Beyond Tiger King, documentaries to watch during Coronavirus lockdown, from Fyre to Miss Americana
With the lockdown in effect, for at least two more weeks now, we’re all looking for more ways to entertain ourselves and be more productive
Scroll through your Twitter timeline and you’re bound to find a tweet or a reference to Tiger King. The Netflix documentary, released on 20 March, has been making a lot of noise as more and more people find out about the completely insane story of Joe Exotic, a tiger breeder (and much more) in America. It’s thrilling, it’s engaging and it’s a completely crazy story. Viewers can’t get over it.
With the lockdown in effect, for at least two more weeks now, we’re all looking for more ways to entertain ourselves and be more productive. Watching a documentary might be a good idea for those who want to learn about things during this time, to feel they’re doing something (works for me!), or just to watch these completely entertaining shows about real-life events and people we had no idea about.
Here are some documentaries I really enjoyed watching.
Imagine you’re supposed to be partying with social media influencers and supermodels this weekend (not this weekend, because we’re under lockdown, but a weekend). You’ve paid a gigantic amount of money and showed off to all your friends and posted on Instagram about it. But you go there (to the Bahamas, that too) and realise nothing’s happening. This whole thing was a giant scam. Nothing is planned, nothing is prepared. Fyre, a 2019 Netflix documentary, is about exactly how this nightmarish scenario actually happened.
Taglined “The Greatest Party That Never Happened”, this documentary explores the way the festival fell apart, speaking to many people who were part of the festival or got scammed by the glamour and promise of it all. I was recommended this show by a friend who said “It’s nice to watch everything fall apart” and it really was this “how was this even allowed to happen” kind of feeling that you get while watching it. Fyre might be a good watch at this time, when things are falling apart anyway, and you need to watch something when human beings have really made a mess of one more thing.
Icarus is a 2017 Netflix documentary, which has even won the Academy Award for the Best Documentary. It ostentatiously focuses on doping in sports, especially in Russia, and during Russia’s Olympic performances. The film takes a sinister turn when Grigory Rodchenkov, the Russian scientist who is in charge of Russia’s anti-doping lab, receives death threats as he might reveal these secrets and the truth of Russia’s performance to the filmmaker and through him, the media and American government.
A really comprehensive look at the world of sports and doping, it also explores the urgency to win at any cost that sportspeople and, indeed, even whole countries are under. A must watch if you’re interested in sports and what goes on behind the scenes in competitions, often as important and large-scale as the Olympics itself.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi
How to make the perfect sushi. This is the thought that celebrity sushi-master Jiro Ono thinks of almost all the time. Running a three Michelin-star restaurant in Tokyo, Jiro is obsessed with the perfect sushi and all its elements — the ingredients, the design, the texture and the feel of it. The documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi aims to capture the essence of this man — how he became this legend, how the restaurant works, and Jiro’s son and the tremendous pressure on him to live up to his father’s standard.
Directed by David Gelb (who also created the popular show Chef’s Table on Netflix), this documentary has to be watched especially by lovers of sushi. However, it goes deeper than merely a chef’s documentary and is a wonderful exploration of an artist and his relationship with his art. The obsession, the need for perfection, and the constant struggle to do better and be better is all a part of Jiro’s artistic temperament and makes for a great learning experience.
In the late 1960s, Sister Cathy disappeared from the school in Baltimore where she taught. A few months later, her body was found. No one really knew what happened. And they still don’t. This 2017 documentary goes back to that time, speaking to Sister Cathy’s students and her sister to uncover a plot that’s way beyond one murder. A murder mystery, secrets hidden for decades, a killer still on the loose- this has all the elements of a good detective story. This is the next true crime series you can binge-watch.
Formula 1: Drive to Survive
The two seasons of this Netflix documentary look at behind-the-scenes footage of the Formula 1 circuit. If you’re worried you don’t follow the sport, it’s okay. You can watch the documentary without ever having watched a single race. If you’re into the sport already, you are sure to learn more about the teams, managers and owners. It’s a show that gets you close with the human emotions of sport- the joy of winning, the pain of losing and the frustration and work that often accompanies both success and failure.
The Toys that Made Us
Toys form an integral part of our childhood and often feature in our favourite memories. They pop up from nowhere when we think we’ve forgotten them. This documentary looks at what goes on while making the toys- focusing on toy companies, the employees and owners. How did Lego start? Who created Barbie and why? So many familiar toys and their history is in this well-loved show.
World War 2 in Colour
Want to take this time to brush up on your history? Wasn’t really a fan of history in school but as an adult, have come to realise that history is more interesting than our textbooks made it seem like? This documentary is a perfect place to start to (re)discover your love for history. World War 2 in Colour is a detailed look at what happened during the Second World War. The fact that it’s not black and white makes it seem more like a movie than an old documentary and keeps you hooked right through.
Making a Murderer
Steven Avery was convicted in 1985 for sexual assault. He was released in 2003, when it was proved that he had been wrongfully convicted. In 2005, he was convicted for the murder of a woman who had been seen photographing a car in the salvage yard he owned. Avery and his lawyers claimed he had been set up again. This American docu-series follows Avery’s life from 1985 when he was arrested for the first time. It gathered massive popularity in America, with over 500,000 people signing a petition asking the President to pardon Avery. It’s an engaging and thrilling true crime series that also throws light on the American justice system and coercion of prisoners.
You don’t have to be a Taylor Swift fan to watch this documentary, but if you are a fan of the singer, it's a much watch. Miss Americana follows Swift’s life and her career, and became the highest-rated biographical film by an artist on IMDB. It gives you an in-depth look at one of the world’s most popular popstars and even looks at what she believes is her role as a citizen of America. Have you ever wondered what celebrity life is actually like? This is a good place to start to get an understanding.
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