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While I can sit for hours watching episode after episode of my favorite TV shows, I am not a movie person. They just aren’t really my thing. I either can’t commit to one or lose interest too fast. I know, it’s weird, but a movie is never my first choice. 

However, this past summer, I started getting into documentaries. For some reason, I love them. They are so interesting and generally keep me engaged the whole time. Now, this is not to say I am any sort of an expert in documentaries. I’ve watched the most random conglomeration of titles. I love everything from a deep dive into a cult to an educational doc to a true-crime moment. So, here are my favorite documentaries that I have watched so far. 

Wild Wild Country 

This docuseries on Netflix was what started it all for me. The six-episode series is about a very controversial guru from India named Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh (also known as Osho), who builds a utopia called Rajaneeshpuram in the middle of Oregon with his personal assistant Ma Anand Sheela. 

It was extremely controversial with the locals and reminiscent of a cult. According to The Guardian, Osho preached a “mix of eastern mysticism, western philosophy and free love, raising the consciousness and promising utopia to his orange-clad international followers.” Within Rajaneeshpuram, everyone had multiple partners and children were exposed to sex, drugs, and alcohol at a very young age. It was described as a sex cult in a sense. 

The series uses interviews from the cult leaders who have sought refuge in other countries, as they can never enter the U.S., as well as footage from within the cult itself to creating an entrancing world. In every episode, something new and even more insane about the cult is revealed. After finishing the series, I went down a rabbit hole researching everything I could find out about Rajneeshpuram. It’s fascinating. 

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Period. End of Sentence.

This Oscar-winning short documentary on Netflix was a personal all-time favorite. It is about Indian women that are fighting the stigma around menstruation in India. They manufacture their own sanitary napkins in their village. When this documentary came out – in 2019 – I was in the middle of my high school senior Capstone project which was about the menstrual stigma. This doc fueled the fire within me and inspired me to continue to work to achieve menstrual equity. It was amazing to see the women in their village rise up and create their own solution to this pertinent issue. Not only were they empowered to help their health but also created their own sort of business and work, participating in the economy. Interviews with the women and an inside look into how they set up their machines are so inspirational.

I would highly recommend you check out this doc. It extremely educational and only 25 minutes!

American Murder: The Family Next Door

Now this one was A LOT. You may remember from 2018 the story of the Watt family. If you don’t, here’s a quick recap. Chris Watt murdered his pregnant wife Shannan and two daughters and lied to the whole world. He framed it as if they were missing, giving a chilling interview pleading them to come home on August 14, 2018. August 15, he was arrested for their murders. If you’re interested, read this New York Times article for a brief timeline. I remember being shocked by the story. Then, in 2020, American Murder: The Family Next Door came out on Netflix about the Watts, and I HAD to watch it. I had never been so intrigued and in awe in my life. The Watts, as the title suggests, is the typical American family. Shannan posted cute videos about the family on Facebook. They had two adorable daughters and what seemed like a pretty happy life from the outside. Chris seemed so nice and a great father. Yet, he was having an affair and murdered his family.

The documentary utilizes interviews, body cam footage, and police tapes which makes it even more chilling. Seeing Chris lie to the entire world so effortlessly… haunting. It really threw me for a loop and made me question so much. I would definitely recommend giving this a watch. 

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Photo by Myke Simon from Unsplash

There is truly something about documentaries that are so gripping. I think it’s my personal disbelief that these outlandish and seemingly impossible things really happened or are currently happening in the world right now. Documentaries give you the chance to get into the heads of people doing some of the most disturbing things or provide a fantastic learning opportunity. Either way, I can’t wait to watch more!

Karishma Mistry

U Mass Amherst '23

Karishma is a senior editor and a junior honors student at UMass Amherst, majoring in public health and economics. Some of her passions include advocating for female health, watching Netflix, and anything involving food. As a dual citizen of the US and UK, she loves to travel. Feel free to follow her on Instagram @karishmamiistry or her foodstagram @munchinwk.
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