In a world where we crave stories, documentaries tell them in their purest form. Whether it be to highlight the weird or document the unknown, documentaries are certainly an underrated, yet powerful format that puts story at its core and refuses to compromise it. Compared to fiction, documentaries are nothing but real fragments of our own world, often elements we never thought existed and would otherwise never be aware of if this format hadn’t opened our eyes to it. Truly, documentaries are incredible.
Following the success of Rachel Lears Knock Down the House, which follows four female democratic incumbents campaigning to be elected into Congress, here are a few other female-led and directed documentaries that are worthy of watching, and are all available on Netflix.
Kingdom of Us (2017) dir. Lucy Cohen
Following the suicide of Paul Shanks in 2007, Kingdom of Us gives us a glimpse on just how his family are picking up the pieces years later. Comprised of introspective interviews, home footage and fly-on-the-wall filming, we are shown a family that bonds together in order to deal with the traumas of their past. From eldest daughter Jamie’s fearful admiration of her father to youngest daughter Pippa’s desperation to cling on to her father’s memory, Kingdom of Us shows us eight sides of the same story and embraces the different stages of grief each member of the family is at. Blunt, heart-breaking and powerful, Kingdom of Us is an incredibly touching feature from Lucy Cohen that does not shy away from the harsh realities of suicide, whilst keeping respect for the family that are still coming to terms with its effects.
Audrie & Daisy (2016) dir. Bonni Cohen, Jon Shenk
On opposite sides of America, two teenage girls were sexually assaulted while intoxicated by boys they called friends. These two girls were Audrie Potts and Daisy Coleman. Audrie & Daisy follows the stories of these two girls, and the resulting aftermath that followed them; including cyber bullying and suicide attempts. Audrie & Daisy is a harrowing and down-to-earth take on an all too familiar problem in our modern society, and the effects it has on our young people. Featuring interviews from friends, families, the boys involved in the assault and the brave victims themselves, Audrie & Daisy explores the public shame that surrounds sexual assault and the devastating consequences this has on the victims and their families.
Twinsters (2015) dir. Samantha Futerman, Ryan Miyamoto
Twinsters is a story that feels like fiction come to life. Adopted into an American family as a baby, Samatha Futerman assumed she was an only child. However, after receiving a message from the French Anais Bordier, she realises there is more to her story than she realises. Twinsters is the story of Sam and Anais, and how they were brought together after years of being separated, unaware of the others existence. Twinsters is full of heart and, excitement and popping as these twins fill a void in their lives they never knew they were missing. If you want a heart-warming story that feels too good to be true, then Twinsters is for you.
Shirkers (2018) dir. Sandi Tan
Back in the early nineties, Sandi Tan and her friends set on a mission to create Singapore’s first road movie. However, that film would become lost in time, stolen by the very mentor Tan and her friends had placed their trust in. Years later, Tan would revisit this loss as an adult, eventually bringing new life into the film through the documentary Shirkers. Although Shirkers does not share the film in its original intention, it breathes new life into a Singapore’s past and gives Tan and friends the closure on months of work that were destroyed by Georges Caldona’s insecurities, and Tan’s own arrogance. Shirkers gives an audience a glimpse at the could-of-beens of life, and reflects on the power that they can hold over people’s lives.
Unrest (2017) dir. Jennifer Brea
Jennifer Brea’s mysterious illness isn’t all in her head, and she’s determined to prove it. Using skype interviews, web links and vlogs, Jennifer Brea brings us into the world of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and shows that its more than just “being tired” – it’s life-limiting. Unrest is a story filled with raw vulnerability. It highlights a world lost to CFS, and attempts to build a community for people who are often forgotten by the medical community, all from Brea’s own bedside. It is a testament to Brea’s strength and own determination for answers, and is certainly a documentary that is worth a watch.
Life Overtakes Me (2019) dir. Kristine Samuelson, John Haptas
In light of the recent political climate, Life Overtakes Me highlights a strange phenomenon that is consuming the lives of children who flee to Sweden in search of asylum. Resignation syndrome is a largely unknown condition, which causes children – most often refugees – to fall into a catatonic state and withdraw from the world for months, sometimes years at a time. Life Overtakes Me shows us three families, who have all fled to Sweden in search of asylum, and as a result of the atrocities and stresses they have faced, their child has resigned themselves from life, often described as waiting until things are better to wake up. Filled with beautiful Swedish scenery that contrasts the emotional turmoil felt by each family’s individual story, Life Overtakes Me gives light to an important, unknown, condition that is a reflection of the atrocities of our political climate.
Hot Girls Wanted (2015) dir. Jill Bauer, Ronna Gradus
Hot Girls Wanted delves into the amateur porn industry, and the exploitation of the women that it so desperately craves. Produced by Parks and Recreation star Rashida Jones, Hot Girls Wanted takes us to Florida and follows the stories of various amateur porn stars who all dream of the possibilities the business can bring them. The documentary does not waste time in showing us the harsh realities that many of these young women do not realise they are getting themselves into, and shows how they cope with this foreign world and the possibility of being discovered by friends and family. Hot Girls Wanted also has a spin-off series, Hot Girls Wanted: Turned On, which is also available on Netflix.
by Georgia Davis
Georgia Davis is an actor and filmmaker who hails from the UK’s fictional region: The Midlands. She is currently in her final year of University studying Media and Performance, and is looking to work in television after she graduates. You’ll often find her shouting about The Office (US), crying over Nayeon from Twice and trying to be funny even though she isn’t.
Categories: Women Film-makers