Friday, February 10, 2012

Documentaries: Because Life Is Too Short to Not Have an Opinion

A short while back I told you why we don't own a TV in our home. And truthfully, we Hepworth folk are terrible, "Did you see this latest show/movie?!" conversationalists. Mostly just because nine times out of ten, we haven't seen whatever it is you're raving about. But every now and then on a whim and if we're feeling feisty, we like to watch a little something online. And no - I'm not just talking about the GOP Presidental debates, though those are quite thrilling! ;) For some reason or another, we pick a documentary-style film/show about every other time we sit down to view something together. Documentaries are entertaining to me. For one, they are unashamedly biased in the message they wish to promote. And two, through the promotion of that idea, they demand some response or action from us, the viewers. And because of those things? They fuel interesting conversations, more thinking and study, and oftentimes we even let them influence our choices.

Image Credit: freshphoto on flikr
Here are some of the documentaries we've watched in the last couple of years (together and individually) that have gotten us thinking and talking:

College Conspiracy 
 - This one was a great discussion fueler on the so-called value of an education in a market over-saturated with students. It solidified political opinions we have about how big government is destructive. It reminded me of the value of having practical skills. It spurred discussion on personal finances as well as the inherent value of an education. We found much of the message to be true. Though as Squire is a student doctor and there is pretty only one path to doctordom in America - it doesn't change anything tangible for us. But, we really enjoyed it. It was worth our time.

Holey Iceburg, Batman!
Image Credit: Xa' at on flikr
An Inconvenient Truth
The Great Global Warming Swindle
 - These two documentaries were about global warming. Anthropogenic or not anthropogenic - that is the question! The first being the famous one by Al Gore, and the second being the response to that documentary. I watched them as part of my scientific reasoning course in my last semester at BYU. More than anything, they offered excellent fodder for critical thinking practice! They fostered discussion in that course, at home with Squire, and with a few of my professors. My opinions on global warming settled after I had watched both films, studied the data, and talked and talked and talked it out. Watching them was worth the mind exercise - though certainly not the end all and be all of the global warming debate. Not that any documentary really is. Haha. But certainly a worthwhile starting point for people wanting to ponder this issue.

Sick Around the World 
Sick in America: Whose Body is it Anyway?
- Squire watched the first one in his anthropology class. I would like to watch it in its entirety one of these days. It seemed to influence Squire to think more positively about some of the benefits of universal healthcare. It showed him some of the positives of other countries' health care systems. More than anything, it made Squire feel the weight of the problems with our healthcare system - for example, the fact that more than half of bankruptcies are caused by medical debt. It makes him want to do what he can to help others when he becomes a doctor himself. I have only seen a couple snippets of the film, but it seems they (mis)represent American healthcare as a purely market driven system, which could not be farther from the truth! (That is really one of the biggest problems with our health care system - no one knows what anything costs!) I for one always enjoy John Stossel's take on issues. His report on the issue was no exception.

Stupid in America
Another John Stossel report/documentary. This one makes the case for school vouchers. Though his comparisons between American children and children in other countries is not a fair comparison in every respect - and that I know only because I am familiar with how Germany/Austria run their school systems and it is not at all the same. That's not to say our system isn't in need of some serious help though. This documentary makes the case for a market driven system. I hope to make time for the film, Waiting for Superman, in the near future.

Big Mac at McDonalds
Image Credit: pointnshoot on flikr
Super Size Me
Food Inc. 
Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution
Food documentaries: Disgusting. Revealing. Influential. Inspiring. Eye-opening. Maybe not as sickening as say Upton Sinclair's, The Jungle, but startling nonetheless. Super Size Me has cut out Macdonald's almost entirely from my life - (except I must admit! for the occasional hot fudge sundae with nuts or vanilla cone. . . and a sausage biscuit 2-3 times a year for breakfast when traveling on the road.) The second one - Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution is more of a reality TV show/documentary. It is a movement really. But, we loved watching Jamie Oliver giving his TED speech on food and got hooked on his show from there. Because of him, we eat MUCH less processed food, and about triple the amount of fresh produce we used to eat. A great life changer. And an important reminder that we need to make sure we teach Lincoln about where food comes from, and how to prepare it. The last one, Food Inc. was a recent one for us. It actually got us to start purchasing cage-free eggs, and a few more organic products. We cannot afford to eat all organic - and honestly I'm not convinced that that is always necessary or cost beneficial. But someday when we are more financially stable, we would love to be more self-sustained by producing some of our own animal products and produce. Home-grown animals tend to be healthier, happier, and tastier. ;) The film made me realize why I hate eating ground beef from the store, but love it from Grandpa Hepworth's ranch. Above all, the film reiterated to me the idea that every purchase we make is a vote.

