going off in my head. It all seems to make sense when he describes it. This was by far my favorite of the above. This is a great movie and quite timely given the political divide in the US, the Brexit divide in the UK and all the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis that it seems we will never stop hearing about. If you need something to talk about at a dinner with brainiacs, the politically obsessed or people who work in finance, this is it... In a few hours, you'll have enough chit chat for a week's worth of dinner parties!

I'm always looking for great documentaries to watch... Do you have any favorites? If so, leave your suggestions in the comments below and I'll try to watch them. 
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