Documentaries give us the opportunity to explore different locations, cultures, social justice issues, and witness just how wonderful, scary, interesting, and inspiring our world can be.
In our list, we’ve categorized documentaries under the Areas of Inquiry from Manitoba’s Grade 12 Global Issues course. Although there may be more in some areas than others, we’ve tried to include a wide range of documentaries to satisfy not just your taste, but give you some recommendations for family and friends over the holidays.
To access these documentaries, check out the popular streaming services (Netflix, YouTube, iTunes or Amazon Prime Video) or put them on hold from your local library.
*Please be aware, some movies may contain sensitive material and may not be suitable for all audiences. Always check the ratings or the trailer content if you are unsure.
CHASING CORAL (2017)
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.
Watch the doc on Netflix today and learn more about how coral is feeling the effects of climate change.
CHASING ICE (2012)
Chasing Ice is the story of one man’s mission to change the tide of history by gathering undeniable evidence of our changing planet. Within months of that first trip to Iceland, the photographer conceived the boldest expedition of his life: The Extreme Ice Survey. With a band of young adventurers in tow, Balog began deploying revolutionary time-lapse cameras across the brutal Arctic to capture a multi-year record of the world’s changing glaciers.
As the debate polarizes America (and Canada)atch and the intensity of natural disasters ramps up globally, Balog finds himself at the end of his tether. Battling untested technology in subzero conditions, he comes face to face with his own mortality. It takes years for Balog to see the fruits of his labor. His hauntingly beautiful videos compress years into seconds and capture ancient mountains of ice in motion as they disappear at a breathtaking rate. Chasing Ice depicts a photographer trying to deliver evidence and hope to our carbon-powered planet.
Watch it on Amazon or look for it at your local library!
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING (2015)
Filmed over 211 shoot days in nine countries and five continents over four years, This Changes Everything is an epic attempt to re-imagine the vast challenge of climate change. The film presents seven powerful portraits of communities on the front lines, from Montana’s Powder River Basin to the Alberta Tar Sands, from the coast of South India to Beijing and beyond. Interwoven with these stories of struggle is Klein’s narration, connecting the carbon in the air with the economic system that put it there. Throughout the film, Klein builds to her most controversial and exciting idea: that we can seize the existential crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better.
Watch it on demand through iTunes, Amazon, VHX, or request a screening here.
THE TRUE COST (2015)
This is a story about clothing. It’s about the clothes we wear, the people who make them, and the impact the industry is having on our world. The price of clothing has been decreasing for decades, while the human and environmental costs have grown dramatically. The True Cost is a groundbreaking documentary film that pulls back the curtain on the untold story and asks us to consider, who really pays the price for our clothing?
Filmed in countries all over the world, from the brightest runways to the darkest slums, and featuring interviews with the world’s leading influencers including Stella McCartney, Livia Firth and Vandana Shiva, The True Cost is an unprecedented project that invites us on an
Watch it on Netflix or rent it from Amazon!
BLUE PLANET II (2017)
Blue Planet II is a w
Watch it on Netflix or through BBC Earth!
JANE, THE MOVIE (2017)
Drawing from over 100 hours of never-before-seen footage that has been tucked away in the National Geographic archives for over 50 years, award-winning director Brett Morgen tells the story of JANE, a woman whose chimpanzee research challenged the male-dominated scientific consensus of her time and revolutionized our understanding of the natural world.
Watch it on demand from National Geographic here!
At its core, Terra looks at the natural history of mankind and our existence on Earth. It looks back on the unique journey of a species which, among millions of others, has evolved and emerged from the many phases of our planet’s growth. As it progresses, we witness a number of remarkable and individual characteristics of certain life-forms. However, as the narration continues– subjectively embodying humanity itself – it will gradually divert from this natural history and begin to show how our species regards and represents the world. How did man become aware of the world around him, and how has this vision evolved over thousands of years to the current state of unconsciousness?
How do we now wish to interact with other species that live around us? The power of Terra resides in this very question. This documentary will show how our own image and representation of nature has always been decisive in human history, and how it can still change the course of events to come.
