Fun Fact Friday - Ten Documentary Suggestions Based on This Week's Reviews

    

     
Based on James Baldwin's unfinished book Remember This House, the film I Am Not Your Negro explores racism in America through the stories of three of Baldwin's murdered friends.

Screen capture from Netflix


Each week I set out to research and document ten "fun facts" on a topic loosely based on the two books I've reviewed that week.  "Loosely" being the operative word. 

This week I reviewed A Life on Our Planet, by David Attenborough, and Richard Bell's Stolen.

In A Life on Our Planet, Ninety-three year old David Attenborough tells us both about his own life's journey, but also about the changes that have happened to our environment and our climate during his lifetime. Even though most of those changes have not been for the good of the planet, Sir David remains hopeful, and also offers us vision for the steps we humans must take to secure our future. The book is an accompaniment to a documentary that is streaming now on Netflix.

In Stolen, Richard Bell tells us about five kidnapped boys, their journey on the Reverse Underground Railroad to be sold into slavery, and the amazing story of the return of four of the boys to freedom. This book came out in 2020 and, because of the pandemic, at least four of the author's book talks are captured on YouTube videos.

While this is my weekly Fun Fact Friday post, I have to say that I can't think of two worse topics - climate change and slavery - to try to find "Fun Facts" to write about. But this isn't the first time I've faced books with unpleasant topics in my Friday posts. Sometimes it's possible to find serious facts - "not so fun" facts to write about, and I've taken that approach a couple of times. 

This week though, I'm taking another approach. Since both climate change and slavery in America are topics worth further exploration and understanding, and since Sir David and his colleagues so kindly produced a documentary accompanying his book, I've decided that this week I'll highlight ten suggestions for documentaries about climate change or slavery in America. Of course, the suggestions below take it as a given that Attenborough's documentary above is really suggestion #1. So we can call those below the next 10.

 And I have to acknowledge that I have not personally seen all 10 of these suggestions, and I put this list together as much for me as for you. But from my research they all appear to be worth the watch. and are now on my TBW list. They are all available without additional charge on the streaming services noted (at least within the US).

So, on to the documentaries - 



Ten Worthwhile Documentaries You Can Stream Now, Inspired by This Week's Reading
  1. Slavery and the Making of America - This four part documentary series was produced in 2005 by WNET and aired on PBS. The series is a sweeping history of slavery in America from the arrival of the first documented slaves through the Civil War and Reconstruction. Narrated by Morgan Freeman, each of the four episodes are 55 minutes long. The series can be streamed in the US with an active PBS Passport membership at PBS.org, or on the PBS app. You can also view with a PBS Documentaries  subscription on Netflix. Winner of an Emmy for Outstanding Historical Programming - Long Form. IMDb rating of 7.8/10
  2. The African Americans: Many Rivers to Cross - This six part, six hour long series from 2015, written and presented by Henry Louis Gates, Jr. is a comprehensive African-American history from 1500 until today. It too can be streamed at PBS.org, on the PBS app, or with a PBS Documentaries subscription on Netflix. Winner of two Emmys and a Peabody Award.  IMDb rating 8.4/10.
  3. 13th - This 2016 documentary from director Ava DuVernay explores the loophole in the 13th amendment to the US Constitution, the amendment that banned slavery and involuntary servitude in America - except as punishment for a crime. This exception led to Southern states criminalizing minor offenses to empress people of color after Reconstruction. It led to the beginnings of the convict leasing system. The film further explores the late 20th century prison-industrial complex that has resulted in increasing numbers of convicts in prison (disproportionately Black) even with falling crime rates. 13th is available for streaming on Netflix. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, and winner of several Emmys. IMDb rating of 8.2/10.
  4. I Am Not Your Negro - Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, this 2016 documentary is based on the unfinished manuscript for Remember This House by James Baldwin. The focus here is not slavery, but rather the Civil Rights Movement and the dynamics of race relations in modern America. Academy Award nominee and BAFTA winner for Best Documentary. IMDb rating of 7.9/10.
  5. Emancipation Road - Like Gates' series above, this 2014 miniseries explores the history of African Americans, from slavery through the presidency of Barack Obama. Available on Apple TV, Tubi, Netflix and other streaming services. IMDb rating of 6.5/10.

  1. An Inconvenient Truth - An immediate success and a "must see" movie when it was released to theaters in 2006, An Inconvenient Truth is still likely the first climate crisis documentary most Americans would cite in talking about global warming. It became the first documentary film to win two Oscars. The film consists of shots of Al Gore going through a slide show about the impacts of global warming. Critics called it dry but devastating. Streaming on Amazon and Paramount+. IMDb rating 7.4/10
  2. Our Planet - David Attenborough's stunningly beautiful eight part 2019 Netflix series looks at many of Earth's major habitats and the creatures who live in them, while detailing how they are being impacted by climate change. Streaming on Netflix and YouTube. Winner of 2 Emmys and 3 BAFTA Awards. IMDb rating 9.3/10. 
  3. Cowspiracy - In spite of it's conspiracy theory vibe, or maybe because of it, Cowspiracy caused a stir when it first came out in 2014 claiming that 51% of greenhouse gases are produced by commercial agriculture, a statistic disputed by the Union of Concerned Scientists. An updated version of the documentary premiered on Netflix in 2015. Streaming now on Amazon. IMDb rating 8.2/10.
  4. Climate Refugees - In this 2010 film, filmmaker Michael Nash and his crew travel around the world to document the impacts of climate change on human populations. The movie debuted at Sundance in 2010 and went on to play at over 100 film festivals, winning numerous festival awards, before distribution through Netflix, iTunes and Amazon. Now streaming on IMDb TV. IMDb rating of 7.8/10. 
  5. Kiss the Ground - Ending our list on a hopeful note, 2020's Kiss the Ground is narrated by Woody Harrelson and focuses on the global "Regenerative Agriculture" movement, which the film bills as "the first viable solution" to climate change. Streaming on Netflix. IMDb rating 8.3/10.
So there you have it. Ten worthwhile documentaries to add to your own To Be Watched list. Maybe you'll check one out over the long holiday weekend?  Do you have a suggestion that I missed? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
 

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