5 Documentaries That Will Change the Way You Think About the World

In a media world saturated with alternative facts and fake news, well-researched documentaries have been our compass in understanding what we believe.

We’ve been on a documentary kick lately. When Netflix-o’clock rolls around, we can be found camped out on the couch attempting to educate ourselves. We’ve really learned about some fascinating topics from healthy living to conspiracy theories. In a media world saturated with alternative facts and fake news, well-researched documentaries have been our compass in understanding what we believe.

Every time we watch, I think, “Other people have to know about this! This is fascinating. I’m so motivated.”

So, in an effort to relieve my husband of my recurring chatter about these important issues, I thought I’d share.

1 | “Before the Flood”

From producers Fisher Stevens and Leonardo DiCaprio, this National Geographic film presents inarguable scientific facts about climate change. The cameras follow Leonardo DiCaprio as he visits five continents and the arctic to speak with thought-leaders about the impact our lifestyles have on Earth’s delicate ecosystem.

Fact: in the past five years, the rate of ice volume loss has doubled in Greenland and tripled in West Antarctica. (Read more important facts.)

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2 | “Catching the Sun”

British filmmaker, Shalini Kantayya, illuminates (pun intended) the subject of transitioning to solar energy and the race to get there in the U.S. and China. Her film follows an entrepreneurial project in Richmond, California, that employs low-income workers installing solar panels. It also addresses the common misconceptions that solar energy is only affordable for the wealthy and those that live in a sunny climate. The entire documentary project’s goal is to influence government officials and transition our planet to 100 percent renewable energy sources.

Fact: the amount of solar power that strikes the earth in an hour is enough to supply the world with power for more than a year. (Enlighten yourself with more solar power info.)

3 | “That Sugar Film”

Mix equal parts education of human anatomy with the quirkiness of Bill Nye, and blend with shocking facts, humor, and a not-so-funny glimpse into the country’s food industry.

In this film, Australian Damon Gameau demonstrates the effects food marketed as “natural” or “low-fat” has on a healthy body. Through clever humor, animated trips into the human body, and a dive into hidden agendas of giant corporations, this film is a potential game-changer for the conventional American family diet.

Fact: Americans consume enough sugar in a lifetime to fill an industrial-sized dumpster. (Satisfy your information craving.)

4 | “Minimalism

If you haven’t heard of Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus yet, I bet you’ll be hearing more about them very soon. These two millennial dudes set out to teach everyday people about living abundantly simple lives. The film takes a deep dive into American consumerism, how we’ve been on a marketing-driven economic ride, and how to rethink priorities. This film can be a catalyst for an entirely new way of thinking about how much stuff we actually need.

Through their blog, public speaking engagements, and the documentary, “The Minimalists,” Millburn and Nicodemus spread kindness and the gift of really listening to people. Their film explains minimalism as a way of life (not simply the act of decluttering) and that it will look different for different families.

Fact: a UCLA study found that 3.1 percent of the world’s children live in America, but they own 40 percent of the toys consumed globally. (Intrigued? Less is more.)

5 | “The Gorilla Who Talks

The beautiful love story behind this title is as simple as the title itself. Sweet, gentle Koko was the gorilla raised by Penny Patterson, a Stanford grad student at the time she began work at the San Francisco Zoo in 1971. The scientist embarked on a communication experiment with Koko by teaching the ape sign language. The gorilla’s ability to learn, understand, master hundreds of signs, and express herself through ASL astonished everyone. Penny and Koko still live together as though they are mother and daughter. The film really brings out all the warm, fuzzy feelings. It’s an encouraging tale of how humans and gorillas really aren’t that different.

Fact: a study in 2012 on captive populations revealed that female western lowland gorillas use a type of baby talk to communicate with their babies.

These films have really shifted the way my family thinks about ourselves, our interactions with each other, and the world around us. I hope they’ll do the same for you.