The 5 Best Documentaries I’ve Seen on Netflix So Far (That You’ve Likely Never Heard Of)

Top 5 Nextflix Doc Worth Watching ATG FINAL

My love of cinema stems wide and deep. It’s why I went to film school and made the even crazier, very cliché LA choice to pursue a career in media focusing on storytelling. Though I’m a devotee to narratives of all kinds, I don’t think there’s a genre I’m more fond of than the simplicity of a well-made documentary film. I suppose it’s because it embodies what I think makes this particular aspect of cinema a force unlike any other – and that’s the synergy that comes from telling a story rooted in and based on reality, fused with the artistic ability to capture that moment in time through one of the most powerful mediums ever created.

Ever since I moved into my own place about two and a half years ago now, I never made the leap back to subscribing to cable again (crazy, right?). Instead, I joined Netflix streaming and never looked backed. What has to be the best thing about Netflix, other than the $7.99/month access to thousands of titles, has to be the ability to catch more obscure, independent films and lesser known documentaries.

I can’t tell you how many films and TV shows (read: my current addiction to Scandal) I’ve taken in since my ongoing relationship with Netflix, but there’s plenty worth checking out if you find yourself home on a Saturday night with nothing else to do. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I get caught in the trap of sifting through all the titles that I become so overwhelmed and can’t decide what to watch, only to turn it off and grab a book instead.

I’m here to help! If you’re looking for something life-affirming, eye-opening, inspiring, or just plain entertaining. I’ve got you covered on the documentary front. Sadly, what would have made this list as one of my absolute favorite Netflix finds, 65_Red Roses, is no longer streaming, but it would be here without question. I encourage you to see it if you can.

With that, here are the 5 best documentaries I’ve seen (so far) currently streaming on Netflix that you’ve probably never heard of. Your Saturday night programming dilemma, is solved.

If you’re in the mood for a real-life psychological thriller…

11164313_detTania Head says she was inside The World Trade Center the day of the tragic 9/11 attacks. She shares in vivid detail how she got to safety after the plane struck the building, and how unfortunately, her husband didn’t make it out. In an effort to build community with other 9/11 survivors to deal with their grief and give back, Tania helps found and soon becomes President of The World Trade Center Survivor’s Network which makes her a prominent figure in the press and within the community. One small problem though, it’s an intricate web of lies. Tania’s name really isn’t Tania. There’s no record of her ever being married. In fact, we find out that Tania was nowhere near The World Trade Center on 9/11. She was on the other side of the world. Told in uniquely visual manner, The Woman Who Wasn’t There, mysteriously unfolds as it delves into the mindset of a living sociopath and how those she fooled for years finally caught on to her scheme. How could one woman deceive everyone for so long? You’d have to see it to believe it. This is a real-life psychological thriller if there ever was one.

If you’re in the mood for something moving, yet life-affirming…11167652_det

Lost Angels: Skid Row is My Home feelingly follows those who have built a community within the complexities of homelessness. Filmed on Skid Row, which holds Los Angeles’ largest homeless population, this story shares not only the lives of those who’ve made a home on Skid Row and what might have brought them there, but those who have bonded together in the midst of it. Yes, it’s a portrait of life with little means, but more importantly, a story about human connection no matter the circumstances. There’s such humanity to this film, though it shares the most unfortunate of situations, there’s a level of affirmation to it that drives home the resilience of the human spirit.

If you’re in the mood for a night with the supernatural…

11169590_detMy Amityville Horror goes behind the various Hollywood re-makes of the infamous Amityville haunting and catches up with the little boy who lived the real-life horror himself almost 40 years ago. That little boy, Daniel Lutz, now an adult, shares his chilling and life-altering account of personally living among supernatural forces. Whether you believe the story or not, you walk away believing that Daniel truly did and still does. What is now a source of entertainment over a tub of popcorn at the movies for us, seemingly caused permanent psychological damage to him. An entertaining and eerie look at when reality and the celestial collide. Don’t watch this alone.

If you’re in the mood to know what’s likely to become the next biggest social issue of our time…

11171866_detAccording to the eye-opening and infuriating 2013 documentary, Terms and Conditions May Apply, big brother is alive and well. This film succinctly sheds light on what is sure to become the next biggest social issue as our lives become more and more digital, and that dear readers, is your privacy. All of those “accept’ buttons you simply check under the “terms” section of a website to be able to swiftly maneuver to the next screen on-line, is costing you more than you know. Add in the use of social media, web browsing, which email service you use, and cell phone tracking, and we’ve all but somehow given our privacy away. Every single human being who uses the internet or takes a phone call needs to see this film. Perhaps you’ll actually read the “Terms and Conditions” sections before you mindlessly “accept” them moving forward. Apparently, we’re all being watched thanks to our devotion to the internet and our “smart” phones.

