5 Documentaries You Can Stream That Will Make You Smarter

Photo by Siniz Kim on Unsplash

Couple watching TV


Kiyomi Appleton Gaines
Kiyomi Appleton Gaines316
SHRM-CP, Nonprofit Culture, Writer, Storyteller
In our busy lives, it can be hard to find the time to sit down and relax for a few minutes, and even then, the pressure is always on to spend our time productively, or be doing something worthwhile! Many entrepreneurs and time management gurus will tell you that watching television is the first thing to go when trying to fit everything in by the end of the day. Well, I'm here to tell you to take a breath, put your feet up, and watch some television! Whether you've got a couple hours, or just ten minutes, these documentaries will make you smarter about history, the planet, art, and the art of living well! Sounds like time well-spent to me!
1. "I Am Not Your Negro" (2017), 1 hour and 33 minutes, streaming on Amazon Prime.
Author James Baldwin presents a book he never wrote about his friends, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Malcolm X, and shows the threads that weave their stories to the story of America today. Without delving in to the shootings in communities across the nation in recent years, or Black Lives Matter, the film nevertheless holds up a mirror to who and where we are on the issue of race in America today, and asks what we will do to be better.
Be smarter about: American history, racism, and how far we still have to go.
2. "Sustainable" (2016), 1 hour and 31 minutes, streaming on Netflix.
A look at sustainable food from farmers, chefs, and researchers, and a consideration of "restorative" agriculture, and living in community to support jobs, the environment, and our health.
Be smarter about: where our food comes from, how it's produced, the ways it touches every part of our lives, and how we can make small, everyday, better choices.
3. "Jiro Dreams of Sushi" (2011), 1 hour and 22 minutes, streaming on Netflix.
Follow one man who started at a job and built it into a passion and calling. Jiro, in his eighties, reflects on work, family, creating meaning, and what it means to live well - and, of course, making the perfect piece of sushi!
Be smarter about: finding the right places in our lives to devote the time and energy toward perfecting.
4. "Minimalism" (2016), 1 hour and 18 minutes, streaming on Netflix.
Striking a balance between chasing the latest fads and Kondo-ing everything, interviews with individuals and families who choose to live minimally reveal it's more about finding community and living a full life than getting rid of stuff.
Be smarter about: what a full life well-lived looks like, and consider what things we need to really make us happy.
5. "The End Game" (2016), 28 minutes, streaming on Amazon Prime.
A consideration of the phenomena of coral bleaching, its impacts and implications, and what we can do about it, with one of the leading scientists studying the topic.
Be smarter about: the planet we live on and share, and the effects of every action of everything else within a closed system.
A bonus documentary, this one you can squeeze in even with only ten minutes to spare!
6. "Hilda" (2017), 9 minutes, streaming on Amazon Prime.
A tiny film about a full life immersed in a world of art. Just nine minutes long, abstract expressionist artist Hilda O'Connell recalls the New York art scene of the 1950s.
Be smarter about connecting to tiny moments and opportunities to bring art, culture, and new experiences into our lives.
Happy streaming!
Kiyomi Appleton Gaines writes about work, life, culture, and fairy tales. Read more at a work of heart and follow @ThatKiyomi on Twitter.