5 Awe-Inspiring Documentaries to Jump-Start Your New Year

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As we progress through 2017, I think it’s important for us to continue learning about humanity and the ever-evolving world around us. Documentaries are a great way to consume meaningful information in a way that helps us understand key issues, the ramifications, and solutions moving forward. Without a doubt, it’s absolutely crucial to learn about every angle around an issue so that we’re as well-informed and unbiased as possible, but nonetheless – documentaries are a great place to start.

Each one of these documentaries deeply moved me with their captivating truths and brilliantly composed and developed storylines. The stories unfold in a way that will compel you to take action immediately or, at most, inspire you to expand your heart and create space for alternative perspectives.

It’s time to take this year by storm! Educate yourselves on the movements you all feel most passionately about and join in. Let’s become leaders in this dynamic world we live in that is overflowing with adversity and countless pressing issues waiting to be resolved. They will not resolve themselves, they need us to ignite the change we so desperately desire.

1 | Cowspiracy. It’s quite painful for me to accept this truth, but unfortunately many people do not care about the ethical issues surrounding factory farming. Aside from the fact that I find it semi-disturbing that animal loving people are able to discriminate between a dog and a cow, that’s fine. Then extract this factor out of the equation and carefully examine all other factors. And who knows, you may even latch onto one that you feel particularly connected to, such as health or the environment.

Cowspiracy hones in on the environmental factor and informs us of the negative consequences of raising livestock. It explains in detail how the meat industry is drastically affecting our climate and our world as we know it.  

If I’m being completely honest, I think that the documentary is even more effective because it primarily discusses the environmental aspect and only lightly touches on ethics and health. Instantly by doing this, they’ve opened themselves up to a wider and more diverse audience of people willing to listen, all the while creating more opportunities to inspire change and impact lives.

In conclusion, the filmmakers beautifully approach the topic in a way that’s researched, informative, and applicable to human lives. Hopefully you can find meaning out of the research and hard evidence presented and perhaps it’ll inspire you to make a change of your own.

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Discover what it truly means to be an environmentalist.

You can stream Cowspiracy on Netflix.

2 | The Minimalists. Less is more, right? This documentary explores the movement of letting go of material goods and learning how to be free without all of these attachments. Do we actually live happier, longer lives the more that we possess? Is there a direct correlation between money and happiness? Research indicates no to both. The creators of this film unravel the mindset behind this movement, the process of becoming a minimalist, and explain how it can positively affect your health, wellness, and life moving forward.

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It’s not about making more to have more; it’s the concept of spending less, no matter the income, so that you instantly have more.

You can stream The Minimalists on Netflix.

3 | Living On One Dollar. Let’s suppose you pack a backpack, fly to a developing country, and find a rural village to live in for a month. Now picture your life and what it would entail. Okay, now eliminate the possibilities of staying in a hostel or hotel and eating in restaurants. Most importantly, eliminate the concept of being on a vacation and having money or material goods. Okay, now we’re talking.

Four incredibly bright and open-minded individuals designed this experiment themselves as college students. The core part of their adventure was to commit to living on one dollar a day per person because they wanted to accurately simulate life below the poverty line.

The progression of their thoughts throughout the month are pretty astounding and overall profoundly impressive. This is one of those eye-opening documentaries that forces you to contemplate life and all that you have. Mentally and emotionally prepare yourself because from the moment you press play, you’ll be embarking on this journey with them as they experience a much different and harsher reality; one that 1.3 billion lives experience on a daily basis.

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“Normal” is subjective. The most important thing to remember is that we all define “normal” differently. What you define as “normal” is pretty much going to differ from every other individual’s definition of “normal.” And that’s the truth. Open your heart and open your mind.

You can stream Living On One Dollar on Netflix.

4 | Salam Neighbor. From the same creators of Living On One Dollar, I present you with their next creation, Salam Neighbor. These are the first filmmakers to ever be granted permission to be registered and given a tent inside the Za’atari refugee camp. Za’atari is located in Jordan south of the Syrian-Jordanian border and only 6.2 miles east of  Mafraq, Jordan. This refugee camp houses roughly 80,000 Syrian refugees.

Salam Neighbor tells the untold stories of the innocent souls who have become victims as a result of the war that has unfortunately dominated their nation. It’s extremely heartbreaking as you hear these courageous individuals recount their trauma and everything they’ve lost to war, however equally inspiring as these brave souls rebuild their lives.

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It’s ultimately a story of sacrifice and bravery in the face of immense fear and the courage to rise from the ashes. It’s about empowering this community of people whose world has been shattered into millions of tiny fragments and helping them put the pieces back together one by one, day by day.

You can stream Salam Neighbor on Netflix.

5 | aka DAN: Korean Adoption Documentary. Being a Korean adoptee myself, this documentary, in particular, hits very close to home. I’ve watched a few documentaries in this space, but I have to say that aka DAN greatly surpasses the others I’ve seen. It’s done in the format of a 9 part docuseries and it can be streamed on YouTube.

The series follows Dan Matthews on his emotional journey to meet his biological family and, in more elaborate terms, discover his roots and decipher his identity. I’ve now watched this documentary twice and both times it has brought me to tears. It very well may be because of my personal ties to this community, but I’m thoroughly convinced it has more to do with how phenomenally Dan told this story.

He recently created another docuseries, aka SEOUL: A Korean Adoptee Story, that focuses more on identity and features a handful of other Korean adoptees. The very first episode is a follow up to aka Dan: Korean Adoption Documentary where you can see how Dan’s journey has evolved since the first docuseries went live. I highly recommend watching this episode in addition to the other 6 parts.

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Blood is only as thick as we perceive it to be. Its the bonds in our lives that we choose to create and fortify that have the lasting impressions on us. Who should we bond with? Now that is a choice that is entirely up to us.

You can watch aka Dan: Korean Adoption Documentary here.

You can watch aka SEOUL: A Korean Adoptee Story here.

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