Growing up I always had a passion for learning. I thoroughly enjoyed school and extra reading, throwing myself into any material that could further extend my knowledge on a subject I found myself vested in. I learned to form strong opinions through this, and as any intelligent person knows, you need an abundance of knowledge and back-up arguments to call upon if you are to ever successfully convey your way of thinking and truly stand up for what you believe in.
Most of my knowledge comes from documentaries. I adore David Attenborough and Louis Theroux for they are documentary veterans with a knack that is so rare these days amongst the thousands who proclaim themselves to be film-makers and videographers. Distancing from these two British gems, I like to trawl the web to find the documentaries I care most about: controversial, thought-provoking films and murder documentaries. Something about sparking a debate or learning about the head of a serial killer ignites something in me, and today I am going to share some of my top documentaries.
The Central Park Five (2012) Netflix
In 1989 a female jogger was left in a coma for 12 days after a brutal attack in New York’s Central Park during which she was subjected to extensive battery and rape. In 1990 five juvenile boys were convicted of the crime – four of whom were black and one hispanic – and sentenced to between five and 15 years each. For over a decade each protested their innocence, however the year and the fact they were black/hispanic and the victim was white led them to a dead end in the face of racial discrimination and police brutality. In 2001, after serving 11 years, one of those convicted met a serial rapist and murderer in prison on a life sentence who bragged about brutally beating and a raping a jogger and getting away with it. In 2002, a formal confession of the correct perpetrator was made and the Central Park five were acquitted. This case was pivotal in exploring how police interrogate and force confessions, especially in the name of white supremacy.
Blackfish (2013) Netflix
In 1983 a baby orca was captured and separated from his family pod, destined to be the star of the newly opened Sealand of the Pacific aqua park. A sham of a park, Sealand shut down in 1992 after loss of profit and controversy surrounding the death of a trainer at the hands of three orcas, including the new baby. The baby orca was then sold to SeaWorld and named Tillikum. With a bigger audience to entertain, Tillikum was mercilessly forced to learn new tricks to please animalistic revellers in the crowd, the whole time being attacked in his concrete paddling pool by bigger orcas. The stress of being snatched from his family, forced to do unnatural activities and being attacked with nowhere to run all contributed to this normally placid creature’s aggression and ultimately the death of three people. Since the release of the documentary SeaWorld have been forced to defend themselves everyday against campaigners who want all the animals freed on the grounds of abuse. It’s SeaWorld vs Tillikum.
Making a Murderer (2015) Netflix
In 2003 Steven Avery was exonerated of a rape he didn’t commit after DNA proved it wasn’t him; however this was after he’d already served 18 years for something he didn’t do. After his release, Avery filed a lawsuit against Manitowoc County, but in 2005 whilst the lawsuit was still pending, he was arrested and charged with the murder of Teresa Halbach. Protesting his innocence, he maintained that he was imprisoned out of hatred for the fact his family wasn’t well liked and the county didn’t want to pay out for fear of humiliation and liability. The ten-part series walks the audience through astonishing evidence in Avery’s favour, making it seem impossible he murdered Halbach. After the documentary was released Manitowoc have faced growing pressure to exonerate Avery a second time, and after watching the film it’s easy to understand why. It will ignite a frustration in you so deep, so quickly, it’s like nothing else you’ve seen before.
If you find the time, give these three documentaries a watch. They will force you to contemplate humans and how they think as a race they are superior to animals, and even superior to each other in the case of racism and police brutality. They will force you think about if the people who are paid to protect you are really on your side. First and foremost, they will force you to debate and talk for the subjects tackled are so deep that one cannot possibly keep them to themselves. Expand your knowledge and take time to revel in the art of true, provocative, informative film.
Featured image: Global Panorama