Six Excellent Netflix Docs

Here are some recommendations we came up with at Bertha Dochouse, where I am working as a Programme Associate. I will be posting more content soon – including highlighting docs for kids. Stay tuned!

Weiner

Two years after resigning from Congress for tweeting a picture of his bulging briefs, Anthony Weiner is running for Mayor of New York. His loyal wife Huma (Hillary Clinton’s right-hand woman) is at his side, and the tenacious politician has even invited a documentary crew along for the ride. The trouble is, he’s neglected to curb his digital dalliances, giving us jaw-dropping access to a campaign that is soon in total meltdown.

Shirkers

A good one to distract you from pandemic woes, this is a highly original and entertaining personal documentary. In the early 1990s young punk cinephile Sandi Tan wrote and starred in Shirkers, a quirky girl road movie, directed by her older, enigmatic mentor Georges. But her dreams of making a big splash in Singapore’s nascent film industry were cut cruelly short – find out why.

Icarus

In this nonfiction thriller, which won the 2018 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature, Director Brian Fogel immerses himself in the world of performance enhancing drugs, and soon stumbles into the centre of Russia’s extensive state-sponsored doping programme. It’s a wild ride – and one of the most electric nonfiction films in recent years.

Life, Animated

After years of silence as a child, Owen Suskind amazed his family by beginning to communicate through his biggest passion: Disney films. Now leaving home, Owen is learning that not every step in life has a Disney guru. Director Roger Ross Williams’ masterful film shows how one close-knit family navigates life with autism. The film won a number of awards including the Critics’ Choice Award for “Most Compelling Living Subject of a Documentary.”

Cartel Land

In this double Sundance winner, Matthew Heineman takes us deep into the world of Mexican drug cartels by embedding himself with two vigilante groups on either side of the US-Mexico border. Camouflaged to help spy on drug runners, veteran Tim Foley is a man who wears his hard past on his face. 

Meanwhile, across the Rio Grande, surgeon Dr. Jose Mireles looks straight out of central casting, with chiselled features and a prominent moustache. As head of the Autodefansas, he is leading a group of men determined to obliterate the region’s most dangerous drug cartel, the Knights Templar. 

Heineman repeatedly places himself in harm’s way, filming the chaos as the group begin taking over towns – in so doing adapting many of the violent tactics of the drug lords they’re trying to overpower. A visceral journey into North America’s heart of darkness.

Last Breath

Experience the gripping, life-or-death true story of commercial deep-sea diver Chris Lemons in Last Breath. Lemons had spent weeks in a claustrophobic decompression chamber with his diving partner, preparing for their routine maintenance dive to a North Sea oil well off the coast of Scotland. Once submerged, the pair were tethered to the ship by umbilical cords providing light, oxygen and pumping heated water around their suits to protect them from dangerous sub-zero temperatures. When a storm caused total loss of control for the ship, it became a race to get the divers back to safety.

With a combination of interviews with colleagues, reconstruction, and Lemon’s own footage, Last Breath is a visceral story of how it feels to be lost on the North Sea bed, with 5 minutes of oxygen, and a rescue team over 30 minutes away.

You can see a Q&A that I did with the makers of Last Breath (and a special guest) here.

1 thought on “Six Excellent Netflix Docs

  1. Love this list! Cartelland is probably my favourite doc of all time (at the moment) as it’s SO cinematic – I remember watching it on Screen 1 at the BFI and was blown away.

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