currently watching: my favorite documentaries

by Krystal Bick
March 19, 2018

Happy Monday everyone! And, if you’re anywhere other than the east coast this week, happy almost first day of spring!

For everyone in New York this week, MAN, our forecast looks downright awful. Snow on Tuesday and Wednesday? And here I am, as I mentioned last week, stocking up on spring dresses and shoes! Heck, I’m filming a spring haul video tomorrow, for crying out loud!

So, what’s any self-respecting, urban dweller to do? Hibernate! I’m currently stocking up on a few favorite Fresh Direct orders, a bone or two for Elvis and figuring out my documentary watchlist. There are SO many good ones right now available on Netflix (including a few Oscar-nominated ones) — that I’ve made a list of my most recent binge-worthy obsessions, with a few thrown in that are on my radar for this coming week. That said, let’s kick things off!

One word of warning before we start though: I tend to be drawn to the macabre — think murder mysteries, intense crime investigations or just the downright bizarre (lately, my kick has been cults, not sure why). So if you happen to relate, then I think you’ll find the following FASCINATING.

Wild Wild Country: Admittedly, I’ve just started this series (and if my boyfriend happens to be reading this, I haven’t watching ANY of it, since I’m waiting for you to get back from your work trip), but WOW, I’m hooked. This docuseries chronicles the rise of Indian guru Bhagwan Shree Rahneesh, who leads his legion of loyal followers to build a utopian commune in the backcountry hills of Oregon during the 1980s — sounds idyllic, right? It quickly turns dark though — as their counterculture starts to unnerve the nearby townspeople — weaving a tale of rebellion, religious freedom and the blurred lines of what some may call a cult.

On Her Shoulders: Disclaimer: I cried. A lot during this documentary. It follows the story of Nadia Murad, a Yazidi massacre survivor, whose village was targeted by ISIS in 2014, killing over 700 of her fellow townspeople, many of the men. The women who were left, became sex slaves. She has since escaped and now is the spokesperson and activist for her people, campaigning for global assistance, intervention and recognition of what is happening to her corner of the world. While this story could easily paint her as the victim, which she arguably is once you hear what she and many others like her have endured, her story is of strength and perseverance — and I can’t help but tear up while writing this.

 

OUTFIT DETAILS: Intermix sweater (from last year, love this style though!) // 3X1 jeans // Self Portrait heels // Luana bag // Lisi Lerch earring + & Other Stories earring + Old Navy belt

The Jinx: For anyone who has seen All Good Things (with Ryan Gosling and Kristen Dunst) and thought that plot was sick and fascinating — well then you need to watch The Jinx. It follows the story of Robert Durst, an accused murdered, who’s evasion of the law and the truth is somewhat mesmerizing — leading him to eventually live in disguise for a few years as an elderly mute woman in Texas. There’s an INCREDIBLE plot twist at the end of this series, so if I say anything more, I’m afraid I’ll ruin it for you. But I’ll say this: it’s downright haunting and Durst will linger with you long after it’s over.

The Keepers: I watched this series when it came out back in May and let me tell you, the hype was all worth it. If ever there was a good depiction of the web of lies a church is capable of weaving, this is it. Following the 1969 unsolved murder of Sister Cathy Cesnik who taught English at a Baltimore Catholic High School, The Keepers is a testament to just how far a certain Catholic Church in a community will go to cover up years and years of sexual abuse.

Icarus: My guy and I watched this shortly before the Oscars and I can definitely see why it won best documentary feature. If you’ve ever been curious about the international scandal that was the Olympic Russian team’s doping charges — then you need to watch this. It follows the story of Bryan Fogel, who seeks the help of Grigory Rodchenkov, the head of the Russian anti-doping laboratory, to win an amateur cycling competition with the aid of performance enhancing drugs. As you might have guessed, Fogel gets WAY in over his head in this one.

Austin to Boston: I may be biased with this one, since my guy produced it, but I assure you, it belongs on this list. Granted, this is my only recommendation that ISN’T dark in nature, so consider this a bit of light-hearted relief. This documentary follows a number of bands, including the likes of Ben Howard, Nathaniel Rateliff and The Staves as they pack up and caravan out from Austin’s SXSW to head to a festival in Boston, playing a number of gigs along the way. It’s beautifully shot and edited, plus, naturally, the soundtrack is KILLER.

Casting JonBenet: OK, back to dark stuff. If you’re like me, you remember a number of cases that were HUGE in the media when you were growing up. We’re talking huge in the sense it seemed to be on every news checkout stand at the grocery story and your parents seemed to talk about it a lot as well. O.J. Simpson was one. Tonya Harding was another. Then there was JonBenet. Her story was haunting wasn’t it? I remember seeing her young, smiling face — dolled up in pageant clothes — beaming back at me from the covers of newspapers and magazines, not much younger than myself. Her case seemed to be nothing but speculation (Was it the dad? Was it the mom? Or maybe the brother?!), and I think this documentary captures that chilling speculation feeling all too well — the feeling when you think you know a story, so it manifests itself that way.

 

13th: Heads up: this one is HEAVY. Aptly named 13th, for the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, this documentary follows the aftermath of the American Civil War for African Americans, and how slavery has only been perpetuated by different practices throughout the years like disenfranchisement and mass incarceration. It’s powerful and at times, difficult to watch, but incredibly eye opening. I cannot recommend this one enough.

The Wolfpack: I haven’t watched this one yet, but I’m really excited to start it! It follows the story of 6 brothers, whose paranoid parents, have kept them indoors their whole lives, leaving their Lower East Side apartment only a handful of times. To cope and to connect with the outside world, these brothers turned to popular cult classic movies — Pulp Fiction, Batman, The Usual Suspects — and recreate them in their apartment.

Photos by Nora Varcho

12 thoughts on “currently watching: my favorite documentaries

  1. I just started watching Wild wild country too!! I’ve known about the cult for awhile, but seeing all the archival footage is so interesting! Also no spoilers but I’m shocked at who they got to participate in the interviews!

  2. I watched 13th and completely agree with you. But it is a true eye-opener and a must watch. I have to check out the Wolfpack .. hadn’t heard about it until just now but it sounds so interesting!

  3. Char and I plan on watching Wild Wild Country this weekend & I love that stuff!! I remember watching an incredible documentary about Jonestown years ago that was fascinating…though I can’t remember the name (will search, though). I have also watched pretty much every narco & drug wars related documentary, since Netflix has a ton of original ones out there — xx

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