It doesn’t get any bigger than this
Blackfish. This documentary is about Tilikum, a killer whale held in captivity by the theme park SeaWorld, who has killed several people. The documentary puts the spotlight on how little we know about these highly intelligent mammals, and what isolation and separation from their pod can do to these creatures. It also exposes the water park industry and how it exploits animals to make money, and covers up these incidents to avoid facing up to the shocking reality of their actions.
Lucy Christie, sub editor
Thumbs-up for green thumbs
The three-part BBC documentary How to Grow a Planet may not seem very interesting – after all, it’s about plants – but it’s fascinating. It’s shot in such vibrant colours, and pieced together in a way that makes plants seem like action heroes, not just boring things that you stick on the balcony. You may think that humans are the most powerful beings on the planet, but this series reveals almost unbelievable facts about how something as seemingly simple as a fern actually made Earth the way it is. Full of amazing facts and gorgeous production details, this will give you plenty of inspiration for your journal and discussion, and a whole new respect for greenery.
Karly Cox, deputy editor
Giant leaps for all mankind
An oldie-but-a-goodie: the 13-episode series The Ascent of Man (you can find it on YouTube). Each episode looks at a pivotal moment in humanity’s social evolution, from farming to metallurgy to chemistry. The events are explained by the thoughtful Jacob Bronowvski, and while the footage is old (the series was first broadcast in 1973) it is beautifully shot, and takes you to see cultures around the world to delve into their history. The series is a fantastic way of understanding what steps our civilization (and others’) took to reach the level we enjoy today.
Sam Gusway, sub editor
A sad chapter in history
My favourite documentary is Night and Fog, directed by Alain Resnais. Resnais took black and white footage from Nazi concentration camps during the second world war, and wove them with colour footage filmed at the same locations ten years after those camps’ prisoners were liberated, telling the stories of those who suffered there. The eerie emptiness of the later footage contrasts strongly with the black and white harrowing footage, and had such impact in telling how senseless the holocaust was. One shot starts as a closeup on hair shaved off of the heads of prisoners, and it slowly zooms out. You expect to see a pile at some point, but it doesn’t end. It’s just a sea of hair, taken from innocent victims along with their lives.
Heidi Yeung, web sub editor
How do you see women?
At the heart of Miss Representation lies a powerful and uncompromising look at how the media trivialises and sexualises women. Both informative and eye-opening, this is no ordinary documentary – it is an empowering movement. It revolves around the motto that “You can’t be what you can’t see”, underscoring a strong message that young women need – and want – positive role models. However, the media has neglected its opportunity to provide them. Through advertising images, multiple interviews, and movie clips, the documentary invites you to challenge the portrayal of women in media and urges you to do something about it.
YP cadet Snehaa Senthamilselvan Easwari