Watch Terra now on Netflix and enjoy 90 mins of breathtaking imagery. A bonus: visit the Terra website for a look at behind the scenes and the GOODPLANET Foundation.
From the forested depths of the African Congo, among the last of the mountain gorillas comes Virunga, an incredible true story of idealistic conservationists, armed militia, and the struggle to control Congo’s rich natural resources. A new Netflix Original Documentary, Virunga details the brave people risking their lives to build a better future in a part of Africa long since forgotten. In the Virunga National Park, life flourishes with lush plant and wildlife — and it’s a battleground for rogue soldiers, opportunistic poachers, and a small band of embattled park rangers, the last line of defense to protect the heart and soul of the Eastern Congo.
PLANET EARTH II (2016)
One of my personal
A decade ago, the landmark television series Planet Earth redefined natural history filmmaking, giving us the ultimate portrait of life on Earth. Planet Earth II, narrated by Sir David Attenborough, will reveal our planet from a completely new perspective, using significant advances in both filming technology and our understanding of the natural world.
Watch the series on Netflix or BBC. If you’re wanting more, check out the original Planet Earth (also on Netflix) and many, many clips on BBC Earth’s YouTube!
HALF THE SKY: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide (2012)
Hidden in the overlapping problems of sex trafficking and forced prostitution, gender-based violence, and maternal mortality is the single most vital opportunity of our time — and women are seizing it. From Somaliland to Cambodia to Afghanistan, women’s oppression is being confronted
Now, a landmark movement — inspired by Kristof and WuDunn’s work and also entitled Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide— is working to amplify the book’s impact. Ignited by a high-profile national television event and fueled by innovative multi-platform initiatives, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide is galvanizing even more people to join the burgeoning movement for change.
Watch it on iTunes or look for it on Amazon or at your library!
MY YEAR WITH HELEN (2017)
By any measure, Helen Clark is an exceptional woman. Her journey from one of four children on a remote New Zealand farm to becoming New Zealand’s first elected female Prime Minister forms an outstanding and inspirational life story. In 2016, she added an even more ambitious chapter, as she attempted to become the United Nations’ first ever female Secretary-General. My Year With Helen gives a closely observed view of Helen’s bid for the top job, as the UN turns itself inside out in an effort to deliver unprecedented transparency in
Okay, so you can’t screen it just yet BUT, we screened this film at the 2018 Global Justice Film Festival and it was great! If you’re interested, request a screening here or be patient as we’re sure it will be out soon!
HEALTH & BIOTECHNOLOGY
WHAT THE HEALTH (2017)
What the Health is the groundbreaking follow-up film from the creators of the
Watch it on Netflix or through Vimeo! Check out their meal planner resources too!
LIFE IN A DAY (2011)
What happens when you send a request out to the world to chronicle, via video, a single day on Earth? You get 80,000 submissions and 4,500 hours of footage from 192 countries. Producer Ridley Scott and Oscar-winning director Kevin Macdonald took this raw material — all shot on July 24, 2010 — and created Life in a Day, a groundbreaking, feature-length documentary that portrays this kaleidoscope of images we call life.
Watch it today for free on YouTube!
MISS REPRESENTATION (2011)
The media is selling young people the idea that girls’ and women’s value lies in their youth, beauty, and sexuality and not in their capacity as leaders. Boys learn that their success is tied to dominance, power, and aggression. We must value people as whole human beings, not gendered stereotypes.
Watch it now on Netflix and visit their website to explore how the media can shape what we perceive of gender.
SLAVERY: A 21ST CENTURY EVIL
Hundreds of years after it was legally abolished, why does slavery persist? From impoverished and often illiterate Thai farmers to women forced into prostitution; from men tricked into servitude in Brazil’s brutal charcoal industry to entire families trapped as bonded
OPPRESSION & GENOCIDE
THE E-TEAM (2014)
When human atrocities run rampant, when ruthless dictators hold a nation captive, that’s when the E-Team is called into action. From Academy
Watch it now on Netflix!
