I love watching documentary films. Even the documentaries I’ve watched years ago at the beginning of my business are still relevant and important to watch. In many ways, I wish that weren’t the case. I wish GMOs were now labelled, if not banned, and I wish charities were more honest about how money from pink ribbon campaigns are actually used, and that more serious actions were being taken to support our changing climate.
What is exciting to see is that change is happening – but it’s not coming from up top. It’s coming from us, down here, making noise, making more conscious purchases and raising awareness, which in turn is raising the standards of the brands we love.
And so, just in time for the season when we like to curl up with some tea and hunker down, here are some amazing documentaries that had an impact on my view of the world and the choices I make.
Salt Fat Acid Heat
About: Chef and writer Samin Nosrat travels the world to explore four basic keys to cooking: salt, fat, acid and heat.
What You Will Learn: The important role these simple ingredients play in creating delicious food. Also, you’ll discover that Samin is delightful – a true food enthusiast without the pomp and ego.
Who Should Watch It: Those who love learning new cooking skills, as well as those who appreciate beautifully filmed food and travel.
You’ll Be Inspired To… Move to Italy.
About: Indigenous communities in the United States that are working to reclaim their land, grow ancestral foods and fight for their food sovereignty.
What You Will Learn: The multitude of ways colonialists have destroyed Indigenous cultural foods and their ability to grow them – and the resilience of Indigenous cultures who are now sharing their knowledge and reclaiming what has been lost.
Who Should Watch It: Everyone.
You’ll Be Inspired To… Support Indigenous resistance and food cultures.
Biggest Little Farm
About: A California couple who left city life in Los Angeles to build a biodynamic farm on dead soil and bring an ecosystem back to life.
What You Will Learn: Everything in nature is connected. You’ll also see how hard (yet rewarding) it is to fuel an entire ecosystem where animals, humans, plants and microorganisms all live in relative harmony, as well as the thoughtful process and planning it takes.
Who Should Watch It: Those who have always dreamed of living off the land, or those who live in the country and want to learn more about building or contributing to a biodiverse ecosystem.
You’ll Be Inspired To… Leave city life and start your own farm.
My Octopus Teacher
About: A filmmaker’s experience visiting an octopus daily in the waters of South Africa.
What You Will Learn: Some very unexpected and deep life lessons that will change the way you think.
Who Should Watch It: If you’re looking for a happiness-inducing, pick-me-up style of documentary film – and if you love nature documentaries with beautiful underwater images.
You’ll Be Inspired To… Look for the daily lessons in nature in your own life.
call of the forest
About: I am a super-fan of Diana Beresford-Kroeger and will watch or read anything she’s part of. This visually stunning film leads you through forests around the world and shares how we are integrally connected to trees.
What You Will Learn: Why trees are essential to life, how climate change has affected them and why we should do everything possible to protect these gems.
Who Should Watch It: Literally anyone who breathes.
You’ll Be Inspired To… Plant a tree of your own.
kiss the ground
About: Soil’s potential as part of the solution to climate change.
What You Will Learn: The importance of soil to the environment, our health, and the food we grow around the world.
Who Should Watch It: Any kind of gardener, whether you grow in a windowsill or a yard, and those who are interested in regenerative farming. I also like how incredibly hopeful this film is, which isn’t always the case with environment and climate change documentaries.
You’ll Be Inspired To… Take a second look at the ground beneath your feet, and work to improve it.
About: The dangerous chemicals in our clothes and filmmaker Jon Whelan’s quest to actually get straight answers about them.
What You Will Learn: The impact of what chemicals may be doing to us, and how little we are protected from them by our governments.
Who Should Watch It: If you’ve been wondering why your clothes smell weird, this film will help you figure out why.
You’ll Be Inspired To… Make conscious clothing choices and do some vintage shopping.
The Magic Pill
About: A look at the low-fat dogma and the existing research about the beneficial impacts of high-fat, low carbohydrate diets.
What You Will Learn: How fats are not harmful to our health.
Who Should Watch It: Anyone who wants to get off the low-fat train, or is interested in learning more about Paleo or ketogenic diets.
You’ll Be Inspired To… Reconsider your concern about eating fat.
The Human Experiment
About: This film tells the story of people who believe their serious health challenges are attributed to the hazardous chemicals that are permitted in everyday home and beauty care products.
What You’ll Learn: More than you want to know about the failure to effectively test and regulate the chemicals that are present in our everyday products, and their proven negative health effects.
