Some Must Watch Documentaries

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas day and welcome back to the What Now Blog! If you're currently feeling over-stuffed with turkey and in need of a little downtime in front of the TV, then why not spend a few hours with a fascinating documentary instead of subjecting yourself to watching anymore re-runs of Grease or Home Alone for the millionth time?! (Not that, they can't be fun too!)

Here are a couple of suggestions. Some truly fascinating, some bizarre and some uplifting documentaries that I've watched recently and thought you may also enjoy. All should currently be available on either Netflix or iTunes.


1. Happy is a documentary that explores exactly what the title says - happiness and how what we perceive as happiness and what we think we need to be happy is far from the reality. Research has now defined our predisposition to happiness to be 50% genetics, 10% work, money and things that we believe we need and 40% intentional i.e. things we can personally do to make us happy. That 40% gives us huge scope to make intentional changes to our own wellbeing and outlook in life.

In the film we're taken on a journey from the slums of Kolkata where a man with so very little technically rates as one of the happiest people on the planet. We're reminded that money and material things are by far the be all and end all. It's a wonderful look at the extreme highs and lows in life and how we can chose to react and feel about them. Uplifting and thought provoking at the same time.

2. Tabloid is a truly bizarre but ultimately fascinating romp through the true story of Joyce McKinney and the 'Manacled Mormon.' This former Miss Wyoming scandalised Britain in the 1970's when her beyond strange exploits (abducting and imprisoning a Mormon Missionary who was working in Epsom, Surrey and chaining him to a bed in a Devonshire farmhouse for very dubious purposes for three days) hit the headlines becoming a true tabloid saga and downright odd story of madness and mayhem. In this film made in 2010 Joyce herself is interviewed at length and recounts her version of the events although some will certainly call her an unreliable witness.

The film does however take a fascinating look at the role of the tabloid. Two top newspapers, the Mirror and the Express, battled to get the scoop whilst Joyce still managed to manipulate them with varying and equally odd versions of herself and of the truth. Ironically despite being interviewed at length for the film Joyce then went on to sue the filmmaker in 2013 alleging, amongst other things, that she was tricked into giving the interview for the film. The court found in favour of the filmmaker Errol Morris, saying that the film should be protected as it was 'in the public interest.' The drama may not be over yet with another potential case in the wings. So watch it while you can and be equally appalled, confused and as strangely fascinated as I was!

3. Twenty Feet From Stardom takes a rarely seen look into the lives of backup singers and the world in which they work. For me with a musical past this was truly fascinating and awe-inspiring. The film features many amazing backing singers including Darlene LoveMerry Clayton and Lisa Fischer who have sung with a plethora of musicians through the years including Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, The Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson - and that's just a very small start.

It's such a rare look into their compelling lives, lives touched on many an occasion with frustration and sadness but wonderful and amazing all the same. Their talent, passion and the musical magic they are able to create with their beautiful voices is absorbing. If you love music and these type of behind the scenes, step back through history documentaries then you will love this. The soundtrack is amazing as well as they pretty much provided the vocal magic on all of the major hits of the last 50 years.

4. Smash His Camera takes a look at the life and work of Ron Galella an American photographer known for being a pioneer paparazzo. Still alive today he is possibly one of the most controversial celebrity photographers in the world having been dubbed the "Godfather of the US paparazzi culture" by Vanity Fair and Time Magazine.

Having lost a lawsuit to Jackie O and five teeth to Marlon Brando who broke his jaw, Galella was not afraid to cross well beyond the line to get the picture he wanted and so he did - on more than one occasion. In 2010 when the film was made Galella was 77 and still crossing over into NYC daily from his home in New Jersey, camera in hand ready to catch his prey. It's really an amazing look at his work and huge archives of photographs that many have enjoyed in well known publications throughout the years - despite being in disagreement with the way in which he obtained such famous and iconic shots of stardom.


What will you be watching this holiday season? Do you have any favourite documentaries that I have missed and must watch? I'd love to hear in the comments below and if you chose to watch any of the above let me know what you think!