Documentaries were admittedly not the first genre of movies or television we'd turn to for a good comfort watch during this past year and a half when everything felt a little too real. However, every time we chose a new documentary or docuseries, we were reminded of why the medium is so important. Documentaries have provided a link to the real world that feels especially precious in this isolated time, from instructive (or even mind-bending) stories of communities we never heard about to political shockers to films that shattered our preconceptions of the form. We're compiling the best of these new films and TV shows, and we'll be adding more throughout the year.
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1. Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street
It's the story of how the creators of Sesame Street set out to create a new sort of children's television show, one that focused on reaching minority and low-income audiences rather than well-to-do suburban kids, by employing commercial strategies to promote education. It paints a mostly rosy picture, acknowledging more challenging issues but rapidly moving on, although any irritation with its pleasant character is quickly forgotten. It will have you smiling and singing as a history lesson about one of the most important pieces of pop culture to ever hit the radio. ( It's worth noting that HBO Documentary Films produced it.
2. The Dissident
Since the news of the assassination of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi surfaced in 2018, headlines have continued to trickle out. The Dissident is a scathing documentary about the incident, tracing Khashoggi's steps from long before he became a journalist, when he was more of a Twitter provocateur and activist, to his premeditated assassination inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey, where he went to pick up paperwork for his wedding, and the subsequent investigation and outcry. Those who haven't been paying attention will be astonished and dismayed by the body of evidence presented, while those who have will be outraged that anything more has not yet been revealed.
MLK/FBI is a deft examination of how and why J. Edgar Hoover's FBI came to spy on Martin Luther King Jr., regarding the civil rights leader as a threat to national security. It's less about what's in the bureau's files on King—which are still sealed until 2027—and more about the culture of the institution that targeted him. Sam Pollard gives audiences a concise history of the FBI's presence in American society, illuminating its place in the public's consciousness through the propaganda that fueled its exalted status. MLK/FBI highlights Hoover's infatuation with King and how it was driven by the country's underlying racism, as told by historians and associates of King.
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Pelé, the only man to win three World Cup titles, is sometimes referred to as the best player of all time. This film chronicles his meteoric ascent to fame over the course of a decade, as well as the evolution of the Brazilian dictatorship at the time. It's an engrossing viewing, with terrible political intrigue and a passionate celebration of his talent. And what's more; you don't have to be a soccer fan to appreciate it.
5. Billie Eilish: 'The World's a Little Blurry'
Billie Eilish's climb to popularity has been rapid: she went from creating songs in her bedroom with her brother to winning Grammys (while still recording songs in her bedroom with her brother). R.J. Cutler's documentary will take you behind the scenes of the development of her upcoming album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
There are no doubts that there are many other documentaries and docuseries that created some stir in 2021 that are not mentioned in this article. However, this write-up was to take a quick look at some of such articles that have gotten our attention in 2021 so far. Perhaps, time will make us take a second look at some other such materials that may pull at our heart's strings before the year runs out.
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