Who should watch it: Everyone! Especially parents with small children or who are planning to conceive, anyone with known allergies and chemical sensitivities, and I think this will especially resonate with teenagers who may be just getting into the world of personal care products and cosmetics.
You’ll be inspired to… Take a second look at the products you use every day in your home and start making different choices that better support health.
The True Cost
About: You know those “fast fashion” brands that allow us to buy jeans for $20 and t-shirts for $5? It may be cheap for us, but the cost on the planet and the people overseas making them is huge.
What You’ll Learn: You’ll visit those overseas factories and meet the people who are working there, as well as see the environmental impact of cheap shopping habits. You’ll learn how our consumption habits of disposable clothing and new trends every season impacts the health of the makers and the planet.
Who should watch it: Everyone who wears clothes! This is especially important for those of you who love shopping (especially at stores like Forever 21, H&M, Old Navy… basically most of the mall brands) and always want to have the next trendy thing. The film isn’t intended to inspire guilt, but to educate us about what to look for when shopping and how we can make more responsible shopping decisions.
You’ll be inspired to…. Start paying more attention to your shopping habits, and perhaps start buying less and spend a bit more on better quality things that will last.
Merchants Of Doubt
About: How are there still doubters of climate change? How did cigarettes make it into the mainstream before it was revealed that they cause cancer when the makers knew all along? Why is our sofa filled with up to two pounds of flame retardants? Watch and learn!
What You Will Learn: A touch of self control as you try not to shake the man pictured above in the freeze frame of the trailer. You will also learn why it is so important as consumers that we both trust our instincts and do our own research.
Who should watch it: Everyone! But definitely the people who place all their trust in government regulations to look out for our best interests when it comes to food, pharma and the chemicals used in our everyday products. It’s also a great film for those who currently trust that GMOs are harmless and safe. There’s a lesson in this film for all of us.
You’ll be inspired to… Ask big questions, and perhaps even wonder what product we currently accept as safe that will be the next cigarette. Is it GMOs? Is it wifi? Or perhaps it’s cell phones? Yes, so many questions.
Before the Flood
About: Travel around the globe with Leonardo DiCaprio and see firsthand how the habits of us here in North America are affecting climates and communities around the world. One of my favourite quotes in this movie is from the head of a small island country that said, “Those that are impacted the most, contribute to the problem the least.” And right there, that is the issue.
What You Will Learn: How our daily habits are having a rapidly growing impact on the planet.
Who Should Watch It: Everyone! This is a film for those of us who think we’re too small to make a difference. It is the actions of each one of us that add up to big change.
You’ll Be Inspired To… Live a little more simply. It can only do us and the rest of the world good.
AWAKE: The Life of Yogananda
About: I first read this book ten years ago when I was introduced to yoga and meditation. This film explores the life of the man who brought yoga and meditation to the west. You’ll see how what was first met with resistance has become part of everyday life for many of us.
What You Will Learn: How one person can truly impact a nation simply by living and practicing their own truth.
Who Should Watch It: Anyone who practices yoga or meditation, or anyone who says things like, “I really need to start doing yoga”, or “I know I should meditate.” And anyone who is feeling like life is just a little too much sometimes.
You’ll Be Inspired To… Sit down every day and take a few moments of silence to listen to your breath and connect inwards. Truly. Watching this documentary kickstarted my meditation practice once again.
About: A family’s exploration of genetically modified organisms and their impact on our health.
What You Will Learn: The destruction that GMOs can cause to our health, the planet and the farmers who grow our food.
Who Should Watch It: Anyone who eats food.
You’ll Be Inspired To… Start reading labels and figuring out where your food comes from.
About: What if what we think is most important doesn’t really matter at all? An exploration of the state of our world and what we can do about it.
What You Will Learn: Insight into how we are all intricately connected, and that what we do in the world matters.
Who Should Watch It: If you want to be entertained and inspired, with a little philosophy thrown in.
You’ll Be Inspired To… Appreciate who you are and consider what you can possibly give to others.
Pink Ribbons, Inc
About: The reality of the breast cancer movement.
What You Will Learn: The shameless marketing of breast cancer as a cause and how all of those runs you’re doing and pink products you’re buying aren’t funding important research.
Who Should Watch It: Anyone who is female or knows someone who is.
You’ll Be Inspired To… Consider the causes you support and ask questions about where the money is really going.
There are new documentaries coming out all the time and I trust this list will only grow. If you’ve seen something lately that you think should be included, please post in the comments below.