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A GUIDE TO 2021 NETFLIX DOCUMENTARIES

George Maguire

During this virus, we have all spent an unusual amount of time caged up inside. I can speak for myself when I say that films, TV - and in particular documentaries - have helped me to see the world beyond my immediate setting. In the wild and wonderful world of documentaries, I have visited South African reefs and cephalopods (My Octopus Teacher), explored the cultural dynamics of a Chinese/ American factory (American Factory) and unpicked the ‘Story of God’ with Morgan Freeman. Here are some of my favourites; all as entertaining as they are informative. 
 
 
1. Kiss the Ground (2020) – link here

 
Kiss the Ground. Image is via Netflix UK
 
 
What if a key element to the climate crisis lay under our feet? What if soil was the key to sequestering carbon, recovering diversity and rebuilding ecosystems? This is the central thesis of this excellent documentary Kiss the Ground (expertly narrated by Woody Harrelson) which takes us around the world exploring the impact that grassroots regenerative agriculture is having on how we produce our food sustainably. It’s sure is nice to watch a climate film that inspires hope and gives clear about how we accommodate a good life for future generations.
 
Watch here
 
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2. American Factory (2019) – link here
 

What happens when a Chinese firm opens a failing US factory? Find out! Image via Netflix UK
 

 
Produced by Barack and Michelle Obama’s Production company Higher Ground Productions, American Factory is the story of a Chinese company (Fuyao) that takes on ownership of a former General Motors factory plant in OHIO. Inevitably, there are some deep culture clashes to resolve, with Chinese managers enforcing somewhat brutal conditions involving submission and intense workloads. Prescient and powerful, American Factory gives us a taste of the kinds of challenges that happen when we mix opposing work cultures under one roof... with profit deadlines! 
 
Watch here
 
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3. My Octopus Teacher (2020) – link here
 

South African Film maker Craig Foster with his Octopus. Image via Netflix UK
 

 
A stunning film that will simultaneously have you both in a deep meditative state and on the edge of your seat, My Octopus Teacher is a study on how our perception of nature expands as we pay more attention to it. As Craig Foster begins a practice of diving each day (without a wetsuit, mind) he meets an octopus that becomes far more than just an acquaintance. The film is highly engrossing and will have you looking at the natural world with different eyes. What can you learn?
 
Watch here
 
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4. Pandemic (2020) – link here
 

Doctors suiting up against the Flu in Pandemic. Image via Netflix UK.
 
 
In terms of timing, Pandemic’s was spectacular. Released in January 2020, prior to the widespread acknowledgement of COVID this 6 part Netflix docuseries takes on the heavy subject of global outbreaks. A realistic primer and touchpoint for the outstanding work put in by doctors, researchers and scientists around the world, Pandemic can help us step away from the headlines and learn more about the how we can control viruses and mitigate the harms. 
 
 
Watch here
 
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5. The Story of God (2019) – link here

 
Morgan Freeman digs into our deepest and most fundamental belief systems. Image via Netflix UK.
 
 
Morgan Freeman is famous for his widely popular movies and his baritone and resonant voice. Taking a turn from the likes of Bruce Almighty or Invictus, the most recent series of his The Story of God is a wonderful exploration of religion as it is practiced, experienced and studied around the world. Freeman visits cultures that are at odds with each other, inquiring about universal themes such as A Search for the Devil and Gods Among Us in places. From Vatican and Vietnam – Morgan’s journey is a worthy watch. 
 
Watch here
 
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