4 New Documentaries You’ll Want to Watch—Over and Over Again
4 New Documentaries You’ll Want to
Watch—Over and Over Again
While they each tell a different story, these four new documentaries share parallel themes: There is power in truth, there is currency in knowledge, and ultimately, there is justice in perseverance. In some cases, a great deal of perseverance. And if that doesn’t convince you: They’re also incredibly compelling.
John Chester’s documentary proves that where there’s a will there’s a way. It chronicles the eight-plus-year journey that he and his wife, Molly (and their dog, Todd), took as they turned 200 nutrient-depleted acres northeast of Los Angeles into a thriving regenerative farm. (Regenerative farming focuses on creating healthy soil, which grows mineral-rich food and improves the surrounding ecosystem.) Naturally, the odds were against them: John and Molly knew nothing about farming. The land had suffered intense drought. People thought they were crazy. Regardless, our heroes shoveled, nailed, planted, sowed, watered, fed, and created for eight years. And—lucky for us—they captured it all on video. This documentary is an absolute delight as you witness both the small victories (those chicken eggs! that beehive!) and the large.
Cherry Grove Stories opens with people smiling and recounting years—1948, the summer of 1957, 1972. This is when these people first went to Cherry Grove, a seaside community on Fire Island. Nostalgia plays heavy as they talk about weathered cabins, no electricity, and salty air. Cherry Grove was a haven for beach life—and for acceptance. This was where so many people in the gay community went to feel free during a time where so much of the world shut out homosexuality and queerness. (Homosexuality wasn’t legal in New York until 1980.) In this documentary, director Michael Fisher—a longtime Cherry Grove resident—pieces together an oral history of a place that was—and is—full of spirit and will. He weaves together archival footage and in-depth interviews with Cherry Grove residents. It’s hilarious and uplifting; it’s also maddening to hear of the brutality the LGBTQ+ community experienced. This story is important for understanding how a fight in our past is sadly relevant today.
We’ve been anticipating the June premier of this HBO documentary for months. It spotlights Bryan Stevenson, a civil rights lawyer, activist, and author. (You can hear Stevenson on The goop Podcast.) He’s dedicated his life to fighting the racism, corruption, false convictions, excessive punishment, and mass incarceration in the US. (America has the highest incarceration rate in the world. Sit with that for a second.) Guided by Stevenson’s interview, the documentary takes you through the origins of these systemic biases and points in history that sparked and perpetuated an incorrect narrative, which propelled fear and unprecedented levels of incarceration, racial terror, and violence. (And giant economic strain.) Stevenson is a measured and erudite guide through this world he knows so well. Directors George Kunhardt and Peter W. Kunhardt honor this in the film, shedding light on both the injustice and the emotionality. This documentary is a must-see. And it’s a must-see-again. You might scream. You might cry. And you might consider quitting your job to go work for Stevenson.
If you know Toni Morrison’s work, you that she tackles the most incendiary issues—slavery, violence, injustice—with strength and soul. She is somehow gracefully ferocious. She puts her energy toward what’s important; she moves past the frivolous. In this new documentary about her life and work, Morrison talks about her career and how navigating a white male world was not threatening. “It wasn’t even interesting,” she says. “I was more interesting than they were—and I wasn’t afraid to show it.” That’s some uplifting female empowerment that we’ll lap up over and over again. This engaging documentary beautifully articulates the power, humor, and strength of this singular writer.