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9 Must-See, Eye Opening Documentaries

Since Beyonce’s Life is But a Dream documentary hit the airwaves in February, I’ve been wondering what other celebrity documentaries would also give a better understanding. Documentaries give watchers a more realistic look into the lives of people, of thoughts behind ideas, and facts about topics viewers may not have come across otherwise. Below is a list of researched documentaries worth watching. Some are about celebrities, others about social issues and culture. All are available on Netflix, YouTube, Amazon, and/or iTunes. Get into it!


Brooklyn Boheme

During the 1980s and 90s, the Fort Greene area of Brooklyn was booming with talent. The black arts movement was underway with filmmaker Spike Lee, comedian Chris Rock, actress Rosie Perez, among other artists creating a community and paving their ways in the art world. Brooklyn Boheme tells the story of these creators.



Why We Laugh: Black Comedians on Black Comedy 

The film chronicles the story of Black comedy, its roots, nature, and what social and political stances inform it. From minstrels and ‘Amos ‘n Andy’ to ‘In Living Color’ and the Original Kings of Comedy, it is all discussed. There is commentary from established comedians and clips from different periods of significance in comedy.



Harvest of Shame 

The documentary was produced by CBS in 1960 as a part of a series by broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow. In Harvest of Shame, Murrow exposed the plight of America’s farm workers. It is interesting to see some of the issues of farm workers today mirroring that of those over 50 years ago.   (Full Documentary)



The Black Power Mixtape 1967-1975 

Through the lens of Swedish filmmakers, viewers get a look at the Black Power Movement. In clips Huey P. Newton, Angela Davis, and Stokely Carmichael talk about what the movement means. There is also commentary by Erykah Badu and Harry Belafonte, among others.



Being Elmo

Elmo is an icon, but not many people know who is behind the puppet and makes him come to life. Kevin Clash is that man. In Being Elmo, Clash’s story is told. Viewers will learn how he got to where he is now and created the persona of Elmo.



Jean-Michael Basquiat: The Radiant Child

At the age of 27, the artist Jean-Michael Basquiat left the earth. In this film, Tamra Davis brings an unreleased interview of the charismatic and controversial artist. The rise and fall of Basquiat is seen in the film, giving viewers a better understanding of the man behind the paintings.



A Man’s Story

Celebrated menswear designer Ozwald Boateng gives a look into is life as a designer, tailor to Hollywood’s A-list, superstar, and family man. A Man’s Story goes to the very heart of what Boateng has spent an entire career trying to distil: “what it is to be a man.”



Where I’m From: Jay-Z Barclays Center Documentary  

The Barclays Center is Brooklyn’s baby, in a sense. It’s only right that the borough’s own, Jay-Z, performs there. In Where I’m From, Jay-Z takes viewers on a behind the scene journey of preparing for opening concerts at the arena.   (Full Documentary)

Also recommended: Fade to Black


A mixture of original interviews, archival footage, and photographs shed light on the life experiences of Mike Tyson. Looking at the film may allow viewers to gain a better understanding of the professional boxer.

Which documentaries will you be checking out? Have any recommendations?


One Response to “9 Must-See, Eye Opening Documentaries”

  1. Rachel says:

    Great list!

    I recently saw Why we Laugh, and the Jean-Michel Basquiat documentaries and they were amazing! I look forward to checking out the others on the list!

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