Top Documentary Stream

Islam: What the West Needs to Know (2006)


This documentary sets out to investigate the notion that Islam is a religion of peace and explore the widely circulated idea that those who commit violent acts in the name of Islam are a fanatic few. The filmmakers try to hold Islam's own sources to the light to make the controversial claim that the religion is actually driven by a violent, expansionary ideology that seeks to conquer any contradictory religion, culture, and, ultimately, government.

This film is by far the most interesting presentation of Islam that I have yet to see. I recommend viewers be fully awake before attempting to watch it, as some amount of concentration is required to reap the full benefits of this documentary.

Packed with direct quotes from the Koran and other reliable sources, along with compelling visuals and tasteful interviews, it will challenge even the experts. Is violence built into the Muslim ideology?

Richard Feynman: The Pleasure of Finding Things Out (1981)


Richard Feynman was a scientific genius with - in his words - a "limited intelligence". This dichotomy is just one of the characteristics that made him a fascinating subject. The Pleasure of Finding Things Out exposes us to many more of these intriguing attributes by featuring an extensive conversation with the acclaimed Nobel Prize winner.

During the course of the interview, which was conducted in 1981, Feynman uses the undeniable power of the personal to convey otherwise challenging scientific theories. His colorful and lucid stories make abstract concepts tangible, and his warm presence is sure to inspire interest and awe from even the most reluctant student of science. His insights are profound, but his delivery is anything but dry and ostentatious.

Heralded as one of the greatest physicists of all time, his curiosity was nurtured by his military father, who encouraged him to explore and comprehend the world around him in a manner that transcended textbooks and grade school teachings. Armed with a restless thirst for knowledge, he felt constrained as a young boy by an educational system that favored memorization techniques over true learning. His observations of early boyhood experiences - when he questioned everything from the composition of a flower to the nature of inertia - clue us in on the birth and evolution of a great mind.

The film isn't all about childhood wonder and the innocence of discovery, however. After having established himself as an undeniable talent in the world of physics, his expertise was called upon to assist in the development of the atom bomb during World War II. His essential involvement in the Manhattan Project, and the catastrophic loss of life it eventually wrought, left him severely tormented. His self-doubt soon rectified itself in the form of historic research and theory development, influential teaching assignments, and from achieving the top prize in his field - the Nobel Prize in physics.

Filmed just seven short years prior to his untimely death, The Pleasure of Finding Things Out is a highly engrossing tribute to a towering intellect, and a valuable reminder of how the complex beauty and potential consequences of science impact us all.

Seattle is Dying (2019)


Bordered by beautiful mountain ranges and gleaming waters, Seattle is one of the most desirable spots to live in the United States. According to Seattle is Dying, a documentary produced by the local KOMO news outlet, the appeal of the city is giving way to rampant crime, homelessness and disgrace.

After tackling issues related to homelessness and drug addiction in previous documentaries, the outlet decided to focus on how these elements impact the quality of life for residents and what can be done to curb the tide of despair that has gripped their beloved city.

The scope of the problem is distressing, and its visual evidence can be seen on nearly every corner. Junkyards hiding under overpasses, tents set up on the side of highways, disturbed members of the homeless community shouting obscenities on downtown streets.

The city has spent large amounts of money to battle the epidemic in their communities, but these philanthropic efforts have had little effect. The film illustrates a profound disconnect between the reality on the streets and the courses of action taken by the city's government agencies.

That disconnect is the central focus of the film as the filmmakers attempt to devise a strategy for restoring order to the region. They receive input from several whistleblower police officers who wish to remain anonymous. The conditions on the street are nearly post-apocalyptic, they claim, and the criminal justice system limits their ability to effectively enforce the law.

In a random list of 100 repeat offenders, the filmmakers find that every subject is homeless and drug-addicted. Most of those tested are afflicted with mental illness. But the majority of them have repeatedly been thrown back into society without a conviction or additional follow-up of any kind.

Seattle is Dying isn't afraid to examine the stark realities behind these issues. It does not intend to demonize the vulnerable. To the contrary, it questions why the city hasn't been able to do more for them. Ultimately, the film endorses more virulent enforcement, and advocates for increased access to recovery services for the city's population of prisoners and other at-risk individuals.