PEACE & CONFLICT
CITY OF JOY (2016)
*Trigger warning: this film contain material about violence again women.
This film follows the first class of students at a remarkable leadership center in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a region often referred to as “the worst place in the world to be a woman.” These women have been through unspeakable violence spurred on by a
Watch it on Netflix now!
FIRE AT SEA (2016)
Situated some 200km off Italy’s southern coast, Lampedusa has hit world headlines in recent years as the first port of call for hundreds of thousands of African and Middle Eastern migrants hoping to make a new life in Europe. Rosi spent months living on the Mediterranean island, capturing its history, culture and the current everyday reality of its 6,000-strong local population as hundreds of migrants land on its shores on a weekly basis. The resulting documentary focuses on 12-year-old Samuele, a local boy who loves to hunt with his slingshot and spend time on land even though he hails from a culture steeped in the sea.
Watch now on Netflix!
THE SQUARE (2013)
The Egyptian Revolution has been an ongoing rollercoaster over the past two and a half years. Through the news, we only get a glimpse of the bloodiest battle, an election, or a million man march. At the beginning of July 2013, we witnessed the second president deposed within the space of three years. The Square is an immersive experience, transporting the viewer deeply into the intense emotional drama and personal stories behind the news. It is the inspirational story of young people claiming their rights, struggling through multiple forces, in the fight to create a society of conscience.
Watch it on Netflix now or host a local screening.
WHITE HELMETS (2016)
As daily airstrikes pound civilian targets in Syria, a group of indomitable first responders
Watch the film on Netflix today!
POVERTY, WEALTH, & POWER
POVERTY INC. (2014)
The West has positioned itself as the protagonist of development, giving rise to a vast multi-billion dollar poverty industry — the business of doing good has never been better. Yet the results have been mixed, in some cases even catastrophic, and leaders in the developing world are growing increasingly vocal in calling for change. Drawing from over 200 interviews filmed in 20 countries, Poverty, Inc. unearths an uncomfortable side of charity we can no longer ignore.
THE CORPORATION (2003)
Provoking, witty, stylish and sweepingly informative, THE CORPORATIONexplores
Taking its status as a legal “person” to the logical conclusion, the film puts the corporation on the psychiatrist’s couch to ask “What kind of person is it?” The Corporation includes interviews with 40 corporate insiders and critics – including Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Milton Friedman, Howard Zinn, Vandana Shiva
Watch the entire documentary on YouTube starting with part 1 here. Watch it soon, they just announced a sequel will be coming out soon!
SAVING CAPITALISM (2017)
SAVING CAPITALISM is a documentary film that follows former Secretary of Labor and Professor, Robert Reich, as he takes his book and his views to the heart of conservative America to speak about our economic system and present big ideas for how to fix it.
SOCIAL JUSTICE & HUMAN RIGHTS
I AM (2010)
I AM is an utterly engaging and entertaining non-fiction film that poses two practical and provocative questions: what’s wrong with our world, and what can we do to make it better? Armed with nothing but his innate curiosity and a small crew to film his adventures, Shadyac set out on a
Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following intrepid filmmaker Kip Andersen as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today – and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it. Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation, water consumption and
As Andersen approaches leaders in the environmental movement, he increasingly uncovers what appears to be an intentional refusal to discuss the issue of animal agriculture, while industry whistleblowers and watchdogs warn him of the risks to his freedom and even his life if he dares to persist.
Watch it on Netflix or get the education kit for $30.00. While you’re at it, check out their meal planner resource to create more environmentally friendly meals.
FOOD INC. (2008)
In Food, Inc., filmmaker Robert Kenner lifts the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that’s been hidden from the American consumer with the consent of our government’s regulatory agencies, USDA and FDA. Our nation’s food supply is now controlled by a handful of corporations that often put profit ahead of consumer health, the livelihood of the American farmer, the safety of workers and our own environment. We have bigger-breasted chickens, the perfect pork chop, insecticide-resistant soybean seeds, even tomatoes that won’t go bad, but we also have new strains of e
Watch it now on Netflix or on YouTube!