Watch These Docs {And Thank Me Later}

January 11, 2012

By Katrice

{Empty Veronese picture frame after the evacuation of the Louvre in 1939.}

During my recent vacation, I was determined to spend every bit of my free time catching up on the documentaries I'd been queuing on Netflix for the past few months. I'm an information fiend, so one search or revelation always leads me on a subsequent search or into digging for more information. Because of that, I literally had an unending selection of films on deck 
—  from subjects of culture and politics to history and crime. Enjoy. 

The intricacies of war are absolutely mind-boggling. I learned a lot about World War II from the documentaries that lead me to The Rape of Europa, but none were as fascinating as this. The Rape of Europa tells the epic story of the systematic theft, deliberate destruction and miraculous survival of Europe's art treasures during the Third Reich and the Second World War. For 12 years, the Nazis looted and destroyed art on a scale unprecedented in history. But young art professionals as well as ordinary heroes fought back with an extraordinary effort to safeguard, rescue and return the millions of lost, hidden and stolen treasures.

2. Been Rich All My Life
I had never heard of The Silver Belles and decided to watch this film because it was among those suggested by Netflix. Been Rich All My Life follows the most unlikely troupe of tap dancers  The Silver Belles, five women aged 84 to 96. In their heyday they worked at some of Harlem's most prestigious joints, performing with legendary band leaders like Cab Calloway, Jimmie Lunceford and Duke Ellington. They met in the 1930's as chorus dancers at the Apollo and the Cotton Club. When the big band era ended, and with it the need for show dancers,each of the women went into other work. The Silver Belles regrouped in 1985, put their shoes back on and, in the film, are as sassy as they ever were.

3. A State of Mind
This film is a perfect peek into North Korea for those who, like me, have little knowledge of life in the country. A State of Mind provides a rare glimpse into what is one of the world’s least known societies. Following two young gymnasts and their families for more than eight months in the lead up to the Mass Games, documentarians gave us a direct view of socialism  — involving thousands of performers in the biggest and most elaborate choreographed human performance on earth.

4. The Trials of Henry Kissinger
The Trials of Henry Kissinger nearly made me want to return to school and study history and foreign policy. Want an introduction to foreign relations between the U.S., China, Vietnam, Korea and Pakistan? Watch this. The film focuses on Christopher Hitchens' charges against Henry Kissinger as a war criminal    about which he wrote in a book of the same title. Kissinger's story raises immense questions about American foreign policy and highlights a new era of human rights.

Benazir Bhutto's story is both inspiring and devastating. BHUTTO is  the story of the first woman in history to lead a Muslim nation: Pakistan. Her two terms in power saw acts of courage and controversy as she eradicated polio and stood up for women, while fighting the male-dominated political elite, and a nervous military leadership, while battling accusations of corruption and scandal. In 2007, with the South Asian country rolling in turmoil and under the thumb of yet another military dictator, Benazir was called back onto the world stage as Pakistan’s best hope for democracy. With her assassination she transcended politics, but left a legacy of simmering controversy and undeniable courage that will be debated for years.

6. Which Way Home 
Before this film, I was anti-immigration. After, I was for policy that would make it possible for immigrants to find a safe haven in the United States, and for the first time I realized the magnitude of my ignorance about the sometimes devastating realities of life outside the U.S. Which Way Home shows the personal side of immigration —  following several unaccompanied child migrants as they journey through Mexico en route to the U.S. on a freight train they call "The Beast." We're privvy to the stories of children like Olga and Freddy, nine-year-old Hondurans who are desperately trying to reach their families in Minnesota, and Jose, a ten-year-old El Salvadoran who has been abandoned by smugglers and ends up alone in a Mexican detention center. Theirs and several others are stories of hope and courage, disappointment and sorrow.

7. Please Vote for Me
Watch this brilliant doc with your middle-school aged children. Though China's government is Communist, a Grade 3 class at Evergreen Primary School has its first encounter with democracy by holding an election to select a Class Monitor. In this enlightening documentary, the filmmaker captures all the action as the three candidates — two boys and a girl — go all out to win: performing in a talent show, debating each other and delivering speeches to their classmates. You won't even believe how well these third graders present themselves. 

*Top photo source: Lynn Nicholas

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  1. I'm thanking you now, sis! Can't wait to watch them!

  2. I second Kieva's comment! I'm a history/politics buff at heart, so especially eager to check out Kissinger's doc. Brava Katrice!

  3. I'd love to hear both of your thoughts when you check them out.


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