5 Documentaries You Need to Watch After Blackfish

Chances are you’ve watched Blackfish, the thrilling and highly controversial documentary about the lives of performing killer whales. This incredibly passionate film touched millions of viewers. Its message was so influential that the state of California proposed legislation that would make it illegal to hold orca whales in captivity for display or breeding. If you’re new to the genre of documentaries, here are five other films to put at the top of your must-watch list:

1. The Cove (2009) What it’s about: Filmed covertly in Taiji, Japan, against the wishes of the local government, The Cove exposes the massive dolphin trade and the slaughter and inhumane treatment the animals are subjected to. Before this movie, Japanese locals were unaware of the high-mercury contaminated dolphin meat that they regularly ate. The deplorable condition of dolphins in captivity is something most people around the world are still unaware of.

Why you should care: Aquariums, zoos, and dolphin performance shows are things we’re all familiar with and have come to know and love; however, unbeknownst to many, when we choose to buy tickets, we’re also supporting and actively voting for the inhumane and cruel treatment of animals that are often forcibly taken into captivity from their natural habitat. Watch The Cove, and you won’t ever want to be part of the fuel for this demand again.

2. Page One: Inside the New York Times (2011) What it’s about: With so many radical changes happening in the way we consume media, this film explores the current state and possible future of the news industry. The film covers a year at The New York Times and documents major events from WikiLeaks and the introduction of the iPad to the mass market to changes in social media, such as the increased popularity of Twitter and news aggregation websites.

Why you should care: As young, technologically savvy consumers of news media, we’re the people changing the landscape of news, whether we realize it or not. Newspapers like The New York Times are trying their best to adapt and change their platforms to accommodate us, and this documentary is incredibly important if you care at all about who is controlling your media and the process by which you receive it. It’s also worth watching just for David Carr’s sassiness.

3. The Square (2013) What it’s about: The Square, a high-intensity documentary chronicling the inside story of the 2011 Egyptian Revolution in Tahrir Square has received almost universal praise. It even has a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and won an Academy Award this year for best documentary! The film puts real, relatable faces to the constant discord of information regarding the revolution that took over the news headlines for so many weeks as part of the Arab Spring.

Why you should care: The Arab Spring revolutions are going to be part of our generation’s history just as events like World War II and the Vietnam War are for preceding generations. The movement for democracy, freedom, and human rights should be an issue that concerns all of us. Knowing what’s going on in the Middle Eastern and North African revolutions is key to helping us understand the value of the freedom we have and tend to take for granted.

4. Food, Inc. (2008) What it’s about: This movie is one of the most impacting documentaries about food you’ll watch — yes, even more than Supersize Me. An incredibly comprehensive look at the American food industry, Food, Inc. covers everything from what makes up the majority of the food we consume to health issues that arise from the unsustainable ways the food industry currently runs. Hint: It’s not what you think you’re eating. Even more disturbing, the movie also extensively covers the repressive laws that control what we can and can’t say about the food industry (known as ag-gag laws) and what information is allowed to reach consumers.

Why you should care: This movie hits so close to home for the majority of its viewers partly because it’s about food – what we consume to nourish our bodies and fuel our lives. The fact that we are so ignorant about its true origins, mostly because of big food corporations and their lobbyists, is something that should be of high concern for all of us because our lives depend on the industry. Thankfully, Food, Inc. provides a lot of ways we can participate and be actively involved in the cause.

5. Makers: Women Who Make America (2013) What it’s about: My personal favorite on the list and a celebratory nod to Women’s History Month, Makers: Women Who Make America is a made-for-TV documentary that covers the history of women and the feminist movement in the U.S. Interviewing everyone from Ellen DeGeneres to Hillary Clinton, the film showcases some of the most influential woman and their struggles to get to where they are today. The film also discusses opposing views making for an incredibly balanced and thorough exposition on the state of women’s rights in our country.

Why you should care: Regardless of your personal beliefs regarding feminism and the struggle for equality, this film is inspiring simply because of the amazing women it features. From entertainers to politicians, they all have their time in the spotlight in this documentary, and all of them have incredibly inspiring and empowering stories. Aside from that, the long history of feminism in our country is also exciting and encouraging and shows the strides we still have to make in our society for gender equality.

There is a plethora of documentaries and causes to get passionate about, and this is just a condensed teaser for what’s available. A word of caution: Documentaries, like any other form of media, push a bias and are written and directed to get you to support the cause of the makers of the movie. That does not necessarily make them have the one right perspective, so please use good judgment and research before rallying behind a cause. Happy viewing, collegiettes™!


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