Must-see social justice documentaries

By in Culture

One of my favourite things to do is curl up in bed with a glass of red wine and a good documentary. There’s nothing quite like being wrapped up in an interesting topic that leaves you feeling inspired, motivated or curious for more information.

The benefit of documentaries is that you often learn something new while relaxing — it’s a win-win for your body and your mind! For the social justice warrior out there, here are some of my favourite documentaries I’ve watched.

1. Food, Inc.: this documentary is all about what we eat, how it is produced and the environment. Available on Netflix, this 2008 film will leave you thinking about socialdocs-02what you put in your body. With a close examination of corporate farming and a look into animal slaughterhouses, this film challenges viewers to be more conscious about where their food comes from, what it does to the earth and what it does to our bodies.

2. The True Cost: Released in 2015, this documentary is also available on Netflix and tells the story of clothing, focusing on who makes the clothes we wear. The documentary is filmed in various parts of the world, and looks at the lives of those who work in clothing factories, as well as the impact that mass-produced clothing has on the environment. It challenges the viewer to think about what goes into the clothes we buy and wear — and who is paying the real price for it all.

3. Born Into Brothels: this heart-wrenching 2004 documentary looks at the children born to who work as prostitutes in Calcutta, India. One of the documentary’s co-directors, Zana Briski, took photographs of the children, in return for teaching them basic photography skills so that they can record their own lives. The film won an Academy Award in 2005, as well as best documentary feature. This documentary is also on Netflix.

4. After Tiller: this film looks at the only remaining four doctors in the United States who perform late-term abortions. This documentary won an Emmy Award in 2015, and it’s subject matter is often a point of controversy. The title is inspired by the late doctor George Tiller, who was murdered in 2009 after performing late-term abortions. Also available on Netflix, this film was nominated for and won many other awards and received much critical acclaim for its take on the hot-topic of abortion.

5. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom: this 2015 film is about the Euromaidan protests in Ukraine during 2013 and 2014, at a time when demonstrations supporting European integration ended in a violent revolution. It won the People’s’ Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2015 and is also available to watch on Netflix.

6. Miss Representation: focusing on stereotypes of women and breaking those down, this 2011 documentary inspires everyone, regardless of gender, age and race, to be who they are and break free of negative limitations. The film is also linked to The Representation Project, which has a number of social media platforms to promote its message and encourages viewers to join the movement. This film is also available on Netflix.

7. Poverty, Inc.: a 2014 film that looks at foreign aid and the impact that it has, this documentary introduces viewers to poverty in the Third World and how this is a global problem that needs more attention. As the winner of over 50 major film honours, this documentary challenges the idea of charity and donation and encourages viewers to think about solutions to poverty in a different way. Poverty, Inc. is also available on Netflix.

Image: Lesia Karalash / Graphics Editor