If documentary films don’t get the attention that they deserve, the same goes double for documentary shorts.
This is such a shame. These films more than deserve your time (and they don’t ask much of it either) and they are just as satisfying to watch as any full length feature.
So, I’m flying the flag for doc shorts - starting here with ten unmissable documentary short films on Netflix.
Period. End Of Sentence
Period. End Of Sentence is a moving and Oscar winning documentary short. In a rural village outside Delhi, India, women are involved in a quiet revolution. They are fighting against the deeply rooted stigma of menstruation.
Rayka Zehtabchi’s film reveals that, for generations, a lack of access to pads has led to health problems and girls missing school or dropping out of education entirely.
However, when a sanitary pad machine is installed in the village, the women learn to manufacture and market their own pads. Zehtabchi’s documentary follows their inspiring journey.
Hurricane Maria was a deadly Category 5 hurricane that devastated Dominica, St Croix, and Puerto Rico in September 2017. Nadia Hallgren’s film follows a group of women who, in the aftermath of the disaster, face an uncertain future. Forced to leave their island, the women form powerful bonds as each struggles to cope with a series of heartbreaking challenges.
The White Helmets
Orlando von Einsidel’s Oscar winning documentary short takes place amid the daily devastation of airstrikes on civilian targets in Syria. The film follows a group of brave and resilient first responders - called The White Helmets - as they risk their lives to rescue victims from the rubble.
Fire In Paradise
Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepari’s powerful documentary tells the story of 2018’s devastating Camp Fire, which destroyed the US town of Paradise and became California’s deadliest wildfire. Using incredible footage, the film puts us at the centre of the nightmare. It also features the heartbreaking stories of those who survived and questions why such wildfires seem to be on the increase.
Lessons From A School Shooting
In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Massacre, two priests - one from Dunblane, Scotland and the other from Newtown, Connecticut - forge a bond across the Atlantic through a series of letters sharing experiences of trauma and recovery. Kim A. Snyder’s documentary is an incredibly powerful and moving experience exploring grief in the wake of gun violence.
Patrick Coker and Isaiah Mackson’s film follows three women - a fire chief, a judge and a street missionary - as they battle West Virginia's horrendous opioid problem. Heroin(e) is a moving and insightful look at the challenges faced by those on the front line of this devastating epidemic.
Life Overtakes Me
Hundreds of children in Sweden have fallen into a prolonged coma-like-state. The cause of this devastating phenomenon is a mystery. However, the fact that all of the children affected have come from refugee families could well be key. Kristine Samuelson and John Haptas’s documentary investigates this worrying condition - known as Resignation Syndrome.
Zion is a gripping documentary short about Zion Clark, a young wrestler born without legs. Floyd Russ’s film reveals how Clark, who grew up in foster care, began wrestling in second grade against his able-bodied peers. The physical challenge became a therapeutic outlet and gave him a sense of family. Moving from foster home to foster home, wrestling became the only constant thing in his childhood.
Dan Krauss’s thought-provoking film follows Dr Jessica Zitter, a palliative care specialist who leads a team in the Highland Hospital ICU in Oakland, California. Zitter helps families make incredibly challenging end-of-life decisions for their loved ones, who are often terminally ill. Extremis is one of two Netflix short docs that examine important end-of-life themes - the other being Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman’s End Game. Both films tell their stories sensitively, encouraging discussion of a very difficult topic.
Long Shot tells the incredible story of Juan Catalan - an innocent man who was accused of murder. His lawyer embarks upon a remarkable journey to confirm his alibi. Can raw footage from a television show save the day?
Over To You...
Have you seen any of these documentary shorts? If you have, what did you think of these films? What other doc shorts would you add to this list - either on Netflix or available elsewhere.
Meanwhile, click here for a list of 50 documentary features to watch on Netflix!
Let me know! Leave me a comment in the section below or come and find me on Twitter @500DaysOfFilm.