Ranging from climate change and environmental issues; diets and health; social justice and inequality; and spirituality; I hope you enjoy my selection of the top documentaries to watch in 2017.
"An in-depth look at the prison system in the United States and how it reveals the nation's history of racial inequality."
"The film begins with the idea that 25 percent of the people in the world who are incarcerated are incarcerated in the U.S. Although the U.S. has just 5% of the world's population. "13th" charts the explosive growth in America's prison population; in 1970, there were about 200,000 prisoners; today, the prison population is more than 2 million. The documentary touches on chattel slavery; D. W. Griffith's film "The Birth of a Nation"; Emmett Till; the civil rights movement; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; Richard M. Nixon; and Ronald Reagan's declaration of the war on drugs and much more." - Ulf Kjell Gür
BEFORE THE FLOOD
"If you could know the truth about the threat of climate change — would you want to know? Before the Flood, features Leonardo DiCaprio on a journey as a United Nations Messenger of Peace, traveling to five continents and the Arctic to witness climate change firsthand.
Before the Flood presents a riveting account of the dramatic changes now occurring around the world due to climate change, as well as the actions we as individuals and as a society can take to prevent the disruption of life on our planet. Beyond the steps we can take as individuals, the film urges viewers to push their elected officials in supporting the use of alternative energy sources such as solar and wind power." -Before the Flood
“This documentary shows how interconnected the fate of all humanity is — but also the power we all possess as individuals to build a better future for our planet.” -Leonardo DiCaprio
An eyeopening look at the devastation that climate change is having on our oceans due to ocean acidification. "Coral reefs around the world are vanishing at an unprecedented rate. A team of divers, photographers and scientists set out on a thrilling ocean adventure to discover why and to reveal the underwater mystery to the world."- Chasing Coral.com
"Whether you have spent vacation time snorkeling, watched the National Geographic channel, or even paid a bit of attention during high school science class, you likely have some level of understanding of what a vital ecosystem coral reefs are to Ocean life. Director Jeff Orlowski has a track record of important environmental documentaries with his 2012 Chasing Ice. The film does an excellent job of defining and explaining the importance of coral, and once Zach Rago is introduced, the energy and passion jump significantly. " -Imbd.com
A PLASTIC OCEAN
"A Plastic Ocean begins when journalist Craig Leeson, searching for the elusive blue whale, discovers plastic waste in what should be a pristine ocean. In this adventure documentary, Craig teams up with free diver Tanya Streeter and an international team of scientists and researchers, and they travel to twenty locations around the world over the next four years to explore the fragile state of our oceans, uncover alarming truths about plastic pollution, and reveal working solutions that can be put into immediate effect." -Imbd.com
REQUIEM FOR THE AMERICAN DREAM
"Requiem For The American Dream is the definitive discourse with Noam Chomsky, on the defining characteristic of our time - the deliberate concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a select few. Through interviews filmed over four years, Chomsky unpacks the principles that have brought us to the crossroads of historically unprecedented inequality - tracing a half century of policies designed to favor the most wealthy at the expense of the majority - while also looking back on his own life of activism and political participation.
Profoundly personal and thought provoking, Chomsky provides penetrating insight into what may well be the lasting legacy of our time - the death of the middle class, and swan song of functioning democracy. A potent reminder that power ultimately rests in the hands of the governed, REQUIEM is required viewing for all who maintain hope in a shared stake in the future." -Imbd.com
"Following international river conservationist, Mark Angelo, River Blue spans the globe to infiltrate one of the world’s most pollutive industries, fashion. Narrated by clean water supporter Jason Priestley, this groundbreaking documentary examines the destruction of our rivers, its effect on humanity, and the solutions that inspire hope for a sustainable future.
Through harsh chemical manufacturing processes and the irresponsible disposal of toxic chemical waste, one of our favorite iconic products has destroyed rivers and impacted the lives of people who count on these waterways for their survival. River Blue brings awareness to the destruction of a some of the world’s most vital rivers through the manufacturing of our clothing, but will also act as a demand for significant change in the textile industry from the top fashion brands that can make a difference. " - RiverBlue.com
THE SPACE IN BETWEEN
"Marina Abramovic travels through Brazil, in search of personal healing and artistic inspiration, experiencing sacred rituals and revealing, for the first time, her creative process. The route is comprised of poignant encounters with healers and sages from the Brazilian countryside, exploring the limits between art, immateriality and consciousness.
This external trip triggers in Marina a profound introspective journey through memories, pains and past experiences. A mixture between road movie, direct cinema, recorded performances and spiritual thriller, the documentary brings an unprecedented approach of the intimate creative process of one of the most important artists of our time." - Casa Redonda
Terra is a thought provoking and visually stunning documentary about Earth. It is "an ode to humanity" and a spectacular portrayal of the beauty of life. It also brings to light the struggles that we face as we stray further and further from the natural. Watching it evokes a visceral sense awe and gives pause for reflection on the interconnectedness of us all.
"Over barely 10,000 years, life on Earth has been profoundly affected by the incredible development of humanity. But mankind is now increasingly isolated. How have our relations with other living beings changed so much? What do we still see, or notice, of the living world around us? Terra is a journey through the history of life forms, a quest for true humanity. By proposing that we once again treat wildlife with the respect it deserves, Terra shows its credentials as a humanist and deliberately positive film, openly advocating that humanity is still capable of 'getting back to basics'.” -Terra.com
UNLOCKING THE CAGE
"Unlocking the Cage follows animal rights lawyer Steven Wise in his unprecedented challenge to break down the legal wall that separates animals from humans. After thirty years of struggling with ineffective animal welfare laws, Steve and his legal team are making history by filing the first lawsuits that seek to transform an animal from a thing with no rights to a person with legal protections.
Supported by affidavits from primatologists around the world, Steve maintains that, based on scientific evidence, cognitively complex animals such as chimpanzees, whales, dolphins, and elephants have the capacity for limited personhood rights (such as bodily liberty) that would protect them from physical abuse. Using writs of habeas corpus (historically used to free humans from unlawful imprisonment), Wise argues on behalf of four captive chimpanzees in New York State.
Unlocking the Cage captures a monumental shift in our culture, as the public and judicial system show increasing receptiveness to Steve’s impassioned arguments. It is an intimate look at a lawsuit that could forever transform our legal system, and one man’s lifelong quest to protect 'nonhuman' animals." -UnlockingTheCage.com
WHAT THE HEALTH
"What the Health is the groundbreaking follow-up film from the creators of the award winning documentary Cowspiracy. The film follows intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the secret to preventing and even reversing chronic diseases – and investigates why the nation’s leading health organizations don’t want us to know about it. With heart disease and cancer the leading causes of death in America, and diabetes at an all-time high, the film reveals possibly the largest health cover-up of our time. With the help of medical doctors, researchers, and consumer advocates, What the Health exposes the collusion and corruption in government and big business that is costing us trillions of healthcare dollars, and keeping us sick.
What The Health is a surprising, and at times hilarious, investigative documentary that will be an eye-opener for everyone concerned about our nation’s health and how big business influences it." -WTHFILM.com
I hope you are as moved by these documentaries as I have been. Do you have a recent documentary favorite that you think should be added to the list? Let me know in the comments below, and as always thanks for reading.