Insomnia Documentaries

Summer is pretty relaxing, especially compared to the stress of a school year. It also means I get stuck in the most unhealthy sleep cycles. Think bed at 3 AM, wake up at 11 AM. What do I do while the rest of the house sleeps? Watch netflix documentaries, of course. While netflix’s selection of regular movies leaves much to be desired, they have a HUGE selection of documentaries. New ones always show up on my homepage under recommendations because I watch so many.

The important thing to remember about documentaries: They are a filmmaker’s thesis. That means they are biased, opinionated, and slanted. If you watch a documentary about a topic, don’t take it as the last word. Do more research and look for other sources. That being said, documentaries are a great way to learn about new issues, incredible people, or times in history.

Some favorites (all of these are available on Netflix Instant Play)

The September Issue

Even if you’re not interested in fashion (and I am), this is a fascinating personality study. It’s very interesting to see how different people are treated in the workplace. Everyone expected this movie to be about Anna but Grace just stole the show. You won’t look at a magazine the same way again. Fun fact: I rewatched this recently and found myself fascinated by the interns moving silently about. I know it’s a function of my age but how great would an intern documentary be?

Bill Cunningham: New York

Another documentary about fashion, from a totally different perspective. Bill Cunningham pioneered street fashion and his opinions about his profession are fairly unique. He’s also part of a dying breed of artists and hearing their stories of a different New York was one of my favorite parts.

Nursery University

This documentary exposes the process of applying to preschool in New York City. It’s completely insane, and happening in other cities. The families probably acted differently due to the cameras but you still get attached to their stories.

America the Beautiful

This documentary (and its sequel, which I haven’t seen) focuses on the beauty industry in this country. The filmmaker also looks at how the current standard of beauty came about and at the pressure on young people to look a certain way, and the lengths they go to achieve this. There’s some tragic footage in here, especially of a family who lost their daughter to an eating disorder.

Orgasm Inc.

This one’s a little bit different but not graphic at all! It looks at how pharmecuetical companies have tried (and mostly succeeded) to create a myth of female sexual dysfunction AND tons of potentially dangerous drugs to cure it. The film’s tone is lighthearted but the issue is serious. The relationship between drug companies and women is very important and deserves attention.


When all else fails, I watch One Tree Hill! Such a guilty pleasure! Sweet dreams!

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