10 NATURE DOCUMENTARIES YOU NEED IN YOUR QUEUE THIS EARTH MONTH
April is Earth Month - and this is what you should try to fit into your queue.
Although we should try to mindful of what is going on, on our planet every month of the year, April is the times of year when it becomes top of mind for even more people.
So, here are some great docs (outside of Planet Earth because we already all know it’s great) you should be aware of and spend an afternoon indulging in to give you a greater sense of this planet that we (and our animal neighbors) call home.
TIP TO NOTE:
** If the films I’ve listed below are currently available on a streaming service I have noted that next to the film. If not I will indicate with dollar signs where they can be purchased or rented. **
Our Planet (Netflix)
This is the newest of the bunch. Released at the beginning of April 2019, in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund, Our Planet was made exclusively for Netflix and focuses on various ecosystems around the world that are at risk of being completely destroyed by human activity. The main aim of the series is to show viewers what can be done to protect or restore these vital ecosystems, and take viewers on a journey that will ultimately pull on their deepest heartstrings. Plus, it’s also narrated by the most beloved narrator, David Attenborough, so you know it’s going to be good.
Chasing Coral (Netflix)
I’m not going to lie, Chasing Coral is one of the documentaries on this list that I have watched more than once. It’s just so good, and so heartbreaking. The focus of this brilliantly shot film is something that many people are not even aware of: the underwater crisis of the “coral bleaching” phenomenon. Believe it or not, coral reefs are literally the nursery for all life in the oceans, and an ecosystem that sustains us humans as well. Unfortunately our man-made carbon emissions are warming our oceans and in turn bleaching the world’s coral reefs. In short, coral bleaching is a sign of a massive catastrophe happening below the surface that people are unfortunately unaware of: the death of our coral reefs globally, that is also accelerating at an ALARMING rate. I mean, just think about this:
“Ninety-three percent of the heat from climate change is trapped in the ocean,” Orlowski told the Daily Dot.
The Cove (Starz)
If anything is guaranteed to make you cry The Cove is it. There is a reason it won an Oscar for Best Documentary.
The atrocities that you will witness in this doc are nothing short of disgusting. Now there has been some backlash, in the form of a “counter-doc” by 48-year-old Tokyo native Keiko Yagi. Which I will say is worth seeing all sides of an argument. But still…
The Cove is a TRUE STORY of a hidden cove in Taiji, Japan, where on a yearly basis a brutal practice of slaughter of epic proportions happens on the dolphins of the region. Yes it’s a small seaside village praciticing something that has been a part of their way of life for 1000s of years, but like make acts of history it begs the following questions to be asked:
Why does it still continue?
Should it still continue?
What are the blatant parallels that can be drawn between a practice that is seemingly “normal and traditional” to these people, and yet still must be HIDDEN?
Mission Blue (Netflix)
There are some people who from a young age have a passion that is ingrained into their lives, and then there are others who take that passion to the next level making it their life’s work and legacy.
Oceanographer, Marine Biologist, and Environmentalist Dr. Sylvia Earle fits into the second category. Mission Blue is all about inspiring public awareness to take action to both explore and protect the ocean. After all, the land is protected by various programs and national and state parks, why should the sea be as well?
A Plastic Ocean (Netflix)
Prepare to be disgusted. Like, really disgusted, in others and even potentially yourself. If you watch the news, or are on social media, I’m sure you are aware of the increase of stories about marine animals washing up on shore with an INSANE about of plastic inside of them, ultimately contributing to their deaths.
It’s not a secret. The startling amount of plastic pollution in the world's oceans is real. It’s a real problem. And it’s an ever growing problem.
Imagine wanting to go our and just search for a sighting of the elusive blue whale. But instead you discover something far worse: the ocean isn’t as pristine as it should be. In reality, it’s full of plastic waste. A Plastic Ocean will show you that harsh reality across 20 locations around the world over the course of four years.
