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4 Documentaries to Radicalize Your Friends

Collage of the covers of the four documentaries mentioned in the article with the title in white font on a red background to the right of the covers

With the writers and actors strikes, documentaries and docuseries are making a comeback. While ostensibly a nonfiction medium, the point of any documentary is to persuade.

Materials, witnesses, and experts are selectively interviewed and edited to fit the narrative of the director. For this reason, I mostly only watch documentaries where the message is very clear. (Though I like to zone out to the occasional nature documentary.)

There are a ton of documentaries highlighting issues and stories important to leftists from a sympathetic perspective. Here's just four docs that I've seen that I think can change anyone's mind.

1. Style Wars

It has been a long time since I saw this, but this 1983 documentary filmed at the height of NYC Mayor Ed Koch's crackdown on graffiti in the city. Centering on the stories of several prominent graffiti writers, most of whom appear to be school age.

The film takes the viewer behind the scenes of the graffiti world, showing the preparation for large pieces, the variety of small scale tagging methods, and takes the viewer on a run with a young graffiti crew through abandoned subway tunnels.

As for the propaganda, the part of the movie where they discuss the crackdown is quite dramatic. They get a lot of good aerial footage of subway yards being guarded by dogs, new clean trains are greeting with tense horror music, and Ed Koch does NOT look like the "liberal with sanity" he liked to portray himself as.

2. The Take

If you ever wanted to listen to Naomi Klein, but you hate reading, have I got the film for you. The Take is a joint effort by Klein and her director husband Avi Lewis.

Around the start of the 21st century, Argentina was not in good economic shape. The currency board, reviled by international investors, that managed the peso's exchange rate to keep it pegged to the US dollar was losing its grip. Companies started going out of businesses, and production facilities around the country began shutting down.

One such facility is the Forja auto plant, where workers decide to put the plant back into production. The film follows the workers as they gain illegal access to the plant, refurbish it, and put it back into production in the absence of the plant's owner.

As the workers run into trouble from the authorities, they form a political movement to pressure legislators and other officials to transfer ownership to the people who make the factory run.

3. Paris Is Burning

An absolute time capsule of queer culture, Paris Is Burning tells the story of the ball scene in early 80s New York City. I guess the closest straight equivalent to a ball would be a beauty pageant?

The documentary shows us the dramatic world of ball culture from the cut throat walks to inside the houses comprised of queer runaways and throwaways that practice for and compete in the balls.

Unlike the hypercategorized and labeled world of acronym culture that we have today, the line between drag queen and transgender is very blurry. Although it isn't explicitly discussed, it comes through that this was not an oversight on the part of the film makers.

Subjects are allowed to be fully themselves without ever being questioned as to their identity. Many confess very intimate details about their gender presentation, their sex lives, and dealing with straight society. Also bonus points for going on a shoplifting run with some queers.

4. Food Inc.

If you enjoy eating, you might want to think twice about watching this documentary. I admit, this movie did change what size eggs I buy at the supermarket. Still feel weird about the food at the supermarket.

Food Inc. goes behind the scenes of the agribusiness, showing how a combination of profit seeking and industry-oriented regulations has geared our food supply to spread disease, mistreat livestock, and impoverish small farmers.

One aspect of the food industry that I don't recall the film covering is farm labor. While we learn about chickens that are pumped full of antibiotics and genetically modified for breast meat so overdeveloped they can't stand up, we don't learn much about the grueling conditions which farm workers are subjected to.

Want More Film Recommendations from Jester of No Court?

I honestly don't watch a ton of visual media outside of like TikTok. I am the user streaming companies complain about. I don't think I've seen a new movie in like two years.

But yeah, if you want my opinion about films, I guess you'll find them here on occasion. Sign up for my mailing list to get occasional updates about my blog and music.


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