Documentaries That Educated Me

Illustration by Natalie Matthews-Ramo

Education is growthboth mentally and emotionally. In the world of film documentaries, there is an endless amount of topics out there to learn about. Streaming services like Netflix and Hulu bring those topics right to your fingertips through documentaries. Here are the eye-opening documentaries that have educated me. (These are all available on Netflix US.)

The White Helmets
A gut-wrenching documentary about the White Helmets, a group of first responders that rescue victims from the rubble caused by airstrikes in Syria. You hear about Syria every day in the news and on your social media, but this documentary gives you a first-hand view of exactly what the Syrian people endure and how these first responders put their lives on the line (even more) by helping their community.  

The Keepers
A docu-series about the murder of Sister Catherine Cesnik, whose former students try to uncover the truth of a priest who was accused of abuse. This documentary will have you screaming at your TV and biting your nails from anxiety. It brings up the subject of abuse within the church and the reluctance of those at fault to tell the truth. 

They Call Us Monsters
How much is too much when it comes to teenagers being tried as adults? Do they deserve second chances? Is the justice system fair? These are the questions that you will be asking yourself while watching this documentary about three teenagers in a California facility for juvenile offenders. It sparks a conversation about adult sentencing and second chances. 

Amanda Knox
Amanda Knox and her boyfriend were the main suspects in the murder case of her roommate while studying abroad in Italy. Amanda Knox and those close to her case speak out about both of her trials and her acquittals. Everyone has heard about this case, and if you haven’t, this is the perfect chance to hear about it and form your own opinion about Amanda.

The Hunting Ground
An important and much needed documentary about sexual assault on college campuses in which survivors of sexual assault recount their assaults and how their colleges handled it. It’s an eye-opening documentary that college students and parents should watch. It struck me so much that I wrote a speech about it for one of my college classes. I wanted my classmates to educate themselves about this topic along with whoever is reading this.

Dior & I
This documentary is perfect for fashion lovers or those who want to learn about something new. It details the extensive process of Raf Simons’ first haute couture collection as Dior’s artistic director, and it gives you a completely breathtaking behind-the-scenes view of the actual hand-making of the collection along with the building of the runway (a lot of fresh flowers were involved). 

The Black Panthers
Educational documentary about the Black Panthers told by former members of the Black Panthers Party along with journalists, supporters, and police informants. It tells the side of those supporting the party and those opposing the party, rather than the audience only hearing from one point of view. Political parties are quick to say how horrible the Black Panthers were, but hearing from former Black Panther members themselves will tell you a completely different story.

Animated documentary that explores the 1966 shooting from the clock tower at University of Texas. It contains archival footage and interviews from survivors and bystanders. Being born and raised in Texas, I watched this documentary to further educate myself about what happened that day. It is so creatively made that it will hook you in its opening.

By Blanca Reyes

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