Please note: A lot of this documentary is in French with English subtitles
Another Academy Award nominated (although this one didn’t win) documentary.
In Virunga, you get to step into the Democratic Republic of Congo, which maybe to your surprise is one of the most biodiverse places in the world. Unfortunately, humans are threatening the stability of life in the National Park, including the elusive and endangered mountain gorillas. Which to be completely honest is a sight everyone should try to experience at some point in their lives.
The doc is def not something you can just put on in the background and go about your business, you need to pay attention. But you will be glad you did. It’s an intense and eye-opening experience into what it takes to not only risk your life, but also to protect the last mountain gorillas on Earth.
Encounters at the End of the World (Netflix)
The imagery in this documentary is quite simply put, breathtaking. I know it may seem like all the docs on this list were ocean focused, but surprise! The world is more than just the ocean.
Encounters at the End of the World gives you a look into a side of Antarctica most people are never going to see, ever. Yes, tourism to Antarctica is becoming more and more accessible to the public but there are just some places that no amount of money is going to take the average (non-scientist, filmmaker) human. Antarctica is many things. It’s barren. It’s flat. It’s lonely. it’s volatile and deadly. But it’s also insanely beautiful.
Travels to the Mcmurdo Station (the largest research station on the continent) and discover beautiful landscape untouched by people, as well as the people who are risking their lives to study it. Prepare to be mesmerized by the continent's wildlife and awe-inspiring natural wonders.
The Ivory Game (Netflix)
Anyone who is aware of Leonardo DiCaprio the person knows he is so much more than an huge blockbuster actor, and The Ivory Game is evidence of this.
Technically it is a nonfiction documentary, but in reality Leo has managed to make it feel like an (unfortunately real) horror film. The point of Ivory Game is to take you into a world that has barely been explored, but that is something in your normal life you would NEVER see. Each moment that is captured is both stunning and completely genuine.
It’s a sure thing that whenever the Discovery Channel and BBC come together for a documentary project it’s going to be nothing short of amazing and buzz worthy. Plus, you can almost guarantee that the amazing David Attenborough is going to narrate it.
Technically this doc is part of “Planet Earth” which I said I was avoiding in this list, because we all already know how amazing it is, but Africa is a masterpiece all its own.
Rather than having to absorb multiple ecosystems across the planet as a whole this docu-series allows you to focus your time on one of the most diverse ones, Africa. It took four years to make, and fun fact: over the course of the four years more than 2,000 hours of video were shot. Each episode is an hour long, featuring never-before-filmed animals in previously unknown places.
From the Kalahari, to the dense forests and snow-capped peaks of the Savannah, to the rainforest of the Congo, to the consistently changing climate of South Africa’s Cape, to the insanely massive and seriously bone dry Sahara, Africa takes you on a journey that may just end up on your bucket list.
Colombia: Wild Magic (Netflix)
With Colombia: Wild Magic you’re off to South America, to discover the biodiversity of the Caribbean coast, to the forests of the Amazon, to the southern deserts.
One of the best things about this documentary is the juxtaposition of the beauty of the landscapes to the innate fragility of the ecosystems within these landscapes. As with many of the documentaries on this list, the ultimate goal of Colombia: Wild Magic is to both inform, educate and inspire action and conservation efforts.
Bonus film to watch: Aquaman
($$, rent on iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play, or for free at your local library)
Now hear me out. There is a LEGIT reason for this suggestion. And I’m not trying to be “cute” or “funny” (no matter how hot the lead actor is). If you haven’t seen Aquaman, let me encourage you to watch it this month.
Sure it may not be a documentary, but the parallels that can be drawn between being loving the sea, being sustainable, and being aware of what we as a society are doing to our oceans cannot be ignored.
It could be the perfectly great (and entertaining) film, especially if you’re not the documentary type, you need in order to make you think twice about the decades of damage we’ve done, and are continuing to do, to the ocean.