1. The Emperor’s New Clothes
Comedian Russel Brand and documentary maker Michael Winterbottom join forces to take a hard, unblinking look at the ever-growing gap between the haves and the have-nots.
Beginning with a dissection of how the banking industry tanked world economies and then relied on governments to force tax-paying citizens to bail them out, The Emperor’s New Clothes takes aim at the narrative we’ve all been spun since then. Yes, taking aim at the banking sector is nothing new; what lifts this documentary is Brand’s vivisection of the idea that what happened is normal, and how us rank-and-file folk should just accept it.
For change to happen, he argues, we all have to change our expectations – and have every right to do so.
2. Planet Earth
Really you could pick any BBC nature documentary for this list, but we’ve decided to go with Planet Earth because of its recent arrival on ShowMax.
This award-winning nature series boasts some of the most-breathtaking footage ever captured on film; from unbelievable close-ups of flora and fauna to sweeping shots that capture beautiful vistas. Planet Earth is a love-letter to nature. Let it wash over you. You’ll learn a lot too!
Just as Planet Earth shows the beauty of wild life in its natural habitat, so Blackfish looks at the possible consequences of what happens to animals in captivity.
The documentary begins with the tale of Tilikum, an orca who killed its trainer at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida in 2010, making her the third fatality over two decades.
What Blackfish argues is that these deaths shouldn’t be dismissed as training errors or random incidents; featuring interviews from former trainers and hunters who helped capture orcas for water parks, this documentary makes a pretty strong case that keeping these beautiful beasts in captivity for the entertainment of paying crowds is inhumane and potentially very dangerous for those who work with them.
4. We Steal Secrets: The Story Of WikiLeaks
It’s been nearly ten years since WikiLeaks announced its presence to the world by exposing details about Iceland’s financial collapse and still it maintains a presence on the globe’s cyber playing field.
Most recently the group – founded by Julian Assange – was implicated in releasing a slew of Hilary Clinton’s emails, which many believe played a major part in her losing to Donald Trump in 2016’s US presidential election.
If you ever want to know about the roots of WikiLeaks, this documentary by Alex Gibney is required viewing. Moving at the pace of a tech-noir thriller, We Steal Secrets follows the progression of WikiLeaks from fringe organisation to one of the most wanted collection of individuals on earth, roping in interviews from many of the group’s major players along the way.
5. 204: Getting Away With Murder
The death of Brett Kebble sent shockwaves through South Africa in 2005. As details of the case emerged, there were more questions than answers that surfaced. Was Kebble’s death murder? Was it suicide? Who were the people behind the triggermen and what were there motives.
To this day Brett Kebble’s death remains unsolved, but 204: Getting Away With Murder does a great job of putting what pieces exist together. Featuring interviews with the killers (all of whom were granted immunity) and other players in Kebble’s life, this documentary is essential for anyone hoping to understand the death of SA’s premier mining magnate and wider ramifications that followed it.
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