It's easy to forget there was a time before quarantine, but there's a whole world out there to explore! While we can't do it in person right now, take a trip across the globe with the SWITCH team's favourite documentaries streaming right now - delve into drag queens, dark histories or social struggles to shine a light on subjects special to us!
It's one of those deliciously ineffable movies. I mean, I could technically tell you what it's about, but what it's about isn't actually
what it's about. Ya know? Think 'Exit Through The Gift Shop' or 'Predestination'. Have you ever tried explaining those films to people? Impossible! What I can say is that it's by brilliant New Zealand journalist David Farrier (whose Netflix doco series 'Dark Tourist' is also fantastic) who delves into the world of competitive tickling (oh yeah, it's a thing) and ends up on a journey 180 degrees and a million miles from where he started. You. Will. Be. Hooked. 'Tickled' will take you places you never knew existed and you never knew possible.
'TRIXIE MATTEL: MOVING PARTS'
Oh honey, let me tell you,
after years of avoiding it, I've caved and fallen in a massive 'RuPaul's Drag Race' hole - and it all started because of this documentary. Hundreds of drag queens have taken the stage on the legendary reality series, but Trixie Mattel is the one who has to be the most successful. The film follows her touring her album as well as her return to Drag Race in Season 3 of the All Stars edition. At the same time, her successful YouTube show with fellow 'Drag Race' allium Katya is in the middle of its transition to television when Katya relapses and tension rises between them. Being produced by her boyfriend, the film isn't afraid to show Mattel warts and all - it doesn't hide behind a wig, it really shows you who Trixie Mattel is and how Brian uses that persona not only as an expression of himself but as an artistic venture. Whether you're a die-hard 'Drag Race' fan or have never seen a drag queen in your life, 'Moving Parts' works great for both perspectives... even just to learn that there is a lot more to drag than lip-syncing to pop songs. It might start your obsession, as it did for me, or just re-affirm why you love the world of drag. *Fan thwoorp!*
'NEXT GOAL WINS'
In 2001, the American Samoan Football Team suffered the worst defeat in international football history: 31-0 to Australia. As an Australian, first and foremost, that result is fun and entertaining, but then you start to think about the other side. A decade later, and America Samoa remained the worst team in the world by a significant margin. 'Next Goal Wins' follows the story of this terrible team in their fight for pride, as they tackle the terrains of significance and purpose. This documentary shows football in its purest and most beautiful form, as a bedrock to community and comradery. The audience is placed amidst the Samoan culture and it's fascinating to witness how the love of the game, as well as the desire of pride and loyalty, are all on show and infused as one. There is so much spirit in a community where losing has just become a way of life. This team aren't battling to make World Cup qualification, nor are they fighting to win a game, they just want to score a goal, and this documentary scores all kinds of goals.
Produced in collaboration with Alex Kotlowitz, a journalist who wrote a 2008 New York Times piece on the effort to curb violence in Chicago, documentary filmmaker Steve James ('Hoop Dreams', 'Stevie', 'Abacus: Small Enough to Jail') embedded himself with CeaseFire, an organisation devoted to violence prevention. Filmed over the course of a year that saw more killings on the streets of Chicago than among American soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, James' camera is present for moments of extraordinary tension, like a street fight that escalates with a kitchen knife and a chunk of concrete, and a pair of brothers who throw punches whenever they see each other. Following three outreach workers (or "violence interrupters") into these situations is inspiring enough, but witnessing them deescalate conflicts and calm people down simply by relating to them is amazing. I've travelled a lot and Chicago was the best city in the world that I ever visited - 'The Interrupters' really gives you a feel for the place, the people and their ongoing struggles.
While it's a little rough around the edges, this is a must-watch documentary for every single human with a heartbeat. Lee Hirsch brings to light extraordinarily personal and intimate stories from a handful of kids across rural America. Using small, handheld cameras, we see the day-to-day pain and suffering endured by these young people, the frustration and devastation felt by their parents, and the helplessness and defeat of their educators. It's almost impossible to watch this documentary in its entirety without tears in your eyes; bullying is a destructive global problem, and what's captured here is a tiny glimpse of an issue that is in no way being taken seriously. I can guarantee you'll want to reach out and give these kids a huge hug by the end of this film.READ OUR REVIEW
'Grizzly Man' is the 2005 rendition of 'Tiger King' - just take out tigers and insert bears. The ever-eccentric Timothy Treadwell befriends bears in Alaska and makes it his mission to eradicate the stigma surrounding the danger of bears. The footage is amazing - Treadwell has amazing recordings of his up-close encounters with these incredible animals. The cherry on top is listening to Werner Herzog's narration throughout, piecing together more than 100 hours of videography. It strings together camcorder footage and interviews of Treadwell's friends and family. Unravelling the story, events and drama of this man's life and death...
'O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA'
Ezra Edelman's staggering documentary epic may have been made for television, but it's in its unbroken eight-hour theatrical form - the form which won it the Oscar for Best Documentary - that it is at its most powerful. This is not just the complex story of O.J. Simpson, but the even more complex saga of race and racism in America in the latter 20th century, filtered through a cultural icon forging himself in the nexus between black America and white America. I was lucky to see this in its entirety on the big screen at ACMI, so trust me, put a day aside and watch it in one sitting. It's an overwhelming, exhilarating, horrifying and breathtaking experience.
Taylor Swift is arguably one of the most iconic - and polarising - pop stars of the 21st century. You either love her or you hate her. This Sundance-opening documentary may not reveal much more about the starlet to die-hard fans, but for others, there is just enough here to shed new light on a woman whose identity became virtually inseparable from the one the media made for her, and how it took a year away from the spotlight to separate those identities for the sake of her mental health, and to ensure there was something left for herself after her incredibly successful career one day ends. This was exacerbated by her sexual assault trial and her decision to become politically vocal, a move that directly opposed years of the media (and Swift's own moral compass) telling her that "a good girl doesn't speak up".
There's also an underlying sadness to everything Swift says: from recounts of stalkers breaking in to sleep in her bed to feeling alone after sweeping at the 2016 Grammys, it's no wonder her public fall was so spectacular - she had an unprecedented height to fall from. 'Miss Americana' is also peppered with studio footage of Taylor and collaborators composing her two most recent albums, and it's wonderful to see such a talented artist so excited over the artistic process and a lyric falling into place, even after 10 Grammys and 14 years in the business. Self-congratulatory and opaque as it may be, 'Miss Americana' is Swift's way of reclaiming her own narrative, asking the public to respect her privacy in a way she was too polite to do before.
'CATWALK: TALES FROM THE CAT SHOW CIRCUIT'
Have you ever wondered what the world of competitive cat shows is like? Have you ever wondered how cats can change people's lives? Well, look no furr-ther! 'Catwalk' is a beautiful portrait of the competitive cat world, but more so a portrait of the people who have had their lives shaped and saved by their beautiful feline friends. In a similar vein to 'Kedi', another of my favourite cat documentaries, it shows the ultimate love the people who show their cats have, from people who know their cat might win to people who just love their cat so much they want the world to know it. A purrrfect film for anyone who has a little angel in their lives - just pack some tissues and be prepared to be smooshing your face into your cat for hours after... or days... weeks... years...