The Business of Being Born
Pregnant in America 
I've always been a bit of a natural birth supporter myself. The inklings in my heart, my spiritual/philosophical view of birth, and family members' views on the subject have all influenced me to view birth as a natural, normal experience that mostly does not require intervention, and that in fact intervention can often be more harmful than helpful. So, I always enjoy a good documentary on the natural side of things. ;) Because, we all know that we get enough of TLC's Birth Story to make up the difference. The Business of Being Born is a must watch for every woman who plans on giving birth. (I know there is a "More Business of Being Born", but I haven't seen it yet so I can't give commentary on it, but I bet it is a great one too.) If nothing else the film shares insights and reminders about how the medical system we feel so safe in, is not very compatible with a woman's needs in normal natural childbirth. Also, it lets women know about some of their options. Education is empowering! The second film did a bit less justice to the birth issue for the natural birth community. Maybe because the husband was often tactless and shortsighted in his passion on the issue? Though, I enjoyed seeing the bits on birth in other countries. Interesting, and worth it if you're all out of natural birth documentaries I suppose.

I love birth. I love babies. I love other cultures. I loved this movie. Beautiful shots. Absolutely fascinating. I only wished I could have seen more! 

Image Credit: 401K on flikr
Born Rich
Squire and I watched this shortly after we moved to Tucson. It was a documentary on the lives of children who are born extremely wealthy. They don't ever have to get a job. Some things made me envious, but more than anything I was fascinated at the social experiment of their very lives! Their wealth has created a completely isolated culture for them. It made me feel a bit sorry to hear how they talked about marriage - needing to sign prenuptial agreements, etc. It made me wonder if any of them will ever be able to marry and have a normal happy trusting relationship? I was sad that some of them didn't have a clue of what to do with their lives (mainly the filmmaker - a rich heir). One of the interviewees was particularly shallow and vain and self-absorbed. What characters they all were! I enjoyed it for the people watching fix it satisfied in me. It gave a bit of a scale for us less rich folk to compare and contrast. It gave Squire and I discussion points on our financial statuses growing up to compare and contrast. More than anything else, it made me realize the importance of work and earning our own way as a means of character development. To be down to Earth and real, you have to know what it feels like to struggle a bit. You have to have earned something to really know the value of a dollar. I still think about this documentary every now and then. Very worth the time.

And that's all folks! I hope you enjoyed reading my perspective on these documentaries, or that I shared something new you might like to watch? Have you see any of these documentaries? If so, what did you think of them/think about after watching them? Please don't leave me hanging on this very last one -

Show and tell time: I've shared some documentaries with you, 
now you tell me about some good ones you've seen!


  1. thank you for this post. Several documentaries that I must watch now.

  2. Josh and I also love watching documentaries from time to time. Netflix's streaming (when we used to have that) had a ton of documentaries so we watched quite a few, several of the same ones you have listed above.

    But, we also watched ones that weren't so... political, too, like a documentary on how Steinway grand pianos are made called "Note by Note" (awesome!), a high school cooking competition called "Pressure Cooker", one about the spelling bee called "Spellbound", another one about child art prodigy Marla Olmstead called "My Child Could Paint That", one about Donkey Kong arcade record breakers called "King of Kong", too many different baseball ones... etc.

    We also watched one called "The One Percent" which was made by a wealthy son about the wealth gap in America that was alright.



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