In the past few years, documentaries have experienced an increase in viewership, thanks to their presence on streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
I’m a big fan of documentaries, and I feel that many of them can force us to look inward, think deeply and live more meaningfully.
Here are a few documentaries that can expand your mind, touch your heart, make you introspect, and maybe even change your life.
Life in a day (2010)
Life in a Day is a crowd-sourced 90-minute documentary created out of 80,000 clips and 4,500 hours of footage, sent by people from 192 countries.
Something unique about this documentary is that the complete footage was shot on July 24th, 2010 and it captures for the future generations what it was like to be alive on that day.
Watching Life in a Day made me tear up, but also made me laugh and above all it made me feel grateful to be alive.
It strengthened my longing to travel extensively around the world, meet and connect with people from different countries and explore different cultures.
Unreserved explores the hopes, dreams and opinions of the passengers travelling in the unreserved compartment, the cheapest way to travel by train across India.
To shoot the documentary, Samarth Mahajan (the director) along with his cinematographer and assistant director embarked on a 17-day journey around India that totalled up to 265 hours in ten passenger trains.
Unreserved is a truly wonderful and authentic piece of work and it’s something I highly recommend for its engaging, moving and vulnerable stories shared by the passengers.
Searching for Sugarman (2012)
Searching for Sugarman is an Oscar-winning documentary that tells the fascinating story of Sixto Rodriguez, a talented rock and roll musician who faded into obscurity after his first two studio albums released in the U.S were unsuccessful.
However, interestingly, completely unbeknownst to Rodriguez, he became a big cultural phenomenon in South Africa where he was more popular than even Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones.
But for all his popularity in South Africa, very little was known about the man and rumour had it that he had suicided.
In this documentary, two ardent fans of his music from South Africa set out to find out what really happened to him.
I found the documentary deeply moving, and loved his songs and couldn’t fathom how his music failed to make much of an impact outside of South Africa.
Twinsters is a heart-warming documentary which covers the true-life story of identical twin sisters born in South Korea, separated at birth, both adopted and living in different parts of the world, discovering each other through the internet.
The documentary shows them meeting each other in person for the first time and getting to know each other over the next several months. It’s a real feel good documentary.
A Map for Saturday (2007)
In this documentary, filmmaker Brook Silva-Braga documents his 11-month solo trip around the world. He interviews other solo travellers he meets on the road and captures what it’s like to travel solo long term.
Brook captures the joy of travelling and meeting new people but is also open about the less glamorous aspects of long-term travel such as burnout and the concept of ‘five-hour friends’.
I watched this documentary when I was backpacking around India and I found it very relatable and would definitely recommend it to all travel-lovers.
The Secret (2006)
Watching the documentary, The Secret almost a decade ago opened a world of new possibilities for me and changed my understanding of reality.
The book, Secret continues to be popular even today, but before it was published in 2006, it was first released as a documentary.
The documentary talks about the law of attraction, and how we create our own reality through our thoughts and feelings.
In a previous article, I've shared the story of how I decided to apply the law of attraction after watching this documentary to see if there was any truth behind it, and being amazed by the result.
Century of the Self (2002)
This documentary discusses the rise of psychoanalysis as a means of manipulating mass behaviour by corporations and governments. It covers the works of psychoanalysts Sigmund Freud, his daughter, Anna Freud and his nephew Edward Bernays.
It details how those in power have used Freud's theories to control the masses and how their methods have influenced marketing and lifestyle in contemporary society.
This is a great documentary that can encourage you to think for yourself and be more discerning about the various tricks pulled by advertisers, corporations and governments to influence your behaviour.
Long Way Round (2004)
Starting their journey in England, during their trip they pass through twelve countries, France, Belgium, Germany, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Russia, Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Canada, and the US.
Watching this documentary may give you an irresistible urge to hit the road on a motorbike and explore off-beat locales.
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