CONSTANTINOS PSILLIDES suggests five documentaries to check out on Netflix
If there’s one thing the streaming platform Netflix is known for it is renewing audiences’ captivation with great documentaries! Here are some suggestions for some that were released recently.
Pepsi, Where’s My Jet?
Have you ever seen a product with an idiotic disclaimer that surprised you? Like a baby stroller warning you to ‘remove baby before folding’. Did you ever think, ‘why have that? Who would be so dumb?’. There’s a reason disclaimers are everywhere, and it’s not to protect customers but to protect companies from litigation.
And super, utterly committed teenagers.
In the mid 90s, Pepsi ran a campaign focusing on a point system. You buy Pepsi, get points, and redeem those points for cheap t-shirts and other branded material. When drafting a TV commercial, just for a goof, the marketing team also included a mega-prize, a real-life Harriet jet! The team laughed, thought of a ridiculously high number of points to get the jet and let the ad run. They didn’t count on 21-year-old John Leonard, who saw the commercial and liked the idea of owning a jet. He REALLY liked it.
Pepsi Where’s My Jet documents Leonard’s absurd struggle to come up with the money to buy enough Pepsi and the borderline ridiculous court case that came after that when Pepsi was like ‘dude, there’s no jet’. It’s fun, light and enjoyable.
Money Shot: The Pornhub Story
The porn industry is immensely problematic: trafficking, abuse, emotional scarring, exploitation, you name it, it’s there. One problem with almost everyone who tried to have an in-depth look at it is that they usually go so far to the other side they circle around. Because most of them forget one key element: sex work is still work and numerous performers enter the industry willingly and see it as yet another gig.
Money Shot: The Pornhub Story avoids faux outrage thinly hidden behind religious or right-wing agendas and takes a clear-eyed look at the industry, talking with performers, activists and insiders. The documentary focuses on exploring the business model of the industry, one that is almost exclusively controlled by one company. Money Shot shows how allowing for a monopoly basically shuts down criticism, casting a shadow upon the industry so dark everything negative about it grows and thrives.
Harry and Meghan
Spoiled, privileged and with no idea of how to connect with actual people, I find royal woes uninteresting and their struggles almost offensive when put next to someone who doesn’t have access to billions.
But, Harry and Meghan, a documentary series about Prince (is he a prince now? Who cares?) Harry and his wife Meghan Markle did make a splash and Netflix did pay an ungodly amount of money for the rights, so here it is. Want to watch it? Go ahead. I didn’t.
Waco: American Apocalypse
Religious freedom, gun rights and the extent to which the state should intervene in personal affairs have always been hot issues in the US. In 1993, all of them would be examined in the most violent way possible in Waco. Cult leader David Koresh barricaded himself and his followers in their compound at Waco, leading to a stand-off with federal authorities that ended in tragedy. Waco: An American Apocalypse is a docu-series that recreates the siege, negotiations and final raid of the compound, using archival footage, tapes from FBI files as well as amateur and news reels.
It is undoubtedly a thrilling watch but a disappointing one if you are looking for substantive analysis. Waco was a watershed moment in US right-wing history, a rallying point showing what the state is capable of should the powers be unchecked. It radicalised militias across the country, and there’s a clear through line from Waco to the rise of Qanon and Trump. Society as a whole could benefit from such an analysis, showing how Waco turned people into fanatics and how it ended up hurting society as a whole. Or maybe a breakdown of how the FBI has a lot to answer for in how it fumbled the affair and how they ignored warnings on how a raid could go terribly wrong. The creators do not bother themselves with those deeper questions.
The Elephant Whisperers
The winner of this year’s Oscar Documentary Short Film, The Elephant Whisperers tells the story of a couple and their tribal community in India who are called upon to care for and raise orphan baby elephants. A heartwarming tale of how far people are willing to go to protect the environment and those unable to defend themselves.