This month, documentary films have been a huge source of inspiration for me. These five told astounding stories and challenged me to think from different perspectives. I'm already going through this list in search of more documentaries to watch... what are your favorites?
This documentary tells the story of Tilikum, an orca at SeaWorld who has killed several humans while in captivity. In exposing SeaWorld's often cruel and dangerous practices of capturing and training orca whales, this film examines the fatal outcomes of trying to "tame" such intelligent creatures for entertainment purposes.
Into the Abyss
In this sorrowful and complex documentary, Werner Herzog visits a small town in Texas where a brutal murder occurred several years before. Herzog interviews the killers -- one sentenced to life in prison, the other sentenced to death -- as well as members of the victims' families and community. While approaching difficult questions about the motivations behind violent crimes, the possibility of repentance, and the death penalty, Herzog suggests that the boundaries between good and evil are often difficult to draw.
This uplifting documentary follows several young ballet students as they train for the prestigious Youth America Gran Prix competition. You'll find yourself rooting for the dancers, who come from very different backgrounds but all share a passion for dance.
This documentary, which takes a close look at Stanley Kubrick's film The Shining, is probably one you'll either love or hate. The interviewees (film buffs and obsessive devotees) present varying analyses of The Shining: some are less than convincing, but others made me want to re-watch the film in search of hidden meanings. The discussion is engrossing for anyone interested in interpretive theory or film studies, if you can get past some of the strange video montages (which feature Tom Cruise...).
Cave of Forgotten Dreams
Werner Herzog is quickly becoming one of my favorite filmmakers ever... you can read more about him here. In this documentary, he takes us to the Chauvet Cave in southern France to examine the earliest cave paintings known to mankind. The paintings, dating to around 30,000 years ago, are far more sophisticated than I imagined, and the scientific archaeology used to map the caves is equally incredible.
PS: All of these documentaries were available for instant streaming on Netflix!