Terrorstorm: A History of Government Sponsored Terrorism (2006)


A filmmaker who is well known for his criticism of the methodology which drives some governments to respond to terrorist attacks by ramping up their combative rhetoric and sending soldiers into battle, Alex Jones takes a closer look at such tragedies as the bombings in London and Madrid to explore how these issues may be better solved by choosing to fight back with peace instead of bombs.

Throughout history, criminal elements inside governments have carried out terror attacks against their own populations as a pretext to enslave them.

TerrorStorm reveals how, in the last hundred years, Western leaders have repeatedly murdered their own citizens while posing as their saviors.

Born into Brothels (2004)


Born Into Brothels is a documentary about the inspiring non-profit foundation Kids With Cameras, which teaches photography skills to children in marginalized communities. In 1998, New York-based photographer Zana Briski started photographing prostitutes in the red-light district of Calcutta. She eventually developed a relationship with their children, who were fascinated by her equipment.

After several years of learning in workshops with Briski, the kids created their own photographs with point-and-shoot 35 mm cameras. Their images capture the intimacy and color of everyday life in the overpopulated sections of Calcutta. Proceeds from the sale of the children's photographs go to fund their future education. Directed by Briski and filmmaker Ross Kauffman, Born Into Brothels was shown at the Sundance Film Festival in 2004 as part of the documentary competition.

The photography is splendid, rich in color and subject matter, and the video camera following Briski through the squalid red light district, pausing to hear abusive mothers and drugged fathers deny their children passage into a better life, hearing the wisdom of the elders who desire something more for these children, captures a world few know.

Devoted as Briski and Kauffman are to their dream, they remain realistic and document an element of life in a third world country that is illuminating. This is a touching film without being maudlin, beautiful without ignoring reality. In English and with subtitles for the children's commentary. Highly Recommended.

Sacco and Vanzetti (2006)


Filmmaker Peter Miller explores the crimes, trial, and execution of notorious 20th-century anarchists Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in a documentary that highlights just how this landmark case came to symbolize the injustice and intolerance experienced by immigrants longing to pursue their dreams in the land of the free. It was 1920 when Italian immigrant anarchists Sacco and Vanzetti were accused of murder in Massachusetts.

Seven years later, when the jurors delivered their final verdict in a notoriously prejudiced trial, both men were condemned to death despite massive protests both in the U.S. and abroad. Eight decades later, as America continues to wrestle with issues of civil rights, immigrant liberties, and dissent, the case of Sacco and Vanzetti continues to resonate.

In addition to balancing the personal and political aspects of the case as well as looking into the legal climate of the era, Miller's film brings the prison writings of Sacco and Vanzetti to life as never before as Tony Shalhoub and John Turturro read the deeply personal letters written by the pair during their ordeal. Additional music, artwork, poetry, and film clips inspired by the case propel the narrative by highlighting just what a lasting impression the Sacco and Vanzetti case has had on American culture.

Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (2006)


Produced for the PBS series American Experience, Stanley Nelson's Jonestown: The Life and Death of the Peoples' Temple, written by his frequent collaborator Marcia Smith, examines the infamous religious cult formed by Jim Jones and the events that led to the group's horrifying mass suicide in 1978. The film traces Jones' history from his unhappy childhood in rural Indiana.

Witnesses describe a strange, charismatic young man who nursed a seemingly sincere desire for social justice, but also reputedly murdered small animals as a child. Jones' desire to befriend people across color and class lines alienated his family and neighbors. Eventually, he moved to Indianapolis, where, as a young Pentecostal minister, he started the city's first integrated church.

Eventually, Jones moved his church to California to escape the racism he perceived in Indiana. In Redwood Valley, his church took on a new life, and he began aggressively recruiting new members. At first, members were required to tithe a percentage of their worth, but eventually, they were expected to relinquish all of their "worldly goods" to the Temple. In 1974, Jones moved to San Francisco, where he acquired some political clout before his high profile caught up with him.

Just before a damaging exposé was published, he moved his people to what was meant to be a "paradise" outside the racism and oppression of America, in Guyana. Nelson interviews eyewitnesses, including many former members of the Temple, and members of Congressman Leo Ryan's staff who managed to escape when the congressman's investigatory visit ended in bloodshed. The film had its world premiere at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival.


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