If you’re in the mood for something to get you inspired to make a change…11164631_det

Vegucated follows three meat-loving New Yorkers who take on the 6 week challenge to adopt a vegan lifestyle. I was actually inspired to write about this film after I saw it last year. You can read my full review here.

 

 

 

 

 

 


Let me know your thoughts if you happen to catch any of these. If there’s something you’ve seen that’s not on my list, I’d love to hear your suggestions.

Until then, happy streaming!

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*images sourced from Rottentomatoes.com.

Highlights

As the summer wraps up, at least according to the calendar this Sunday (though I’d give it a few more weeks before we’re in the clear from the next heat wave), I’m finding how ready I am for the change in seasons. Of course, sunshine is never too far away in L.A., but I’m terrified to see my next electric bill after a pretty consistent relationship with my air-conditioner at home over the last month.

This so-called last week of summer found me on a complete roller coaster.

Professionally, it’s been a pretty chaotic, but very productive work week – juggling many different projects happening worldwide; along with a happy highlight of spending some time on-set this week supervising the on-camera interviews we’re filming for a series of short documentaries. I’m finding that I love the diversity of the projects happening right now and I’m even more in love with the fact that my responsibilities are changing in a way that feels like growth (uber important to me at this time in my life when it comes my career).

Personally, since my laptop broke up with me last weekend, much of this week was filled with stressing out over researching my next move. It’s been a long time since I’ve had to get up to speed on the laptop market in a way that actually matters and, as expected, I’m overwhelmed with the thousands of options out there. Do I go Mac Book Pro or stick with a sleek and more affordable PC? What are my deal-breakers? (I’m just now catching on to how rare it is for a laptop to have an optical drive which I had in the deal breaker column…until yesterday – go figure). And more specifically, what do I need to do financially to shift around expenses to accommodate this unexpected break-up? I have a plan and everything will be okay in the end. While I know my last post spoke of this great revelation in a new perspective on stress – it still bugs me to have to deal with this right now, and therefore, still causes short spurts of it. (I know, I know.)

So I guess the universe decided to send me yet another message.

On Wednesday night after a much-needed yoga class – I sauntered home tired, thinking about computers, scrambling eggs for dinner, and mentally going through what I could watch in my Netflix queue to unwind some. Interestingly, nothing in my queue appealed to me so I started browsing and literally stumbled across the most life-affirming and moving documentary I’ve seen in a while – with a message that perhaps I needed to hear again, in another form, and even more intensely.

What drew me to the film was the unusual title, 65_RedRoses, and once I read the synopsis something pulled me to put it on among the thousands of other options in front of me.

65_RedRoses follows Eva Markvoort, an instantly lovable and highly spirited 23-year-old, whose lungs are failing from cystic fibrosis. The film enters her life during her difficult journey as she waits for a lung transplant, next on the donor list. Watching her struggle with simply breathing, something many of us take for granted, couldn’t be a more powerful way to shift perspective – not only in living life to the fullest, but in the importance of organ donation.

I had no idea how affected I would be by this film and by Eva’s story.

As soon as the film ended, I literally felt myself opening up and relaxing into a mixture of sadness and gratitude. The trivial stuff that I’d been allowing myself to be bothered by from work issues of the day to laptop worries seemed completely unnecessary, and in the grand scheme of things were and are completely fixable – therefore, unimportant.

What I’ve been thinking as I write these words is whether or not it’s a coincidence that the Oprah Winfrey Network logo was at the beginning of the documentary? I mean, twice in one week I’ve come across these messages (granted this type of stuff is very “Oprah”) that I can’t help but somehow interpret as the universe speaking to me, getting me to just relax and change my thinking and my approach.

Since this seems to be a recurring theme this week, I encourage you to see the film if you can. It’s streaming on Netflix and is available on Amazon Instant Video.

I was saddened to hear of Eva’s story, but I was grateful to have heard it. The tagline of the documentary I later found out is simple, yet profound; particularly because it’s literally true: Every breath counts.

With that, I’m entering the weekend with Eva and the universe’s message on my mind, my laptop worries a very distant second.

#4Eva

Have a wonderful weekend.
Candice