8 Documentaries on Netflix worth your time

I’ve been trying to get back into Netflix recently after falling out of watching stuff on there for a while. Seeing as I am the one paying for it, and my brother is the one getting the most use out of it, I thought it best to start getting back into it. Rather than let the Netflix vampire have it all to himself, at my expense.

I’ve found myself gravitating towards the documentaries they have up, and I’ve found some really interesting ones. Everybody is probably familiar with the big, really popular ones like Making a Murderer, The Keepers and Amanda Knox. But here are 8 that I’ve watched recently, that may not be as well known, but are still as engrossing.

Matthew Shepard is a Friend of Mine

I was familiar with the Matthew Shepard story before watching this, because once you hear it, it’s hard to forget it. In 1998, the 21-year-old university student was lured away from a bar by two men who drove him to a remote area of Wyoming. They tied him to a fence, and proceeded to brutally beat and torture him, all because he was gay. They left him tied to the fence, dying for the next 18 hours, until he was discovered the next morning by a passerby who mistook his badly beaten body for a scarecrow. He slipped into a coma and died in hospital 6 days later. How anyone can do that to another person just because they are gay is beyond belief. But at least one good thing came out of this tragedy in that hate crime prevention laws were passed by Barack Obama in an effort to stop this kind of thing happening again.

This documentary was made by Michele Josue, a friend of Matthew’s from school. It emotionally retraces Matthew’s life through interviews with family and friends and home video footage, as well as talking about the legacy he has left behind.

Rocco

This documentary tells the story of the Italian porn star Rocco Sifreddi, who by all accounts appears to be to the porn world what Simon Cowell is to reality TV talent contests. The documentary specifically charts his last year performing in porn before retiring to directing films full-time. This documentary was a strange, but also illuminating watch. If porn offends you, I suggest giving this a miss. While you won’t see any “P in V” (so to speak), you’ll see plenty of behind the scenes stuff from porn sets. It’s an interesting look behind the lens of the porn world, and some parts are frankly disturbing. Not least the fact that Siffredi’s COUSIN Gabriele Galetta, a failed pornstar himself, films Sifreddi in his scenes. I know family is supposed to be close, but it’s possible to be too close, you know! I was also surprised to discover that Sifreddi is MARRIED to his wife of the past 25 years, who fully supports his career, and is father to two adult sons! Definitely a weird watch, with an odd and unconventional family setup, but interesting nonetheless!

Dreams of a Life

The story that inspired this part documentary/part reenactment is possibly one of the saddest stories I’ve ever heard. Dreams of a Life tells the story of British woman Joyce Vincent, who died in her bedsit around December 2003, believed to be caused by a severe asthma attack. Prior to her death, Vincent had cut ties with everyone she knew, left her job and moved frequently. Her death went completely unnoticed, and her remains were only discovered after £2,400 of unpaid rent prompted housing officials to break into her bedsit in order to repossess the property. She was discovered on 25th of January 2006, over two years after her death. Her flat’s windows did not allow a direct view into the home so nobody would have happened across her, neighbours never questioned the constant noise coming from the TV, and the smell of her decomposing body was attributed to nearby waste bins.

This documentary tells her story, by talking to friends who knew her, and they all describe her as funny, bubbly and outgoing before she just disappeared from life, making this sad story even more of a mystery.

The Man who Ate himself to Death

The title of this one is pretty self explanatory. I was genuinely shocked when I watched this documentary. It tells the story of Ricky Naputi, a 39-year-old man from the island of Guam, who essentially ate himself to death. At his heaviest, he weighed over 900 pounds, was completely confined to his bed, and relied on the care of his devoted wife Cheryl, who even had to bath him in his bed as even attempting to stand was too much for Ricky. The documentary follows his attempts to lose weight in order to have life saving surgery, with the help of American Angie Flores, who lost over 180 pounds through gastric surgery and who today is an advocate for those who wish to change their lives in the same way. Sadly, she couldn’t help Ricky, who ultimately succumbed to his obesity in 2012. A sobering watch, that shows that addiction comes in many forms, even ones we might not always think of.

Chelsea Does…

This documentary series consists of four hour long episodes in which comedienne Chelsea Handler takes on a different topic in each. The first episode deals with all things marriage, with Handler meeting many different couples and also revealing and challenging her own perceptions of the sanctity. A self confessed technophobe, episode two sees her visit Silicon Valley to pitch an app, learn coding and ultimately discuss the role of technology in modern life and its affects on us. Episode three sees Chelsea tackle issues around racism, and the place of racial humour in America and the wider world. The final episode sees her take on drugs by talking to former addicts who share their stories, as well as conducting some experiments with drugs such as Ambien in the name of neuroscience. All interesting and unique takes on familiar topics, delivered in the irrepressible and razor sharp humour of the famous comedienne in her first project as part of an exclusive deal with Netflix.

Casting JonBenet

The JonBenét Ramsey case is always memorable. 6-year-old beauty pageant contestant JonBenét Ramsey was found murdered in the basement of her own home in Colorado on Christmas Morning 1996. Over the years, there has literally been thousands of theories proposed about her death and who her killer is, but nobody has ever been brought to justice. Casting Jonbenét documents the casting process for a fictional film about the killing. The would be actors, auditioning for parts of the key players connected to the case, give their feelings and insight about the death of the beauty queen, as well as their opinions on who killed her. If you’re familiar with the case (like I was before watching), you may not find much new information here. But it is worth a watch for its interesting premise.

Be Here Now: The Andy Whitfield Story

I was a big fan of the TV series Spartacus when it aired between 2010 and 2013. Be Here Now follows the story of Spartacus himself, Andy Whitfield, who was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma after completing the first season of the show. Filming for the second series was delayed while he battled the disease, and despite being declared cancer free a few months later, the disease returned. Only this time it was stronger, forcing Whitfield to drop out of the series to focus on beating it. The role was later recast after Whitfield gave his blessing, and while the show was still good, Whitfield was a huge loss, in my opinion. This inspiring documentary by filmmaker Lilibet Foster, follows Whitfield and his family who bravely fought his cancer until it claimed his life in 2011, 18 months after being first diagnosed. He was only 39-years-old. Definitely one to inspire you to keep fighting, whatever the challenges may be.

Natasha Kampusch

On March 2 1998, 10-year-old Natasha Kampusch was abducted in Austria. She would spend the next eight years held captive in a cramped, mouldy, soundproof cellar by her kidnapper Wolfgang Priklopil, until she managed to escape in 2006 at the age of 18. The story made headlines around the world, due to the seemingly miraculous reappearance of a girl many believed was dead. For years, Kampusch was rarely allowed to leave her cell. She was starved, often beaten. In later years, her kidnapper would allow her upstairs to do housework but told her he would kill her if she ever tried to escape. She eventually managed to escape one day when Priklopil dropped his guard. Knowing that she was free, and that she would lead the police to him, he threw himself in front of a train shortly after her escape. This documentary allows Kampusch to recount the horror she experienced, as well as talk to the mother who says she never gave up the belief her daughter was alive, and also Priklopil’s former boss, who had been to the house on numerous occasions and never knew that a little girl was trapped there. It’s definitely a story to send chills down your spine, a parents worst nightmare. But it also shows that stories like these don’t always end in tragedy.

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