Documentaries That Make You Think and Inspire Change
I rarely find myself in the mood to watch a documentary. For one, I have to be awake and not trying to multi-task in order to pay attention to the rapid-fire, jaw-dropping statistics they throw at you. Then I have to be open minded which also requires toning down the cynical attitude. Finally, I have to be mentally prepared for the can of worms they open and the rabbit hole that I seem to always fall down. Overall I think watching documentaries improves my life/well-being, even if they also cause overwhelming feelings of rage, dismay, and doom.
Forks Over Knives– This was the documentary that caused a meat-loving, milk-drinking family (us) to stop buying meat and milk. The documentary shows you (with real people examples) how eliminating meat and dairy can dramatically improve your health from weight loss to medication dependence. I’ll be honest, my husband and I knew of this movie’s existence for about 6 months before watching it. We put off watching it because we didn’t want anything to interfere with our present meat-heavy diet. Why should you watch it? Because after just a few days of eating meat and dairy free** we both felt noticeably better. At first I thought it was all in my head, but when I talked to other people that tried it, they all said the same thing. One week and they simply felt better, from health to mood (especially mood!). **Confession: We kept bacon in our diet for at least 6 months…I mean we are human after all…and bacon is so, so delicious… Available on Netflix Instant View or rent on Amazon.
COWspiracy- When this movie was recommended to me, I thought I knew based on the title what it was about. I incorrectly assumed that it told of the brutality of the commercial cow industry and I began to brag about how we rarely ate meat anymore and when we did, it was local/humane/hormone free etc. After listening to me blab on my friend politely responded with, “Just watch the movie.” So I did and found it’s contents impressive, alarming, concerning, and very very hard to ignore. Instead of talking about personal health as Forks Over Knives did, this documentary looked at the HUGE (but hush hush) issue that animal agriculture imposes on environmental and planet health. For example, did you know that if you eat a vegan diet (no meat, dairy, eggs, fish) for just ONE day then you’ll save 1,100 gallons of water, 45lbs of grain, 30sqft of forested land, 20lbs CO2, and 1 animals life? Don’t believe me or don’t understand how? “Just watch the movie”. Oh and if you need a big name motivator, it’s executive producer is Leonardo DeCaprio. This movie was our re-fresher and game changer. Three years after Forks Over knives we were 90% meat free but still ate eggs and cheese. Now we have zero desire to indulge in the industry (OK, OK except holidays). Available on Netflix Instant View or purchase on Amazon.
That Sugar Film- A quirky, fun, and easy to watch Australian film that just came out in 2015. The documentary follows a man who hasn’t eaten processed sugar in years, as he decides to eat the average Australian daily sugar intake for 60 days. The key here is that he doesn’t achieve this goal with obvious foods like candy, and drinks like soda. Instead he eats food that is marketed as “healthy” alternatives and/or foods that you don’t expect to contain large amounts of “hidden” sugar. After showing and explaining what happens to him after 60 days, the movie also shows his progression back to a sugar-free diet after the experiment. For me the resounding take away message (and motivator to make THIS chocolate cupcake recipe for my toddlers birthday): In studies, mice more often preferred sugar over cocaine. Sugar=a drug. Available to rent on Amazon $3.
The Human Experiment- To be honest I wouldn’t consider this a great movie in terms of overall quality, BUT I liked it because it got me thinking about the products in my home that I take for granted and assume are “safe.” Essentially the movie highlights the fact that chemicals in the items all over our house, from coffee mugs, to mattresses, to cosmetics, aren’t necessarily “regulated” because the long term effects of them aren’t yet known. Rather, they become known as people use them and health problems dramatically increase, and then the fight begins between the industry and the consumer during which the industry tries to divert and deny blame. Did you know formaldehyde used to be in Johnson and Johnson Baby Shampoo? Or that infertility is up 80% and autism has increased to 1 in 88? Available on Netflix Instant View or rent on Amazon.
No Impact Man- This documentary follows a husband, wife, and their young daughter as they try to be “impact-free” while living in a NYC apartment. They buy local food, reduce their waste, shut off the TV, and eventually for 6 months they even turn off their electricity. I liked that they seemed a very “human” family. You watch them struggle with the challenge and you notice a difference in them at the end. In addition to a blog and a book, they got a lot of media attention for their year-long venture from New York Times to Colbert Report. In a conversation with the only man who grows vegetables in the NYC community garden, it’s depressingly pointed out that they only got all this attention because they were viewed as an amusement. That if ‘no impact man’ was really going to cause a radical change, he never would have gotten such media attention. While harsh and true, this made me even more motivated to try and reduce my families impact here in the suburbs. If a family in NYC could do be that drastic and succeed, then surely I could make some changes too. Something else to ponder: when the author was asked what #1 thing he recommended people do, he said to volunteer for an environmental cause because it builds community and makes one feel accountable/connected. Available for rent on Amazon $4.
To Make A Farm and Eating Alabama- If you watch the above 5 films and are freaking out and have concluded that the only logical thing to do is move your family out to the wilderness and take up farming, then I suggest you watch these first. They are simple and pleasant to watch. They may make you a little sad, but they shouldn’t cause rage and panic. To Make A Farm follows several novice couples as they embark on a year of farming. Available on Amazon Prime Instant View or for purchase. Eating Alabama follows two couples as they attempt to eat only foods local to Alabama and also touches on the history and decline of small farming. I feel like it’s important for me to say that in watching this film I realized that I’ve been buying fresh parsley shipped from Mexico. Doesn’t that sound insane? Parsley is an easy to grow herb that grows in USA climates and yet we truck our food absurd distances. Available for rent on Amazon $2.
For me these two films toned down the chaos of my panic, preventing any rash decisions but also solidifying that moving forward there would be a lot of changes in my families diet, habits, sources, and mindset in general. Maybe I can’t change the world, but I can do what feels right for my family and my conscious and hopefully influence others by example.
Food Choices- For those who already are trying to eat vegetarian, vegan, or plant-based, or for those who are considering it. Done by a father who was plant based for several years but had a lot of questions he wanted answered before sticking with it for life. I LOVED this documentary. Done in question and answer format, he goes through EVERY question I have either had myself, or have been asked (and argued) when talking about eating a plant-based diet. I feel like the movie didn’t necessarily tell me anything new, but was an awesome clear refresher and motivator. I’ll be honest, we strive for plant-based but we often feel like “the only ones” we know, so sometimes we get doubtful and slack off. Watching this documentary was like hearing “you’re on the right track, keep up the good work!” I’ll be watching this one every couple months! Available for rent or purchase on Amazon.
What The Health-By the makers of Cowspiracy this is another fantastic documentary! For all the ones I’ve watched above, this documentary still managed to teach me a lot! My jaw hit the floor several times during this film and other times made me pretty enraged. You’ll see what I mean when you watch it to! They have some astounding facts on diabetes, cancer, body structure, and the manipulation of big money industries that cover up and confuse information that EVERYONE has a right to know. Currently on Netflix or for purchase at Amazon for a very high price.
Hi there! I’m Kaley, prevailing parent and wife, but also just me; stubborn lover of DIY everything, outdoors, and chocolate. Read more about myself and my family under the “Parenting” > “About My Family” tabs.