Documentaries: a new frontier


Photo courtesy of William French

Emma Vidak-Benjamin

There’s an extremely underrated movie genre that people need to start taking note of: documentaries. Documentaries can be considered almost superior to any other genres that we mindlessly search through on Netflix. Audiences need to indulge in films that go out of the boundaries of their usual comfort zones – you might be surprised at the types of cinema you discover.

One of my favorite things about documentaries are their educational value. While most people watch a movie strictly for entertainment, I feel like I get more out of my movie experience if I’ve walked away with new knowledge as well. I’ve watched documentaries based on the broadest range of topics from sushi art (“Jiro Dreams of Sushi”) to the porn industry (“Sexy Baby”), and it’s intriguing to learn about these topics that I know nothing about.

Through the filmmaking and interviews portrayed in documentaries, you’re able to see and hear a lot of new information that you’ve never seen or heard before.

Documentaries still maintain a great entertainment value too, as audiences are able to get a glimpse into other people’s lives, cultures, careers, families, religion and so much more.

I’ve found documentaries to be a good outlet in putting my life in perspective. I’m able to appreciate what I have when I watch movies about other people’s lives that are so remarkably different than my own.

The thing about documentaries that interests me so much is being able to experience another person’s life for an hour or two and watch real people’s stories. Don’t get me wrong, I love actual movies and none of my favorite movies are documentaries, but most of the storylines and plots are made up. This makes them a lot less relatable, or makes you feel less compassion and emotion than you would if you were watching a true story.

I’ve started to notice that not many people have caught on to the documentary fad, and instead remain scrolling through the same old Netflix titles among comedies, romance and recently added. Why waste your time viewing titles that never spark your interest and jump over to the documentary section, where every movie name looks fascinating and new?


Here’s a list of my five favorite documentaries on Netflix:

  1. Dear Zachary”: A film made for a son about his deceased father’s life and the love that surrounded him.
  2. Living on One Dollar”: A group of young men learn how to live in a Third World country on a dollar a day.
  3. Rich Hill”: Three different boys live in a poor town in the Midwest.
  4. Hot Girls Wanted”: A look inside today’s porn industry and the effects it has on young girls’ lives.
  5. Miss Representation”: A feminist perspective of female empowerment and leadership in the 21st century.

With these suggestions in mind, any viewer has a good start to embark on the wonderful world of documentaries that Netflix provides. Fulfill your movie experience by going a little deeper and gaining some much needed insight into the lives of others.

Emma Vidak-Benjamin can be reached at [email protected] or @gnarlyemma on Twitter.